In a world with more than two million mobile applications and their ever-increasing demand, mobile app development is a crucial determining step. And the pace at which they can be developed is as important as addressing the prime functionalities they seek to address.
A conventional waterfall model of development, — where a complete set of requirement gathering is followed by high level and detailed designing, with development, testing and deployment thereafter — is not the ideal way to address quality and speed of mobile app development. Rapid prototyping is a better idea.
But what is rapid prototyping? Prototyping is when designers sketch a rough framework with the aid of graphics and lines. Rapid prototyping on the other hand, is the process by which designers get their thoughts on the board rapidly with the help of designing tools, demonstrate the product without any complications, make modifications on-the-go and the project is ready to roll.
When you have an idea, and want to communicate it to a developer, rapid prototyping offers something tangible. It is also considered to be a much better tool than static wireframing — discussion becomes easier and instant feedback helps in quick modifications and verifications. If user experience is the proof of any mobile app development than rapid prototyping is a direct way of simulating user experience.
Although it is not the final stage of a working mobile app, rapid prototyping is a gross approximation of the final product but one with 80 percent of the key functionalities in place. The biggest benefit of using this method is that it saves both on time and money.
How does one design with rapid prototyping?
Testing, but what?
First and foremost, it is best to figure out what you want to test. This is necessary because unless you know which type of user need you want to focus on, you cannot choose the tools to use. It is also very useful to know the scope of the prototype you are making, because a user, client and investor – all have different needs.
Sketch the screen
Once the tools have been chosen, make a simple hand sketch of the screens you have in mind. Each screen should have a specific purpose, of course. Keep taking feedback from those around you.
Design the screen
The next step in the process is to design the screens and try to link them together using one of the tools at your disposal. It should follow a path when clicked through. Rapid prototyping can make feature functionality of the product easy to design.
It is not necessary to prototype everything though — just the most important designs. Complex features can be broken down to diverse scenarios, for instance. Then each scenario can be tested separately and combined at a later stage.
At this point, more feedback might be useful. Leaving interactions to the last minute may cause unnecessary delays in the development process.
Import your screens
The next step would be to upload all screens onto a prototyping tool like Invision or Marvel, and connect them all. It is now time to decide on the clickable points and the flow of screens.
Test, test and test
The viability of rapid prototyping relies enormously on testing. Plan and carry out usability testing through representative users. Observe, watch and take notes as the tester completes the task. That done, collect all data, record usability problems and gauge satisfaction of the product from the users’ point of view.
To sum it all up, rapid prototyping in the field of mobile app development is preferably developed in a collaborative fashion with project managers, designers and users to ensures multiple gains such as early and rapid testing of functionalities and early feedback followed by modifications. It is a relief for designers and developers that, unlike before, writing code is no longer required and one can get a working prototype at a relatively low cost and at a rapid pace.