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With the massive range of smartphones and screen sizes, creating and testing prototypes for mobile apps is a critical part of the design process. UX teams must thoroughly test designs and resolve usability issues before handing the final drafts over to engineering.
Developing an app is a time-consuming and expensive process. It’s much quicker and easier to redesign a prototype than it is to reengineer the final product.
UXPin enables UX designers to create fully functioning prototypes for mobile apps that look and perform like the final product. Sign up for a 14-day free trial and experience superior mobile app prototyping with UXPin.
What is a Mobile App Prototype?
A mobile app prototype demonstrates the functionality and aesthetics of a final product. With so many mobile devices on the market, a product must function effectively on every screen, including smartphones, tablets, and possibly a smartwatch.
These mobile app prototypes enable UX teams to see how design concepts and user flows look and operate on different screen sizes and how users interact with each one.
UX teams create mobile app prototypes throughout the design process—from lo-fi paper models to fully-functioning high-fidelity prototypes.
What is the Purpose of a Mobile App Prototype?
UX teams use mobile app prototypes for three primary purposes:
- Testing & validating ideas
- Usability studies
- Presenting to stakeholders and developers for handoffs
Testing & Validating Ideas
During the early stages of the design process, UX teams experiment with lots of design ideas. It’s an exciting part of the project where UX designers think out of the box, often imagining wild and seemingly impossible designs.
UX teams create low-fidelity mobile app prototypes to test and validate these ideas, often laying hand-draw paper screens in sequence to visualize user flows.
Usability studies allow UX teams to test user flows, screen layouts, interactions, accessibility issues, and the overall user experience. This user-centered approach enables designers to create a product that meets the user’s needs.
Presenting to Stakeholders
Mobile app prototypes also make excellent tools for presenting concepts and design ideas to stakeholders. These prototypes can also help startups acquire early-stage funding.
Engineers reference mobile app prototypes from the design handoff to develop the final product.
Using Spec Mode in UXPin lets developers view the project’s color palette, screen size, typography, and other essential data. In addition, developers can inspect each element for its dimensions, CSS, and content.
Types of Mobile App Prototypes
There are two types of mobile app prototypes:
- Low-fidelity prototypes
- High-fidelity prototypes
UX teams use low-fidelity mobile app prototypes during the early stages of design. Built using wireframes, the primary objective of these low-fidelity prototypes is to visualize screen layouts, organize information architecture, and simulate user flows.
These lo-fi prototypes come in two forms: low-fidelity paper prototypes and digital low-fidelity prototypes. Both use simple wireframes (usually black and white) with placeholder content.
Paper prototyping is a fast, collaborative process where UX teams turn ideas into working models using just a pen and paper. In some cases, designers will build cardboard mobile devices to simulate scrolling, swiping, and other navigation interactions.
UX designers create digital low-fidelity prototypes using design tools like UXPin. These hi-fi prototypes feature clickable elements so designers can test user flows.
High-fidelity mobile app prototypes are functioning models of the final product, complete with color, content, animations, and interactions.
Hi-fi prototypes help UX teams test how users interact with the mobile application. High-fidelity mobile app prototyping plays a critical role in solving usability issues before designers hand off to engineers.
Design teams also use high-fidelity mobile prototypes for presenting designs to stakeholders. With a fully functioning prototype, stakeholders can get a “final-product experience” and provide meaningful feedback.
5 Tips for Mobile App Prototyping
Mobile app prototyping is an exciting part of the design process. Designers get to see their ideas come to life while gathering valuable insights from usability testing.
Here are our 5 tips to improve your mobile app prototyping.
Tip 1 – Test Early, Test Often
Testing is a primary objective for teams creating mobile app prototypes. Without testing, UX teams can’t validate design ideas or expose usability issues.
UX designers should use paper prototypes to test as many ideas as possible during the design concept stage. Teams must take advantage of the fact that testing with pen and paper is inexpensive. Trying even the craziest ideas ignites creative thinking, which could lead to innovative breakthroughs.
High-fidelity prototyping allows UX teams to optimize mobile applications to meet the user’s needs. Usability studies incur many costs (participants, tools, facilities, etc.), so researchers must set clear goals and objectives while ensuring they test the right participants to achieve meaningful feedback.
Tip 2 – Test Mobile App Prototypes on Multiple Devices
UX teams often make the costly mistake of not testing mobile app prototypes on enough devices or screen sizes. This mistake could result in poor product performance or some features not functioning.
If you’re operating in a competitive market, users might abandon your poor-performing product for the competition!
UXPin allows UX teams to test mobile app prototypes on iOS or Android using our Mirror app. Any changes you make will instantly update the Mirror app—perfect for making changes on the fly during usability studies or during feedback sessions with stakeholders.
Tip 3 – Use UXPin to Create Better Mobile App Prototypes
The ultimate goal for prototyping is to create a mobile app prototype that looks and functions as close to the final product as possible. Unfortunately, most vector-based design tools lack the capability to achieve this!
UXPin is the most advanced prototyping design tool on the market. UXPin is a code-based tool that lets UX teams design with fully interactive components that devs built through UXPin Merge.
Using fully functioning components, UX teams can create mobile app prototypes that perform like a coded application, thanks to Git and Storybook integrations
Instead of imagining what a feature might do, users and stakeholders can interact with the mobile application through UXPin Mirror as if it was the final product.
Mobile app prototyping in UXPin enables UX teams to get more meaningful feedback and detect usability issues other design tools cannot.
Using React components from a Git repo gives engineers less code to write, accelerating the development process for faster product and feature releases!
Tip 4 – Don’t Get Side-Tracked!
Designing high-fidelity mobile prototypes is a fun process. Designers get to create interactions, transitions, and animations to enhance the user experience.
However, without clear objectives, designers can get side-tracked designing irrelevant features and interactions.
DesignOps sets project goals and KPIs to ensure UX designers focus on designing prototypes that meet the requirements for usability testing— rather than adding redundant “nice-to-have” features that don’t serve the end-user.
Tip 5 – Involve Other Departments
UX teams shouldn’t only reserve testing for end-user participants. Involving team members from other departments is an excellent way to build excitement about a new product or feature within an organization.
Team members from outside of the UX department might provide valuable feedback that designers hadn’t considered. For example, the marketing department might point out that email forms need a first name and email field because personalizing correspondence increases conversions.
Internal prototype testing could provide valuable feedback to improve the product for the company that UX teams might not get from participants.
Final Thoughts on Creating Prototypes for Mobile Apps
Building native mobile applications is a challenging task! Designers and engineers have to consider how products will perform across multiple devices and screen sizes.
Mobile app prototyping enables UX teams to test designs across these devices with diverse participants to catch any usability issues before committing to code.
Creating Mobile App Prototypes with UXPin
Create advanced mobile app prototypes with UXPin that look and function like the final product—something other design tools cannot do!
Here are three powerful UXPin features that UX designers can use to build better prototypes:
- UXPin’s ready-to-use components inspire UX teams with screen layouts, interactions, transitions, animations, and more. These prototypes also enable designers to experience what’s possible when designing in UXPin.
- UXPin comes with several design systems pre-installed. Designers can drag and drop elements from popular design systems like iOS, Material Design, and Bootstrap to build mobile app prototypes fast! You can also create your own design system featuring your brand’s colors, typography, assets, and components.
- Using Variables, designers can store user inputs and take actions based on the provided data inside the prototype—tailoring the user experience as you would in a final product.
- UXPin Merge lets you design using code components from a Git repo or Storybook to create fully functioning high-fidelity mobile app prototypes. Prototyping with Merge provides participants with an accurate representation of the final product allowing researchers to get valuable feedback they can’t get from other design tools.
Try UXPin for Free
Ready to start designing in the UXPin prototyping tool? Get started with a 14-day free trial to experience UXPin’s powerful mobile app prototyping features!