Prototype or Die! The Importance of Knowing

Emilio Varela | August 18, 2016 | Mobile Strategy

Among designers there’s a saying: “If a wireframe is worth a thousand words, a prototype is worth ten thousand.” Prototypes enable us to deliver quality products that provide an accurate, native app experience for clients. In the world of Enterprise Mobile, failing to prototype your application first can lead to uneducated business decisions, a poor user experience, wasted development time, or worse yet, complete failure. Prototyping ultimately saves money by allowing time for changes and revisions based on user feedback prior to coding the real deal app. Here, then, are the essentials of a few proto-types:


1. The Proof of Concept Prototype
The main purpose here is internal collaboration to determine which app direction makes the most sense without wasting a lot of time. The Proof of Concept Prototype can use low fidelity images that don’t represent final visuals—even wireframe screenshots. Or for this one you can even print the designs and simulate the prototype with paper.

2. The Logic Test Prototype
This prototype is for those who need to ensure there are no flaws in the final app’s logic or flow, so it is critical to validate and prototype the complete app before beginning production on the real deal. However, since design itself is not as much of a concern, this variety of prototype may also use low fidelity screens or may simply be prototyped on paper.

3. The Sell the Idea Prototype
How does a project fail before it’s even started? When the client has no idea what’s needed or even what’s possible. That’s when a prototype really shines. A simple prototype may be easily built that includes just a few main features in order to quickly demonstrate how it will positively impact business. Though it may be built without coding (say, by using a quickie prototype generator app like POP), this type of prototype should still use high res images and be functional, at least for a “happy path.” Though every feature doesn’t need to be built-out, users should be able to tap around and explore the app.

4. The User Testing Prototype
This prototype begins with ideation and utilizes feedback from all involved parties to determine the most appropriate feature set and iterate through wireframes, navigation, and final design to produce a demo that shows off all the features and has enough polish to make the real product look attractive enough to the Business to begin building. This one should be a complete, fully functional, natively coded prototype that includes all the features and looks gorgeous. This is what you get when you signup for our Scoping and Prototype Kickstart.

Now that you have decided which prototype flavor is most appropriate for your project, how you should approach it? And what is the most effective process for compiling all the necessary information? Since prototyping is meant to foster quick decision-making while exploring different approaches to satisfy the app’s requirements, here’s a quick guide to assist in your presentation and feedback-gathering stages.


For best results when presenting, always showcase the most true-to-life prototype possible. Here’s why:

Avoids confusion
If your prototype closely resembles how the final product is expected to look, your clients/users will be able to focus on the important factors like interaction and organization of features instead of wasting time trying to figure out what’s what.

Promotes better feedback
If you accurately show them what they can get, they can tell you what they need. A functional prototype that covers most of the product requirements will facilitate more accurate feedback from the client/user.

Establishes feasible expectations
You may find there’s a large discrepancy between what everyone thinks should be the product and what can actually be built. Prototyping make everyone’s life easier by keeping scope in line so everyone understands which elements are feasible and therefore worth pursuing.

It is always better to go the extra mile and include real elements and real sample data in your prototype for a couple reasons. First, to demonstrate the most accurate results, and second, to prevent users or clients from getting distracted or discouraged by irrelevant minutia that has no impact on the actual app.

Contrary to popular belief, prototypes don’t require complex tools to create or specialized folks to use them. As long as you have a pad of paper and a pencil you are good to go! The simplest prototype may be created just by printing your screen designs and walking the client/user through the possible scenarios. But to really test or demonstrate a prototype, you’ll want to do so on a real target device using at minimum a tool like InVision, Marvel or Flinto, all of which offer free accounts and are really easy to use.

But to make your prototype truly functional you’ll want to use a Mobile App Development Platform like Kony or Appcelerator. Here at Propelics we use both of these tools to build complex, cross-platform prototypes using real, native code to make the experience as realistic as possible, thus facilitating better feedback and getting us off to a great head-start when it comes time to build the real-deal version.

To learn more about the Propelics prototyping process or to find out how your business could benefit from adopting a true mobile strategy, please check out our Scoping and Prototype Kickstart and our Enterprise Mobile Roadmap Kickstart. Or you can sign-up for a complimentary consultation with one of our mobile strategists to help plan your next steps and get you well on your way to mobile success!

Emilio Varela

Emilio Varela is a User Experience Designer focused on app delivery processes. He designs great visual interfaces and intuitive products that create a full experience for the user. He has worked in various successful apps for companies like Propelics, Nokia and worldwide Startups.

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