Prototyping is one of the primary stages of app development. Developers and designers use prototypes and wireframes to finalize the concept of the app, perfect the design and gather user feedback before the app goes into a more expensive and time-consuming coding stage. Having the app functionality and inner logic conveniently visualized via prototyping tools helps the teams to avoid making major changes at later stages and make the approval process easier and faster.
How to choose prototyping tools
Prototyping can include everything from basic sketches to advanced dynamic models with animation. The choice of the tool depends on the goals of the team and the complexity of the task. However, when picking a service from the diversity of the available services, app developers and designers should consider the following.
Ease of use
An efficient tool should be accessible and easy to understand. Designers and developers shouldn’t spend much time for learning to use the service and making adjustments. Simple, yet functional service is what most teams want.
There are basic prototyping services, which offer simple design and wireframing tools, and the ones that provide more complex animation, effects, transitions and gestures. Before choosing the tool, app developers should think through the features they would like to use for app design at this stage. Preferably, the service should allow the import of convenient file formats (Photoshop or Sketch.)
The teamwork is essential for prototyping, as this is the stage when ideas are bounced around and tweaks are made. Check if the tool of choice has inbuilt collaboration elements, such as live comment sections or group chat, which will make collaboration easier and allow turning feedback into an actionable advice.
Whatever app you’re developing – for the web, Android, iOS, for tablet or wearables, it’s important that the prototyping service would support this format. Some tools provide downloadable mobile apps that enable preview of the prototype on a specific device. Checking adaptability is a must for mobile app developers.
Prototyping relies on teamwork, so it’s important to wire the service into the workflow process and ensure that it’s easy to export, give access and share designs to Slack, JIRA, Trello, Basecamp or any other collaboration tools that your team uses.
Some tools provide testing services, which allow users gain access to the prototype and walk through it as if it was a ready-made app. The integrated third-party testing services can offer unlimited user testing and video recordings of the app usage. With this feature, app developers can optimize the app to retain users more efficiently.
Finally, the pricing of prototyping tools can range from free versions to enterprise level solutions, depending on the features, supported by the service and the size of the team. Luckily, most of the services offer options for solo indie developers, as well as for large teams.
The complete list of tools for prototyping and wireframing