We live in an age of instant gratification. Instant messaging, on-demand film and television, increasing internet speeds putting everything at our finger tips. It’s so, so tempting to jump into the deep end on your project or idea to try to get it done as quickly as possible.
In the world of coding and development, this is rarely a good idea. In fact we’d even go so far as to say it’s never a good idea. Coding and developing is time-consuming, fiddly work.
Fixing a problem in one place often reveals problems in other places. Even when things are going relatively smoothly it’s a lot of hard work, so there’s really no need to compound it with revisions and changes that could’ve been filtered beforehand.
Ideally you’ll want to test your app before you get to the coding stage. Let people use a rough prototype that allows them to experience the user interface and the controls, even if in a rudimentary form.
Problems that aren’t evident on paper quickly become apparent when somebody starts struggling to navigate your app when they actually have their hands on it. You and your designers spent days, weeks, months on the layout and the icons: you know it off by heart because you helped build it. Put it in a stranger’s hands and see how well it actually works.
It’s the digital equivalent of the old carpentry motto: measure twice, cut once.
This is where many people get lost. How can people test your app if it hasn’t been coded yet? Surely you have to code it before you can test it?
Not at all. Luckily for you, your developers, and your budget, there are a number of great tools available that allow you to create rough working prototypes of your app. Using static images created in your design program of choice, you can create interactive mockups that allow your testers to navigate the app and test its functionality.
Maybe the design isn’t as intuitive as you hoped, maybe the icons don’t make sense, maybe the way the app is laid out makes it difficult for people to get to where they want to go within it. Find out before you code.
Here are three helpful prototyping tools to get you started:
- Invision: https://www.invisionapp.com/ There is a paid “premium” version available, but the main version is absolutely free. Invision is used by companies like Netflix, Uber and GoPro, so you know it’s up to industry standard.
- Marvel: https://marvelapp.com/ Marvel has multiple pricing levels, but their base level is a bank-busting $0 a month. The only limitation is you can only have two projects — not useful in the long term, but good to get you started.
- Proto.io: https://proto.io/ Create fully interactive prototypes without any coding. There’s no free option here, but the ability to have polished-looking test versions of your app is fairly invaluable to getting the most out of your testing stage.
There are many more prototyping tools out there for your apps, so if none of these three suit you, look around to find one that works best for you and your business.
And don’t be put off by any subscription fees: coding and revising an app is going to be a lot more expensive in the long run than the relatively small monthly amounts charged by most of these tools.
To paraphrase that carpentry motto: Test twice, code once. You’ll thank us for it later.