Mobile prototyping: a new paradigm

Designers and UX professionals use pattern techniques like sketches, wireframes and mockups to visualize a website during a pattern process. Can these web pattern techniques also be used for mobile app pattern – or is it time for change?

Emerging mobile inclination place new hurdles in front of UX designers that means poignant shifts to normal methods of work. For some-more than a decade, wireframes and mockups have maybe been a many supposed ways of simulating and validating a user interface, layout, navigation, structure, calm and pattern elements of a website.

Can wireframes and mockups amply copy mobile apps as they do websites? Should designers and UX pros continue to work with a same processes and collection they use for websites when they do mobile app design?

In this essay we will review website pattern and mobile app pattern corresponding in sequence to brand a elemental differences of a dual disciplines. We will also inspect a techniques used to antecedent a website (e.g. sketches, mockups, wireframes) and examine if these techniques are adequate for mobile app prototyping.

Who do we antecedent for and why?

Considering a brief story of a universe far-reaching web, it could be argued that web pattern and generally mobile pattern are still during their infancy. Trying to cope with this ever-changing industry, we, designers and coders, mostly have to invent and learn new ways to qualification websites and mobile applications. An critical step in a web and mobile pattern routine is prototyping.

Since a birth of a industrial revolution, prototyping has been one of a initial stairs in a building routine of any product. A antecedent is an early representation or indication built to exam a judgment or process, or to act as an intent to be replicated or schooled from. The prototyping step is mostly skipped due to a additional cost and bid it adds to a lifecycle of a project.

However, currently it is widely supposed in a growth universe that undervaluing this critical partial of a pattern and build routine might lead to: miscommunication between developers and clients; pitfalls; over budgeting; and bad peculiarity products. Therefore, we can pretty disagree that prototyping is a must.

There are several reasons because many professionals have finished prototyping a elementary step in a growth process. The following are a many important:

  1. To exam a ubiquitous thought of a due solution
  2. To exam a navigation and altogether calm structure
  3. To exam a user interface (UI), calm and context, and core functionality
  4. To exam a demeanour and feel, and visible aesthetics
  5. To perform user trials to urge usability and user experience
  6. To examine probable pitfalls good in advance

And who do we antecedent for?

  1. Stakeholders: a customer or business executives, welfare makers who need to approve a design, layout, calm and functionality before coding and implementation
  2. Developers and coders who need to clearly understand, to a excellent fact possible, what to build before they burst into coding

The underlying value of prototyping first, instead of removing to a construction of a genuine thing right away, is to test, scold mistakes and countenance a pivotal pattern decisions with users yet incurring growth costs. Prototypes cost. But a cost of a antecedent is minimal compared to a cost of re-engineering when median by or finished with a coding part. Consequently, a many current evidence to make as to because we need to antecedent is to minimize both cost and risk while during a same time grasp limit potency and quality.

Website prototyping techniques

There are several techniques and collection to adopt and use. The many renouned ones are sketches, wireframes, mockups and coding.

The welfare of that prototyping routine we should use when we wish to visualize a website isn’t always a matter of choice or preference. It customarily depends on a distance and inlet of a plan as good as time and bill constraints that might charge one routine or another.

Choosing a technique for a sold plan is dynamic by a following criteria:

  1. Time
  2. Fidelity, that can operation from low-fidelity (hand-drawn lines and boxes) to high-fidelity (pixel ideal design)
  3. Whether we need to share a antecedent with group members and stakeholders
  4. Whether it needs to be used for user trials and usability testing
Website prototyping techniques

Each routine serves a purpose and it might be a best choice for a certain form of website. Sometimes a mixed of techniques is required to furnish an best result.  

Web vs. mobile: so similar, nonetheless so different

The above techniques are good for web pattern and can unequivocally speed adult and urge a growth routine significantly, that is because it’s reasonable to cruise regulating a same techniques for mobile apps. After all, are mobile apps that opposite from websites? They both: are digital, need user interaction, benefaction calm and offer a purpose. So are they unequivocally that different? Well, yes!

Mobile applications are really opposite from websites in many ways. Consider a following, really elementary properties: web applications run on opposite inclination that have opposite handling systems, are opposite sizes and have opposite characteristics. Websites run in a web browser of any handling complement on customarily vast high-resolution screens. Mobile applications accept submit from a touchscreen. Websites accept submit from a keyboard and a mouse. And a list goes on.

Website and mobile app comparison table

Mobile prototyping: a new paradigm

So, going behind to a initial question, do a same beliefs request for mobile prototyping as they do for web prototyping? Should a techniques used to antecedent be a same? No. Mobile prototyping is a totally new paradigm. We simply can't furnish picturesque prototypes for mobile applications with sketches, wireframes and mockups for 3 elementary nonetheless elemental reasons: interactions, animations and device testing.


Interactions are a pivotal cause that make this change necessary. When building a website wireframe or mockup, interactions are minimal. Most of a time we usually have one event: a click, clicking formula to a page change with no transitions. Animations (at slightest until recently) were non-existent. Therefore, visualising or prototyping a website is probable even with hand-drawn sketches with one piece of paper for any page and one word or elementary reason for any interaction.

However, mobile apps deliver a whole new opposite universe of interactions by enabling users to correlate with mixed reason events like tap, daub hold, swipe, pinch, zoom. The same shade (or page) might conflict differently to opposite interactions. More than one communication can be practical to one UI element.Take for instance a latest chronicle of a Twitter app. If we click on a ‘Me’ add-on icon, it takes us to a comment overview screen. But if we appropriate a finger on that same icon, it takes we to a switch accounts page. And that’s usually one elementary instance out of millions. How would we copy and benefaction that to stakeholders with a sketch, wireframe or mockup? How would we copy one and dual finger touches, swipes, and all other reason events?

An instance of dual interactions (tap and swipe) on a same UI element


Animations as a cause extremely minister to a improved user experience. Mobile apps with singular arrangement genuine estate rest heavily on animations to emanate enchanting user responses and take advantage of a singular space. Menus that slip into a screen, UI elements that seem and disappear and transitions between screens, are usually some animations that we come opposite in roughly all apps. Think of a now common Facebook app slide-in menu. How would we copy that with a sketch, wireframe or mockup? What about menu scrolling, appropriate actions on menu items?

Device testing

One critical aspect of prototyping is testing. Regardless of a fealty of wireframes and mockups, they can simply be tested on a tangible device, that is a mechanism browser. The same contingency request for mobile prototypes. UX designers should be means to exam mobile prototypes on a tangible device they are built for. By contrast we don’t meant usually observation some clickable images on a tangible device, yet instead regulating a full interactive antecedent of a mobile app. Actual device contrast is a best approach for stakeholders to conceptualise a final product while permitting for in-depth and profitable user trials. Mobile prototyping is one of those things that gives us a advantage to knowledge a antecedent in a genuine sourroundings as if it was indeed real.

Mobile prototyping techniques and tools

I trust prototyping customarily starts with sketching. It’s a many discerning thing to do. Sketching can be found in roughly all disciplines – from craftsmen to booster designers. It’s a fastest approach to demonstrate a thought visually, all we need is pencil and paper and it’s a good approach to start. However, unless we can swell a sketches to an interactive prototyping state that can be tested on a genuine device, we won’t be means to copy how an interactive app works.

So, how do we put a sketches, wireframes and mockups to action? There are several techniques used within a mobile industry: paper prototyping, normal display softwares, mobile apps designed for prototyping, source code, and specialised web and desktop prototyping applications.

Paper prototyping takes time and skill, and prototypes are tough to build and modify. It might give us a good grade of bargain about how a app works, yet it positively can't be tested on a genuine device.

Presentation softwares like Apple’s Keynote and Microsoft’s Powerpoint support some animations and transitions. However, they are collection built for an wholly opposite purpose. Device contrast is not probable here either.

Mobile apps for Apple iPad and Google Android tablets designed for mobile prototyping concede genuine device testing, that is their categorical advantage. They are singular however to singular device prototyping and customarily miss pity and partnership tools. Moreover, operative on an iPad or iPhone to build a antecedent is still not as quick and fit as it is on a computer.

Source formula offers a absolute approach to antecedent given there are probably no stipulations as to how distant we can go. We can emanate a mobile antecedent with HTML5 or with a tangible programming denunciation that we are going to use, like Objective C or Java. Prototyping with source formula yet is really time immoderate and we can simply get carried divided with tiny details, finale adult spending some-more time on it that we should.

Mobile prototyping applications are web applications or program designed privately for mobile prototyping. These applications go over normal wireframe or mockup applications to yield functionality for mobile reason events and gestures, interactions, shade transitions and, many importantly, yield a ability to preview a antecedent on a tangible device.

Interactive mobile prototyping techniques and tools

An instance of such a mobile prototyping concentration is is a prototyping apparatus built privately for mobile app prototyping. It provides an easy and quick approach to antecedent mobile applications that can be tested on a tangible device, while ancillary all a new singular mobile facilities like reason gestures, animations, mixed interactions. It also provides built-in partnership collection to promote a communication, partnership and pity between a growth group and a client.

(Wireframes || Mockups) != Prototypes

In conclusion, mobile prototyping is a totally new paradigm. Traditional techniques and collection like sketches, wireframes and mockups can usually benefaction mobile apps in a immobile way. Static display of a mobile app is not enough. Mobile app prototypes contingency yield a make-believe of a final communication between a user and a interface. When building mobile apps, we need to emanate entirely interactive, sharable prototypes that support multi-touch gestures, concede user trials and usability testing, and can be previewed on genuine mobile devices.

To grasp that we need to mangle divided from a normal web prototyping techniques we are accustomed to. We need to start regulating new mobile app prototyping techniques and collection that can prove a mobile app prototyping needs and concede us to concentration on creativity and ingenuity. We’ll afterwards be giveaway to build mobile apps that offer singular user experiences.

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