Building an app prototype: the step by step process

Jan 27, 2021 | App Development, UX & UI Design | 0 comments

Investors are being contacted about potential projects every day. How will you differentiate your startup from others in your industry ?

Knowing how to properly plan an app and creating a high quality prototype can help set you apart from the competition when giving your pitch to investors.

The one question i get most often from entrepreneurs is how and what to show in a mobile app pitch?

My answer is simple : a properly thought out concept and a good looking, working prototype.  

If you want to gain an investor’s trust for your mobile app project you need to have either a strong proof of concept, or a working product/prototype (with partial functionality at least) to show. Investors want to see and know what they invest in.

In this article, i will clarify everything you need to know about creating a mobile app blueprint and the steps to creating a robust app prototype.

Steps to creating a strong mobile app concept

1: Identify an issue/problem and find ways to fix it.

The first step in any business endeavor is finding a problem worth solving. 

The problem you want to fix could range from a corporate functionality issue (think of B2B apps like Asana for project management), to something as simple as helping people deal with boredom (Gaming or Entertainment Apps).

The first step may seem a little to simplistic, but you would be surprised how many people come up with ‘’business ideas’’ without having a clear, logical goal in mind.

Any successful business was built out of the need to fix a recurring problem in the world. If you’ve identified a problem you’re ready to tackle, you should do everything in your power to do so.

At Yamm Software. We first take our clients through a free consultation session to figure out the basic purpose of their app, and lay out the most important functionnalities.

Once we start to understand the industry as a whole, the competition, the business goals & audience’s goals, we start our research into understanding the features needed for the app to truly cater to the audience’s needs. 

Once we’ve clearly figured out who is our app’s core clientele and what pain points we’re trying to solve, we begin to design the user’s journey between pain point and the solution.

Theses steps are crucial, and they take time and expertise.  Many cheaper off shore app development agencies overlook these steps, which is why a majority of mobile apps never make it big or as big as they intended to be.

2: Identify Key Functionality Requirements

Once you’ve identified the main pain point your trying to solve. Let’s brainstorm and think of your ‘’product requirements’’. This means listing out the different specific features and pieces of content your app will need to serve its purpose.

Before starting to truly develop your app, we recommend making a list of the features you need, and than organizing that list from most important to least important.

Here’s a basic example of what a list like that would look like for an app like SnapChat

1) Photo Capture + Sending Photos

2) Stories

3) Filters & Effects

4) News Feed 

6) Search Functionality

7) Account Discovery

9) Online Advertising

10) Video Calls, Memories, etc.

Nowadays, the SnapChat app offers all of these features in one simple app. But when it first launched in 2011, the app only contained the minimum feature set necessary for testing out the idea. Over the years, the app gained traction, and eventually secured investment to continuously add more features. These days, SnapChat is one of the most used social media platforms amongst millennials, and is also one of the most prominent advertising platforms for brands who’s audiences are between 15 and 21.

We always recommend entrepreneurs to pick only the most important features for the first version/prototype of an app. Once you can be sure that people are interested or resonate with your idea (your first few most important features) than you can go on to adding more functionalities.

3: Create Sketches for the main features

Once the most important features have been listed, it’s time to start thinking about the user experience. This means figure out the best way for users to interact with your app’s features.

An experience app designer usually steps in at this stage and starts by drawing a few rough sketches of how the primary screens should look and feel like.

Here’s an example of our first sketches for BillMaster:

Hand sketches to determine how the app works and the basic organisation of the interface and its features.

We organized the app into 4 main screens, one for each main feature of the app. Once we have rough sketches, it is easier to design the screens we envisioned in more detail.

4: From Sketches to Wireframes

After the basic sketch has been created, the next logical step is the WireFrame.

At this point in the app design process, it is important to start really defining your brand image, colors and main styling elements.What is a wireframe ?

A wireframe is a simplified outline of your product consisting of words, boxes, descriptions and basic shapes. It doesn’t necessarily represent the final look and feel of your app but rather the basic framework from which it will grow.

Mapping of a functional prototype to determine and test the app’s components and features.

5: From a WireFrame to a Prototype

At this step a designer will usually turn the app’s basic wireframe into a prototype that you can use to show friends, business partners and investors how you app works.

A functioning prototype is the greatest tool you can have to get feedback before totally developing and launching an app. 

Designers are armed with multiple tools and software to design wireframes and prototypes. 

InvisionApp is one of the most commonly used prototyping tool on the market. Another interesting option is XCode: With Xcode you can build a prototype that looks and feels just like a real app using mock-up data and content.

A good prototype will not only help you build trust with potential investors, but it will also help your beta testers get a feel for what your app will feel like. A working prototype will also be useful to your developers, who will be able to better understand the user’s experience before creating the actual app.

6: From WireFrames to Final Designs

Design of a final prototype ready to be developed, based of a style guide / brand image.

The final design is just that, the final iteration of your app’s design. At this stage, it is of utmost importance to hire a skilled designer or app development agency to make sure your app looks top notch to today’s standards.

When it comes to hiring an agency, make sure to interview them thoroughly, get all the information you need, and analyze their past work before hiring someone to finalize your app design.

Sharing Your Prototype With Investors

Once you’re done with the design process, it’s time to meet investors, secure funding and take the big leap to developing and launching your app!

How to land a meeting with an investor? The most secure way is to find one through a referral. But not everybody is friends with an investor. Therefore we highly recommend building a list of potential investors and ressources, and then contacting them either in real life, by phone or even by cold email.

Once you’ve got a meeting with a potential investor, here’s a few things you should have prepared before the meeting:

  • A story surrounding your app and the reason for building it and why it makes sense for someone to invest in it
  • A pitch deck: show the problem you’ve identified and how your app is going to solve it + how you’re going to monetize it
  • A one pager for the investors to keep that gives all the important info needed for them to remember your app and contact you.
  • Your app prototype so potential investors can try and feel your app

Remember to always stay transparent about wether your prototype is or isn’t an actual, functioning product. The key is building trust with investors. We also recommend always showing the prototype in person, rather than online since you can add much more info, context and value by walking someone through the app in real life.

To Conclude

That may seem like a huge load of work to simply design an app, but remember: Behind any great business there is a team of great people. 

Building an app is a huge investment that can also bring enormous rewards. Our advice is to take time, and to invest yourself fully in every step of the process.

If you need help or guidance for the app design process, Yamm Software is currently offering a free 30-minute consultation with one of our project managers. Book a call now to discuss and clarify your app idea !

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