Sharpening the axe:
The importance of a wireframe or prototype for your software
You are about to invest your life savings into your dream. If you are one of the lucky few then you might have funds from the business or from investors to create an app platform for that business. Even better your dream is a software that will revolutionize your target market. You know that everyone will be impassioned because secretly they have hinted at something like it.
You can see it already, the thousands of businesses, or millions of people that desperately need what you are about to create. In your head you know what you want and now it is a matter of finding the right development team and away you go. Is it really that simple??
Our team of 82 developers have been creating SaaS platforms, mobile apps and complex websites for 10 years and I can tell you for a fact, that is not the path to success. We created a 9 step infographic to prepare all our potential clients of the process that will help them to successfully launch their app.
One of the most important and often overlooked or misunderstood stages in any development is creating the prototype.
Disadvantages of not creating the prototype
Imagine deciding you want to build an office complex and you go straight to the developer. You say to them I want it to be 2 levels with an open office floor, 3 toilet areas, a large kitchen area and a central staircase. No need for plans just build it.
The normal procedure here would be to engage an architect. They would design the building, then engage engineers to design structural elements and all the building services for the building (lighting, power, water, A/C, fire services, etc). Once all these ducks are put in line a quantity surveyor would estimate the cost of complete build.
For anyone who has had to have a property built ad hoc, they can testify to the headache and insurmountable variations. Car companies create moulds before creating a working model to test the market, wind tunnel tests and get a sense of what production may look like.
Too often we hear of people who bypass the prototype and find themselves blowing through their own and/or the investors’ money developing the app.
The main issues when skipping this step –
- Increased cost in development,
- Speed of development delayed due to constant changes,
- Can lead to a bad relationship between client and developer,
- Compromised UX (User Experience),
- Delayed launch,
- Low download rates of apps,
- Increased crashes and glitches,
- Low numbers of downloads,
- Reduced funding for marketing,
One of the most important reasons to create a prototype is to validate the idea in your head. It is a visual representation of the vision you have before pulling the trigger on development.
Start at the end
The prototype will show you the journey that each person takes when interacting with your app. These are a few of the groups to consider when developing the app –
- The End User – Their journey will be mapped out to ensure that they can seamlessly use all the functionality within the app. This must be a guided process where they are comfortably led down a storied path. It will allow for them to engage with the products or services, access information easily and choose their own preferences where needed.
- JV partners/suppliers – some apps will have suppliers that can add services and products through the dashboard. The ease of ability for them to make changes, upload information and review statistics is critical to ensuring long term relationships with these partners.
- The admin users – the people that get access to the dashboard must be able to access the right information as easily as possible. The easier it is for them to use the backend, the easier it is deal with end user queries and provide a superior service.
Future proof your investment
A very important factor to remember when creating the app is that functionality is constantly evolving. The technology to build your app may have been evolving from when you first had your idea for the app. Therefore, some things you thought about may become easier to code or replaced by newer functionality.
It is important to note that all the apps your target market engage with daily, push their preferences further. To ensure your app uptake is successful, a prototype must be designed with this understanding guiding all interactions. It allows for you to future proof your design thinking and plan your functionality 4 or 5 steps ahead. With apps, the brands that push the boundary are the ones that get the bigger market share. Consider Tinder with swiping, WeChat with all of its payment methods, TikTok with its short videos, Instagram with its filters and Facebook which continues to push new functionality to stay well ahead of its competitors.
For those who cannot fund the entire creation of the app, the prototype serves as a visible representation of what the finished product will look like. Investors, stakeholders and potential JV partners will be able to get clear on the vision and income streams and give their buy in.
The prototype will help give clarity to all parties on the following elements, to list a few –
- The sign in process,
- The types of users, their average ages and what functionality will engage them,
- What colours to use for pages, layouts and buttons,
- The best fonts to engage the users,
- User journey,
- Phase of functionality,
- Additional tools that can be integrated,
- Flow of information,
- Size and location of buttons,
- Layout of images and information,
- Look and feel and feel on Android, Apple, tablets and desktop devices,
- Clear timelines for completion and staging of works,
- Allow for the algorithms that take users down different paths,
It is critical to remember first and foremost “The App is the Product”. Your end user must love it, download it, rave about it and share it with others. The investors must see its viability and you as the visionary need to be able to see your dream, come to life.
The prototype gives you the opportunity to test and maximize on all these metrics before development starts.
For those needing investment, the prototype gives the perfect opportunity to showcase the potential benefits and sell the dream to potential investors.