TMCnet Feature
October 30, 2020

How to de-risk your app investment with a prototype

For founders looking to launch a mobile app, building a prototype can be a great and inexpensive first step. So what is it, why is it useful and how do you create one?

What is a prototype?

A prototype can mean different things in different industries. If you are looking to create an app, then an app developer may recommend that you build a design prototype. This type of prototype is created using design tools with no coding involved. These tools enable designers to ‘link’ together the app’s wireframes or visual designs to emulate how the app will function. Users can then download the prototype and tap through and explore the features of the app on their phone.

There are now a wide range of prototyping tools available on the market such as Figma, Adobe (News - Alert) XD, Invision and ProtoPie. Nowadays, simple prototypes can be done by someone without any tech or design experience. However more interactive prototypes, such as the example prototype created for the Diabeasy iPhone App, requires expertise, particularly in relation to fully utilising the prototyping software.

So how is a prototype different from a proof-of-concept (POC)? A POC more commonly refers to exploring the feasibility of a technical aspect of the app. For example, an app developer may recommend a POC to explore whether or not an integration can occur, to test an emerging technology or when attempting to build something in a unique way. The purpose of a POC is to identify opportunities and constraints for the design and product, and to confirm whether or not and how the app can be built.

Why create a prototype?

Why create an app prototype? The most obvious reason – it is a great cost-effective option for visualising your app idea before spending thousands of dollars on app development.

Apps typically start with a broad feature set or list of requirements. However there are a myriad of different ways these features can be brought to life. Along with visualising your app, a prototype gives entrepreneurs an opportunity early in the app development process to explore, test and refine their idea. Designs, like any creative process, improve with each review. By making it cheaper and easier to iterate and refine thinking, a prototype can lead to a more successful end product. A prototype is therefore an important way entrepreneurs can de-risk their investment.

Compared with a dot point list of requirements and visual designs, prototypes are also a powerful communication tool. They enable investors, stakeholders and future users to engage and interact with the product. They can also elicit better information from users on  how they are experiencing the app, which can be fed back into UX improvements prior to development commencing.

What are the steps involved in a prototype?

To achieve a great prototype, it’s important to lay the ground work. First, understand the audience and the problem your app is seeking to solve. Complete some simple research into similar products in your industry and in others. This helps to identify which elements of your app will be unique.

Once you have decided on a set of features, then you can explore how these features can be brought to life. If you are using an app designer, this is where they will start sketching ideas for the features and explore how a user might navigate their way through the app. They will then formalise this in a set of wireframes using a design tool like Figma. The designer will then apply and extend your brand to the wireframes to create the visual designs. With the visual designs completed, these can then be hooked up into a prototyping tool and the prototype completed.

Prototypes are becoming increasingly popular and it is easy to understand why. In this tough economic environment, the opportunity to de-risk investment is an attractive proposition for founders, while a hands on early ‘working’ product can entice support from users, stakeholders and investors.


Guy Cooper, Managing Director of Wave Digital

Guy Cooper is Managing Director of Wave Digital, an Australian app development company founded in 2000. He is a business owner and tech entrepreneur who works with founders, executives and fellow business owners to bring their app idea to life.

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