Most designers start their careers by learning graphic design or designing for the web. Although there are overlaps, switching to mobile app design is not always a walk in the park. Mobile app design requires an intimate knowledge of user experience and interaction design. It demands for us to abandon thinking about design in the form of static images.
The mobile era has not only transformed the way the way we think about design but also how we approach it. We alter our design work flows according to the ever evolving best practices of mobile app user interface design. We come up with new ideas that become conventions overnight. Then, before we know it, they have crept their way to obsolescence. These are, indeed, exciting times to be a mobile app designer.
As designers, we have to engage in constant innovation and learning. We also have to be on the lookout for ideas that add true value to the design workflow. Mobile prototyping is one such that has been identified by many as crucial to the design process. If you are not quite convinced, here are five reasons why you should never settle for mobile app UI mockups. When it comes to mobile app design, always opt for prototypes instead.
1. When Seeing Is Understanding: Why Tell When You Can Show?
Show and tell is a concept we are all familiar with. In many countries, it is a common classroom activity to teach public speaking skills. Students bring an item to show the class and tell them about it.
When applied to the design world, UI mockups are app designers’ choice items of show and tell. A mockup is a pixel perfect rendition of a design idea. Using tools such as Photoshop, designers create mockups to convey the look and feel of a product. But yet, when it comes to how a product actually works, designers resort to a lot of telling.
What is wrong with that? Think about this. If you are to explain football to someone, would you give them a picture of a ball then proceed to tell them how to kick it?
Because of the excessive need to tell, mobile app UI mockups are just not the best solution. A mobile app requires a much greater degree of show rather than tell. Designing for mobile is designing for motion. A mobile app is not a canvas on which you arrange elements in the best way. It is interactivity incorporated.
Never settle for app UI mockups when it comes to designing for mobile. They do not offer any way to show the interactions needed to enable a mobile app to actually work. There can be no real understanding of what the product even does. A mobile app UI mockup is superficially good-looking. Still and lifeless. Beautiful and non-functional.
When you choose interactive app prototypes over UI mockups, you will know that seeing is understanding. Mobile prototyping allows you to show a realistic approximation of the app, interactions included. Mobile prototypes let you show, rather than tell, how an app works.
2. Avoid The Failure To Communicate
In the old days, people listened to sport games on the radio. The way that talented sports commentators described the game was unique. Through their words, we imagined the exact events of every moment on the field. We felt the surge of excitement and the crash of disappointment. Their voices carried emotions and embodied power. They made the hearts of many fans beat in sync. They fueled the imagination.
Most of us are not cut out to be sports commentators. We are not trained to spin words into magic. A design review is not a sports game either. Clients and developers simply do not know design well enough to imagine.
A man holding up a sad emoticon as a mask. This is the general feeling that is generated when designers and developers don’t get along.
You can also see the UI animations in action without having to build an entire product. With mobile prototypes, you can easily identify problems in your interactive elements. You get a good feel of how well the animations and screen transitions work. Are they lacking visual feedback? Or too slow? Too many maybe?
5. Go From Idea To Testing In A Jiffy
Ideas are dime a dozen. The app stores release thousands of new apps every day. Some of them make it big. But many of them should never have even seen the light of day. Just because an idea sounds interesting does not mean that it should be developed.
Mobile prototyping provides us with a quick and easy means to validate our mobile app ideas. Learning from user feedback is crucial in the early stages of a mobile app development cycle. There is no need to spend on design and development if the idea turns out to be flaky. We have detailed this in our post onhow to start a mobile app business the right way.
During the design process, it is common to second guess yourself and each other. You encounter a lot of “What if we did this and this instead of that?” Then, you wind up in deep discussion defending a design position based mostly on personal preferences.
Why not ask the users? You can put the ideas in a mobile prototype and run a quick test. This saves time spent on designing and redesigning, as well as on in-house arguments.
Say No To Mockups and Yes To Mobile Prototyping
Choosing a mobile prototyping tool that suits your needs is as important as prototyping itself. It has to be easy-to-use and jam-packed with features. It should allow you to demonstrate even the most complex of interaction design. And no doubt, it should work fast and it has to be reliable.