How to Bring Mobile Prototypes to the Market
Every product owner, designer or development team has ideas for a potential new mobile product or feature. Some ideas are worth following, some are not. But how do you decide?
The answer is simple, you have to try it out. A team has to iterate on ideas to determine which will work best. I like to to bring all the ideas to a meeting or workshop and discuss how they’ll impact with target customers, their needs, and pain points. You should aim to come out of the workshop with a prioritized list of ideas.
Mockup a New Product Idea at first before Coding
Never write real programming code to test ideas out, start simpler. Draw sketches of the idea on a piece of paper to build the first user flows. This very early and rough state should be used to talk to real users to get their first impression and feedback about the idea.
Ask the users the following questions:
- Is the idea behind the product clear from the very first drawings?
- Is the basic idea engaging enough to trigger the users curiosity for more?
- Is the flow easy to use and understood by the user?
- Is the flow or the result of the prototype something the users are expecting?
Based on the idea and the target customers, there might be more questions to define upfront.
Use Prototyping Tools
To speed up things, a team can use online tools to create the first mobile sketches in digital wireframes. The tools will help to link the individual wireframes into click dummies to provide a simple mobile user flow.
There are multiple tools on the market a team could leverage, here are a few examples:
- Balsamiq (https://balsamiq.com/)
- Moqups (https://moqups.com/)
- axure (https://www.axure.com)
- Marvel (https://marvelapp.com/)
- proto.io (https://proto.io/)
Iterate, Iterate & Iterate more
It doesn’t matter if a team is using a paper-based or a digital wireframe for the first idea. The most important thing is to reflect after each round of user feedback and to verify the results of the test against the defined questions and expected outcomes. There will never be the perfect first round when showing an idea to potential customers. There is always something to improve. Therefore, it is key for the idea to iterate as often as possible to get to the right product that potential customers will want to download and use.
However, sometimes after multiple rounds of user feedback, it might be the case that the idea or the product is not working. Even this is a good result. By catching the problem early, your team is not wasting its time developing the wrong product.
If a prototype was successfully tested with real users, the mobile product team can start building it.
Mobile Innovation Labs
A mobile innovation lab is a best practice for building multiple mobile prototypes. It often consists of a small group of (UX) designers and product managers that constantly test different mobile product ideas and hypotheses with real users. The outcomes of the lab can help different departments focus on the right things. Depending on the company structure and development process, the mobile innovation lab can be part of the product discovery phase within the software development life cycle. However, it can also be one step before the actual development phase starts–to deliver ideas and product features that have been already tested with real users.
As an example, the Guardian built a temporary mobile innovation lab to explore storytelling and delivering news on small screens. During the two years, the team experimented with the format of news article and how these article are consumed on mobile devices (e.g. Smarticles). After each experiment, they asked the users for feedback in a survey to improve their products.
From Innovation to App Store
In summary use the following steps to get new products into the app store:
- Collect ideas or establish a mobile innovation lab
- Build early prototypes
- Iterate over the product idea with real users
- Implement the working product idea
If a software development team is following these actions, it’s very likely that their product will be valuable to customers.