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Have a great idea for a new mobile product or initiative? You won’t get very far without an equally great mobile prototype. A mobile prototype is the one chance you get to pitch your product or service – whether it’s a mobile app, a mobile microsite, or even an iframe mobile widget. A great prototype is essential to selling your clients, enticing investors, or getting approval from internal divisions on your vision.

Prototyping Top 10

“Prototype” and “demo” are two commonly confused terms. A prototype is an early version of a product with specific functionality. A demo is a story, vision piece or demonstration of underlying functionality as opposed to being an early stage product. While prototype and demo mean two separate things, the terms are often used interchangeably. For the purposes of this post, we’ll use the term prototype.

Mobile prototypes can vary from quick and dirty low-fidelity renderings to months long, enterprise-scale initiatives. However, all prototypes share several things in common. From storyboarding to creating an in-screen mobile demo, a successful mobile prototype must address three fundamental needs:

  • What is the purpose of this mobile product?
  • How does it further the client’s needs?
  • How will users interact with this product?

Why do so many good mobile product ideas get shot down? The company fails to create an effective prototype. Don’t let this happen to you. Whether you need to sell your client on a mobile initiative or pitch a new product to your boss, here’s what to do.

#1: Stay on Target. What will your mobile prototype accomplish? It’s all about driving business results, isn’t it? Start with your business goals and your core messaging. Everything should flow from there. Think about your client’s needs and explaining how your product will meet them. Don’t get caught up in the bells and whistles of fancy technology – stay focused on your client.

#2: WIIFT – What’s in it for them? The goal of mobile prototyping is to sell your product to the client. While demonstrating new technology is fun, it’s not your final goal. Your client assumes that your technology will work. They need to be shown how the technology will benefit them and their customers. To do so, don’t ignore the user interface. Otherwise, when your prototype is sent to senior business developers for review, it will be shot down. Clearly show your client what’s in it for them. Will your product enhance their marketing efforts? Will it help them reach new customers? Show your client that you understand their challenges by demoing a solution that meets their needs. Every aspect of your prototype – including the UI – should show your client that your business is about meaningful solutions, not just fancy technology.

#3: Go big or stay simple. Your mobile prototype should either look like a professional-grade product or be a simple, grey-scale wireframe. Anything in between these two extremes looks unfinished and unprofessional. Worse, customers will get hung up on color changes, logos and other unimportant details – missing the big picture.

#4: Plan user flows and leverage shortcuts to demonstrate features. Map out user flow on your mobile prototype so you are not constantly bouncing back and forth between screens. Use shortcuts to demonstrate functionality and content. Animated feature sequences are an easy solution.

#5: Fake it ‘til you make it. There’s no need to program everything. Use visuals to explain user flow and demonstrate functionality. Save time by demoing one feature and suggest functionality elsewhere. For example, your prototype could include five different menu items, each suggesting specific functionality. Only one of these five items needs to be active in order for your client to understand how they all operate. Unless your product is a server, there probably is no need to connect your prototype to a server. Instead, use an animated progress bar or spinning wheel as a stand-in for the connection.

#6: Auto or Manual? An animated mobile demo is an easy way to show how a user interacts with your mobile product. For example, you could show a finger making different selections to symbolize how a user interacts with items on the screen. Consider whether a self-running web demo or a presenter-controlled demo best meets your mobile prototype pitching needs. A presenter-driven demo, where you remain in complete control of the demonstration, is more interactive and effective. You can also do both, which is helpful if your pitch meetings are both in-person and virtual.

#7: Make your mobile user interface stand alone. No handholding allowed! If your client will be interacting with your prototype, make sure the interface is user-friendly and intuitive. Be sure to test this interface in advance for unforeseen complications from user error.

#8: Set up for fast changes. Pitching the same mobile product to multiple companies? Create an intelligent mobile prototype that can be easily reskinned for each client. A quick swap of colors, logos, and content examples saves time and is more likely to win you the business.

#9: Divide and conquer. When customizing a generic mobile prototype, keep your client’s industry in mind. Start by dividing your prototypes into verticals, such as retail, automotive and entertainment. This will make additional customization quicker and easier.

#10: Sell the sizzle. Don’t overthink it. A mobile prototype is meant to demonstrate capabilities, generate conversation and spark enthusiasm. It’s not a perfect solution to meet the client’s every need. If it were, then you’d already have a finished product! Let the client get excited – your job is to translate this excitement into a successful sale.

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