Interactive prototyping for web and mobile apps is very important and has grown significantly over the past decade. There are many prototyping tools to choose from and this provides design agencies, designers, entrepreneurs and businesses with more options. To make life easier we would recommend the following evaluation criteria to select which prototyping tool works best for you as there is no one right tool that works for everyone.
Our proposed evaluation criteria:
How easy is the tool to learn?
No design agency or an UI, UX designer wants to spend hours learning how to use a complicated platform. The good news is that there are tools in the market and they are pretty easy to get to grips with. The shorter learning cycle the better. In reality most designers don’t have the spare time to learn long-winded tools. In our opinion, a good start is ‘how easy and intuitive is the tool/platform to learn’.
Does it come with support?
Support is good and if it’s quick, that’s a plus point. Problems and difficulties happen and having someone to contact to get support from is always a bonus. The quality and variety of support is also important. Are there help documents, guides, tutorials and videos on offer and available?
How long does it take to create a prototype?
The actual time it takes to create your real-life prototype from uploading your image screens to prototype. There is no reason why creating a prototype should not be quick and simple with all the choices that are available in the market.
Can you test on multiple devices
Does the tool/platform allow users to create a prototype for one device and test it out on all devices (ranging from smartphone to tablet and desktop)? This is a key requirement to determine the user experience across all devices. This allows users to quickly capture how their app looks and feels like across multiple devices before any coding has begun. In this way, it is quick and easy to change and improve designs before the app is built.
How intuitive the tool is?
How easy and well does the tool/platform allow users to simulate end-users intended interaction? This includes transitions, scrolling, gestures, custom transitions, navigation between screens and overall display and appearance.
How easy is it to share your prototypes with your team and clients?
The degree of features that is available on the tool/platform for sharing your prototypes to your team and clients. Are you limited to the number of people you can share your prototypes with? The rule of thumb in our opinion is to receive and take on board as much feedback as possible to each of your prototypes to refine and improve.
How easy is it to collaborate on the prototype?
Does the platform/tool allow teams and collaborators to easily communicate on the design screens? Having the freedom to invite, as many or as little collaborators to each of your prototypes is a plus point. Does it support real-time design collaboration? The ability to have your team and clients discuss, iterate and collaborate in real-time on a prototype upon the design screen is definitely a key feature to look out for.
Integration with other key tools?
Teams and businesses nowadays use so many other tools (e.g. Dropbox, Jira, Slack, Trello) in their everyday activity. Having a built in integration with these third parties will help teams and businesses to automate a great deal of their work flow processes. This will help in saving time and ensuring that everyone is looking at the final versions.
Can you keep track of all your design versions?
Feedback from your clients and team will surely bring many new design versions. Consequently, each feedback will provide a new design version and maintaining these versions can be very difficult to manage especially when you are working with large projects when dealing with more than 50+ design screens. Does the platform/tool provide a design repository to maintain all versions? A key question when selecting a tool/platform should be whether it has a built in version history control panel that is quick and easy to view your evolving design files?
This is last but by no means least, how much does the tool/platform cost to use? Some providers charge licence fees, yearly subscriptions, rolling month contracts and many more. All pricing plans are different and are all based on the number of users as well as the number of add-on features that they are offering. In our opinion, we feel the best two pricing plans are your rolling month contract. In this contract you can cancel at any time and you are not signed up for a long contract. As you may not like the tool/platform or feel that this particular one is not right for you. We also believe the pricing should increase with the number of users/projects. In this way, customers are only paying for what they are using.
At the end of the day, evidence beats opinion. Clients don’t want endless PowerPoint’s and back-and-forth emails and not to mention never-ending meetings and specification documents. Instead they want to see evidence they want to grasp and play with the prototype ‘like a real app’ on their computer or mobile.
By embracing prototyping agencies and businesses will be working smarter not harder when they adopt to using a prototyping tool. Resulting in more time to enjoy, happier teams and clients. Everyone will start winning.
An important point to remember is that there are many prototyping tools available in the market and the importance of finding the best one that suits you, your team and clients needs. We hope you have found our evaluation criteria helpful.
We would love to discuss this further. Please leave your comments below.