Last Wednesday, we attended the latest SWmobile event ‘Prototyping and Rapid Application Development’. The night was kindly hosted by Database-as-a-service (DaaS) provider, Cloudant, who offered free pizza and beer to all attendees! SWmobile is a group for Bristol and Bath-based mobile developers and designers who meet up to talk about what is happening in the industry. We’ve been a proud sponsor of SWMobile since it was founded in 2011.
Wednesday’s talks covered a number of different angles on mobile prototyping. From sketching and wireframing, right through to usable prototype apps, as well as those choosing not to prototype at all. Here are some of our thoughts on some of the different types of prototyping methods discussed.
First up was UX designer, Kathryn Hegarty, who talked on the importance of user journeys and using wireframing in the early stages of a project to ensure client and user requirements are met. Kathryn also emphasised the importance of getting prototypes out there in front of people and one way of doing this is through usability testing. This way you can see how people are using your prototypes in real life situations; outdoors, on real devices or while watching television for example.
Another key point Kathryn made in conclusion to her talk was that prototyping is for identifying problems with the design or functionality, but it’s up to you whether you decide to accept the solutions that your focus groups might suggest.
Developer, Richard Loxley, talked about how he used paper storyboarding and a YouTube video to prototype iOS game, Scuba Scavenger. Using video, instead of a long text document, was a really useful method of prototyping for Richard as he was outsourcing the design work for his project. The video provided a useful way of showing the designer how each screen should look. By using his paper storyboarding method, Richard was able to get the project up and running without having to wait for the artwork and also to emphasise that what was being shown was only a prototype, not the finished product.
Gavin Davies then discussed how and his team prototyped and built a furniture surveying app using Cordova, Symfony2 and a mish mash of Agile techniques, as well as some ‘hand-hacked tools’. Gavin didn’t have a formal prototyping stage as such, but first built a basic functional version of the app to obtain feedback, while refining and adding new features until the app was finished.
The final talk came from Mike Rhodes, Engineer at Cloudant – the event’s sponsor. Mike discussed his personal experience in building indie apps. He used iOS storyboarding as a quick way to get the skeleton of the app up and running and then used TestFlight to distribute builds to his friends and family to obtain feedback. He described this method as ‘prototyping without prototyping’ and it seemed to work well – Mike’s first app, Divided, was listed as one of Apple’s featured apps on the App Store! But he didn’t mention this in his talk for fear of being torn to pieces by an angry, jealous crowd.
With all of these prototyping methods to bear in mind, we think it’s important to remember that the method you choose will depend on a number of factors. These include the purpose of the prototype itself, budget, and also the business case of the app.
If you’d like to attend the next SWmobile event, then visit the event MeetUp page or follow the group on Twitter!

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