The Keys to Successful Proto-Apping

Imagine that you have a fantastic idea for a mobile application. You even have a team that loves the concept. But, you hit a roadblock when you ask for budget approval. You make a valiant effort to mock out your idea in PowerPoint, spend a few days with Balsamiq or Sketch, but the results are flat and uninspiring.  No matter how compelling your argument is, flat images are just not powerful enough to convey the app’s potential.

Here’s where Digital Foundry’s expertise comes into play. Let us bring your idea to life by “proto-apping” it! It typically requires a 2-3 week sprint that produces a working prototype that is ready to demonstrate. We’ve developed the following guidelines to explain how we do just that.

Rule 1: Start with a Clear Vision on a Single Platform

Your concept should be smartly and thoughtfully refined before you begin.  You should know (or choose) the market segment you are targeting, the APIs you need to integrate with, and the basic list of features that make up your concept.

If you aren’t there yet, you need to take a step back (Digital Foundry can help you) and refine your vision.

You also need to pick a specific demo device (iPhone 6 Plus, Galaxy S7, etc) and an OS version. Next, select a build stack. You may opt for Angular 2, React, Swift, or many others, but you want to lock that down prior to proto-apping. Selecting a single device and development stack before starting means build environments and non-functional requirements won’t be stealing valuable time from your project during the first week.

Once you’ve got those parameters nailed down, you can begin working on feature development. You’ve got two weeks to get this done, so time is of the essence.

Prototype Team Demo - Shared Services

Rule 2: Get Busy, Fast!

These two to three weeks will be an intense period for the project team, so all members need to be 100% dedicated; from product owners through app developers and quality assurance. The product owner, project manager, and tech lead spend the first few days focusing on building out and recording user stories, feature requirements, and site flow.  Meanwhile the app developers set up the necessary framework and APIs, and as soon as possible, they begin  building out features. At this point, the product owner and project manager transition into creative assets, keeping an eye towards adding to the backlog, in the event the team completes stories early. The final week is an intense sprint to integrate the visual assets, verify the features, and thoroughly check for bugs to ensure the app is ready for a live demo.

Prototype Team Demo - Slice

Rule 3: Create a Marketing Site for Your Idea

This is your big idea and it deserves its own site. Websites are the best way to get your idea across to a wide audience – slideshows are overused and can cause people to tune out immediately. To quickly build a marketing site on your own, you could use Squarespace or Wix (both easy to get up and running), but use whichever tool you like best. Design the site as if you are launching your new application to the public. Creating a compelling site forces you to condense your ideas and focus on the key concepts of your marketing plan:

  • Who is the target audience for the application?
  • What will drive app adoption?
  • How would a member of the target market describe this app to their friend in a sound bite?
  • How will this application change the world, and why is there a need for it?

Prototype Team Demo - DineWell

Rule 4: Finish Strong with an Interactive App Demo

At the end of the project period, the team demonstrates the application on a big screen with an audience comprised of all stakeholders, product owners, and team members. For a mobile app, running the demo on a phone is an important aspect, making it as realistic and “real-world” as possible! The demonstration should focus on the target market and take the audience through the critical use-case scenarios that make this application so compelling. The team’s website should guide the presentation to highlight the primary features and functionality of the new application.

Digital Foundry teams prepare their products and presentations as if they are competing for VC money. We take proto-apping very seriously and endeavor to help you show off your ideas in the best light possible.

In just two to three weeks, we can turn your vision into an interactive proto-app, giving you the tools with which to convince anyone of the need and viability of your app.