Practical Prototyping Tools & Best Practices That You Should Know

Prototyping is an iterative approach to user interface design. It enables a designer or design team to rapidly configure a mockup of an intended application or system, exchange information and feedback, test the mockup, and by catching design errors or omissions early on, prevent them from migrating into the code and into the final product.

All of this can be readily accomplished be selecting the best tools for the job as well as by following best practices. Those best tools and practices are discussed here.

prototyping

Wireframing, Prototyping, Mockuping – What’s the Difference?

Three Best Practices You Don’t Want to Neglect

There are certain practices you need to follow to get optimum results. The tools described here tend to make it easier to apply these three extremely important best practices.

  1. The Importance of Using Real Content – Saving content for last is a mistake. While not often thought of as such, text and images are design elements, and they impart meaning to a website or application prototype. Placeholder copy doesn’t do that. It just shows where content should be added. If you haven’t as yet come up with your exact content, a reasonable approximation will usually do.
  2. Why Collaboration Matters – You can talk to stakeholders over the phone or give presentations, but many prototyping tools, including those described here, make collaborating much easier and much more effective. Feedback is an all-important part the iterative process. Design errors are caught, and recommended improvements are implemented. Make collaborating with clients and team members a standard practice.
  3. Test Early and Often – On of the key benefits of prototyping, and one that goes hand in hand with collaboration, is testing. Testing is especially important in the early stages of creating a mockup. It tells you what is working, what isn’t, and what is or could be working better. Test failures present opportunities for improvement, and testing during prototyping is usually easy to do; so do it early and often.

Five of the Best Prototyping Tools on the Market

While not every one of the following tools may fit your specific needs, one of more of them should be a perfect fit, whether you are looking for a standalone or an online tool. Each supports team collaboration and early-on usability testing.

Proto.io

If you have been searching for a mobile app prototyping tool that will enable you to build a mockup that feels real, make Proto.io your tool of choice. You can create richly-featured, interactive mockups in minutes, without having to introduce a single line of code. By using this tool, you are able to test your mockup on any of the more popular mobile devices. Of even greater importance, you can faithfully emulate the gestures and transitions common to those devices that are so greatly appreciated by their users.

Proto.io

Built-in UI elements for Android, iOS, Windows and Apple’s WatchOS are there for you to use, or you can import your own designs. Proto.io has a huge user base, including reputable startups and enterprises. These companies’ managers use this tool to create and test prototype designs as a prelude to committing resources to actual production. Proto.io is well worth considering if your need is for a tool that creates prototypes with the look and feel of a real application.

Pidoco

Pidoco, another web-based prototyping tool, is used by designers and developers in 50 countries and counting. Its ease of use is one of the reasons behind its large user base, but this tool is primarily noted for its ability to support the type of collaborative environment that can make a difference.

Team members and other stakeholders can comment on prototypes and work together in real time. They can edit a mockup based on ideas and feedback, knowing that Pidoco keeps a version history.

Pidoco

In addition to its real-time collaboration capabilities, this tool allows easy access to prototypes for usability testing both via a web browser and via Pidoco’s mobile app for iOS and Android. It has a large UI element library, custom templates and a global layer feature that supports multi-page designs. If you are on the lookout for a premium prototyping tool, this is one worth considering.

InVision

InVision just might be the most powerful prototyping, collaboration, and workflow platform on the market. An outstanding tool for small teams or individual designers who only need to collaborate with a client, InVision really shines when it comes to enabling smooth, quick collaboration for widely-dispersed teams.

InVision

LiveShare, InVision’s presentation tool, lets teams share information with each other in real time, even if they’re scattered across the globe. Collaboration and feedback go hand-in-hand, and a particularly powerful feedback feature provides the ability to tie comments and feedback to a selected mockup design point for present use and future reference, and for all to see.

InVision also maintains a version history of past iterations. No coding is needed to use this tool to its fullest capability. And as far as quality’s concerned, the mockups can speak for themselves.

HotGloo

Whether you are a project manager, web or UX designer – HotGloo makes collaboration easy and project coordination a snap. Prototype ideas fast and easy, comment on your work and let others comment – all in real time. Export your work or test it on a mobile device.

HotGloo

Whether you are prototyping on your own, or are part of a creative team, this is an excellent tool to work with. Sign up for a free trial today and see yourself.

PowerMockup

PowerMockup is the ideal selection for the PowerPoint user. If you are such a user, your search may be over right here, as this feature-filled prototyping tool should meet your needs spot on. Since PowerMockup is a Microsoft PowerPoint addon, you can combine its features with all of the benefits PowerPoint has to offer.

PowerMockup

The 800+ UI elements that come with the package are built entirely from PowerPoint shapes. In spite of their number, they are easy to locate. There is nothing at all complicated about this tool, and coding is not necessary. Sign up for a free trial.

Select a Tool, Follow the Best Practices, and You are Good to Go

The above tools are characterized by their strong collaborative and project management capabilities, and the ability to produce mockups that closely resemble the real thing.

Several have all of the above features, while some are more specialized in their uses. If you want to add one of the best in the market to your design tool kit however, you will find it here. Visit the websites and sign up for any free trials that are offered. When you make a selection and are ready to go, don’t forget to keep the three best practices in mind. They are extremely important to follow if you want to achieve the best results, and do so in a timely manner.

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Paul Andrew

Paul is the founder and editor of Speckyboy Design Magazine. He has many years experience within the web design industry and a passion for the latest web technologies and design trends. He lives in the small town of Inverness in the north of Scotland. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

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