Android

10 Essential Prototyping Tools for Smartphone Apps

Prototyping is an age-old tradition used by engineers, software developers, and even novelists to help them grapple with complex concepts. Until recently, prototyping on mobile devices left a lot to be desired. Now, developers face a plethora of choices for prototyping tools. Here is a look at ten great mobile prototyping tools and how they can help any developer.

1. Proto.io

Proto.io allows developers to build fully interactive mobile prototypes. It provides designers with an editor that offers tools like UI libraries , touch interactions, screen transitions, and animations as well as a full-screen player for interacting with prototypes. The player allows clients to leave annotations and feedback after getting a real sense of what their app will look like and feel like.

Proto.io’s strength is in prototyping native applications.

2. Axure RP

Axure is a powerful HTML tool for prototyping on any mobile device , webpage, or web app using simple drag-and-drop functionality. Its conditional logic allows users to create logins, swipe interactions, and other realistic flow scenarios using extensive element libraries that include shapes, widgets, panels, buttons, and even popup windows.

According to Thomas Daly , a senior project manager at Samsung, Azure is one of the best tools for UX design and after the company adopted it they “never looked back.”

3. UXPin

UXPin is designed for easy on-line prototyping and is built around user experience design principles. It comes with a full toolkit of design patterns and has a strong focus on project managers and those with less UX design experience. It includes version control, iterations with shareable previews, simple commenting methods, and even real-time editing and chatting. It works with a host of mobile devices with various resolutions.

4. Fluid

Fluid is a browser-based tool for creating interactive prototypes for Android, iOS, and Windows 8 devices. Fluid’s biggest strength is its visual linking system, which makes it easy to create screen flows using 2,000+ ready-made UI widgets. Fluid offers a drag-and-drop interface and the ability to export PNG images, PDF files, and HTML5 previews. The Fluid Player allows users to interact with the prototype and accommodates instant feedback. Fluid is excellent for working with remote clients.

5. Balsamiq

Balsamiq is focused on quick wireframe prototyping and reproduces the experience of sketching on a whiteboard. The best way to think of Balsamiq is as the go-to tool for a new project. It allows users to get immediate feedback while avoiding conversation about minute details of design.Balsamiq helps users focus on generating good layout, content, and interaction – the fundamentals upon which every application should be built.

6. Justinmind

Justinmind helps users create fully interactive wireframe prototypes, complete with gestures, screen transitions, and animations, for iOS, Android, and Blackberry. Users can also customize widgets so that they aren’t limited to built-in functionality. Justinmind runs well on both Windows and Mac, integrates with third-party tools , and advertises itself as the “application prototyping solution for all screens.”

7. InVision

InVision allows users to design in their favorite tool and then upload a screen capture so that they get use the prototyping tools they like most. Once the prototype is ready to share, InVision offers easy-to-use commenting and version-control systems, making it a great communication tool for working with remote clients.

8. Solidify

Solidify lets users make clickable prototypes, full mock-ups , wireframes, and sketches. It makes interface screens simple to prototype and simple to test on everything from phones to tablets to computers. Solidify allows for rapid creation to see if directed flows are understandable and thus is great for usability testing.

9. POP

POP stands for prototyping on paper, a reference to the fact that users first draw out a prototype on standard paper and then take a photo of it with POP. After that, users link the digital sketches to create a storyboard and then share the prototype URL via iPhone, iPad, or web browser. POP is only for iOS.

It is widely referred to as the “back of the napkin sketch tool.”

10. Wireframe.cc

Wireframe is a minimalistic tool designed to help users focus on sketching ideas. It intentionally limits options so that details don’t become distracting and brainstorming becomes the focus. There are three templates (web, tablet, and smartphone) and just handful of pre-made elements. It is a great tool for the first step in prototyping.

Deciding on the Right Prototyping Tool

Which tool you choose from the list above will come down to your individual needs. Some are free, some you buy outright, and some you rent on a monthly basis. Nearly all of the tools above offer a free trial period, so test them out and see what works best for you. In some cases, you may find that have two tools, one for early prototyping and one for later stages of prototyping, is the best solution.

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