It’s unlikely mobile apps are losing steam. Even if downloads are retreating from their tremendous heights, people love mobile apps. Mobile applications are more prevalent than the mobile web, which is a behemoth in its own right. According to Flurry, “Users spend 90 of their time in apps compared to the mobile web.” That’s an incredible stat and it shows the iniquitousness of mobile apps.
Millennials spend over 58 hours a month on social and entertainment apps. People from 35-54 spend over 42 hours a month on social and entertainment apps. There’s a huge market here. Can small business take advantage of the mobile app market? Or are these eyeballs only for big brands?
Image Credit: Proto.io
Can Small Businesses Benefit from Mobile Apps?
Small businesses don’t have to hit a home-run with their mobile app. All they have to do is create something that appeals to a part of their audience. Here are some examples and ideas. Some of these are for customers and others are for employees.
Mobile Customer Loyalty Programs-
Businesses have been using punch cards for decades to promote customer loyalty. These cards have their downsides though. For instance, customers often lose or misplace these cards. In certain cases, there is also the potential of fraud. A mobile application erases those two concerns.
Mobile Customer Relationship Management-
Instead of keeping a bunch of business cards in a drawer, you can use a robust app to keep track of clients and partners. You can also use it as a reminder to follow up on sales leads.
You can remind customers of special events through a phone application. You want to provide value without being annoying.
If you have a special offer that only applies to local customers or suppliers, you can send out a targeted notice through your app.
Is Prototyping Important?
Small businesses can creatively use mobile apps. Is prototyping beneficial? Is it an effective way to create a better product? Or is it a waste of time and money?
Clients love prototypes. Development teams love prototypes. A prototype type vividly maps out visual progress. A written document is hard to digest and visualize. This quote from BoagWorld says:
“The prototype acts as a central hub for everyone involved in the project, offering something tangible to explore and consider, and to show to others without getting bogged down in more aesthetic design decisions. It helps to focus the attention on any problems that need to be solved with the site, and becomes a basis and focal point for discussion.”
A prototype is an excellent way to weed out issues with a mobile application. It’s easier to upgrade a prototype than a written mock-up.
A prototype also offers advantages over HTML. Jacob Krajweski has a masters degree with extensive UX design experience. In an exclusive interview with Brandignity, he discusses Proto.io,
“For the average user, Proto.io is easy to master, quick to finish, and full of potential. I’ve done things on Proto.io that were [too] complex for me to know how to do on HTML, with great results.”
Jacob is a professional who is sought after for his design skills. Even he can do things on Proto.io he can’t do in HTML. Of course, he could look them up or ask another UX designer. Yet, the power of prototyping software is the unprecedented speed and accuracy. Jason isn’t the only one who advocates prototyping over HTML. Check out this quote from BoagWorld,
There’s a reason the term “rapid prototyping” is bandied around. Using mobile prototyping software is fast, and a great choice for small business owners who aren’t sure if they even want their app.
Is Proto.io a Good Choice for Small Business Owners?
So you want to build a mobile application. And you want to use prototyping software to test the waters first. One question remains. What should you use? Is Proto.io the best choice? Or should you consider another alternative?
Simplicity is key for any prototyping app that targets small business owners. Steep learning curves are time eaters. One of the advantages of prototyping is saving time. Jacob Krajewski says Proto.io is accessible to anyone who can use PowerPoint. In this lengthy quote he breaks down the advantages of Proto.io.
If you can use PowerPoint, you can use Proto.io. You know how multiple choice tests are always easier than fill in the blanks? Proto.io gives you multiple choices for animations, transitions and the like. This helps you learn as you go. You are exposed to what can be done, and maybe the next time around, you’ll decide to implement an option you noticed, but never used before.
All the actions are broken down into simple categories, you’ve got mouse interactions, screen transitions, fades, and on top of that, Proto.io lets you generate your own assets from within. You don’t need to import shapes from sketch or Photoshop, you can create them right inside your prototype.
There is full access to fonts, colors, borders, images, etc. You can make everything in wireframes or as complete assets if you like. Proto.io is not needed if all you want to do is show a screen flow, but if there’s any sort of interesting interactivity involved with individual elements on an interface, Proto.io is great [at] manipulating it in nearly any way you’d like.
Functionality is essential if you’re serious about improving your mobile app. As this Medium article states, “Proto.io is a surprisingly powerful web app; it has many, many functions.” Here’s why that’s vital.
If a feature isn’t in a prototype, you can’t test it. If you want to test it, you have to use another platform. Proto.io is robust, so the chances of this happening are minimized.
Of course, Proto.io is not ideal in every situation. Even though Proto.io is relatively simple, sometimes you want something simpler. As this quote from Medium states,
“Because everything works by drag-and-drop, clicking buttons and selecting values from lists, it can be a bit overwhelming sometimes to find the setting you need.”
Jacob Krajewski agrees there are simpler options out there,
“It all depends on the kinds of information you’re trying to get from your prototypes and what level of fidelity you’re looking for. For some applications, a simple click through prototype using basic Invision or Marvel transitions will work. Keynote and PowerPoint can give you a little bit more fidelity for animating various objects.”
Another drawback of Proto.io is the price. There is a free 15 day trial. After that, it costs $29 a month (or $288 if you pay annually) and covers five active projects. Still, the robust features make it an astute investment if you’re serious about building a mobile app. Also, you can cancel after you design your ideal app. If you want a free prototyping service with less features, try Invision. They have a free plan if you only want to build one prototype.
Mobile applications are booming, and they can benefit your small business. Even websites like Entrepreneur think they are a fantastic idea. Prototyping solutions are a canvas that brings life to your mobile app ideas.
Have you ever used prototyping software to build a mobile app? Share your experiences and suggestions in the comments.