As mobile usage increases exponentially around the world, companies are scrambling to create a presence on the biggest app stores of the world, namely Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store. But what’s actually required for mobile app development, and why is design such a critical component? Let’s try and answer these burning questions.
Creating an app is not just about writing some code and quickly packaging it as an app to upload it to a popular app store. The process is painstaking and involves various states. During these stages, you’ll need various different tools and platforms. What are some of these?
- Design – First of all, you’ll need to create a wireframe or mockup of the app, create user flows, and define what your app should look like and how it should function. To do this, you need a robust design tool with flowcharting capabilities.
- Prototype – Before creating the actual mobile app, you’ll need to create a working prototype so all stakeholders are on the same page about the look and feel of the app and its features. For this, you’ll require a prototyping platform.
- Testing – The next stage is to test your prototype and validate your design logic. In other words, does it work as it should; is it easy to navigate; does it have issues that need to be fixed? Such questions will refine the final requirement for developing the app.
- Development – Now comes the actual app coding part. This phase takes all of the input from the designing, prototyping, and testing stages and arrives at a fixed set of components that need to be developed and assembled to create the final app.
- Deployment – Of course, once the app is ready, you’ll need a platform to distribute it to a large audience. This is where the app stores come in.
If you’re a mobile app designer, you probably don’t need to worry about the development and deployment stages, but you will need to be on top of the design, prototyping, and testing phases. And to execute these phases, you’ll either need several independent tools or an integrated platform. What do these tools help you accomplish?
- User Flow Design – Creating user flows or flowcharts is the first step in the design process because it clearly shows you how the mobile app should function. The esthetics or design considerations will often be executed in parallel but must be consistent with pre-defined user flows.
- Mobile App Design – You will also need a tool to create the final design with visual UI elements. The tool you choose should preferably come with its own built-in libraries as well as third-party resources for design systems, UI kits, templates, and so on. In addition, it should have vector drawing capabilities so you can design custom icons, logos, and other unique assets for your design.
- Prototyping for UX Designers – If you’re handling the UX part of the design, you’ll need a prototyping tool that can create high-fidelity prototypes or even simple clickthrough wireframes.
- Testing, Validation, and Approval – Since the development phase is usually the most expensive, everything about the design and prototype needs to be tested, validated with sample members of the target audience, and the major stakeholders such as the project manager and the client. Only after you jump through several hoops will your design be finally approved for development. That means you’ll need the right tool for that as well.
Considering all these various phases and how critical they are to the overall mobile app development process, a lot of thought needs to go into the tools you’ll be using to design the front end of the app and its user interactions. So, how do you choose the right mobile app design platform? Let’s look at the basic elements of such a utility.
- Easy flowchart creation – User flows are critical because they’ll show you the most efficient way to execute a task. These are then visualized and turned into flow diagrams to show how an interaction flows from one step to the next until the desired action is completed.
- Robust asset libraries and design features – The platform you use must come with an extensive library of assets, and it helps if there are templates, design systems, shared custom libraries, and other features to help you collaborate with other designers working on the project.
- Rapid prototyping capabilities – You should also be able to create interactive prototypes with rich interactive elements in minutes. In Agile development, the ability to quickly create new prototypes is essential to the process.
- Real-time previews with easy sharing methods – In addition to creating the designs and prototypes, you should have a way to share them in a secure manner with others online.
- Instant commenting, annotations, and feedback mechanisms – The faster you receive feedback, the faster you get your designs approved, so this is an important consideration when choosing a design tool for mobile apps.
Now, let’s get to the meat and potatoes of this article. In other words, what at the tools that provide this extensive palette of features that every mobile app designer needs? We’ll look at three key capabilities of each of these best 5 apps for mobile app designers.
Wondershare Mockitt is one of the most comprehensive platforms for app design, whether it’s a mobile app, a web application, or a website. Since it’s an online platform, you can access it from anywhere through your browser, and nothing needs to be installed for you to get started. The best part? It’s totally self-sufficient because it has everything you need to go from a simple wireframe to intricate user flows to a fully functional prototype – right up to the developer handoff.
- Flowcharting Tool – Mockitt offers a solid flow chart creator so you can quickly put together process flows to outline the various features and functions of the app and how users will interact with it. Standard flow chart elements are provided, and the user interface makes it easy to create user flows in minutes and share them with others.
- Design Tool – For the design part, Mockitt offers a rich collection of ready-to-use assets that are customizable and shareable. If you don’t see what you need, you can check the repository of digital assets such as design systems, templates, UI kits, etc. You also have access to a robust vector drawing tool that lets you create unique designs from scratch or build on another design that you’ve imported from another design platform.
- Prototyping Tool – The rapid prototyping tool in Mockitt gives you speed and flexibility. Linking assets to their corresponding page states is as simple as dragging and dropping the link. You can add rich gestures, attractive transitions, captivating animations, and other effects to make your prototypes come to life.
Aside from these critical tools, Mockitt also offers a collaborative environment where designs can be co-edited, comments appear in real-time, sharing with links is secure, and getting approval for your designs is a breeze. Right down to the developer handoff stage, Mockitt holds your hand and does all the grunt work for you, leaving you free to focus on the creative and functional parts of the mobile app.
Sketch is a world-renowned design utility for Mac and quite possibly one of the most popular design tools around. Although it’s not that easy to use in the beginning, it has a whole range of features that make it a highly appealing choice for designers all over the world.
- Robust vector design creation tools with built-in asset libraries – Sketch gives you access to extensive UI libraries as well as the tools you need to create customized vector graphics for the app.
- Prototyping – There are several basic and advanced prototyping tools in Sketch, such as links and hotspots, fixed elements, start points, etc. The prototypes aren’t highly interactive since you can only link layers or artboards to each other, but they give you a fair view of the app’s functionality.
- Plugins and Integrations – These are essentially extensions that give Sketch additional capabilities that are missing from core feature offerings. There are also numerous integrations that let you work with other platforms for developer handoffs, user testing, version control, and so on.
Flinto focuses more on the prototyping phase, but it allows you to import your designs from numerous other platforms like Sketch in a seamless manner. In terms of prototyping, it is extremely capable, offering features such as micro-interactions, haptic feedback on iOS devices, and so on. It even comes with a drawing tool if you need to quickly create a unique design element for your app.
- 3D Rotation – Animate your designs with 3D rotations to create realistic prototypes that act like the real app.
- Video Layers – Add video or GIF content on top of your designs to make them more interactive.
- Haptic Feedback on iOS Devices – Get realistic haptic touch feedback on iOS devices for testing.
Zeplin is a code-ready platform for publishing UI designs. It comes with a rich set of features to collaborate with other team members to create standardized designs that are consistent with the company’s brand image.
- Global Styleguides – Create web libraries of standardized components so the entire team is on the same page when it comes to design elements.
- Integrations – Project management and task management integrations make it easy to track the progress of team deliverables.
- Design Platform Compatibility – The other set of integrations is with Sketch, Figma, and other design tools, from which you can import designs into Zeplin and customized your app page designs.
Figma is another online design platform with prototyping tools and vector tools. It enjoys a large community of users and contributors who offer design assets in Figma Community, a Figma-hosted platform for sharing and selling content.
- Special Vector Tools – The unique Arc Tool is just one of the many unique features that Figma offers its users. Create stunning vector drawings to complement the vast built-in UI library as well as UI kits, templates, and design systems from the community.
- User Community – The large community of users have developed third-party plugins and other useful extensions that you can either download for free or purchase from the marketplace.
- Platform Integrations – You can import designs from platforms like Sketch or Adobe XD to prototype them in Figma. The prototyping tools are a little more complicated than Mockitt but you can create highly interactive and functional prototypes.
All these tools bring unique flavors to the table when it comes to mobile app design. However, as a designer, you want to choose a platform that is as comprehensive as possible, such as Wondershare Mockitt. This is one of the few platforms that covers the entire gamut of components of UI/UX design, including mind mapping (upcoming), user flows, libraries, design systems (upcoming), design tools, rapid prototyping, sharing, feedback systems, and final developer handoff. And all of this at a very affordable price point that’s attractive to enterprise users as well as individuals and startups that are bootstrapping their businesses in search of growth.