How to Prototype An App Without Design Skills

You have a million dollar app idea. But you don’t have a million dollars to get it off the ground. How can you put together something professional looking to see if others would be interested - if you don’t have any design skills?

Well, it’s possible - and it’s possible to do with zero budget to. Today we’ll take you through how to prototype an app, all without having any design skills.

Define your core functionalities

How far along are you with your app idea? If it’s just an overall idea at the moment, your first step needs to be fleshing out your core functionalities.

Let’s say, for instance, you want to make an app that tracks how many standard drinks you’ve consumed in a day, maybe over hours too, giving a rough estimate of BAC.

Your core functionalities would be:

  • Configuration - user inputting their gender, weight, and whether they’ve eaten.
  • Database 1 - A list of all drinks and each’s standard drinks
  • Database 2 - Ongoing input, selection of drink with a timestamp
  • Rolling calculations: Calculating approximate BAC, perhaps updating every 10 minutes

This is a very simple app and could be stored completely on the phone, so it wouldn’t even need internet connectivity to function.

Once you’ve nailed down your core functionalities, you can have a think about how this type of app could be displayed on a phone, and how many screens it would need.

Download and explore other apps

Want to start prototyping your app? Hey, you better get an idea of what else is out there first!

Create a spreadsheet and start researching: your columns should be the app name, category, platform (iOS/Android), your likes, your dislikes, and even any screenshots of particularly cool parts - you can draw on a screenshot to highlight the feature.

First, you might like to download and play with some apps that are in your sort of niche - see how they look, what they do, workflows, etc.

After you’ve toured some apps similar to the one you’d like to build, broaden your scope. Download apps from a whole range of different categories. While they’ll be different in function you might find inspiration from colour schemes, styling, workflows, etc.

Once you’ve done your research, you’ll have a better idea of exactly what you’ll need to do in designing the prototype of your app - and all the details to refer back to.

Freehand on paper

Grab a pencil and some paper and get to sketching! Draw out each screen you’ll need for your app with the basic elements displayed. Using a pencil is a good idea as you can erase anything you think doesn’t look quite right.

Don’t worry about getting it right the first time! You can do this a few times, over a few days or weeks, to get a better idea of what you think you’d like.

Take advantage of novice prototyping tools

Just because you’re not a designer, doesn’t mean that you can’t prototype a great digital design. There are now plenty of app prototyping tools available for anyone to try out - no background in design required.

Take a look at tools like Figma, which allows you to “design, prototype, and collaborate all in the browser,” Adobe XD (you’ll need to learn some design skills, but you can get started yourself), or even Pop by Marvel, which allows you to “turn any sketch or image into an interactive prototype.” These are all very cheap or free tools.

Poll the audience

Prototyping is your key to nailing down a great app. By prototyping, you can test what works, what doesn’t work, or even go back to the drawing board - but you’ll need potential user input. Ask your friends, colleagues, or random strangers that you meet at the bar what they think of your prototype. Gain insights and refine your ideas.

Once you’ve got a clearer idea of what your app should look like, what it should do, and how it should do it, then you’ll be able to progress to getting building a working prototype, and setting those development wheels into motion.

Ready to take it to the next stage with your prototype?

Once you’ve run through this process and have something you think is a solid idea, then you can move on to the next stage - and get it coded up into an actual functioning app to test out! We can help make your prototype an actual app, then start adding all those features you wanted that weren’t quite part of your core functionality set.

CodeFirst are your friendly partners in app development - and if you need some more help with that app prototype, don’t be afraid to reach out for our advice!