We’re all aware of the power of hype; you share a sneak peek into your product to get your potential users excited for your upcoming launch. But is there an art form to sharing your mobile app pre-launch app to maximize the results? We think so.

Sharing the fruits of your labor with people beyond the development team can have a number of advantages. But most importantly, by sharing your app you’ll get more interest from users and ultimately release a better product.

Satisfying Requirements

Without constant and clear communication, it’s all too easy for developers and key stakeholders to drift apart in terms of expectations and objectives in the period between design and release. As a result, stakeholders are not happy with the final product, causing the project to go over budget and schedule or resulting in an app that users aren’t happy with.

That’s why mobile app prototyping is so important: it helps turn your app from a passing thought into a workable vision through a controlled, iterative process. Most importantly, creating a fully functional prototype helps you find out if what you’ve made so far meets the needs of the team or client.

It’s often the case that the initial project requirements haven’t encapsulated absolutely everything that key stakeholders want for the mobile app. Prototyping helps bring out those hidden or subconscious ideas in order to get everyone on the same page. For example, developers might assume that mobile app users will understand that an arrow icon means “reply,” when a similar icon is already used on the company website to mean “share.”

By successively adding to and refining your app after getting feedback from key stakeholders, you can build a more polished, targeted product that’s a delight for customers to use. Of course, you’ll also want to hear from your target users–so let’s talk about usability testing.

Getting UX Feedback

While stakeholders generally require you to provide them a prototype (at some point), they’re already familiar with how the app is meant to work and therefore might miss end-user hiccups. Or, as is often the case, stakeholders might not be similar to your target user persona, potentially biasing their feedback in the wrong direction. Sharing a prototype with target customers and users that fit your persona allows you to quickly get more accurate and relevant feedback, as well as correct mistakes before getting too deep into development. During usability testing, you can achieve things like:

  •          Understanding your users’ expectations and needs
  •          Removing redundant design elements and features
  •          Optimizing the user experience

Usability testing really has two components: user research, in which you find out which features and functionality your users want; and testing, in which you find out how well you’ve implemented them. To begin with, you need to find the right users to talk to: ideally, those who have used apps like yours before or who have an interest in your field.

Once you’ve marshaled together enough people, give them your app and collect their feedback through a variety of explicit and implicit methods: interviews, focus groups, surveys, analytics and so on. Determine what your users want to do and how they try to achieve that with your app, step by step. Just like prototyping, user testing can and should be an iterative process of improvement and refinement.

Not only is it a good idea to do user testing in formal environments, it can also be important to test your app in casual settings outside your organization. Dave Lieb, founder of the contact sharing app Bump, has professed the virtues of “drunk testing”: asking people in bars to download and use your app. According to Lieb, “drunk people are maybe a good approximation of distracted people” because they’re very direct in their actions and can highlight bottlenecks or roadblocks in the app’s flow. Lieb also encourages testing your app with people of all different ages and people from different countries and cultures in order to expose any hidden assumptions or issues.

Creating Buzz

If you’re looking to generate excitement around your mobile app, you can’t just press a button on the App Store and hope that word of mouth will be enough once it’s out. Well before release, it’s very helpful if you have a defined pre-launch marketing strategy that emphasizes your app’s most attractive features in order to build up a little hype. Many app developers list their upcoming releases on communities like PreApps so that potential users can become beta testers or receive a notification when your app is released.

Creating buzz will obviously be orders of magnitude easier if you already have a prototype of your app that your end users can play with. For example, if you decide to approach journalists at technology publications, or publications related to your app, making your pitch will be much more effective if they can see and use the app for themselves.

Final Thoughts

Mobile development benefits from the ability to share what you’re working on with the world, well before you’ve launched your app for general consumption. In doing so, you’ll make better decisions, save wasted development time, get objective external opinions and create a final product that makes users and clients happier.

Dropsource now gives our users access to a new shareable, fully functional prototype feature in our web simulator. You can easily share a public link with anyone, including people who don’t use Dropsource. Once they click on the link, users will have access to the app’s full functionality within their web browser–just one of the ways that Dropsource is making mobile development easier and more accessible.

Interested in learning more about prototyping and testing? Check out these posts from the Dropsource team:
5 User Testing Challenges (and How We Overcame Them)
7 Best Practices for Mobile App Prototyping