5 App Prototyping Tips for Project Managers

4 min read
Kate Swanberg
  •  Sep 10, 2014
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Conservative estimates are placing the app market at 25 billion dollars, but as industries begin to build out digital and find new ways to engage with customers, this number is bound to explode.

So, how can a design and development agency make the most of that money to help better serve their clients? By better applications at a faster pace. Here at Koombea, an international web and mobile design and development agency, our project managers have put together five tips for success for your next digital project.

1. Watch Out for Grey Areas in App Prototyping

Checking for the grey areas before starting the project is the most important thing you can doTwitter Logo for your client, designers, and developers. It saves a lot of headaches and confusion from the start. For some clients, figuring out exactly what is in their head isn’t easy and isn’t 100% clear in the documentation.

We call this mind-reading. One common client example is a login feature. When clients list their requirements, they might just say “Login”. For you, it could mean an email and password, but for the client maybe it means that he/she wants Google+ or Facebook connect. Even a small feature can COMPLETELY change the timeline/estimate of the project.Twitter Logo

2. Speak the Industry Language

Don’t give a client “tech mumbo jumbo”.Twitter Logo What’s more important for them is for you to understand their specific industry. With Protrakr, a web and mobile responsive application for construction managers to track their supplies and construction process, we originally didn’t know about the construction industry. At all.

What can you do to better understand their industry? A creative brief and these three questions:

  1. Who is the user that is going to handle this? How many types of users do you have? For a particular feature, is it going to be the admin, consumer, or the client? For example, ProTrakr’s users were the admin and construction managers rather than a large, broad market.
  2. What does your client want? What is their objective? Focus on this BEFORE the functionality.Twitter Logo For example, Protrakr’s dashboard needed key insights from the construction sites weekly. The data shown in the front panel is important for the construction managers to know how much they are spending on supplies and the amount of time their team is taking on the project daily.
  3. Why? This is the most important question. It lets you know if that particular item or functionality is even necessary or is just something “cool” to have. This is a common difficulty PMs and clients face. They want to be trendy, but is it really something your user NEEDS? We need to be mindful for projects who have a limited budget.Twitter Logo

“Always understand the objective of the project first, never the functionality. When people go to Target and buy a drill what they really want to buy is a hole in a wall. If they could buy a hole they would buy the hole in the wall.” – Alvaro Insignares, Koombea Project Manager.

3. Update Your Standard User Flows into Working Prototypes

Sometimes it’s fun to be old school, but not when you’re working with a client budget and timeline. In the past, we used to send PDFs to our clients that gave them somewhat of a good idea on how the designs worked. The problem was that the screens weren’t linked, and the client didn’t understand the user flows.

Another issue? The screen size. Our UX designers use Sketch on large screens. With Protrakr, we were able to correct font we initially had on the Android screen by using InVision. We also used InVision‘s swipe gestures and linked screen shots together to show a new user’s flow!

“The workflow tools provided me the necessary platform to seamlessly work and communicate with Koombea’s team. With InVision, my application came to life on my laptop screen and mobile device before a single line of code had been created.” – Joseph Leiva, CEO Protrakr

4. Give Developers a Head Start

Don’t wait for the final designs for your back-end developers to get started building behind the scenes. Sure, there are some things you need to wait for, but having basic wireframes in the early stages allowed our developers to get a head start working with ProTrakr, inevitably leading to its fast MVP cycle.

“Knowing the business idea in general, having mock wireframes, and knowing how to make the user happy is imperative for the start of a great product.” –Javier Siado, Senior Back-End Developer

5. Use a Secret Formula of Project Management Tools

As a project manager, you have a variety of different responsibilities. You scope, you estimate, you lead a team of designers and developers, and of course you are the buffer for the client and agency. Protrakr was an MVP, 6-week success and used a perfect agency-client formula.

So the question is, what did they use to be successful?

Protrakr used our recommended formula of Google Hangout, InVision, Basecamp, Trello, and Dashable for workflow communication, prototyping, project feedback, project stages, and invoicing. We love to make our clients happy. That’s what it’s all about anyways… right? Using the right tools that our client wants and what we recommend makes a nicely cycled MVP.

“Using a combination of tools has helped us to stay in contact with Joseph, covering his needs and getting the right feedback to the right person in a fast and easy way.” -Luis Hernandez, Senior UX Designer, Koombea


By mapping out the grey areas, working on live prototypes, speaking the industry language, giving developers a head start, and using third-party PM tools, a project manager can make the entire process a smooth start to finish in enough time with plenty of room for iterations. Many questions arise in the early development process, and those conversations actually help clientsTwitter Logo, like ProTrakr, to build extraordinary apps.

Have more questions on building MVPs? Feel free to email Kate at

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