Investors are bombarded with pitches and ‘next best thing’ ideas, every day. Understanding how to build a prototype for your mobile app can give you a competitive edge when pitching to potential investors and help get your business off the ground.

So, what is a prototype and why do you need it?

App prototyping is a form of user research – a mostly visual mock-up that looks like a real app. It demonstrates an app’s fundamental design and function, but does not contain working code.

Interactive prototypes simulate how a product will work and allow you to mimic actually using the app. A mobile app prototype helps to understand how real users interact with a product and, therefore, validate UX design assumptions and assess the feasibility of a product. Prototyping allows you to see the product in action with the lowest cost possible.

How complex or deep your prototype is will really depend on the idea, how much funding you are seeking and which round of funding you’re in.

For early stage or seed round, a prototype can be as basic as sketches on paper, or a few designed up screens. For more serious funding, a mix of designed and coded screens along the critical path might be needed.

 Once you’re in front of your investors, you only get one shot to pitch it for the first time, so you’ll want to make it the best possible,

Step 1: Know the problem you’re solving

Understanding the current problems of users and what your product is trying to solve is paramount to building a good prototype. It will provide you with a reference point along the way to ask yourself will this feature help my user, or not?

Because it ‘sounds great’ isn’t a reason for building an app. You build an app because:

  • You wish you could get access to your data quicker.
  • You think the online food ordering process is broken.
  • You have identified a problem in the world, and it’s your mission to fix that problem.


When we work with clients, we always take them through a process that allows us to uncover the purpose of the app. We look to better understand the industry as a whole – the competition, business goals, audience goals – and dive deep into understanding the features of the app that truly matter to their audience. Once we’ve clearly identified the audience and the pain that this app solves, we begin to design the user’s journey between pain and solution.

 Step 2: Identify the core functionality

A prototype is usually developed around the core functionality. If users need to login to access the app, it’s important that it’s included in the prototype. Before you build your app, create a list of the features that are needed in your app and prioritise those items by what is a ‘must’ for your target audience, versus what’s ‘nice to have’.

Generally, the first 3–4 features on your priority list will be the ones you want to build your prototype around. Once you can prove you have an idea that resonates and your app is something people actually want, you can add other features as needed.

Step 3: Sketches and wireframes

After you’ve decided on the highest priority features for your prototype, it’s time to start thinking through the user experience. User experience design has everything to do with how a person feels when interacting with your product. It is intuitive. Are buttons in the right place? Can I do everything with one thumb whilst having one eyeball on the screen?

You then craft the user experience into a few rough sketches of how the primary screens should look and feel. These are then passed onto a graphic designer to create a wireframe using Adobe XD, Figma or some other wireframing tool. A wireframe is a simplified outline of your product consisting of grey boxes, basic wording, lines and sometimes description text too.

 Step 4: Building the prototype

Building a prototype involves taking all the work you completed in your wireframes and building it into a basic model of your final product. How complex you make it really depends on who you are presenting it to. You could make it as simple as the wireframes connected together in a prototyping tool. Or you could go all the way to creating great looking designs with some basic functionality too.

In our experience with investors, the more you can show you have invested in your product and the better it looks, the more likely it is for you to communicate your idea and get their attention. Amongst other criteria, investors are looking at how mature your idea is, and how much time and money you have invested in it yourself.

If you’d like some more advice on prototyping or you need someone to put one together for you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team at Spring Digital.