Sunday, November 28, 2010

PowerPoint [Prototyping] has the Power!


I wanted to share with you a small gem I encountered a while ago, which made my life (err, work) much easier.

It's called MockApp, it's free (well, as the author calls it, it's a "tweetware", and now I transform it into a "blogware") and if you're designing apps for iPhone, iPad, or for any other platform for that matter, there's a good chance you're about to fall in love.

A small anecdote: in the army we had signs like "Solider, improve your appearance!", but when I was at Samsung HQ in Korea (a formidable army by all means, in terms of size, complexity and especially in its security level) there were signs like "PowerPoint has the Power!" (I wish I could take a picture of those signs, but all cameras where taken away from us, just like in a military camp that it is...)
Well, they were right on the money, and with MockApp you get a better idea of just how much.

MockApp allows you to design complex UI solutions with ease on your PC, and by running it on the iPhone, you get to feel not just the UI but the UX as well.

Well, some of you would say that paper prototyping is enough, or Visio wireframes could also do the trick, but as Dotan Saguy, the author of MockApp, said - "wireframes never get anyone excited, and static mockups suck..."
I with you on that, Dotan.

So, how does it work?
Quite simple.
1.       Download MockApp for PowerPoint / Keynote here
2.       Start designing your iPhone app using "actual" iPhone UI controls
3.       Within PowerPoint, add internal hyperlinks to elements, that will mimic the real flow of your app
4.       Save your PowerPoint as a PDF
5.       Launch GoodReader on your iPhone (I bought the app – it's sure worth the $2 by itself, though I think the free version might also do the trick)
6.       Run your MockApp "client" on the iPhone – eh voila!
7.       (…then you tweet / blog just how great MockApp is, of course)

These days I'm designing a rich communication client for AT&T on the iPhone and iPad, and though I can't share with you the MockApp I've prepared, trust me, it saved me lots of hours in figuring out how exactly I want the app to "feel like", which design "holes" I still need to cover, and as a result, saved the company countless hours of R&D / QA work - all without writing a single line of code.

We even used this mockup to perform an external usability test, which took place abroad, on actual iPhones. It proved us just how close to the "real thing" this MockApp gets (some examinees said they could easily relate to it, as if they were working on a real iPhone app) and how it allowed us to pinpoint the right UI that users appreciate. Eventually we fixed couple of UI issues found in the usability test, long before the R&D got to develop those screens.

Way to go MockApp!

You can learn more about MockApp on their site, see an example of a mockup on the PC, or watch the video below.
(Or here, here, here and here :-) )

Wishing you great prototyping,

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