Bret Crutchfield

Frontend Developer for Morley Group

Bret Crutchfield

Frontend Developer for Morley Group

Why I’ll never care how many prototyping apps come out.7 min read

Twice a week, my workflow gets interrupted from another San Jose / Francisco / Antonio startup who have the next big thing in rapid website prototyping, iOS prototyping, Apple watch prototyping. Mix or match, all of the above…you get the idea. You can upload jpegs of your unfinished design, and generally hotlink them to, well, other jpegs, of your still unfinished design.

Maybe a better use of my time is fixing my mail notifications to only display vip contacts, and if that’s not possible, move to San Antonio and create a startup that makes an app that lets you select notifications from vip’s. I don’t think it makes a better blog post though.

My issue has always been the hours spent whittling away at exporting jpegs that literally won’t matter in a week. Next week, we’ll be long onto a third set of jpegs. In the end, you can have a whole creative department that’s been locked down making changes that actually don’t matter, and going through an arduous process of deleting and re-uploading content for the client to review, the whole time getting nothing done on the actual architecture of the project, and burning through project hours as if it has the runway of the final scene of fast and furious 8, or 6. Was it 3? That one with the ridiculous 18 mile runway.

Prototyping in good ‘ol fashioned html, or even better in your CMS of choice ( we dig WordPress around here ) ends up being incredibly efficient we have found, no matter how many startups tell us different in snarky emails sent bi-weekly. A small package of wireframe jpegs we have made ( for example, a box with a youtube style play icon ) can be quickly uploaded as a package and reused as needed. This forces the client to not get bogged down in low level decisions such as the font size of the video share url and let’s them easily focus on the high level decisions that are truly needed at the early stage of development, such as “Do you even want a video here?”

Meanwhile, while these crucial decisions are being made, it’s amazing how much actual work is getting done on the project. Instead of uploading a jpeg of a video player that is 20% smaller to the aforementioned gang of prototyping apps, isn’t it actually easier to just adjust that video wrapper with one line of css? Want to see a different footer color? ( They ALWAYS do… ) Way easier to edit that css and have your changes made globally in a second vs. the time spent updating Photoshop mocks and exporting them. oh, and uploading them. oh right, then you have to navigate to the screens in the app and delete the old jpg and replace it. ( Also of note, if you are like me, you quickly become lost and confused from all the jpgs marked “contactPage_03_final2_5.jpg” )

I’ll always admire the startup mentality, and going to work for one is up there as one of the best decisions I ever made, right alongside drinking better beer. Startups can push boundaries, create new ones, and effectively steer large corporations into better ways of helping our fellow ‘preferred gender’. Nonetheless, if you are in a startup, you need to ask yourself some hard questions. What do we solve? How usable is our app / service?

We’ve found here that prototyping apps are just more trouble than they are worth, even at the free starter price. I personally can’t imagine ever buying a monthly subscription to one. We’re sure our clients love the price savings passed along, as well as avoiding the frustration of agonizing over what color the footer should be for three days.

That being said, if you would like to develop a rapid prototyping web app, give us a call. 🙂