3 Must-have Design Principles for Any Mobile App Prototype


While doing several Mobile App concepts for clients we discovered a trinity of value that took us from ‘quick and dirty’ to ‘quick and clean’. While building concepts as a demonstrable prototype, you are bound to take shortcuts. You cannot make fast progress without cutting some corners. Having limited time should never mean cutting out the essence; it should mean focusing on the essence. That is exactly what O.E.R. delivers; Focus on essence.


To capture the reason the user will start using the solution we define the reason for the app to exist. This can only be described as the value towards the user. What will the App deliver as a value to the user? Or from a user perspective: ‘what’s in it for me?’ That is the Ontology of the App. This can be described in one paragraph of only a couple of sentences that define ‘the meaning of being’, as a philosopher would put it. This ‘whatness’ is why the App exists, for this the users enjoy it and its value: it is the essence of the App.


I love ‘focus’, especially for Apps. Only one purpose for the App brings focus, however it is a bit narrow. From the ontology we can derive several epics: main use-cases that bring value to the user. This set of epics has to be a coherent one and should be focused around one user group in a specific context or aligned contexts. By creating the epics we create a kind of mental flow for the App. The App becomes logically layered as described in my previous post ‘The Next Wave in App Design’. This helps to order the functionalities that are derived from the user values and gives guidance to the user.


With ontology and epics, we have a clear set of ‘why’ and ‘what’ from a user perspective. Everything until here was done without any interface in mind. All was interface agnostic. It is time to create a layout and a detailed flow for the App, including the visual style for the App demonstrator. This means we create the design language as a constant factor throughout the App that is the logic behind every screen, every element and every transition. This logic is the Design Rationale. It should be consequent and in line with the App concept, the style of the company and the platform guidelines. One rationale behind the entire App, described as one complete and comprehensive set of visual design principles.

Why O.E.R?

These three (O, E & R) principles for the App concept are necessary to make a great pitch for the demonstrable prototype. They provide answers to questions that are expected to rise during the presentation. Why? Exactly: why. The question always will be ‘why’…? Why this App? Why the logo on the left? Why this start screen? Why here? … ‘Why’ is the question 2-year-olds keep asking and we tend to ask them to stop asking. ‘Why’ is the question we should ask to gain insight, to improve our concept and to make sure we have answers for those who will decide if a concept will be realized. Asking ‘why’ is what we teach adults again to be able to improve their work and others. Keep asking ‘why’ until you reach the essence, how and what will follow from that. You want to know why? Take a look at Simon Sinek on TED.com.


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