Entrepreneurs and aspiring app developers can get a minimum viable prototype online in an afternoon with these five tips for fast, free web app prototyping.
- Use a prototyping multi-tool
- Increase productivity and capability with AI
- Prioritize interactivity before design
- Lean on existing iFrame/HTML widgets
- Skip the sandboxes and publish straight to the web
Why web apps?
In contrast to native/mobile apps, web apps are ideal for early development and proof-of-concept projects because of their low barrier for creators and users alike. They don’t require any download to run and enjoy a wide range of compatibility across devices and browsers. Web apps bypass the restrictions of app stores, don’t have ads, and share no browsing history, cookies, website data, or settings with your browser.
Apple users with iOS 16.4+ and MacOS Sonoma can save a Safari webpage as a web app on their home screen or dock, including an icon to launch the experience with one tap. Web apps are low cost to build, easy to maintain, are consistent between desktop and mobile, and are always the most recent version.
The following recommendations will help app creators with low-code prototyping to quickly bring their ideas online to start getting feedback.
Use a web app prototyping multi-tool
Increase productivity or capability with AI
Seasoned engineers can save development time by using AI-provided code snippets or debugging, increasing productivity. With the help of AI, low-code and no-code creators can leverage functionality they wouldn’t otherwise consider, increasing their capabilities. AI is particularly helpful within a low-code prototyping multi-tool, where custom code can be combined with pre-built interactions. Leveraging GPT, Hatch allows users to describe the look and functionality of their desired interactions with plain language, resulting in generated code. Edit a project through conversational prompts and add design elements, media, or functionality with drag-and-drop components native to Hatch.
Prioritize core interactivity first
The difference between presenting information and creating an experience is interactivity. Focus on specific interactive functionality to test the foundational concepts of the experience you’re creating. First build the primary interactions, those most critical to the experience, and get those in front of users quickly. Great design, branding, and storytelling are inherently satisfying, but they won’t fix a frustrating core mechanic.
Lean on iFrame/HTML widgets and embeds
You’ve identified your core functionality and your interactivity loop. But you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to bring in more content! There are heaps of pre-built HTML and iFrame widgets you can add to your web app to test your unique concept. Many of these even have style customizations. Consider what you could add to your app with widgets like weather, world clocks, countdown timers, calendars, 3D models, maps, calculators, social feeds, product catalogs, customer reviews, or video and song playlists. Ideally, many of these widgets and customizable components are available in your prototyping multi-tool.
Skip the sandbox and publish straight to the web
Get your friends and colleagues into your app immediately by publishing on the web. Your testers won’t need to download something else or track versions. Simply update your published webpage and the latest version is instantly available to your users. No new installs or updates required. Unlike beta testing software or prototyping tools, it’s easy for anyone to open a web browser and start interacting.
Go from idea to app in a day
With these tips, any emerging app creator can test an idea quickly before investing in more robust development resources. Of course, as you move from proof of concept to a functional prototype, you’ll need to consider a lot more. Speed and performance, security, offline capabilities, notifications, data, and a professional, polished design will all be on the table. But with lightweight, free tools, creators with or without technical expertise can hatch their idea into a web app.