Saturday, January 07, 2012

Create powerful iOS Application Prototypes for under $20

UPDATE: 8 Jan 2012 - Looks like Apple have rejected App Cooker's sister app: "App Taster". App Cooker is still available. Sounds like a misunderstanding, they've appealed and are expecting some news soon.

I'm currently in the middle of developing my first iPhone app and wanted to share a phenomenal resource I stumbled across. If you happen to be thinking about building your own app, I'd seriously consider investing in this tool, or one like it before you shell out any money on software development!

It called App Cooker for iPad ($19.99) by Hot Apps Factory. Here's a short list of what I thought was really useful:
(I'm not affiliated with these guys, I just think they did a great job and deserve some recognition)
  1. Create a functional prototype without having to write any code
  2. Wireframe almost any kind of iOS application screen I could think of!
  3. Allowed me to connect screens together to simulate navigation between screens (the only thing I couldn't do was simulate the user experience of swiping)
  4. Focus on validating my concept and identifying key missing features.
  5. Send your functioning prototype to someone else and have them test it out on their device using the FREE App Taster app
Everything I've mentioned above is simple to do without any background in programming!

mock screen

Above you can see the Mockup Module I've been using.

The Mockup module is just one of several included features. There's a lot of other stuff too, like an Icon Designer and Pricing Features. I personally found the Icon designer to be a little unwieldy to use on an iPad.

I decided to combine Penultimate (a note taking app) with iMockups to create wireframes that had a more hand drawn feel to them. More on this in another post.

Some Alternatives:
  • iMockups ($6.99)
    Reasonably good overall and goes beyond iOS prototyping. I personally found App Cooker to be more intuitive, quicker and easier to use for anyone who's focusing on iPad / iPhone devices.
  • Keynotopia ($99+) 
    Only runs on desktop versions of Keynote, PowerPoint and OpenOffice and will not run on iPhone or iPad. Is not limited to prototyping iOS apps. but does come at a higher price. Definitely worth a look if you're planning on using a lot of native iOS controls in your finished app.
  • Balsamiq ($79)
    Like Keynotopia, Balsamiq doesn't run on mobile devices but is not limited to iOS app prototyping. Think of it as a more powerful, PC/Mac based version of iMockups. Great thing about Balsamiq is it makes prototypes look like they've been hand drawn and are therefore less distracting when you hire a professional designer to come up with a finished / polished look for your app.
If you know of any alternatives to App Cooker or have any questions about the Mockup functionality feel free to tweet me @roktecha

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