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3 Secrets to Building Billion-Dollar Apps

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1. When it comes to developing mobile applications, no design method is easier or more cost-effective than paper-based prototyping. When you're working with paper, you're free to make conceptual modifications to your design without suffering the economic burden traditionally associated with app development. Paper-based prototyping lends you the economic flexibility to pivot, or change directions, with ease.

2. Moreover, paper-based prototyping facilitates positive team interaction. As opposed to programming, which requires technical expertise, paper-based prototyping is relatively unintimidating. It's approachable to most members of the development team and therefore, levels the technical playing field.

3. Paper-based prototypes are also, to their advantage, unpolished and unimposing. Users generally feel more comfortable criticizing them than they do mock-ups constructed of more costly materials. If nothing else, paper-based prototyping proves ideal for incorporating user feedback into the design process.

As you navigate the process of app development, consider the following lessons:

A) Learn to conquer your perfectionism. Too often, developers seek refinement in their prototypes. They feel pressured to present end users with aesthetically appealing mock-ups. But these same developers have forgotten an important rule to product design. The prototype's appearance is irrelevant -- at least initially. It's imperative, prior to commercialization, to observe how users interact with your app in its most basic form.

B) Test your prototypes rigorously with end users. Before squandering additional resources on the development of an app that nobody wants to buy, scrutinize your mock-ups along two dimensions: usability and desirability. Usability testing assesses how well users interact with your app. Desirability testing, on the other hand, measures how effectively your app meets user needs. This double-pronged evaluation will help you determine the commercial viability of your app early on in the development process.

C) Always keep your eye on the prize. Remember, it doesn't matter how cool your app concepts are, or how polished your prototypes look. What matters is that customers understand how your app works, and more importantly, that they're willing to purchase it. Otherwise, all you have is quirky ideas and no means by which to pay the bills.

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