We all don’t have the luxury of a dedicated mobile development team so you need to find tools that will let you quickly and easily prototype your ideas and then actually get them built and posted. Over the past 6 months I have found two tools that can really help you out as you try to bring your grand mobile vision to life with a skeleton crew and a phantom budget.
When I design for mobile, especially iPhone, I am a fiend for testing and tweaking my designs based on workable prototypes. The challenge for me has been that I just don’t have the time to learn all the features of Apple’s developers kit to be able to sit and work through my prototypes on my own which meant I had to do it in Flash and test it on my screen or put static comps on my phone. Neither solution was close to idea since the usability wasn’t right when I did it on computer and comps on my phone were in the right environment but had no interaction. Then I found Briefs which is a toolkit for packaging your mobile concepts into prototypes that run live on the iPhone and iPod Touch.
A brief is a single binary XML file that contains the structure and layout of your concept. All resources, including image data are bundled inside of a single .brieflist document. The structure of a brief is broken down into scenes and actors. Using a hierarchy of these objects, one can define an entire application flow and position controls into a designed layout. Right now you create the app by downloading their Starter Kit and doing some extremely simple coding where you define the stages, the graphic location and the position of any buttons. There will be a version in the App Store soon.
I have used Briefs a lot and it has been an essential part of my design process as it allows me to test user experience models and designs on anything from pencil sketches to full blown designs. If you are designing for the iPhone I would high recommend investing the minimal time it takes to get up to speed on it.
Mobile Roadie is an interesting tool is a Web based app development framework that gives you all the tools to create and maintain iPhone and Android apps. Depending on your needs you can get Core, Plus or Pro packages with each tier adding more controls and options with the Pro package giving you almost complete creative freedom to create an app that looks exactly the way you want it to. Since it is a mobile framework the content is downloaded into the app which isn’t the standard experience but it does give you the flexibility to update the structure and content without having to push a whole new app that the use will have to download an update for. t is a really good solution for any designer, agency or company that doesn’t have the budget to hire an entire mobile development team but needs to create a mobile app presence.