23 Aug

Snapchat: the Unlikely Prototyping Tool

snapchatIf you haven’t heard of Snapchat, it’s the app where users send pictures that self destruct in 10 seconds or less. Last year, the company politely declined Facebook’s offer of $3,000,000,000 for this free app. This year, they might receive an offer for three or four times that figure.

And yes, it’s the app where people send dirty pictures. Which is why, last week when I sent a client a preliminary mockup using the app, I was told that it was the most innocent Snapchat ever. Although I did it partially as a joke about my quiet Friday nights, I realized that oddly, it actually was a great tool.

This is why. When I first get the chance to pitch a person, and learn that client’s style and favorite apps, I can’t help but start building out a convincing (albeit non-functional) interface. I’d never want to have the client next to me during the process – they’d get discouraged by all of the little missteps and experiments in design. And I wouldn’t want to liveblog it as I go, because I want the client to see my design as a whole, fully-branded, and fleshed-out project. But, that being said, I get hyper and fired up about creating, and clients usually do too, especially if it’s close to their vision. And it’s valuable to check in, without giving the client days to study the pictures for minor inconsistencies with their vision.

Which is why Snapchat is powerful for my prototyping. I mock things up in Apple’s tools, take a simple picture of the simulated iPhone or iPad, set the timer to 5 seconds, and tap the send button. It’s just enough to whet a client’s appetite without risking overthinking or judgment. And I really think that within a few seconds, the client can give valuable feedback, along the lines of “that’s the exact font I wanted!” or “use a more traditional font!”

So if it’s Friday night, and you get a Snapchat from my phone, get ready to study the screen. Because it’s your brief glimpse at what I’m building, and I won’t let you look for long!