Understanding the role of the demo app

What is a demo app? Who needs one? And how long does it take to make one?

A demo app is a tool with a wide variety of purposes. It might be exactly what you need, but it depends on what it is you’re trying to achieve.

Most of the contexts where we’re asked to produce a demo app are in the case of startup clients who want to have a compelling visual aid to show their potential investors. A powerpoint presentation is good, but it only takes you so far. When you show up with a demo app, the investor’s experience is dramatically improved as they get a very clear visualisation of the product. That understanding of how the end product will look and function leaves a much better impression.

So, it’s just another name for an MVP?

Not quite. All MVPs are demo apps but not all demo apps are MVPs. It’s easy to get confused, but the difference is there. An MVP is always a working, functional app. It doesn’t contain the full functionality that the startup envisions, but it does have a working minimum of functionality (hence ‘minimum viable product’). In many cases once a startup has it’s MVP prepared it’s ready to hit the market and test the viability of their concept in the real world.

A demo app on the other hand is largely for demonstration purposes, especially when seeking seed funding. During later funding rounds you’d expect to have an MVP or better to show to potential investors, but early on a simpler demo app might be an affordable way to make a big impression. In most cases then, a demo app is somewhere between wireframes and an MVP.

The simplest demo app

The simplest form of demo app looks very similar to the original wireframes produced for your app. The only difference is that you’ll be able to click on them to move between the different screens. There are a number of different online platforms for creating these simple demos. You upload your wireframe images, highlight buttons and other clickable areas, and create an action which links them to the screens they lead to.

A more advanced demo app

Sometimes you want the same functionality as the simple demo app, but in a format where you can present it on your phone and it looks like a real app. This is a little more complicated. Here the wireframes are created as html and css, the screens are linked to each other as in the simple demo app, and then they’re wrapped with a native wrapper for mobile applications, called Cordova.

Now it can be installed on the phone like a real app. You can see how the app will look and click between the app’s screens. They just won’t provide any real functionality. They’ll be static blocks and sections that show the layout and hard coded numbers and data. So it’s still not quite a minimum viable product yet (an MVP would be to take that as its base and then make it functionable) but no longer just the wireframes either.

How long does it take to create a demo app?

Obviously the time required will be somewhat dependent on the size of the app. For this example let’s suppose it’s a simple news app with 8 different screens.

If you’ve already got your wireframes ready, creating a simple, clickable, online demo app is quick and easy. Sometimes it can be done for you as part of the wireframing process (depending on the designer you choose). It should take just a couple of hours, I’d say 4 hours maximum.

To make the advanced demo app described above we’d probably want 2-4 days (depending on complexity) to create the html and css of the screens, and then a day to link them all and make an actual app build, that would be installable. So in total, 3-5 days, (24 – 40 working hours).

I want one!

If you’ve got a great startup idea and you’re on the hunt for investors, a good looking demo app is exactly what you need. Whatever stage you’re at, feel free to get in touch with our team and let’s make it happen!