Keynote is Apple’s version of the venerable Powerpoint. Unlike Powerpoint, though, Keynote embodies everything we’ve come to expect from Apple products: it’s simple, beautiful, and very effective at getting the job done.

Most people use Keynote for presentations, though, not prototypes. But a growing community of designers rely on Keynote for prototyping, and I’m one of them. Here’s why.

1. Keynote is fast.

The number one reason to use Keynote for app prototyping is its speed. Prototyping in Keynote moves very, very quickly. Some of the features that impact speed:

  • Powerful drawing and shape tools for basic layout
  • Precise typographic control including kerning, leading and global styles
  • Clever grid lines that help you resize, align and distribute
  • Tasteful builds and transitions for mimicking UI animation
  • Import flexibility: you can import images, vectors, audio, video
  • Export flexibility: you can export as PDF, Quicktime, PNG, Powerpoint

Compare the top and bottom of this video by Frog Design’s Andrew Haskin. The top shows the original prototype video, created in Adobe After Effects. The bottom shows the same prototype video quickly recreated in Keynote. Read the background blog post.

2. You already know how to use Keynote.

You may have been considering learning how to use Invision, or Axure, or Pixate. To be sure, all these tools have their place: Invision for collaborating with a big design team; Axure for modelling extensive user flows; Pixate for prototyping subtle touch-screen animations. But Keynote's interface is instantly familiar. Even if you haven’t previously relied on it for presentations, you can still feel comfortable in it within hours. If you haven’t yet used it for prototyping, it’s a far better place to start than other prototyping tools.

3. Your clients will be glad you used Keynote.

Even if your client has zero experience with design or prototyping, there’s a good chance they’ve used Keynote — especially if they’re a Mac shop. Your client will appreciate receiving deliverables in a format that they can easily use, understand and even modify. And they will have peace of mind knowing that even if you’re unavailable for the next iteration of the prototype, other designers can use and understand your work.

4. Keynote animations are brilliant.

Keynote’s animations — transitions, build ins, build outs and actions — are where it really stands out as a prototyping tool. You can simulate swipes, pinches, and scrolling with a few clicks. The following video, which was built entirely in Keynote, exemplifies what’s possible with Keynote animations:

Linda Dong created this motion graphic entirely in Keynote. Read how.

5. Keynote’s output is pixel-perfect.

Some designers hesitate to use Keynote for high-fidelity prototypes because they feel they’ll have to rebuild each screen in Photoshop at a later time. That’s usually not the case. Current design trends favour web fonts, vector-based icons, simple geometric shapes, and flat colours. None of these components need to pass through PhotoShop — they can go directly to code. And for more complex graphics, Keynote can export to high-resolution JPEG or PNG images.

6. Keynotopia templates give you a head start.

A final reason to use Keynote for app prototyping is Keynotopia templates. Keynotopia is a package of pre-built, vector-based, scalable web components that give you a huge head start. It includes the standard interface components from Android, iOS, OSX, Bootstrap and jQuery, among others. Keynotopia templates have saved me countless hours, and it’s likely they’ll do the same for you.

If these six reasons aren’t enough, consider what Jake Knapp, a designer with Google Ventures, said in a blog post under the subheading, “Keynote is the world’s best prototyping tool”:

  • It’s fast.
  • It’s easy to make things look pretty good…
  • But it’s impossible to make things look perfect, so you don’t get too precious.
  • Anybody can quickly learn to use it; not just designers.
  • The slideshow format is a natural fit for story-based design
  • It only costs $20
  • When you’re done, you not only have a prototype, you have a presentation, like, for free!
  • After your user study, when you learn all of the problems in your design, it’ll take minutes to make changes instead of hours or days.

Would you like me to build a Keynote prototype for the next version of your app? Get in touch.