When I design a new app, I first start with very quick wireframe designs on paper. It has to be when I’m alone. It has to be, above all, very quick. I have to be able to create and dismiss ideas without a discussion of any kind. Then, I can share the ideas with a few other people.
My paper designs don’t last long. No one can read my writing and I can’t draw. It doesn’t look like anything anyone can work with. Of course, if I plan to develop the app myself, this doesn’t matter (but it makes me feel better to have a nicer wireframe).
If the design is simple, I use Balsamiq to create a proper wireframe I can give to the developers. Balsamiq is a fantastic tool with lots of shortcut keys that allow you to create wireframes very quickly.
Here is my first wireframe for Ear Spy using Balsamiq:
It was very basic. I took this design and a very simple flow chart and put it in a Word document with a description of everything I expected the app to be able to do and how I thought it should work. I then sent this to my developers and we fine-tuned it from there.
When I contract for companies as a developer, this process of writing a spec and getting approved by all parties could take days. The Ear Spy spec was created at four in the morning and sent within two hours. It is far more successful than any other app I have ever created (having been installed over 200,000 times with over 30,000 active users since early September). If I spent days on it, it may never have surfaced at all. It could still be in development now.
When Balsamiq is not sophisticated enough, to design a game for example, I use the same approach with graph paper. I’ll write more about that tomorrow.
Mobile application development, for both Android and iOS, moves so very quickly that ideas need to be generated, designed, and built faster than they ever have in the past. Some ideas will pop and others will not. The days of spending months (or years) designing the perfect app are gone.
The biggest key to mobile app development is speed of execution and frequent iterations. No meetings (at least none over 10 minutes in length). No workshops. No gantt charts. Just execution.