You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience.

From the Diary of an App Developer: Digitizing Your Notes

May 17, 2010

If you're new to From the Diary of an Application Developer, this is a weekly column where I will share my experiences, tips, and overall expertise on application development with you. This is the fourth week, so you aren't too far behind, but you'll probably want to start out with the first article. Your application is starting to feel a lot like a real iPhone application. It has a ton of different sections with a lot of great, specific features (which are the most important part of any application). But it still feels like it's missing something, doesn't it? All of these scribbles and notes within your stack of paper probably aren't as satisfying as an actual application, so, today, we'll make your app one step closer to getting on an actual device by cleaning and digitizing your notes.

Step One: Taking Out the Trash

Developing and designing an application is very hard work. So hard, in fact, that you should try very hard to save yourself from doing unneeded work. So, before we do anything else, I want you to take out the trash. I don't mean empty the wastebasket, but rather sort through your enormous list of features and narrow them down. Last week I pushed you to try and create a whole lot of features. So many, in fact, that I know you have too many right now. Don't worry, this is a good thing. But, now is the time to be very picky and only keep the features that will strengthen your app. While it is important to have a lot of features, it is even more important to have quality features. I would be more likely to buy an app with a few really good features over one with a lot of awful features. So, take out the trash. Flip through your stack of sketches and notes with an eraser in hand and go to town. Keep only what you'll need to have an in-depth, feature-filled (not over-filled) application.

Step Two: Digitizing Your App

Now that you feel comfortable with the quantity (and hopefully the quality) of your features, it is time to turn all of your notes and sketches into something workable from a designing and programming standpoint. In order to do this, the first step is to download the iPhone GUI PSD Design Template. When I was first designing for the iPhone, this download was like a godsend. It has so many great tools and graphics that you can use if you want your app to look and feel like something that belongs on an Apple device, that the majority of the work is already done for you. However, if you don't want to mimic the feel of the iPhone's OS within your app, simply make your own buttons and other graphics in Photoshop. I know that's easier said than done, but it really isn't too bad. I'd recommend starting with the template, and then tweaking it, such as changing the color, the gradient, and other effects that are applied to it. Using the template download, prepare all of the headlines and buttons and tables and graphics you think you'll need. Then, make a bunch of Photoshop files the size of the iPhone screen, and create your app! Be sure to develop a cohesive and simple naming system for your files so they're easy to sort through later. Also, don't throw away your notes, because the programmer will need to know how the screen-navigation works. Once you manage to get the app looking and feeling like you want with the static Photoshop images, it's only a short (and program-heavy) jump to the finish line. This is certainly the biggest step to finishing your app, because it will take the most time and attention. Also, I am sure that you'll change your mind about a lot of things about the app once you start this process, but that's OK. Feel free to make as many changes as you want—app development is all about evolution and the constant bettering of your app. Just be sure to keep the features minimal and as high of a quality as you can. Your app looks like a real application now! It has, like, screens and stuff! The graphics, buttons, tables, and other design elements should all be in place, and the features should be narrowed down to a few, great features, rather than a bunch of crummy features. Next week, we will polish your designs, and, with a little bit of luck, start programming!

Related articles