Two Tools to Help You Design an App From Scratch

In my recent post Getting to Z, or How You Don’t Need a Degree in Human-Computer Interaction to Consider the User Experience I recounted the origins of my self starter journey into the world of User Experience. By joining an established company I was able, without a degree in the field, discover and study the inner workings of website design and usability – the way a website works and feels while you’re surfing it. For an apprentice, learning the skills is only the beginning. What you do independently with the information you acquire will shape the next phase.

With a new and rudimentary understanding of how to communicate with coders and developers in a way that gets my mods loaded live to websites, I started thinking, like any apprentice eager to branch out on their own, about how I could apply this skill towards the creation of my own web and mobile applications.

With an app idea strongly on my mind, I researched the market it would be placed in to find, as I suspected, no real alternative. That’s when I knew I had to get this app made.


Designing has become simple, useful tools that have improved and accelerated the creation of new content are now widely available.

For wireframing I use Balsamiq to build frame-by-frame from the Start screen to the main screen. The importance of wireframes is not in the detail of color and content, but figuring out how everything fits on your screen. I like to accompany this with hand-drawn sketches.



Balsamiq sketch example (

For Mockups I use Ninjamock. Mockups allow a more life-like creation of your idea and are stage two after the sketch/wireframe. You’re still creating frame by frame rather than through code, but this is where you want to get your idea as close to your prototype as possible, with notes for how each button, link, and screen should function.


These tools have helped me, without a background, begin designing applications that I, through my new experience in the field, will know how to get developed when the time comes. All you need is an idea, and a persistent attitude that allows you to work through the initial confusion. Some graphic design skills or an artistic friend is a big help too, but with Balsamiq and Ninjamock you don’t have to be a designer. Just have a great eye for it.

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