The Tao of Cupcake – Part 2

In my previous post, I wrote about the current range of options for someone wanting to develop an iPhone app.

Curious about the process myself, I conceived a very simple app – based on the classic Magic Eight Ball toy – that my kids helped me name “The Tao of Cupcake.”

With the general concept in mind, I set about thinking through how the app would work. One of the things I was reminded of very early in the process was how important design is.

In my long ago days when I cut my teeth designing and programming in such relic languages as 360 Assembler, COBOL, PL1, and Pascal, it was pounded into my head by mentors (and reinforced through experience) that designing and testing were equally important, if not moreso, to coding.

A couple of design aids I turned up to help me with Cupcake were Mockapp and Mockup for the iPhone and iMockups for the iPad, just for starters.

I decided to work with Mockapp, since it is essentially a set of templates available to use for designing in Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple Keynote, as shown in the screenshot above. It is also tweetware, free to use, with the requirement by its creator, Dotan Saguy, that your use of it be tweeted to help promote its availability.

The Mockapp template objects were very easy to use and the in-slide documentation and examples were helpful. Because of the rapid evolution of the iPhone UI (not counting the introduction of the iPhone 4), a few of the buttons and images were a little off, but for the most part the look is relatively authentic.

So, in a couple of hours, I pulled together the artwork, shot the photos of Cupcake, assembled the animated GIFs, and mocked up the basic flow of the app.

I’ll be the first to admit that – other than the mock-up instructions that accompany Mockapp and viewing some of the other apps on my phone – I did zero studying up of best practices or Apple-required iPhone UI conventions…definitely a step that should be taken seriously by someone designing more than a toy app like Cupcake.

Fortunately, there a bunch of resources available to browse, just a Google search away, like this Slideshare preso from Bess Ho from late 2009 or this more recent quickie post of best practices from January 2010.  

One last piece of the puzzle is to show you what the “The Tao of Cupcake” mock-up looks like. To do that, I resorted to a PowerPoint-to-Youtube converter program, again after a bit of interweb searching. The program I chose does a satisfactory job, although it is from a company (person?) that I knew nothing about and, thus, had that little bit of hesitation with before downloading the package and running it on my laptop.

And, as an annoying sidenote, you can see that they splay across the middle of every slide a not-so-subtle watermark with their URL for an evaluation copy of the converter. NOTE to developers (and to self): nothing wrong with promoting one’s fee-based software in the free version, but it can be just as effectively promoted by making it a lighter-shaded watermark and/or footer at the bottom of the page versus in the middle.

I’ll wrap up my iPhone app design experiment with a few final thoughts in the next post, Part 3.

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