From the product introduction in the previous post, you now know that four out of the five products are software applications.  They vary in their functionality, their platform, intended audience, scope, language, and so on.  They are different, and yet they are the same.

Not quite on a weekly basis, but I very often have people come to me with ideas.  Ideas for a new web app, or an iPhone app, or something that they don’t quite know what it is yet.

My (un)fair advantage is that I am a software developer.

I am one of the lucky ones that I love what I do and I do what I love.  I was fortunate enough to be exposed at a young age to computers, and I had two uncles who were both programmers (a rarity back then).  Talk about cool, one of my uncles wrote the first version of Tetris for the United States and continued to write video games for computers and consoles.  (he keeps busy these days by creating cool 3d printed things in his garage).

Learning to code was something that came easy to me, and thinking about how things work within the realm of computers is second nature now.  That is not the case with everyone.  As hard as some people try, things just don’t click for them, and that’s fine.  I don’t think everyone needs to learn to code, but I think it is worth trying to find out if you are good at it or not.

What you can do if you can’t code (yet).

If you have an application idea (it seems these days as if most ideas come in the form of a mobile app).  Do everything you can except for coding it.  What does that mean?  Well, for starters, lets talk about story-boarding, or wire framing, or mock-ups, or whatever you want to call the process of transferring the ideas in your brain into a picture format that you can show and explain to other people.  Here are a few resources to get you started.

Invision

Invision screenshot

Invision

I like Invision because you can get started quickly from their project templates.  You can start off with a web app or mobile app, and start putting screens into your project quickly and easily.  Invision takes things a step further, and you can tell the designs what to do when you click on a certain part of the screen.  So if you were designing an email reader, you would have your screen with the list of emails on it, and then you would have the email screen itself.  You can then tell Invision that when you click on one of the emails in the list, it should go to the email detail screen.  This is a great way to get your ideas across to other people.

 

If you want to try Invision, feel free to sign up on your own, or you can email me at geoffrey@spikedmace.com and I can send you an invite for three free months of their standard service.

 Balsamiq

Balsamiq mock upBalsamiq is first and foremost, and awesome start-up story, and they created an awesome product.  They have been around for a while, and I still enjoy using their tools.  I have always felt like I have a lot of freedom with Balsamiq, and I can convey ideas without being bound to something that looks like it is ready to deploy on a device.   It has a hand drawn feel to the mock-ups and the designs can be exported into a mock-up app so you can show users how the app will feel, yet still retain the “mock-up” feel.

 

 

 

Black and Red Notebook (my all time favorite)

This really is the good old pencil and paper solution, and it is what I keep going back to time and time again.  Being able to separate myself from the digital world while I think about designing an application frees me up to think about designs without restrictions.  Some people use whiteboards, some use the back of napkins, and some just grab some paper out of the nearest printer.  Whatever it is, go for it.  It doesn’t have to be pretty, your rectangles don’t have to have 90 degree corners, or rounded corners, or be in the coolest color pallet coordinated with the latest Ikea catalog.

I’m not saying you are done now, but you are further along than most people get

You take your app design and show it to people….get feedback….think about them…revise them…

If this is something that people want, it will become obvious, and you can start looking at taking your next step, but we will talk about that later.

The next step is where I have the advantage

The big takeaway is that anyone can design an application, and whether or not you have coding skills does not matter.  The advantage I have is that the next step of creating the application does not require additional financial capital from me.  I can write the app, I can write ten apps, and I don’t have to find money to pay someone else to write it.

You can also start reaching out to software developers to see if you can form a partnership if you can’t or don’t want to raise capital.  Depending on your application though, the time the developer puts into to writing your application may be way more time than what you have put into the application, so expect them to request a high percentage of profits or shares to do it.  This type of arrangement is rare, but it is exactly how I met my partner and created SkaFlash.

 

-g