You need to hand-draw your app if you want it to turn out well. I know, you’re not an artist, but hear me out.

It seems like early on in life, everyone decides whether or not they have artistic talent. Everyone starts to doodle as a child, and some people’s doodles are better than others. The good doodlers keep doodling and call themselves artsy, and the bad doodlers say they aren’t artsy and move on. And drawing an app includes the word drawing, and drawing is for artsy people.

Dispense with this line of thought. Drawing an app has nothing to do with being artsy, and you are as capable of it as anyone else. Now that we have that settled, we can get on to the real point.

If you design your app on the computer, it’s not going to be easy to use. If you open your development environment and start making it right there in the program, it’s definitely not going to be easy to use. The farther away your working environment is from the usage environment, the less usable your app is going to be. In other words, design it how you will use it. For apps, the best way to do this is to draw your app.

Get out a piece of paper, trace the size of your app screen, and start drawing. If you have an iOS device, you can download this sketch paper to do it. This is a technical drawing, so focus on technical elements like buttons, menus, text, and user prompts. Don’t get wound up trying to be artistic, or draw the most beautiful drawing ever. This is a technical sketch, it will be unattractive.

For some context, I’ve added some of my first app sketches.  They look reasonably nice, because I used a ruler.

Drawing by hand gives you a feel for what the app is really going to look like, more so than any design software or development environment is going to give you.

For added punch, you can take photos of your drawings and make a prototype in less than ten minutes with invision.  Download the app, take photos, link up the buttons and voila, a working prototype on your device.  Now you can use this prototype and assess your design, without having wasted an enormous amount of time designing or coding something that was doomed to be thrown away.