When I met her, Anahelena had already built Kid Capsule, a digital baby book app. I told her that what delighted me most about the app was the photo saving piece and mused that it would be neat to isolate that concept and help people share those moments of joy. In its way, this led to PostMarked.
We both started socializing the concept with our friends and family, taking note of the subject matter of many of our friend’s Instagram and Facebook photo posts.
To build PostMarked, we used Balsamiq to rapidly iterate and create a clickable prototype of the app. Balsamiq is a great way to show someone the flow of the user experience, without getting too caught up in visuals.
A bit too early in our wireframing process, we started on visual design with a designer via Dribbble that we both thought would be able to support the visual language/art direction that we were going for. If I could do anything differently, I would have waited and iterated a bit more on the wireframes so that we would have had a clearer sense of our deliverables. I think we both could have benefitted from coming up with our own concept art before getting a pro to come in and polish.
I was very fortunate that Anahelena has some Adobe Illustrator chops. She was able to create the icons that we hadn’t defined when we worked with the UI designer and alter the delivered assets to function with our app needs.
At the time, this is how I described the design style in a message with Anahelena:
“If you haven’t seen the carousel episode of Mad Men, I really hope you’ll watch it. Here is the clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cT0d-ISXH5Q. I think we’re really after nostalgia and the 60s period of humanity’s best (the space race, Kennedy Camelot) and humanity’s worst (cold war, threat of communism, Kennedy assassination) collide to form that. I think that’s why Instagram is so powerful, it’s using a filter style that brings you back to this moment in time, adding a sort of pre-fab nostalgia to a photo from the present.”
After we had a working app, complete with UI, we continued to iterate on the usability. Anahelena not only has web design chops, she is also a computer scientist by trade! She went through many iterations of the app (by Testflight’s count, we’re on the 41st iteration of Version 1.0). After we had the basics down, we started our search for a designer who could create the backgrounds and stickers for our app. We actually came up with a doc to evaluate designers based on our earlier experience. Here’s an excerpt:
- Balsamiq is just for flow. All icons are placeholders and shouldn’t even be looked at as inspiration
- Describe theme with words and pictures
- Clarify up front and throughout the process about iteration limits
- What is the Designer’s process like?
- Will we get sketches first?
- Do they work on multiple projects at once?
This time, we searched on Etsy as we wanted someone with a handcrafted aesthetic. Jenny Tiffany’s playful illustrations were exactly what we were looking for. This time around, we had defined a complete list of the assets we wanted (with words and pictures) and were delighted with the result.
We were still a long way from getting our app in the App Store. Unlike web design, apps can’t be “MVPs,” or Minimum Viables Products. It can take more than a week for your app to pass through Apple’s rigorous review period, this is very different from the web world where you can deploy a fix or a new version in a matter of hours or even minutes. The bar for minimum viable had to be higher partially for this velocity difference in iteration and also because the art assets were key to the value we wanted our app to provide.
In whatever time we could find outside of our 9-5 commitments, we iterated on the user experience and interface. Until recently, the app started out with a screen where you would first pick where your photo would come from (camera roll or camera). We realized that this really decreased the time it took the user to get to the main point of the app– the delightful, creative process of crafting a card.
The one piece that both of us couldn’t bear to part with was the little animation that plays at the end when you send a PostMarked card to a friend. When I took painting classes as a child, my teacher always told me that if I ever got one piece of a painting truly “perfect” then I should paint over it or I would risk painting around that piece instead of having a piece where everything was tied together. If I had followed my teacher’s advice, we would have ditched it, but I think it adds a moment of delight after completion. Let us know what you think!