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Discussion on: How to Design Great Software Products in Small Startups

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Mike Bybee

The startups I'm working with are typically too small for three different design tools just to plan an app, and frankly I think larger ones would to well not to sink so much time, resources, and process in them either. If I'm spending that money, I'd much rather allocate it to more developers and infra to get the real thing out there faster, than designers and design tools.

And personally I'd rather hand draw wireframes. Sketchize's free templates are great for this, but plain graph paper works too. I read about how Zurb (makers of Foundation) do this with Sharpie to minimize constant fiddling with styles and sizes and just crank out the basic idea (I get that Balsamiq is designed with that in mind, but there's still a lot to waste time fiddling with), and that's what I've stuck with ever since. Balsamiq feels like overkill for something so simple. Draw, scan or snap a pic with your phone, and share.

From there, I typically take it straight into laying out elements and basic routing in code (React Native/React Native Web), which can be pushed into Sketch or Figma via react-native-sketch or react-native-figma, respectively, if needed (usually not). Instead of then putting these into a separate live prototyping tool like Zeplin, they can test out the actual code on a staging site, Expo app, etc., or screens can be prototyped in Sketch/Figma's own prototyping tools.

Tip: You can set up an api-only Trello account and integrate a feedback form in the app itself early on which creates various cards on the project board from said feedback. Map a "feedback type" field to various Trello labels (bug, feature request, user interface, etc.), and you have an immediate feedback loop to fill your product backlog while building it out, without "how do I leave a note about ___?" questions related to a prototyping product interface you didn't design.