How to design an app in 30 days or less

Eylon Goren
4 min readOct 14, 2017
The design board and me (pointing at the other direction for a cheap laugh)

This is a true story

How I designed a native mobile app for both iOS & Android — in 30 days.

Everybody knows good design takes time. But time is also money, and when you are a freelancer designer (Like moi!) you always need to meet the project’s deadline, no matter how tight it is.

Enjoy some insights and please learn for my mistakes.

The beginning, when I was told the deadline…

Why just 1 month to design?

It’s spring time in Tel Aviv, April 2017. When I get a call from my client, telling me they must launch the app a bit earlier. How earlier I asked, and he replied by September. In order to meet the deadline, the developing team asked for EVERYTHING to be delivered by the beginning of June. Say what?! This left me only a cool month to design from scratch for both iOS & Android.

Okay, challenge accepted

This was a real challenge for me — and I loved it. At this point of time, there’s only UX wireframes I made for several screens, but no design concept or style guide at all. I only have 4 weeks to do everything. Simple!

Small tasks first

With literally zero amount of time to waste, I started to plan future tasks. My work strategy is always: finish the small tasks first. Its quicker, and once you're done, you feel like you already accomplished something… leave those time consuming tasks for the end.

Start with a mood board

I quickly design around 3 to 5 screens max as a mood board, and showed it to the client. Its only a first draft, but it will give you some boundaries, and your client will know what to expect next.

Make a weekly plan… or not

To help the developers start early, I planned to do a weekly sprint to deliver. 4 weeks, 4 deliveries. This was a HUGE mistake on my part.

As it turns out, the pressure is ridiculous. Also when you design everything from scratch it takes time to see the big picture. Every little button, text or layout needs to feel similar. This takes time. So instead of a weekly delivery like I planned, I switched to a single delivery, at the end. This gave me the flexibility I needed to get things done.

My first screens for Tribu

Plan ahead for the unknown

With only 4 weeks to delivery, I decided to use 2.5-3 weeks to design everything. Leaving week #4 completely free for last minute additions and whatnots. Because as we all know… they will come. Once I had about 66% precent done, I showed it to my client for approval. Its very risky, but luckily for me, they were great and really understood its not a normal work process.

Work hard, play never

This crazy plan is of course only possible, if you pull all-nighters and even work on weekends. Even then, its not nearly enough time to design, but a challenge is a challenge. So say goodbye to my loved ones. I will see you again in 4 weeks time.

Keep everyone up to date

All members of the project (client, product manger, developers, designers) are equally important for a successful delivery. I wanted to make sure everyone knows my plan and delivery date. I knew making the deadline alone — is not possible. Its always a team effort.

Talk to developers before final delivery

Call me crazy, but I think designers and developers must speak with each other, all the time. Its extremely important for designers to understand how design turns into code. It makes you better. Next time when you start a fresh Sketch file, think that at the end, some developer is going to see it (probably speaking different language than you) and he must understand 100% of it.

Before I imported the entire project to Zeplin, I did a 2-hour video call, to make sure my design is compatible with code, and my Sketch file is self explanatory.

Ding-ding-ding! challenge completed

After 30 days of non-stop work, I was done. Delivering everything on deadline. During these processed I had learned alot, and i’m sure next time, I will do it even better.

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