Designing my First App

I am a visual designer diving head first into product design.

I very recently moved from South Carolina to San Francisco to immerse myself in product design. Quite the move, especially for someone fresh out of college, but I realized SF is the heart of tech and design, and that’s where I want to be.

“I don’t design for the sake of making things “pretty,” I design because I like solving problems…”

The reason I’m interested in app/mobile design is because I want to impact people’s lives by creating a product that lets them live with technology more seamlessly. Less fussing around on a phone just to find an answer to your problem, and more seamless experiences that allow you to easily get what you need and move on. I don’t design for the sake of making things “pretty,” I design because I like solving problems, organizing information, and making things simple enough to for people to understand easily.

Designing an App

Ideation & Research:

The best way to learn app design seems to be to try and actually design an app. So, I went head first into product design. I spent some time thinking about problems that needed to be solved, or apps that I wished already existed. My goal was to get into the design process quickly and learn the tools product designers use as I went.

Thus, I came up with the idea of an egg recipe app. Life-changing stuff, clearly. However, I found in college that I wished something like this existed because I didn’t have a great resource for the basics. Eggs are cheap, healthy, and highly versatile food items. Lots of blogs or videos get pretty complicated, and it takes time to search for each separate recipe or watch long explanations in videos. Thus I wanted to create an app that took out the fluff and gave you the essentials to egg-making.

My target audience was cooking novices. Typically these are college age young adults who aren’t interested in getting too fancy with cooking, but rather want the basics to figure out how to start cooking.

I began with a lot of research into common egg types, recipes, and patterns in the recipes. I found there were six basic egg types (boiled, scrambled, fried, baked, poached, and omelettes). After consolidating all of my research, it was time to start sketching ideas.

Sketching and Brainstorming:

I knew I wanted to incorporate illustrations of each egg. This adds to the playful element that a lot of recipes tend to lack, and it appeals to the target audience with something approachable, simple, and fun. I also had ideas about how the app should be organized, perhaps by appliance, time, or even the age of eggs.

My first sketches started with ideas for organization, onboarding, navigation through the app, and the landing page for each recipe. I also thought about icons, typography, and the visual tone for the app

First Critique:

I made my first set of wireframes, and reviewed what I had created with my product design mentor. I took note of the changes I needed to make: create a more extensive design for each flow within the app, create more appropriate sizing, as well as note existing common patterns that work well in other apps.

I went back in, researched and sketched some more, and created a better set of flows. I also added in my first set of illustrations. I noted some ideas about making the visuals echo a recipe folder box with tabs at the top of each step. The “navigation” was placed at the bottom for sorting through filters.

First iteration of egg illustrations.

Second Critique:

I had made a lot of progress, but my design still wasn’t where it needed to be. It was missing some of the standard elements needed in app design, and I complicated the design with all of the separate tabs. So, I revisited everything: hierarchy, organization, typography, color palette, contrast, and even what content needed to be included and what needed to go.

First approach included muted colors and complicated navigation.

I changed the illustrations to a more playful aesthetic and created a much more vibrant color palette with attention to contrast. I also reduced the amount of steps in the flow and adjusted the typography to read better at a cooking distance. The parent page has all 6 types at a glance. You simply click on what you want and are immediately taken to the recipe landing page. This page includes a quick summary and the available recipe options depending on the appliance. Click on your option, and simply swipe through to see each step of the recipe.

The Takeaway:

Through this process, I learned an incredible amount about what goes into app design. I learned that you must be willing to chuck out what isn’t working in order to grow and create a better solution. Most of all, I learned this is a process I really love. I still have a lot of learning to do but I feel I’ve already come a long way from where I was a the beginning of this journey.

*A huge special thanks to my design mentor, Donnie Dinch, for putting me through a ‘design bootcamp’ of his own.


Since designing this app, I’ve moved on and just about finished app number two. It’s a health app called Airborne, and its purpose is to alert users of potential health risks resulting from contact with airborne illnesses spread nearby. The app uses location tracking and push notifications to keep alert users in real time if they have a high risk of infection.

Lookout for Airborne on my website, lizhewell.com, and check out my other work while you’re there. I’m currently in the interview process with some amazing folks, so feel free to reach out if you’d like to chat!

Feel free to reach me at aehewell@gmail.com.

Published in Startups, Wanderlust, and Life Hacking

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