How the iPad is changing my mobile app workflow

This might be the longest title I've written in years. Anyway I want to talk about how I've been using an iPad in workflow and how much it helps. I want to point out before we start that the type of iPad doesn't matter BUT I personally enjoy the apple pencil.

Mobile workflow

If you don't know a workflow is a series of steps one goes through during the development process. Everyone has their own but ultimately in a corporate job they are similar. My personal workflow has taken some things I like from corporate and looks something like the following:

  1. Brain dump app idea. This includes database schemas, screens, possible pricing, and target audience.
  2. sketch out app screens. This is where things aren't consistent. Sometimes I will use Figma (mostly when working with others), but more often I sketch on notebook paper
  3. Find app template
  4. Start building app
  5. Check in every month to see if I want to keep going (1 month sprint to the project managers out there)

What I changed

You might think there is nothing I could need to change here, but here is the thing...I think not taking the leap to a tablet was holding me back. I would wait forever to start designs in Figma or lose my designs in a notebook (they fill up fast). I was also doing brain storming in notebooks and hoping I'd move it to notion or confluence (I got rid of this a few months ago). When I'm at my desk I usually don't have my notebook around and like to just be focused on my screens.

Enter the iPad. It's portable and I usually move it between rooms. I have ideas all the time. It's less friction for me to find the ipad and open Notion or Mock App to get my ideas out. Let's pause here so I can tell you what these apps are for...

Notion - I use notion to store app ideas, track metrics, and hopefully track feature suggestions from users in the future. Before the iPad I used the notion app on mac or from the browser on Windows. I find it easier to search through my ideas and archive them using notion. I have been looking for more self-hosted solutions but we can talk about that another time.

Mock App - I found this app from a fellow mobile developer on IG by the name of Maegan (go check them out). This is a lofi (wireframe) sketching app. They have some device templates and then you just use the pencil to go to work. This has been enjoyable to me because I can talk to people and sketch at the same time. When I'm done I can screen record going through the screens and annotations.

New workflow

You have probably guessed this by now but here is my updated workflow:

  1. Create a new notion page
  2. Brain dump everything I can think of in the new notion page
  3. Open up mock app and sketch idea
  4. (As needed) voice over for the app if I think I don't have enough detail in my sketch or I need to present the idea to someone else
  5. Relax

What has this changed?

For me this has has changed how I feel about pursuing projects. I think as I grow and seriously look into running a development agency that workflows are important. I think like having the right environment, the right workflow can help with idea generation and focus. Ideally I'd like to pump out 1-2 mini projects a quarter but I just haven't gotten to that point yet. I'm hoping with the updates to my environment and workflows I can get to this point no later than the end of the year.