Competition in Apple’s App Store is so tough that even strong concepts must be planned to perfection before any development should start. So enter App Cooker: A hot new iPad app that makes sure other apps have the right ingredients in place before any development begins. App Cooker ($19.99) from Sophia-Antipolis, France-based Hot Apps Factory helps aspiring designers organize, plan and get app projects ready for production.
30-year-old Xavier Veyrat — the designer of App Cooker — spoke to Mashable about the development of the platform and the steps that go into creating a masterpiece app recipe.
Q&A with Xavier Veyrat, App Designer
Have you always been into design?
Always. I’m crazy about it. I loved to draw when I was a kid, but I never went to art school. I actually studied law, business and management. But every time I worked on a project with design, it reinforced what I really wanted to do. I joined a team that needed an app, so to make it, I watched online tutorials on YouTube, read articles on blogs and practiced a lot. I love to look at interfaces and simplify them so they can be used without instructions. I hate to read instructions.
What type of design inspires you?
Companies such as Apple, Dyson and Braun are some of the main sources of my inspiration because they care about usefulness and beauty at the same time. I’m also inspired by show-and-tell site Dribbble and social sites that focus on design — they provide an incredible source of ideas. I am an observer and a huge consumer of apps — I have more than 1,000. It helps me learn which designs work and which ones don’t.
How did the concept for App Cooker come about?
Two years ago, I started to work on a gaming app with my partner Johann. As we designed the app, we realized that there was nothing on the market that was project-planning oriented to help people get started with the creation of their own apps. I did the design on Illustrator and Johann did the coding. We ended up wasting a lot of time, since making a clickable mockup would have been a far more efficient way to jump in. App Cooker provides that clickable mock-up prototype and gathers up all of the key components of an app before any coding and polished design starts. It helps designers to conceive, design and test interfaces without a single line of code in the context of an iOS device. For example, you can rotate the screen and the mockup will display another version of the design. It’s extremely valuable for app designers at all skill levels.
What makes a good app?
A good app is based on a clear scope, a robust mockup, a coherent design and good marketing. If one of these aspects is strong and another one is not, it won’t work. It’s like preparing for the Olympics and although you may be a top contender, if you don’t show up on competition day and give it your all, you probably won’t win. Apps also have to be smart and fresh. Look at the “Photo” app on the iPhone — it’s one the most used of all time and it’s so simple. So the vision and execution should be fresh, clear, simple and unique.
How did you approach the design process?
We wanted the app to be easy to use and have different colors to separate the different aspects of the app. I’m a firm believer that good design comes after you sketch it out ten times. But overall, we made more than 30 iterations to get to the design of the app board, which serves almost like a homepage, what we wanted it to be. For other parts of the app, we made up to 200 versions, at least. You have to keep going and trying new things until you get it right.
How is this concept different than others on the market?
App Cooker is the only app that allows designers to experiment with prototyping from a project point of view. Mock-ups shouldn’t be just graphics anymore. Users need to be aware of the key aspects of a project right from the start, from the name, idea and logo to the cost effectiveness and how it will look once it’s coded. Without this centralized approach, developers and designers have a tendency to move right on with production and trouble shoot when it’s too late in the process.
What advice would you give to an aspiring app designer?
A good designer is someone who learns every day with a little dose of criticisms. Also, stay on top of other apps in the market too. I love list app Wunderlist, as well as Soulver — a calculator with a soul and helps you find design ratios — and chart app LovelyCharts. Some of my favorite apps have the same vision as App Cooker, which features a future where the iPad is used to achieve tasks better than on a computer.
Where do you see app design going in the next few years?
This is the golden age of app design. Yesterday, everyone wanted a website, and now everyone wants an app. App design is going to help evolve us more into a prosumer environment, where the consumer produces the content they want. We’re positioning ourselves to help the future app makers of the world, and it’s an exciting place to be.
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