The app design phase – what to expect

When we talk about the app design phase of a software development project, we tend to think it’s about colours, graphics and fancy animations but that’s a common misconception. In reality, the design phase is a broad term that covers several different stages of the app development process, as we discuss below.

Discovery workshop

Following our initial meeting with you to understand your idea or need, we will recommend a tailored workshop which will include:

  1. Reviewing the current process to identify issues and steps that are critical to success
  2. Round table discussion to capture your thoughts and ideas on what you hope to achieve with your application
  3. Discussion about target users, to understand their current situation, what pains your application can solve and what the users might gain

After the workshop, we will provide documentation detailing the activities undertaken during the workshop, along with our observations and suggestions for an initial version of your product

Check out our sample UX simulation

Design starts with a story

Using what’s been learnt in the discovery workshop, the design team will break your idea down into manageable chunks using a technique called story mapping.

Story mapping is a concept developed by Jeff Patton, a process where the project is broken down into its constituent parts, identifying the big pieces (epics) and the sub-tasks which the user will need to achieve (user stories).


The first visual representation you are likely to see of your application is a wireframe. With the aid of the stories created in the previous stage, the UX (user experience) designer will start turning those user needs into wireframes. At this stage there is no styling, so don’t expect to see much in the way of graphics. The aim of wireframing is to design the structure and essential elements of your application, and how the user will interact with them. Using this method, you can be sure that the user can achieve the tasks they need to, without getting hung up on what shade of blue the heading is. 

Wireframe review and feedback

During this stage, you will have the opportunity to review the wireframes and offer feedback to the design team. Remember, any changes made at this stage are far more cost effective than those made later on in the development process. The wireframes are there to be adapted and refined in order to create the best experience, they are not set in stone. 

Adding the ‘visual’ design

Now comes the exciting part. Using the wireframes as a canvas, the UX designer will start creating the UI (user interface) design. This means applying fonts, colours and styles to make your app come to life. If you have already established a brand identity, your UX designer should use your existing guidelines to ensure that your application looks and feels like a true part of your brand. If you are a start-up, your designer will work with you to develop a style that fits you and your product.

Testing out a simulation of your application

Once the user interface is complete, the UX designer will create a high-fidelity simulation of your application. This will let you see and interact with a prototype of your app, allowing you to get a real feel for how it will look and behave. You should test it with real users and gather their feedback; an important step in refining the design. Once you’re happy with the design, the simulation will act as a great tool for demonstrating your application to stakeholders and investors at an early stage in the development process. 


Take the opportunity to give your feedback on designs from an early stage and collaborate with the design team to refine your product. The app design phase, by its very nature, allows you to adapt and change your app as required. Making alterations to the functionality and the look and feel at this stage will help you to keep your project as cost effective as possible.

Are you looking for a UX design? Check out our UX design services and even book a UX workshop during which we can can help you understand the size, scale and shape of your product so you can decide what steps to take next.

Callum MacPherson

View posts by Callum MacPherson
As UX Designer, Callum leads the creation of hi-fidelity UI designs, as well as building UX simulations for clients to experience how their application will work without writing any code. Callum is passionate about exceptional user experiences that increase adoption and user stickiness.