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Prototyping iPhone apps on paper with POP (popapp.in)
309 points by scottmagdalein on Nov 15, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 96 comments

Idea suggestion:

Freely distribute a PDF that has unique border patterns so when people use/print it out and use that paper, and proceed to take a photo, the program can detect the borders and auto zoom in/out so you end up with a nicely fitted screen shot on the phone. Then users never worry about getting the heigh/width ratio right or bother with the cropping step. And you get to plaster your branding all over the desk of those that uses it :)

We are working on this. This feature will probably come with a special made notebook.

This concept is novel because it replaces the need to "design" the app in a separate piece of software (and learn yet another UI). Although I like Balsamiq sometimes sketching is quicker, and more convenient. I think ideally having both options would be good as sometimes the urge to sketch an idea arises, but normally I would use the software.


Idea: They should sell app mockup paper/pads as a side business.

Check out: UI Stencils http://www.uistencils.com

Can't wait to try POP and UI Stencils together.

I've used these stencils before. I would not recommend them. The icon stencils are cut out at the exact size of the icons, but when you're using a stencil you often have to make the stencil larger than the icon you're trying to draw. The result of tracing them often looks like you did a -2px stroke on whatever icon you're illustrating. Also for finer detailed icons, you often can't fit a pencil into the groove of the stencil, even with the provided pencil that comes with it. The lead of the pencil is thicker than the groove in the stencil. The edges of the stencil are often quite sharp as well, and will cut the tips off of felt pens (and create grooves in pencil lead which will cause it to break). Honestly the only thing I now use my stencil for is as a dull knife to open packages (you can easily cut paper, foam, cardboard, or tape with the sides of these things, they aren't sanded down at all).

With stencils use drafting pencils/pens that have a steel sleeve and are designed to be held at right angles to the paper.

Beware if you like sketching with pens only and use these stencils. Will screw up your pen tip.

Agree on the idea. Pads and colored pencils that allow for more intricate interactions when recognized by the app.

Well done, this is great.

So much more sense to use an existing layer on the tech stack (paper & pencil) rather than inventing yet another way of putting black lines on a white background.

Nothing to stop you sketching out your menus (and other repeating fragments) on smaller pieces of paper and collaging them together either.

Here's an off the wall idea that i'm not sure is even technically feasible, but:

How about a way to "OCR" the drawn interface in a way that the software is able to parse the elements out (buttons, toolbars, swatches, etc.) maybe using the iOS HIG and other contextual clues. The output would be a xib file, ready to iterate on.

That's a great idea but it's technically too hard for us :(

My whole visit on this website I spent looking for the resulting prototype I could play with. If the product of your app is something interactive, why not show it off?

Found this uncovers a few samples to play around with, not sure if intentional or not.


We plan to build a dribbble like site but with interactive prototypes (only those who want to be seen)

This is great!

Why is it free?

UPDATE Ah: http://jiwo.in/pop-web/plans.html

The pricing seems way too low. $30 dollars a month for studios is pocket change to a 30+ person team

The plans on these pages are different, btw. The first one indicates a 'private' option, but that all looks cleaned up in the parent link.

Ah, paid plans for the mobile version, too. I wonder why that isn't linked on the home page.

Hi this is Wraecca from the POP team, we're sorry that we're not ready for the premium feature, but it will be released soon. Thank you!

Uhm... does this mean the app cannot work offline?

"Why is it free?"

Would that be a bad thing? Why everything has to be paid for?

Potentially, yes. You want products you like to have a business model so that they are kept alive.

what business model does linux kernel have, and how much does it cost?

EDIT: OK, just to make it clear. I'm not against people asking money for they creations, I'm all 100% up for it. What really pisses me off is 'why is it free?!', and 'i would happily pay $XXX for it!'. Please, keep that to yourself - if someone decided not to take money for their work, it's entirely up to them, and that deserves some respect.

Why are you afraid of open discussion about pricing?

(Millions of dollars have been invested in Linux development by commercial interests, even if most distros are free-as-in-beer.)

Making an app and releasing for free it can be fun. When the customer support and feature requests start pouring in it becomes a lot less fun. Chances are more likely that a project will be abandoned for one reason or another (developer gets bored, gets busy with their 'real' job, etc.)

When people see an idea that's good, especially for potential business use (and especially on HN which as a community of entrepreneurs) they are letting the developer know that they have created something that is worth having around and would pay to see it maintained.

Linux is probably a bad comparison, because it has so much corporate support and is an entire ecosystem of business models for probably hundreds if not thousands of companies.

I think it was just out of curiosity; I had the exact same question.

Also, "Why is it free?" is another way of asking "What's the catch?". It's important to understand this before you put in a bunch of work...

I'd much rather buy the app for the iPhone than pay a monthly subscription.

Because those engineer is doing their job and we need to let them have more power to do such a wonderful stuff.

Recursive skeuomorphism.

I love it.

Woah, that is awesome! This is a pretty ingenious idea. Literally anyone who can sketch an idea, can prototype an app, and unlike other prototyping tools, there are no pre-built pieces to choose from, so the sky's the limit.

I know this is probably a stupid question, but what are you using for the videos on the site. I like they way they are just in their without controls or anything.

It's the HTML5 <video> tag.

I love this idea very much - mainly because I had virtually the same idea maybe 5 years ago. I was frustrated with existing prototyping/design systems and getting bogged down in details and pixels instead of thinking about the 'big picture' and the workflow (which IMHO is far more important, especially at the early stage).

I had a manual process whereby I would draw all my prototype UIs in pencil on large sheets of paper, then use an A3 scanner to import them into a slideshow. The cumbersome part was creating hot-clickable areas to jump between screens. But it worked a treat, and enabled very fast turnaround of ideas.

I think workflow (or UX if you like) does not get enough attention in the early design phases, where people seem to like producing pixel-perfect mockups in Photoshop. The problem with this is that it takes you a very long way down a particular path, when you don't even know for sure if that is the correct way to go.

Photoshop mockups are time-consuming and expensive to make compared to rough sketching on paper. This app looks like a great solution in this space.

Googling implies this is coming to the web:


Great App! Just tried it with UI Stencils and it really helps with testing of usability with an actual device.

Sadly there seems to be a bug with image alignment. Even if I get it right in cropping tool it looks like its shifting all images up and to the right by that looks like 10 to 15px. Other than that fantastic.

Hi this is Wraecca from the POP team, I'm sorry about the bug, we'll fix it as soon as possible. Thanks for reporting!

Didn't try it out (I'm an Android user), but nice idea. I forwarded it along to some old colleagues who are into Lean Startup, as this seems like a useful tool.

Unrelated to the app itself, but the website, the use of the word "feedbacks" seems pretty weird. (Are you a non-native English speaker?)

  Sharing & Feedbacks
  Share your prototype with colleagues and friends. They
  can try out and comment on your prototype on their
  iPhone, iPad or in web browsers. You’d be surprised
  how valuable their feedbacks are.
I would recommend using the word "feedback" instead. e.g.:

  Sharing & Feedback
  Share your prototype with colleagues and friends. They
  can try out and comment on your prototype on their
  iPhone, iPad or in web browsers. You’d be surprised
  how valuable their feedback is.

You're right, we're not native English speaker. Thank you for correcting :)

Honestly, it shows in a few places. I think you have a hell of a product. It might be worth it to pay someone $50 to proof read it. (or even a fellow HN'er who will do it for a pro account)

This reminds me of codiqa [1], a web app for creating skeleton mobile web apps. I use it all the time to mockup basic workflows like this.

disclaimer - I am a customer of codiqa.

[1] - http://codiqa.com

Idea suggestion 1: Shape detection. Presumably this is already present given that it looks for the borders of the viewscreen. It would be really great if it could detect potential buttons in the app, and auto-select them to improve the speed of the workflow.

Idea Suggestion 2: Color coding. Use a highlighter to color in buttons in some color. Your app would automatically recognize things of that color as buttons, and potentially erase the color in the "finished" prototypes.

A comment about suggestion 1: The creators may have prior computer vision experience, but as someone who tried to learn this from scratch and perform handwritten shape detection I can say that it's a messy place to work. If it's not their core competency, it can get tricky with all the different shapes and problems that may arise with said shapes. Then again, I didn't have machine-learning experience which may be the way to go.

That would definitely be cool, though. You could basically edit what you literally just drew if you could properly detect the shapes and how they were nested within each other.

It's really hard to do detection with hand drawing. We might make special stickers for common UI elements (botton, tab bar ...). The color coding suggestion is great, thanks!


  name Unexcept error custom code
when creating an account.

On a more general note - what a superb idea, completely ruined by a desire to wrangle it into a recurrent revenue model. This should be a standalone paid app with an optional paid service for team collaboration and online backups. But it must work out of the box with no b/s accounts and no Internet connection. Simply because it doesn't need either.

Sorry for the bug! We're considering to release a offline version which don't need to create an account. Thanks for feedback!

Thanks for the reply. There is a lot of curious impulsive devs and designers who wouldn't think twice about spending a fiver on a cool new app, if only to test it. So please do consider an offline version.

Usability suggestion: Don't force me to create an account BEFORE I receive any value from your app. Creating an account is a pain. It's not clear why I need an account. It most definitely benefits you, even if you think it's better for me in the long run.

Hold the account-setup step until I've created my first project and want to do something with it. That's when I'll be able to easily understand why I need an account.

Sorry about that, we will release a standalone version that does not need to pay monthly fee nor singup before using.

I have used Nokia's Flowella http://www.developer.nokia.com/Resources/Tools_and_downloads...

But, this is much more cooler as it is further simplifies the process. Is an Android version in the works?

We plan to open apis for 3rd party Android client.

Can't wait to try this out. I've done something similar for other UX designers by taking flat screenshots and overlaying an image map with clickable areas. Instant "high fidelity" prototype!

Just stopped and deleted after the sign-in splash screen!

Why i need to create a account BEFORE i use it? I dont like to share my project! I dont need to push it to public!

Its a phishing app for idea grabbing?

Sorry, we found the problem and we're working on it now. Thanks for feedback :)

Okay, I'll admit that I sort of rolled my eyes at the top of the overview but by the end I was totally searching the app store for this app. What a novel and great idea.

One thing that keeps happening: when I take a picture and finish cropping the app severely cuts off the right size of the picture. Any chance for a fix?

Sorry for the bug, we'll fix it soon! Thank you :)

Quick design note: on your web page you need to track active page in your navigation: currently Overview is always active (different color link)

Cool, thanks!

Very elegant and powerful solution to a pretty common problem. Does anyone know if something like this exists for web apps?

We use Balsamiq and are pretty happy with it.


Yea, but it can get pricey pretty quickly

Proto.io works for me and it's priced right.


This is awesome. Suits my design process and I've often wondered why no one has done it before. Great work!

so simple--great idea.

This + photoshop mock-ups ftw?

- Export screen mockups from Photoshop

- Save images to Dropbox

- Open images in Dropbox app on your iPhone/iPad

- Save images to Photo Library

- Open images in POP

- Win!

We are thinking if it worth to add a sync with dropbox feature.

Thanks!!! This is beyond awesome.

"* Due to App Store's restrictions, only Freelancer is available for in app purchase"

Anyone know why that is?

We haven't figured that out. Because we will be a subscription service, we are not sure if having muli plans are allowed in IAP. Anyone has experience before?

You can have multiple prices of subscription IAP. You just can't do an auto-renew IAP subscription. They only seem to allow magazines to do that.

There is a video from WWDC 2012 where they go through each kind of IAP. Worth watching for what you want to do.


Thanks for that, I'll have to have a look on this. But currently there are just too many bugs to fix before we can charge for it.

Why wouldn't it be? I didn't find such a thing in the guidelines, and it's quite common in other areas (e.g. 5 gold coins cost you $.99, but 50 gold coins in a game $3.99).

POP: This iPhone app is every designer's missing puzzle piece for prototyping on paper.

Be sure to click the Plans button in the toolbar. You can get 5 to 20 free projects.

Just got 20 extra projects. How will the new pricing rollout affect this?

It's only for early birds. Once the service is worth you paying the give away page will be gone.

Someone emailed us and said she's only got 6 give away projects while her friend's got 17. She said it's so unfair and she will never pay for this...

Haha. You should have asked if they used a tweet option to increase their chances :)

You will still have 22 projects :)

OMG! This app is app dev company's good product ! I LOVE IT

Genius. And it's not often I say that.

I was expecting to pay $5 for this...

i want this for OSX

You can also do it in Keynote. Just create hyperlinks between slides (which you can do with any shape, via the Inspector). Then export the presentation as a PDF, and the clickable image hyperlinks will be preserved in the PDF file. Then it's also very convenient for sharing with designers/developers/investors, etc.

Here's a really goofy and poorly-thought-out example as a proof of concept. It took about 10 minutes to make. http://goo.gl/AemLD (best viewed in Preview in single-page mode)

I do something similar on OSX with OmniGraffle. You can generate an HTML output that it's basically an image with links to other pages. It even works on PDFs.

Anywho, I like this for mobile

Templates via http://keynotopia.com/ would do something like that.

This is great!

Very nice.

brilliant idea

its amazing !

great work !

Is app prototyping the new loyalty coupons? Is this what everyone is working on for winter?

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