App Layout [rating: 3/5]
App Layout has hit the iTunes App Store at a price point which certainly makes it worth investigation. Similar packages are currently selling at around $9.99, compared to App Layout’s low $4.99 price point.
Do you get what you pay for? Or is this app a bargain? Let’s find out…
From my perspective as a developer I can see the appeal of having something that allows me to mock up app layouts when on the move. I may well fire up something like App Layout in idle moments when I don’t have a laptop with me that can run Apple’s development tools and I want to work through an idea. That could be an idea either for myself alone, or with a client in his or her office.
I have also dealt with some pretty awful hand drawn App Designs from prospective clients in the past. I am not sure if any app can “cure” people of bad design. But it can certainly give those who simply have problems expressing their ideas a useful framework to work within, and offer them the opportunity to meld their concept onto a mobile screen’s dimensions.
App Layout goes some way towards offering a solution to people in either of the two situations I just outlined. And at $4.99 it might even be worth a purchase if you have absolutely no idea what app design is and simply want to play at it!
But this app is not without its flaws. It is relatively new however, so I will be keeping an eye on updates in the future.
On the one hand having access to the majority of iOS User Interface elements in a mobile app is a great thing. But the ease with which we can put something together using them is what separates a truly great utility from an average one.
App Layout has a fun, informal feel overall. Even down to the hokey home grown music menu so that you can have some tunes playing as you design.
Initially accessing User Interface elements in App Layout is fun. You can swipe thorough a vast array of widgets and buttons, as well as fully blown iPhone or iPad screens. You then tap one to make a copy appear in your app design canvas.
You can then slide any chosen widget into position on a mockup device; iPad or iPhone. It’s at this point that App Layout’s limitations become clear. Selecting the user interface elements to put into your app layout should really be done by dragging them from the widget menu. Not tapping them to make copies appear on the screen in the top left hand corner, which can then be manipulated. It’s a small thing, but counterintuitive, and it makes your workflow more awkward then it needs to be.
Likewise scaling, or rotating elements should be done with multi-touch actions on those elements. Not by tapping buttons on a pop out menu. We are in 2010, and this is an iOS app after all Flicking forwards and backwards across a screen to find controls is not what good app design is about nowadays. People want to use their fingers to move, resize and rotate things on iDevices. So it is somewhat ironic that an “app design app” has these short comings. You can tell that App Layout has been designed primarily in a Simulator, and not on a device because it is mouse-centric, and not multi-touch-centric in many many ways.
When positioning items in your app mockup it would also be nice if there was a snap to grid option. Or if pieces would nudge up to one another when close together. Yes, that kind of option can be irritating. But it can also be a boon, particularly on a touch interface when it comes to positing things accurately, and neatly. It’s also a feature of Apple’s free desktop Interface Builder app, which I use daily, and Photoshop as well as most other design apps on the market. So I miss it terribly when it’s not in other people’s offerings.
It is also not possible to save an active project in App Layout. Something which necessitates you finishing a design and then saving it as an image, all in one session. You then don’t have the option to go back and work on that design again. Or to copy and fork it and try different concepts. More importantly you can’t suspend your work easily with the intention of coming back to it later. This last restriction makes the tedious nature of widget layout more frustrating. And beggars the question: What is the target audience for this app? If it’s for quick layouts then it needs a more intuitive and efficient user interface. If it’s for app designers then it needs options to save, copy and suspend work for later.
In short, App Layout is basically a painting app which uses iOS User Interface Elements as its brushes.
However, at $4.99 you cannot reasonably expect this program to offer all of the features of more pricey offerings, right out of the starting gate. Hopefully the developer is working to address these issues, and they will be forthcoming in a future update. I was just hoping for more – especially in an iPad app. I am certainly willing to take another look then.
It should be remembered that App Layout’s more expensive rivals are not perfect by any means either. And they should perhaps take note of the price point of this app, and worry that the developer might solve the niggles I have with it, and really challenge their pricing and market position.
In summary, at $4.99 App Layout is a cheap alternative to other more expensive app design options. But it is more of a hobbyist’s app than something a professional would use. And its a little too frustrating to offer to my clients to use.
Let’s hope the developer grows the concept.
- Cheap and friendly app.
- Layout options for iPhone and iPad in Landscape and Portrait orientations.
- Access to a large array of UI elements.
- Facebook and email integration.
- Cannot save a project, only a picture.
- App does not work in all orientations.
- No snap to grid.
- No Pinch Zoom, or multi-touch rotate for objects.
- The included Music!
App Layout iPhone & iPad – Part 1
Price: $4.99 (App Store)
Released:Aug 03, 2010
Size: 39.7 MB
Seller: Jason Jardim
Requirements:Compatible with iPad. Requires iPhone OS 3.2 or later.