• 01.15.13

Design Your App on Paper, Animate It With Your iPhone Camera

A new app called POP (Prototyping on Paper) lets designers iterate fast in their sketchbooks, then interactively link those sketches together to test them.

Design Your App on Paper, Animate It With Your iPhone Camera

In the digital age, paper is anything but dead. Designers can use “paper prototypes” to experiment with UI designs fast and even (as in the case of Clear, a gestural iPhone app) reveal innovative user interactions. There’s just one hitch: How do you get your sketches to actually interact with each other like a digital app? An app called POP cleverly solves this problem with the iPhone’s camera–just snap some pics of your sketches, link them together with a few taps, and voila: instant interactive prototype. No coding required.


So wait, why paper, again? “Our teammates design apps every day, and we’ve tried most of the prototyping solutions out there, but they all seemed too complicated for us,” says Leo Lin, a designer at Woomoo Inc., the Japanese Taiwanese studio that created POP. “With paper you can iterate faster than any other tools. One day, one of our founders looked at these sketchpads and thought, ‘It’s good to have paper prototypes, but they are very difficult to present or share, why don’t we make an app to solve this?’ That was when everything started to make sense: Just draw on paper, take pictures, and make it interactive.”

Officially, this part of interaction design is known as “wireframing,” which makes it sound like you need to have a PhD in order to do it. That’s the genius of POP: It creates the shortest path between two tools that you already know how to use–a pencil and a smartphone camera. It’s no wonder that Lin says he and his team have received positive feedback not just from professionals like themselves but from amateurs who are suddenly able to bring their app ideas to life.

“A few weeks ago we received a feature request from Alexander, a second-grader, saying he needs to take color pictures of his prototype, because he wants to draw with crayon and colored pencils,” Lin says. “It made our day.”

[Try POP for free on iOS]

[Images: Arrow via Shutterstock]

About the author

John Pavlus is a writer and filmmaker focusing on science, tech, and design topics. His writing has appeared in Wired, New York, Scientific American, Technology Review, BBC Future, and other outlets.