What is your process for designing a new app in Adalo?

How do you move from the idea that’s in your head to getting to a functional app in Adalo? Do you jump straight into implementing screens in Adalo? Sketch on paper first? Work in an intermediary prototyping app like Figma/Sketch/Moqups/Invision initially? Forget about UI entirely at first and build conceptual user stories to start? Draw out proper UML diagrams? None of the above and something completely different?..

Adalo is unique in that it’s almost as light-weight as the prototyping apps which makes it frictionless to begin building but I’m curious if people have experimented with other design workflows and come up with one that yields a better result than diving straight into implementation.

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Hi Sean,
Very interesting question. I considered all these too before starting the project. My own experience has been one of jumping straight into it with full implementation of all screens across Adalo. I thought that felt right for me because I had the user story in my head already based on my own ‘need based experience’. Additionally, I was thinking only of building an MVP only for one market initially, so jumping straight in worked. With this approach I got to improvise a lot when building the app. I also didn’t do any market research, so it allowed me the flexibility to modify the app as I saw fit.

I think a more detailed approach of a paper sketch, building a proper user stories, building a UML diagram et al would work if you want to build a near final version of your app as opposed to an MVP first. Presumably, there’s a solid market research report in place that tells you consumer needs and behaviours very clearly. Anyhow, had I used this detailed approach, I felt I would have to be rigid with the app build and left myself little room for manoeuvre.

So on one hand I think for building an MVP and allowing yourself flexbility, jumping straight in is better. On the other hand, if there’s a full market research study outcome and revenue plan in place, one is probably better off fleshing out user stories first, have a full UI/UX and then get on with building the app.

I also think Adalo is a great tool for jumping straight in. If you were to go through a detailed approach and you have a good few pennies to spend, then you might as well hire a professional app coding team too.

Thanks @Arun. Yes I as well dove straight into implementation in Adalo given how easy it is to make changes. I have since stepped back and done a Udemy course on user stories and have been using those to capture features in Trello in a way that’s agnostic of UX. I don’t use proper UML but I’ll sketch a basic “decision tree” diagram of roughly how users move through the app. And I’m still curious if there’s a “psychological strategy tax” for prototyping in the same tool you build with (ie. I wonder if as nimble as Adalo makes us, if by virtue of using a dedicated prototyping app we don’t have more psychological license to break things and explore approaches more far afield from what we would in Adalo).

Anyways thanks for your response.

I’ve tried :

  1. Jumpstraight bulding the functionality from the beginning
  2. Creating the design of all of the page (direct into adalo, and build the design with correct grouping, lists, color, position etc), then later I build the functionality.

So far the most efficient is the later. Why? Because I can iterate my design to the client several times until they agreed without any chance to break any functionality.

After the client is agreed on the final design, then I can simply add the functionality.


@projectlinuxsupports this is an awesome technique. So you’re basically using Adalo like a prototyping tool to start to get consensus on features then you wait to do the data model and wire up all the screens until you’ve gotten adequate feedback and are confident in what the functionality needs to be… brilliant. You could even use link actions to link elements and make it a clickable prototype…
Best thing I’ve learned this week. Thanks for sharing.

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FYI I just wrote up an extensive blog post outlining my workflow and the six stages of moving from pure ideation to fully-functional app: https://grid7.com/2020/07/blank-canvas-syndrome/
I framed this (literally) as advice I would imagine the late painter Bob Ross would give if he were an app developer advising us on how to move through the process avoiding blank canvas syndrome. @projectlinuxsupports I gave you a shoutout for your tip above (which is brilliant re: doing the clickable prototype in Adalo prior to wiring up the data model).


Just reflecting on this…can all the functionality pictured up-front always be fully built in Adalo - is there a chance that because of the limits of the platform it’s just not possible.

I guess that depends on how big your imagination is :grin:
If you’re purely ideating and want to remain agnostic of toolset and not limited by the capabilities of the tool, you shouldn’t do this technique. You should stand in front of a whiteboard and just draw out what you imagine then go to a tool like Figma and turn it into a mockup.

Adalo can do a lot but not everything. As long as you prototype in Adalo though you’re doing so with the toolset that’s available to you via the platform so your prototype will be inherently possible to deliver.

When prototyping in Adalo don’t worry about the data model and wiring up custom actions & logic - just sketch out the various screens of the app and link them via the form buttons/icons/etc then you basically get the same clickable wireframe for free that you would if you were to take the additional preliminary step to mock it up in something like Figma or Invision.

If you’re interested i wrote up my full design process in this post. @projectlinuxsupports’s hack basically allows you to roll steps 3, 4 & 5 into one activity plus gets you halfway through step 6 automatically. This works not just with new apps from scratch but you can clone an existing app and iterate new features prototyping them in this way, getting feedback, etc before deploying. It’s a really great workflow.

I usually think a bit about the data I want to save and how it will relate, so that I can create a couple collections and data types… then start building without worrying about styling too much. Once things are working, then go back and style stuff.