Epic: A New Method For Mobile App Development

Ben Lee

Ben Lee

CEO and Co-founder of Neon Roots

Ben Lee is the co-founder and CEO of Neon Roots, a digital development agency with a mission to destroy the development model and rebuild it from the ground up. After a brief correspondence with Fidel Castro at age nine, Ben decided to start doing things his own way, going from busboy to club manager at a world-class nightclub before he turned 18. Since then, Ben has founded or taken a leading role in 5 businesses in everything from software development to food and entertainment.

For the uninitiated, building a new app can seem like something of an impenetrable process. Sure, you have the idea – but what on earth do you do with it? How do you go from back-of-the-envelope concept to fleshed out, beautiful mobile reality?

We’ve thought about this question a lot. We’ve tried a lot of different strategies for answering it: we’ve done the traditional development model (which, by the way, we aren’t huge fans of), we’ve created specialty products like Arbor, and we’ve honed our product development workshop, Rootstrap. But recently, we’ve been working on a new way to answer that question – and we’re pretty excited about it.

It’s called Epic, and simply put, it’s a tool for helping you quickly and easily map out the overarching story of your app – including all its features, functionalities, and processes – in an intuitive, visual way. Think of it as “caveman drawings” for your app: in broad strokes, it outlines the format, functions, and experience of your concept.

Epic works by organizing itself around the process of the user journey – it allows you to build sequences of screens and features and tie them together in the same way that a typical user would experience them when using the app.

It starts here, with the categories page:

Mobile app development tool categories page

This page is filled with screenshots that represent typical features an app might have – things like video or audio players, messaging functions, preferences, or login screens. By arranging these functionalities in a sequence, you can create the visual narrative of a typical user’s experience with the app.

So let’s see this in action. To start, we’ll click the “Create” button in the upper right-hand corner, then type in a name for our project:

Create a project in Epic

This brings us back to the categories page, where we can start to put together the structure of our user journey. Let’s say we want to create an app that allows users to message experts. For the first screen, we might use a simple social login function – this will be the first thing that greets users when they start using the app. To implement that, all we need to do is drag the social login screen into the bar at the bottom of the screen. Once it’s there, we’ll see this:

Mobile app login screens in Epic

So after users log in, what happens? Well, they might be able to browse experts by field – so our next screen/feature could be a categories page:

Mobile app category screens in Epic

Epic also allows you to add notes to your different screens, so we could input our ideas for categories of experts in the notes section of our category screen.

Writing notes on mobile app development in Epic

After choosing an expert, users might be able to schedule a date and time to speak with the expert, then message them through the app. Accordingly, our next screens could reflect that:

Mobile app messaging in Epic

Now we’re getting somewhere! Finally, let’s say users can rate the experience they had with the expert. But here we have a problem: Epic’s feature backlog is expanding weekly, but it’s not all-encompassing just yet, so there is no rating screen right now. How do we proceed? Simple: a placeholder. Down at the bottom of the page, click the green plus button under “My Screens” and input the title of the screen and its intended functionality, then drag it into the project.

Creating custom mobile app screens in Epic

Mobile app development with Epic

So what have we just done? In less than 10 minutes, we’ve mapped out the overarching visual and feature framework for a typical user experience with the app. In short, we’ve taken our app idea out of our brains and down onto something tangible, visual, and presentable.

From here, Epic can export the screen sequence into a PDF which can be incorporated into a pitch deck straight off, or can be retrofitted with the unique color schemes, iconography, and branding of your business. What’s important to understand is just how easy this makes it to get started. In practically no time at all, you can take a new idea from an ill-defined concept to a clear, sequential functionality overview told through a visual user journey

So what are you waiting for? Go get your hands dirty and start creating with Epic!