Mailist Story

{ 🤔} — Why Design is More Than Static Images

I’ve always loved having a real impact on the things I’ve worked on. As I studied architecture, I learned that pure beauty is a sum of form, function, and construction.

This applies not only to architecture, but any creative field.

So I’ve always been bored working with static images in Sketch and Photoshop. Even bringing them “alive” with existing prototyping tools never resulted in something I would call a real prototype.

With static images, we cannot show real interactions the way they’d work in an app. Those partially-clickable prototypes will never give users that magical feeling that we want to achieve.

Why Did I Learn to Code?

I had this idea – I needed a tool to remind me of my unread, saved bookmarks. I kept forgetting about links I saved to read later.

I was looking for an existing tool but ended up with apps like Pocket or Instapaper, which were all yet-another-apps to store content.

I started my research on how to build and bring to life an MVP of such a product. I thought of connecting different tools via Zapier, but since I wanted things to work and look smoothly, I decided I needed to build it by myself.

At that point, there was no design tool which would allow me to create a fully working prototype to help me validate the idea with a real audience.

What I was forced to do is learn to code.

With the help of tutorials and Stack Overflow, I built a fully functional prototype of Mailist in over a week. A week of coding was quite a lot of pain for someone used to working with visual tools.

But boy, how good did it feel having a fully functional product to share around. It couldn’t even be compared with those static images I used to create.

Why We Should Create Prototypes And Not “Just Designs”

Mailist today has over 500 active users. Building it from scratch has taught me a lot of things. To start with, I had to decide since day one that I will only iterate on live features. Spending hours in Sketch / Photoshop without testing it in the “real world” is pointless.

That’s why I challenged and promised myself I wouldn’t spend too much time over-designing Mailist without feedback. Instead, I would try to continually improve it based on users feedback.

This sounds trivial, but you can only learn that when working on your product.

Second, there is no better motivation and gratification for your work than real feedback and the growing traffic numbers. Analyzing Google Analytics gave me a lot of insights on how to improve UX and design.

Third, Marketing. There is no better exercise to become better at presentations than selling your product to others. For a simple product like Mailist, it was much better to deliver simple, but fully functional MVP rather than a static presentation in Keynote or partially-clickable prototype.

Real Lesson

Building a real product made me realize that beautiful design or seamless UX is only a small fraction of success. The amount of effort you have to put into development, debugging, customer service and marketing are insane!

Thankfully, in my case, the app was simple enough to be delivered fast with really little code-knowledge.

It’s quite obvious that working with beautiful UI is much more pleasant!

The truth is that right now, we designers are missing a tool that would allow us to create fully working products, without learning to code.

Hopefully, Phase will bring a change here. 🙏 Let’s agree that working in visual tools is much more pleasant for our eyes than Terminal and Git repository pages. 😅

About me

I’m Marcin, a brand and UI/UX designer with more than nine years experience in the industry. I’m mostly working with startups and private clients helping to establish their brands visually. For three years I’ve also been working remotely with startup Contractbook, helping them with UI and UX but also with visual marketing. I also had an opportunity to design Phase logo 🙌🏻

If you want to contribute to next the issue of Phase Magazine, just drop us a line:

Marcin Michalak Avatar

Marcin Michalak / Multi-disciplined Designer @

Multi-disciplined Visuals Designer. Specializing in Branding, Logo Design, Website Design, UI & UX. Maker of Phase logo 🤩