Hey Jess
Graphic + UX/UI Design

PicJam Mobile App

Skinning a photo messaging mobile app and conducting usability user research



  • Collaboration with CEO and developer

  • High fidelity designs based on existing wireframes

  • Documenting styles for the developer

  • Use existing brand guidelines, colors

  • Usability user research - question development, implementation, analysis, recommendations

  • Iteration on the app after research

  • App store icon creation

  • Business card design



I was hired to skin the mobile app, PicJam, and do user research and testing as well.

PicJam was a social media app that enabled users to easily take photos and share them with specific friends who were also on the app. It was similar to Snapchat’s original form in the sense that the photos disappeared after a short amount of time — in this case, 24 hours rather than Snapchat’s 10 seconds (at the time).

Another point of difference was that, unlike Snapchat, PicJam was simple, pure, and encouraged honesty. There was no need to curate photos, go crazy with filters, or share your life to the whole world. Instead, you could use PicJam to share with only your closest friends and family.


A prototype of the app was already built but not visually polished. Following the existing brand colors, I was to re-skin the prototype. The ultimate goal was to launch the app in the iTunes and Google Play app stores.

Users and Audience

The app’s target users were of all ages, both male and female, across the world.

I found that I primarily used PicJam with a few close friends whenever I was traveling and wanted to share fun, non-curated photos of my trips. The prettier, curated photos would go on Instagram or another public social media app.

My Role

Working alongside the CEO and a developer, I was in charge of skinning the app and providing necessary assets for development. Throughout the process, I was also to lead our user research.


Wide audience: Since we were targeting all ages, we had to design and develop something that was enticing enough for younger audiences, but simple enough for older audiences. The app also had to appeal to both males and females.

Team size and budget: The CEO was bootstrapping the project, so we had limited budget for user research and could not hire on many team members. The complete team was the CEO, a developer, and myself, and eventually a public relations intern.

Competition: Another constraint was that the app was directly competing with Snapchat, which was already popular at the time. We had to determine a point of difference and visually design the app differently, but we also wanted to have a familiar user experience for those folks moving over from Snapchat.

Design Process

The developer provided me with the app’s working iOS prototype and logo. I pulled the main red color from the logo and chose a gender-neutral complementary teal that could be bright enough for all ages to see, yet also enticing enough for younger users. With this, I skinned the app. To help differentiate from the lighter Snapchat style, we went with a darker background and had the pops of red and teal color for buttons, icons, and selections. We kept it relatively minimalist to fit our point of difference, with few icons and buttons. The majority of functionality was in taps and swipes.

I marked up designs with specific guidelines for the developer, and exported all icons and buttons at various sizes (1x, 2x and 3x) for him to use to implement in the prototype.

Usability Research

Once we had a skinned and live prototype, we turned to usertesting.com to gather usability feedback on the app’s ease, design and functionality.

I was in charge of writing up a strategy and implementation plan for our user research. For instance, we were using usertesting.com to study the actions and opinions of 6 total users across 3 age groups. I wrote the action items for the users to follow, as well as a handful of survey questions for them to answer at the completion of their testing. I implemented the tests, analyzed the feedback and reviewed it with PicJam’s CEO.

Our user research showed us that users could benefit from a quick tour of the app to understand the taps and swiping methods, and that they also wanted additional features like photo filters. Initially the idea was the keep the app as minimalist as possible, with few frills; however, after learning that users actually did want frills, we added photo filters. We also added a quick tour for new users.

After making these edits, I designed app store images and then we launched on both iTunes and Google Play!

Lessons Learned

I learned that it is challenging when a product does not have a strong point of difference from another successful product. What’s enticing to the user? Why would they use your app or product over others? Next time I would encourage development of strong messaging and goals to help drive the user experience and interface design.

I also learned that usertesting.com is not always accurate regarding its user demographics. While we used usertesting.com to test with 6 people — 2 young, 2 middle, and 2 older — some of the older testers could actually have been in our younger age group.

Additional Work

I also designed the team’s business cards, pictured below. The concept was that square cards with rounded corners would reflect PicJam’s app icon.