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An Award-Winning App for Learning Sign Language

This month we're checking back in on Apps for Good, an organization that teaches young students how to build mobile apps and IoT products. Balsamiq provides free licenses to the students to wireframe their products.

We first met Apps for Good in 2013 and are delighted to see how much success they've had since then.

In 2017, the Apps for Good team from St Marylebone School in London designed an app called Sign Time which won the "People's Choice Award" at the annual competition.

Here's Anna, Michelle and Lily collecting their award:

And here's their pitch video:


We asked the team a few questions about their project and what they learned along the way.

Q&A with the St Marylebone School Apps for Good team

What does your app do and how did you come up with the idea?

Sign Time is an app that teaches sign language through visual learning and educational games. Our app breaks down communication barriers and teaches signing in a simple yet entertaining way.

We were inspired to create Sign Time as a way to educate and entertain.

We designed this app for personal reasons, as one of our team members (Michelle) has a partially deaf cousin. Her cousin found that learning to sign was frustrating because he was handed boring, non colourful sheets of paper that weren't helpful and didn't teach him properly. He often said that he would rather have instructional videos and colours to make his learning more fun. Deaf children all around the UK experience the same problem, so we were inspired to create Sign Time as a way to educate and entertain.

What's next for your team?

Winning the award opens up so many incredible opportunities.

We are excited over a number of things! First of all, simply winning the award opens up so many incredible opportunities, and we have both decided to join the fellowship after learning more about Apps For Good. Furthermore, we are obviously very excited about our mentoring session with Holly Branson at Virgin Red! The opportunity for the mentoring session entails is very exciting.

What suggestions do you have for someone looking to build their own apps?

The advice we give to anyone hoping to develop their app idea is definitely to think about target audience. By contacting Lambeth Deaf Children's Society, we were able to gain an insight as to what our target audience wanted in an app and didn't want. This helped us perfect our idea and make it as suitable as possible.

[It's] good to have many ideas and compare them all to get the best one.

Also, don't just stick with one specific idea! As a team, we had to go through countless ideas before we settled on Sign Time, so it is good to have many ideas and compare them all to get the best one.

Why and how do you use Balsamiq?

Balsamiq is a software that allows you to create mockups of a phone. It is really helpful when you want to convey your app idea onto a screen. Sometimes explaining the process of how your app works can be difficult to understand, especially to someone who has never seen it before. By using this software we were able to show Sign Time’s main features step by step using Balsamiq; we even used it in our pitch.

Do you have any feature ideas or suggestions for how we can improve our product(s)?

Although Balsamiq is a good software to use, it can sometimes take a very long time to produce mockups of your app. To make it better, they could possibly add ways to quicken the process, instead of just their ‘lock’ feature. They could also regularly update to have the newest versions of smartphones (we had to work with an iPhone three), but apart from that, we think it's a very useful software.

(Editor's note: to quickly create multiple screens based on the same template, we suggest using our Symbols feature - there's a quick tutorial here. Additionally, all of our versions now include multiple iPhone sizes (up to iPhone X) and a generic smartphone control. Desktop users can visit our Download page to get the latest version.)

Congratulations Anna, Michelle and Lily! We can't wait to see what you build next!

Do you have a story to share about the awesome things you do with Balsamiq? Send an email to with your stories or blog posts!

Leon for the Balsamiq Team

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