Case Study: Mobile Design and Development
A provider of creative and editorial imagery, photography, and stock footage wanted to develop a mobile application for design professionals, its largest customer segment. Designers can find inspiration anywhere, so like numerous business professionals, they are performing more work away from the office using mobile devices. To better serve its customers, the company wanted to ensure easy access to its millions of images on tablets and smart phones.
The company envisioned a mobile app that would mimic the capabilities of its popular desktop application. Considering that a high percentage of designers use Apple products, the company chose to build a native app on the iOS platform. Lacking the resources to produce the app internally, the company contracted with a big-name agency to design and develop the application.
However, while the agency excelled in design and branding services, it proved ill-equipped at managing mobile application projects end-to-end. The agency designed a beautiful interface for the iOS app that looked terrific in mock-ups, but proved too complex for mobile, resulting in a disastrous user experience (UX). The agency had focused on the app’s appearance to represent the brand’s visual appeal, while mobile UX, a key factor in interface design, was under valued.
When assessing images for use in projects, designers tend to zoom and move around in the images to view finer details. The images displayed in the agency’s app were very large, high-resolution files, so a great amount of tuning was required to maintain fluid performance. As the app was designed more for appearance than technical prowess, this problem was never addressed.
In fact, the design agency actually lacked capability when it came to development. They had split the design strategy from the development phase and relied on dozens of programmers from an offshore team in Argentina to develop the project code after the design was completed, creating complexities that lead to lengthy project delays and budget overruns. As the project wore on, the client company became frustrated and asked to see the code, but the request was not granted, creating further frustration.
With significant time delays, business goals not being met, and a spaghetti bowl of broken code to fix, the image company sought the expertise of a consulting firm with deep experience in end-to-end mobile app development to rescue the project. The company found that expertise in AIM Consulting.
With a team of three mobile-application experts, AIM scrapped the entire code base and built a new application from scratch. The mobile app developed by AIM replicated the full functionality of the company’s desktop application, so the company’s customers wouldn’t need to sacrifice anything to benefit from working in a mobile environment.
To solve the image file size issue, the app developed by AIM used web services to deliver the appropriate photo size to the mobile device. At first, a small file is downloaded to the device. When a user requests more detail by tapping or zooming into the file, a larger file is sent from the server. This conserves bandwidth while providing a smooth experience.
Designed with UX in mind, the app was built for a touchscreen interface and features simple menus and controls. With a smart, simple design, users can focus on the content they’re viewing. The app features continuous fluid scrolling, pinch and zoom on Retina screens, one-tap search, saving of images to favorites folders, and quick toggling between folders for rapid adding and sharing of images.
Using Agile principles to build the app, AIM was able to openly share iterations of the development with the company on a weekly basis, providing assurance that the project was being delivered on schedule.
Using sound mobile app strategy, AIM Consulting rebuilt the mobile application for less than the big-name design agency paid its offshore development team. With continual communication and sharing of project code, the client company knew the project’s status at all times. AIM provided the company with a mobile product that met all of the client’s requirements. In addition, based on the strategic consulting provided by AIM, the company is revisiting its approach to mobility, moving away from offshore solutions and forming its own mobile-application development unit in-house.
With a completed mobile app and a clearer understanding of the mobility space, the company is better positioned to provide seamless digital experiences for its substantial customer base.