I joined the team in late July, just in time to roll up our sleeves and get to work. At that point it already had a fantastic brand (lead by Jared Weinstein and illustrated by Aya Rosen), and a high level PRD that put into technical words the vision of a couple of friends - to create a simplified mobile platform that would allow you to access the knowledge of your friends who do know about wine. They wanted to make it unique in the marketplace, and above all, wanted it to be a whole lot of fun no matter what. After all, the wine you enjoy together is made all the better by the people you share it with.
The Flow: leading the UX effort, I worked with the team to identify the personas that are to use our app, and then to define the use-cases and user tasks. Based on that, we locked the features we want to launch with in our MVP. These features where then translated into the user flows and information architecture. Through this project I became a true fan of balsamiq. In the past I used to work with Omnigraffle or Visio for wireframing, but Balsamiq - how simple and fun it is to work with that tool!. And the best of all, you can create interactive wireframes, where you can test your product to get a sense if the UX feels right. This was truly amazing because we totally felt how the app will work for the end user without getting into any design work or writing a single line of code.
The Design: We then continued to the creatives. The big challenge here was how to successfully bring the unique voice of the brand (all illustrated by hand with ink on paper), into the slick, digital world of iOS, and make them talk together and strengthen one another. One of the first realizations was that we must have the handmade illustrations live on a paper texture. We had to give the ink that natural world it was meant to live in. The paper texture also added warmth and history-like feeling. To balance that and not "over do it", we decided to go with clean, slick buttons and lines and to work with a contemporary san-serif font. We nailed the look and feel. To give the brand more visibility, we used error messages, screens with no friends, no activity or no results. These were the perfect ground to hear the brand voice and start to have some fun!
The development went incredibly smooth, working with a fantastic team in Slovenia. We took the native ios route, and a team of 2 developers finished working on V1.0 within 8 weeks. Since the dev team had the working wireframes to gather the scope of the project and forecast the development, we could feed them every sprint with the actual designs. That meant that we could design and develop in parallel, which saved a lot of time.
There is an endless debate (or maybe it ended when Facebook went native), whether to go native or HTML5 when developing for multiple platforms, and I more and more feel that taking the native route is the right way to go. It's just so much faster and the performance is so much better, and there is simply no struggle to "bend" the code to behave like a native one. Lets say that if you need to launch sooner rather that later, have limited budget and resources, and will NOT compromise on the quality of your product -- take the native route! Developing in native code even for 2 platforms will take much less time and effort than developing a single HTML5 code base for all.
Version 1.0 of Known Merchant is ambitious. Not perfect by any means… there’s a lot going on under the hood that will enable a healthy business… and we’re looking very forward to bringing that to you.
We just launched this week. Enjoy!