There is no doubt about it; apps are taking over the world. From phones to tablets, Apple to Microsoft (and even Linux), apps have worked their way into becoming a daily staple for every generation in First World countries today. App usage is spreading across the world at a high speed, outdoing any previous measurements we may have had as users become more tech savvy. It is no surprise that every company wants to have an app of their very own.
One of the greatest things about apps as a medium is their malleability to become whatever you want them to be. The only limitations are imagination and finance. Companies are now grasping hold of that idea, and with more money being thrown towards innovation through innovation grants it is already possible to see some incredibly cool things emerging on the marketplace today.
Over the past few months, we at CAB have seen an increase in clients wanting to develop Apps for them, many of which are to integrate third party software into their programs for a better experience. This causes all kinds of interesting debates in terms of compatibility and APIs, however, there is also a need to see that apps are an integral part of a user’s day. Aside from development it is more important than ever to look at how third party software can be integrated seamlessly from a user experience point of view.
Over the past six months we have started to work more and more with the restaurant payment gateway Flypay. If you are a regular reader of this blog then you may remember Chris writing an article called: What is Flypay and how can it benefit restaurants? In it he looked at the physical interface and potential user experience Flypay has to offer. In a nutshell, imagine not having to wait for the waiter to bring your bill after your meal, but instead being able to split the bill between you and your friends at the table independently. That is what Flypay is at its core.
You can instantly see why restaurants would want an app featuring Flypay and so we have been looking at ways of integrating Flypay into the user experience of a third party establishment. In this example I will mention Flypay a lot but it is important to note that it could be any piece of software and any app. What we learned is universal rather than specific.
When setting out, the first thing to catch our eye was that Flypay had its own user experience that happened to be completely at odds with our original sketches and designs. Being a financial service Flypay was crisp, clear, and instilled trust. These were the key feelings we got from using the product, and it was a feeling we didn’t want to lose. No matter what, the customer had to trust the payment gateway, and having two separate designs, two different experiences, going from one to the other did not do that.
To get around this we adapted the navigation and visuals of the app to reflect Flypay a lot better. This made sense from a logistical perspective and as we could not alter Flypay, we altered ours. Prior to the changes it didn’t feel like one app but rather two stitched together and to be completely honest, we feared that this could create a daunting experience rather than a smooth one when using the app. The last thing we wanted to do was create an app where the user would feel nervous to use the service and would end up calling a waiter over anyway.
When coming into a transactional area it is important to feel secure. As a result of which we found that the app began to represent the third party software rather than the software representing the app.
The question is: Was this a bad thing? Actually, as much as every designer bone in my body wanted to scream out 'YES', the answer was a resounding 'NO'. Our initial designs were elaborate and beautiful, but complicated. Integrating a financial app caused us to tone down and create something more concise. This didn’t make the app any less creative, but rather it allowed for us to work within a creative routine. It gave us guidelines, but within those guidelines we could still create an amazing, cool, relevant, exciting, informative, and ace customer experience.
As a designer and user experience specialist I am used to being given free reign within a brief. This was no different.
So, to summarise, what did I learn from a UX perspective? The answer is very simple.
Firstly, create one succinct user experience. Let the customer feel like they are only using one app rather that two separate ones.
Secondly, take pointers from the third party software. They had their own UX team working on producing an app that would instill the kind of confidence they want from their customers. This can be easily drawn across two apps to make them one, using what works and ditching what does not.
Thirdly, and finally, never let boundaries hold you back. It is possible to work within and externally to the brief, adhering to how it wants the app to work, but create something amazing. Create something awesome. Create something cool and a pleasure to use. Just create.
Integrating software into apps is likely to continue to grow over the next few years. From here on it can only increase, with only Moore’s Law dictating the rate of progression. The sky really is the limit for companies who want to create something amazing for their customers. Viva la Application.