shutterstock 224696404 1

The mechanics of MVP software development

MVP software development is a lot like maintaining a prized vehicle. There are teams, processes and procedures that keep the car running smoothly — like an oil change or rotating your tires. Similarly the Agile process keeps MVP app development projects on track.

A window into Agile methodology

Agile development methodology is substantially different from the more sequential waterfall style of project management. Rather than completing project phases in a predefined order like a car on an assembly line, teams using Agile methodology revisit requirements, development and design throughout the course of the project during incremental sprints. At the end of each sprint, a shippable product increment is created.

Using Agile Methodology, every two-weeks teams hold a period of planning, development, progress and review called a sprint. Teams running an Agile process for their MVP software development can inspect and evolve during the course of the project, recalibrating the release, optimizing value and re-steering the course of the project if needed.

Highly Agile organizations met their goals and business intent 75% of the time compared to the 56% who met their goals and intent using another project management methodology or without a structured approach all together.

Assembling iterative, interdependent development teams

Conceptualization and ideation are the initial project stages that ensure Agile product development is well-positioned for success. Collaboration during the course of the project is essential. Thus, choosing the right team can spell the difference between a model project or a mammoth disaster.

Have a clear understanding of your need before you approach a mobile app development company. Know what purpose you want your solution to serve. Determining your users and business needs will help guide initial strategy discussions with the software provider you choose.

If you maintain an ongoing relationship with a mobile software provider and are debating bringing your next project to them, review past results carefully.

Sometimes you just have to cut the cord

Consider this scenario. You released an app or web solution a year or two ago with one partner. Lately, things just haven’t been functioning as they should. How do you know whether you should cut ties and begin work with a new provider or adapt your current solution?

Look for these tell-tale signs your relationship with your current software provider has run its course:

Your software partner isn’t full-service. The inability to reach users on mobile or through a web browser is another flashing red beacon to move on to something new. This is where your users are and want to be. Your solution needs to be available there too.

You’ve excessively customized the white-label solution you first released. This red flag also screams, “Time to build a new product.” If you have needs greater than what a basic solution can provide, it’s time to begin working with a team who can help you realize them.

Your current provider has become notorious for over-extending on projects. When mobile app development companies overextend beyond their capabilities and over promise beyond what they can deliver, there are very real costs associated. The costs beyond just development dollars are important too. What does over-schedule and over-budget delivery mean for businesses? It might mean the launch of a new brand or other internal software is delayed, or the growth of your business is constrained. Worst of all, a competitor may beat you to market.

You feel compelled to review the review. After each sprint review, assess the progress. Ask yourself whether the work completed by your provider matches your expected timeline and budget. If not, be vocal. Your mobile app development partner should be guiding the process, not the other way around. If you’re bringing more ideas and process to the table then they are, there’s a problem.

If you determine it’s necessary to start working with a new partner, ask yourself these questions so you have answers when your new partner asks you.

  • Who are my users?
  • What are their business needs?
  • What value will my app add?
  • What are the high-level features under consideration?

Once you’ve chosen your software provider whether that means sticking with your current provider or finding a new team, the real work can begin.

Understanding MVP software development

Markedly different from its meaning in sports, in web or mobile app software development MVP stands for the Minimum Viable Product. This is the first complete representation of the product with a limited feature set defined during prioritization. The end-result is the leanest first version of the app that satisfies client needs and offers users value.

Defining your MVP and confirming your provider can help you realize it is the second step to running an effective project.

Feature prioritization 1Clarifying your needs and setting your priorities

Your needs and priorities will inform your MVP. The best partners ask about your users and business needs to help you set the requirements of your app and the features you need to achieve the behavior and actions you expect to see. Your partner can play a role many within an internal organization cannot. They can be the “objective mediator” helping to call out value in certain features and point out where costly pitfalls may be lurking.

It’s easy to get side-tracked by priority assignments that are passed “down the food chain” — so to speak. Rather than a VP calling out a feature as a “good idea” and it bubbling to the top due to the social authority associated with the request, you provider can help you weight the benefits or challenges with each internal ask as the project progresses.

The key to a successful project is coming to an understanding with your software provider about what you both expect to see in the final project. The right software development partner should spend a lot of time asking about the features of the project from your users’ perspective.

Sign of success: Your software partner asks questions from the user’s perspective.

Your software development partner should work with you to understand your basic needs, business objectives and goals.

Design software users can’t resist and keep them coming back

A user’s experience accessing software depends on the amount of value they gain from it. At the very beginning of your process, think about what your user needs and expects from your solution. As you work with a software partner to map how users move through your app, portal or website, break their actions into steps. Then create an interface that guides them seamlessly through each. Put yourself in your user’s shoes. The best strategists, designers and developers are empathetic. They adopt their users’ mindset and think about the features and experience that would provide the most value.

Focus on the core

Back to our car analogy, just as an engine powers movement. The list of features you prioritize will guide momentum during the MVP software development process. Without requirement gathering and feature prioritization, the product owner and project manager won’t have enough information to set a team loose designing and developing the project because they won’t have enough information to understand the project cost and time required.

Feature complete 2The race to feature complete

The “race to feature complete” is the risk management and development strategy we use to identify, plan and develop core functionality. Once you’ve worked with a software partner to define your MVP, you’ve identified a given number of features to complete before launch. Let’s say there are 10. Work on those features until they are functional but not polished. Then use your extra time and budget before launch to double back and take higher priority features from “good” to “perfect.”

For example, suppose you’re working on a reader app. You could spend hours finessing the page turn animation. Or, you could code it so it’s workable, and return to polish later.

Don’t get stuck in a continuous loop perpetually fixing and editing one feature. If feature complete isn’t achieved and the app doesn’t launch the component you spent so much time on — won’t matter anyway.

Understand the cost of veering outside scope

Caution: Backtracking, rework and adding additional “bells and whistles” to the first release are key culprits responsible for driving up costs and pushing out your completion timetable. Prioritizing your features is crucial to staying on schedule and on budget. If you are on a tight deadline to complete core functionality, avoid the temptation to backtrack and add more features halfway through. This only serves to divert you from the core capabilities your solution needs to launch. Instead add them to the backlog.

If you do choose to add features to your first iteration or reprioritize functionality, understand the cost.

Don’t let perfection stand between you and working software. There’s always the opportunity to fine-tune in future iterations of you initial MVP concept.

BacklogContinue working through the feature backlog after launch

Software development is a balancing act between time and value. How can you release an app that offers maximum functionality in the shortest time frame? In determining and working toward the software MVP defined during feature prioritization, additional functionality will remain in the backlog. Subsequent releases will involve working through the backlog. That’s why it’s important to make sure you haven’t bitten off more than you can chew with your MVP. You will revisit the backlog anyway. In some instances, you may groom the backlog and reprioritize features as you race to feature complete so previously high priority functionality may be exchanged for something with higher business value.

Remember your teams are human

Sprint planning is integral to the success of a software development project. The meetings allow each team member to realistically estimate how long each task will take. It’s important to remember resources are not machines. Setting realistic timelines together safeguards everyone from overcommitting and under delivering during the development process.

Why release a lean version of an MVP?

Limiting the features in your first full iteration of the product allows you to gather user intelligence with less effort expended. Maybe your customer intelligence and a premonition you have every day at 3pm tells you your mobile or web app idea is a winner. An MVP allows you to put the voodoo aside and concentrate on a working representation of your concept.

Remember: Simple experiences standout

When in doubt — simplify. Creating value for your users isn’t achieved by providing every feature imaginable, it’s achieved by choosing only the features users need. Research your target audience. It’s easy to say yes to features you think users may want. Instead, let your conclusions be driven by data, established use patterns and user empathy. It’s difficult to have a lot of features and a clear user experience at the same time.

Download 3 Mobile Disasters and How to Avoid Them

Launch Blog

The essential app store optimization guide

We all want to get noticed. Maybe it’s by making music, sharing ideas or excelling at a craft. Regardless of the method, the end goal is the same: Make an impact. The objective of an app in the Apple App or Google Play Stores is no different.

But making an impact, sharing that idea or providing that new moment of understanding, simplicity or efficiency with a mobile app starts with one thing: Getting downloaded. Learn how with our just launched app store optimization guide.

App visibility against all odds

Many try. And many fail. There were 1,600,000 apps in the Google Play Store and 1,500,000 in the Apple App Store as of July 2015. There’s no magic formula or seance required to improve the click-throughs to your app. It’s science. The first step to succeeding at app store optimization is understanding the role it plays in the conversion funnel.

Inbound marketers are charged with optimizing their websites for specific keywords so they rank highly in organic search. That’s SEO. App store optimization marketing (ASO) is similar. One purpose is to increase the likelihood your mobile app will be found by users. The second often-overlooked component is conversion optimization. You can rank first and still fail at ASO if no one chooses to download your app. Components of ASO and conversion optimization include:

  • Keyword research, selection and placement
  • Category selection
  • Icon design

Why ASO matters — Low cost, high impact

App store optimization is particularly important because it allows creators low cost exposure compared to the large budgets integrated marketing campaigns can rack up. Research shows users interact with app stores frequently. According to one survey, 64% of people had downloaded an app in the past 7 days.

How do users find mobile apps?

52% — Family, friends and colleagues

40% — General browsing in an app store

27% — Search engines

Optimization differences between Apple and Google

Chances are good the users you want to be downloading your app come with a variety of form factor needs. Some will want to use it on their iPads or their iPhones or their Android devices. App optimization considerations are different depending on the app market place.


Apple’s algorithm assesses the relevancy of the keywords and content in the title and 100 character description. It puts weight on download volume, reviews and the perceived positivity of those reviews. Any press or social awareness is helpful in driving traffic to the app but doesn’t directly impact rankings.


The Google Play Store takes a more holistic approach. The algorithm is more SEO-focused using the online app store listing, any associated web pages, links from blogs, press releases, articles and social proof to assign rankings. The correlation is a direct one between linked press, media or social signals like tweets, shares and +1s. Google sees this social proof as citations of popularity.

What the Apple and Google ranking systems value

  • Download velocity: Number/time
  • Quality/Uninstalls
  • Frequency of use
  • Number of ratings
  • Quality of ratings
  • Comments
  • Keyword density
  • Social engagement
  • Number of backlinks

How do you rank higher in the app store? Download our free App Store Optimization 2015 eBook and skip ahead to page 8 to find out.

Blog Space Promo


MentorMate Director of Operations rolls up her sleeves to co-create OccamScan app

There are two things consumers can’t save enough of: Time and money. OccamScan designed and co-created by MentorMate Director of Operations Stefanie Trimble and her business partner Stephen Fluin helps savvy shoppers cut down on both.

An idea born out of curiosity

Stephen was considering switching to a grocery delivery service. It would save time, but would it really save money? Lightbulb. Stefanie and Stephen stumbled upon a competitive gap in the marketplace. No app empowered consumers to compare item prices between stores to understand how their shopping habits impact cost and savings. The need for OccamScan is fierce. Stores can switch SKUs at a moment’s notice. With OccamScan, consumers can see an aerial perspective on the ROI of their buying habits and take back the power.

Receipt Insight 1Validating the potential for OccamScan

Before designing and developing the app, Stefanie and Stephen ideated. Through conversation and competitive research, they confirmed the need for the tool. So when Stefanie isn’t helping to allocate resources or coordinate invoicing she works to coordinate design and development for her own mobile venture. Stefanie and Stephen have found working side-by-side is most efficient. When Stephen architects and codes, Stefanie refines the design. That way, they can implement any changes in real-time.

Building out the OccamScan feature set

“Scan, smart, save” is the app’s tagline. It also represents the benefits of the app. OccamScan falls squarely in the quantified self-movement. No manual entry on the part of the user is required. First, users scan a receipt. The more receipts scanned and stores visited, the more value uses gain from the app. This helps build on the current OccamScan product database.

Then, at the bottom of each e-receipt, users can see whether they saved or lost money on the purchased item based on its known price at other stores. If Trader Joe’s has blackberries for a cheaper price than the user paid to purchase them at Target, OccamScan notes this in red.

Users can also search within the app to find the store with the most economical price for the product they seek. By looking at the Stores feature, users can see where they spend the most to gain insight on their spending habits.Stores 2

Harnessing the competitive urge to save

Looking ahead Stefanie and Stephen plan to extend the social components via Facebook integration and release the iOS and Kindle versions of OccamScan in the Apple App Store and Amazon Appstore. It’s currently available in the Google Play Store. They hope the app will create a competitive community for users where friends compete to save the most.

Before that, the pair are focused on continuing to architect and augment the data base to support the product cross-referencing the app needs to be successful. They also plan to build out a notification system, alerting users when one of their preferred products goes on sale.

Local spotlight on OccamScan

For Stefanie, designing and coordinating the development of OccamScan represented a chance to view the app development process from the perspective of her clients. Only this time, it was her partner’s “big idea” they were realizing.

Stefanie and Stephen presented this year at MinneDemo and were featured in the Star Tribune recap of the tech incubator. Read it here.

Want to know more about how MentorMate supports entrepreneurs? Ask us about it. Contact

Download 3 Mobile Disasters and How to Avoid Them

shutterstock 117077224 864x423

Kick-off healthcare IT development in 4 steps

Developers and their skills play a large role in the success of healthcare IT efforts. It’s true. But even before that, one thing can separate the good projects from the game-changers — a plan.

Before beginning healthcare software development consider these four things.

1. Find a mobile or digital partner who seeks out new technologies

This will give your business the upper hand in a competitive marketplace. If your partner continually seeks to understand and implement emerging technologies, you will be able to adapt  and grow your solution faster than competitors.

2. Explore your target audience

Any good development partner will take you through a series of ideation exercises to determine your user personas and help you understand how these key audiences will interact with your solution and what they will gain.

Knowing who your core users are is pivotal to anticipating their needs as your software evolves.

3. Choose a solution: mobile or web

Different variables can influence whether you decide to build a native app, responsive website,  portal or combination of the three. Web applications are appealing to many since they translate well onto a majority of devices — desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones and the web-browser-enabled cars of the future. Historically, web applications haven’t been able to leverage the robust technical capabilities as well as native apps. This gap is quickly closing.

Top 2 reasons to create a web app

  • They’re less expensive to produce
  • They don’t require device-specific customization

Considering current capabilities, native apps generally have better offline capabilities. They are the only choice if your solution requires integration with Bluetooth devices. Producing a native app also makes more sense if your solution will require a significant amount of on-device storage.

Maybe you don’t have to choose at all. Often, product road maps include a native app and web experience. A top development partner can help you maximize your spend on development and design.

4. Define your priority features

Selecting the features you would like your solution to launch with will help you set up a reasonable development roadmap. To do this, you must know your user personas. To determine the user perspectives, first identify the scenarios of use.

  • Who are these people?
  • How will they interact with the application?
  • Why do they want to interact with the application?
  • What are their goals?

The best development partners go through this process with you. Feature prioritization allows you to remain on-time and on-budget bringing your solution to market.

Curious to know more about how we can help you develop or improve on your wellness software? Read our eBook.

BLOG Banner

Photo courtesy of MPFphotography.

shutterstock 214745092 copy

Coordinating internal & external development like a pro

Imagine a relay team is running a race and have a target time they must hit to qualify for conference, state or even — say — the Olympics. Regardless of the situation, the payoff is BIG.  Each team member must perform at a certain speed to achieve the goal time. If not, it may be humanly impossible for the other two to run faster and compensate. The team comes in second. All bets to advance to the next stage of competition are off.

The key to achieving a winning result? All members on the team pace together. If even one member can’t keep up, it affects the team.

This analogy is a little like pacing in software development — especially pacing between internal and external development teams all working on different facets of the same project. Pacing work between a team within the parent company and a development team from a software partner can present challenges for many projects. But in this case, the stakes are even higher. Pace to win and beat the competition to market. How can you coordinate closely between internal and external development?

Set aside time for regular meetings

If your project requires splitting development duties between a software provider and an internal IT department, regular meetings between team and project leads are critical. Communication is key to ensure all parties advance at a similar speed and any new functionality can integrate with legacy systems.

Plan on a meeting of the development teams once a week. During the first meeting, identify the completion objectives, who is working on them and when they must be finished. Then, focus the subsequent meetings on sharing status updates and ongoing risks.

Ask these questions in your next cross-functional development meeting:

  • Are we on track?
  • Are there any blockers or impediments to success?
  • What questions or challenges have we identified in the last week?
  • How are we going to set up our test environments and validate success has been achieved before pushing the software to production?

Share information to piece together the complete picture

Gavin Finden, MentorMate Senior Software Engineer – Mobile, has worked with multiple teams all developing for the same project before. One project united three groups. He found sharing information between the teams essential to understand how work the other groups was completing could impact his portion. It’s impossible without open and frequent communication.

Communicating is also key to avoid re-work by one or more of the teams. Hear it from Gavin.

“It’s valuable to coordinate development work so internal and external teams don’t trample on each other, complicating the job for both. It can avoid duplication of effort in some cases, such as when two teams find and try to fix the same bug. It can also make it easier to reuse code the other team is developing. If you know that the other team is about to add some component that you can make use of, it’s more efficient than implementing your own.”

Pro-tip: Plan code review across teams, so every group gets a detailed look at what the other teams are writing.

Coordinating internal and external development teams is one way to avoid a mobile app development disaster. Hungry for more? Read our eBook.

Blog Banner1

Photo courtesy of Passiflora.

Android Emulator

Exploring Microsoft’s Android Emulator

Consulting for Microsoft

I recently attended an event at the developer division of Microsoft on behalf of MentorMate. We were one of fifteen companies from across the US that were invited to participate. The event was focused on pain points that exist for mobile developers and what improvements Microsoft could make to their developer tools to ease them.

Most of what we discussed was still in the ideation phase, but there was a complete product that stood out.

Microsoft has created the best Android emulator I’ve seen on the market to date.

Mapping the competition

The Android emulator that ships with Android Studio leaves a lot to be desired. Even with HAXM, the default emulator just doesn’t cut it. GenyMotion is a great alternative but it’s expensive.

What makes the Microsoft Android emulator better

The Microsoft Android emulator is fast, feature rich and can be downloaded for free. The only downside is that it’s only available for Windows. If you’re like me and use a Mac, you’ll either need to install Parallels, Fusion or stick with GenyMotion.

Key features

  • Multi-touch, which is especially cool when using a touch-enabled device
  • Control of network signal, accelerometer, battery and other device properties
  • Map front and rear facing cameras of the emulator to your cameras or image files
  • Playback of pre-recorded accelerometer data
  • Route travel between destinations on a map and simulate walking, biking or driving

More information about the emulator can be found here.

Usage of Microsoft looking ahead

Over the past few years, I’ve been using Microsoft products less and less. My primary development machine is a Mac. If Microsoft continues launching tools like this, I would consider moving back to Windows.

The reason I switched to a Mac was to build iOS apps. As a developer, I would love to see Visual Studio for Mac or be able be able to open Xcode projects on Windows. I want to be able to select my dev environment based on hardware and not be locked in because of closed software ecosystems. I know it’s a long shot, but it doesn’t hurt to dream big.

Want to know more about Microsoft’s innovations? Hear them speak at MobCon this year, MentorMate’s next-generation mobile and digital conference. Register today!

Blog Banner1

IMG 20150821 081134small

How to Impress a Girl — Start a Tech Company

When I learned that our CEO was speaking about his professional journey at a leadership event, I had to attend as there was some genuine curiosity bubbling up in my head about Björn. I never heard the full story from him, only bits and pieces from others. Little did I know, I was going to be one of dozens of people dropping their jaws from the sincere shock of how he came to the US and created MentorMate.

Björn Stansvik came to the US with a stack of 200 resumes and had one goal, to find a sponsor.

Being that he only had a 90-day window to do so, he knew he needed to stand out, be strategic and find aFsOqs SQ company that could help him grow professionally. Hunt Technologies was the first company that caught his attention. He came into the job interview with a S.W.O.T. analysis and told them what they should do with their company and why they should hire him…pretty direct. While impressed with his ideas, they were not able to sponsor him and sent him on his way.

Björn didn’t stop there.

He took some time, conducted further research and put together an 80-page report (which they didn’t ask for.) He gave it to them as a gift, then asked for a volunteer position (no pay) with a computer and a desk. They gave in. For the next several weeks, he invited himself into meetings, spoke up whenever he had an idea and made himself known in the organization.

Hunt Technologies soon realized they needed to sponsor him, or they would lose a very good thing. So they did.

After 2 years with Hunt, Björn started thinking about the next big thing. During that time in 2001, he met a girl, and soon realized that an 80-page report or S.W.O.T. analysis wouldn’t impress her. So, he developed a Palm Pilot educational tool and showed it off to her as one final attempt to win her over. It worked. That was the start of MentorMate.

Fast forward almost 15 years ahead.

Now MentorMate is a mobile development, design, consulting and strategy company. Along the way, Björn has built out his vision for technology, especially in the mobile space. Currently, his eyes are set on the continued evolution of mobile, such as building out predictive models and discrete wearables. He’s brilliant, tenacious and truly inspiring.

Special thanks to Paul Batz, Founder of Good Leadership Enterprises, for inviting Björn to speak at his leadership networking event and for the warm introduction! 


Blog Banner1

shutterstock 307294421 copy

What Android 6.0 Marshmallow means for users

This week Google announced the release of Android 6.0. On the tail of Android 4.4 KitKat and Android 5.0 Lollipop, this “sweet release” by Google has been dubbed Android 6.0 Marshmallow. While this Marshmallow won’t complete a s’more, it does offer users more control and flexibility. Android M isn’t expected to launch in the consumer market until late 2015.

Features we’re anticipating the most

  • The Google Search App can be launched by pressing/holding the home screen
  • Now on Tap recognizes context and provides helpful information from busy restaurants nearby to the nearest gas station as you approach the airport
  • The mobile payment system Android Pay built into the OS allows third party apps to process retail or in-app payments
  • Support for the USB Type-C power cable
  • An energy saving mode, Doze, which uses less power than standby
  • Permissions requested for access specific functions on users’ phones

As with any release, new tech capabilities bring new questions. So we tossed a question out into the ether aka internet. “What do you want to know about Marshmallow?” Here are the questions Matthew Sylva (on social) and the team here in the office wanted to know. We checked in with Senior Software Engineer Chris Black for answers.

Why is it important that Marshmallow gives users more control over the information specific apps can view?

Currently, you either have to accept a wall of permissions or choose not to install the app. Either one of two things usually happen at the wall of permissions, the user reads them and decides not to install the app or they are ignored all together. The new permissions model is better for developers and end users. Asking for permissions as you need them will make it more obvious as to why the app needs a specific permission.

Have you begun testing against the developer preview; what are your thoughts?

The Marshmallow release is more about polish and stability. Material design is here to stay, so there is no need to make drastic redesigns for existing applications.

How do you think Android Pay will compare to Apple Pay?

Google has had NFC payment through Google Wallet since 2011. Android Pay is essentially a spin off of Google Wallet to make NFC payments even easier. Instead of needed to open the Google Wallet app, the payment system is built into the OS. With Android Pay supporting 4.4 devices that have NFC, it’s estimated that there will be six million compatible devices out of the gate.

What is Google doing to ensure carriers update the OS?

Google is pushing more and more of its updates through Google Play Services, which doesn’t require an OS update. Google also provides design support libraries making it easier to style apps with Material Design and still be compatible back to Android 2.3. Google pushes out security updates and the majority of its new features through Google Play Services. There are still a handful of features that will only work on the latest OS. If you like staying on the cutting edge of Android, I’d recommend getting an unlocked Nexus or Google Play Edition device.

You can also read reactions from Chris on Android M in his Google I/O conference blog published earlier this year.

According to the Android Developers blog, the last Android 6.0 SDK is also available for download. Get the details here.

Photo courtesy of kasezo.

Blog Banner1

Launch Blog 2

3 mobile app development disasters and how to avoid them

Tales of mobile development disasters are nothing new. Going far over budget. Running out of time. Outsourcing development only to find it’s nothing like you originally expected. You’ve heard the stories whispered in conference rooms or shouted loudly over social media channels. One thing’s for sure, you want to avoid it all cost.

Constructing mobile solutions

Just like construction, mobile solutions connect people. In both types of projects, teams are working — hard — to get from point A to B. In construction, that might mean building a new bridge or widening a freeway to physically move people between two locations. While mobile developers don’t need orange pylons or reflective vests, they connect people too — with features, functionality and capabilities that add value to their daily lives.

The key to preventing a mobile nightmare is being able to recognize the warning signs and setting your project up for success from the very start. Who better to share what works and what doesn’t? Our solutions architects, project managers, developers and designers.

So what are three of the most common mobile disasters?

Mobile disaster 1: Far over time, far over budget

No one likes to be late for an important date, especially when that date involves releasing a first to market mobile app. In the case of most app development, every day and every dollar counts. Know how you can make the most of them.

Plan ahead. Even before you start searching for the best mobile app development company on Google think hard about your mobile solution. The simplest question you can ask to prepare for development is, “What problem do I want to solve?” Let that lead you to define your business needs and users. With that in hand, you’re arming your software provider with information to offer you the best guidance in solving the unique need you’ve identified.

Encourage cross-functional conversations. Coordinating closely between any internal and external development efforts are another way to maintain momentum. This means regular meetings and regular communication. Questions like, “What challenges have we identified in the last week?” can keep the brightest minds on your project focused on any blockers or risks that have emerged.

Set up a system of checks and balances. Spoiler alert. Design and development go hand-in-hand. They should never operate in silos. Bringing them together early on ensures your designers are creating wireframes and actions that are feasible to develop within the budget and timeline your client identified. Developers can tell them. By contrast, designers can provide key insight on user experience that could be overlooked without checking it.

Mobile disaster 2: Aimless investing

The results are in. Throwing money at a problem won’t make it better. But, often redirecting development efforts by choosing another software partner can salvage a ship taking on water.

Ask the hard questions right away. When you’re choosing a new software provider, ask references the right questions. Focus on understanding the quality of the end results and level of collaboration throughout. Ask about work created for other clients. Past experience can help you predict future success.

Consider the long-term value. Everyone likes a bargain. But as the hardcore cost-conscious know, when you take a “deal” you may be accepting that a certain level of extra work may be required to bring a recently acquired purchase up to par. Maybe that means patching a hole or adding a zipper.

Now think about value in the tech space. Consider more than pure economy when you’re choosing a mobile app developer. You don’t want to have to worry about excessive paths or fixes as soon as you release. An experienced mobile app development company can help you keep this to a minimum and provide mobile framework that can grow and evolve efficiently as your solution does.

Mobile disaster 3: Asked for one thing, got another

Developing functional, valuable software is as far as you can get from peering into a crystal ball and divining the future. It relies upon clear and continuous communication between clients and software partners along with actionable results to make that anticipated future a reality.

Embrace transparency. Perfection is the enemy of progress. Look to partner with a software provider you wants to show you progress along the way. The only thing worse than a miscommunication is assuming you and your developers are one the same page, when really expectations were confused all along.

Stay involved. It’s easy to consider checking out of the creation process once you’ve onboarded your development partner. You’re busy. Now they’re busy. Problem solved. Well — resist the urge. Decisions will need to be made along the way. Your provider will need to know what you value throughout the process and how well you see the functionality and development addressing your business needs.

Read our latest eBook 3 Mobile App Development Disasters and How to Avoid Them, so you own the development process and it doesn’t own you.

Blog Banner1


France 44 Desktop

Crafting an integrated digital experience for France 44

A new app or website is no longer enough to distinguish a business. Only by singing the same song across multiple platforms can brands create continuous experiences that unite users rather than isolating them. Why? Consumer habits are fragmented. Some users may download a business’ new app. Some will visit a new site. Others will do both. Today it’s ever more difficult for a single digital asset or differentiator to break through the chorus of other products looking to solo.

That’s exactly what we helped one Midwest wine, beer, spirit and charcuterie retailer do — break through the chorus. Our integrated digital experience for France 44 leveraged a new app, website and beacon technology all created to enhance or mirror the in-store atmosphere.France 44 Responsive Design

Pruning the vines to define business needs

Just like any vineyard cleanup after a season of growth, we began by guiding France 44 through an initial rapid ideation session to define their top goals for the digital campaign. By pruning the wants from the true needs, we arrived at four key goals.

  1. At its most basic, sell wine, beer, and liquor online.
  2. Grow web sales.
  3. Create a flexible web experience that can evolve as the needs of the retailer do.
  4. Support a top shelf experience for all and forward a premium digital image.
  5. Develop a two-step backend payment transaction.

An interactive brand needs responsive design

Core to the France 44 digital initiative was building a responsive website optimized for mobile devices. The website launched with a new skin and navigation that reflected the improved user experience design.

Unlike its predecessor, it is able to render well on desktops, 10” tablets, 7” tablets and smartphones like the Galaxy S 3 / 4 or the iPhone. The touch-enabled interface works on any form factor due in part to the 40 pixels of safe distance present around each component in the design.

France 44 Product Recommendations

Connect the in-store and remote customer experiences digitally

Walking into the brick and mortar France 44 location is an experience. Bottles of wine, gin, liqueur and more line the shelves resolutely — each seemingly confident it will provide a new experience. Frequently, the flagship France 44 hosts tasting events or classes. Celebrating an atmosphere where exploration is encouraged makes France 44 unique.

We reflected that commitment to customer education on the new France 44 website by featuring retail space goings-on prominently on the homepage through news and event activity tiles.

France 44 Desktop Events

Architecting complex transactions

Unlike appreciating a fine wine, architecting the transactions required to sell and ship gift baskets around the world was far from simple — but it appears that way to users. Why the complication?

By law liquor and cheese can’t be sold together as a single financial transaction — problematic because both items are included in the gift baskets France 44 wanted to feature and sell online. Beyond that, some states require liquor purchases to be taxed at a different rate than food. It certainly didn’t make sense to have customers check out twice during the online process if they were buying a single gift basket.

Ideally the experience would consist of a single credit card entry, with a single receipt and result in two credit transactions. We built a custom web form and interaction allowing the user to select the gift basket via a meta item. When the customer enters their credit card, two independent system transactions are made, and the results of these transactions, including tax calculations, are brought back together into a single receipt.

Creating a smart algorithm for product recommendations

Customers walking into France 44 generally know what they’re looking, maybe it’s vodka distilled locally at the new-to-Minneapolis Du Nord Craft Spirits or a sampling from the now nationwide name Surly. Just as customers can seek help from France 44 staff in the retail space, the app we designed to complement the web experience also offers recommendations based on customers’ preferred tastes.

We created an algorithm just for France 44. The more users engage with the app the better it is able to recommend options and learn customer preferences.

Using the app, customers can mark favorites, find recommendations based on previous choices, write tasting notes and organize their favorite drinks by mood or occasion. It also integrates with the France 44 rewards program Club 44. Members can download their purchase history, see their club points, update their information and view and redeem Club Rewards credits.

France 44 Club Mobile

Custom deals delivered by beacons when users are nearby

The app we designed also allows France 44 to expand its ability to make recommendations without increasing its staff. How? Through innovative beacon technology, the smart algorithm is able to push out recommendations to customers with the app based on their location in the retail space.

Customers lingering in the beer cooler may receive coupons for an IPA, while shoppers with a previous history buying pinots from the West Coast may get similar recommendations when they pass by again. Through this uniquely targeted marketing, France 44 is able to offer customers value and savings even when store staff are busy.

The results

Following the launch of the website and app, store traffic, revenues and regional SEO search rank improved. Also increased for the Midwest retailer? Digital brand recognition across diverse but complementary platforms.

Download 3 Mobile Disasters and How to Avoid Them