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Turning user experience into a brand experience

Brands are more than the combination of a logo and a witty tagline – they’re a trusted relationship with a customer, a one on one conversation between a company and its user base. User experience, through a website or a mobile application, then, is the most practical and useful way to build on that connection and foster a deeper relationship between a brand and its customers.

UX has and always will be the core of app development – the idea being to minimize frustration users feel and keep the customer engaged with a piece of software.

For most companies, their website or mobile application is the only direct interaction they have with their customer base. It’s important to get the core messaging of your brand in-line with the outward facing collateral you present.

Although it might seem like it complicates the process, looking at your UX through the lens of your brand can make the process of designing a website or mobile application more simple by clearing up certain decisions. Seen through the filter of your on-brand messaging, deciding when to implement an aspect of UX can be left up to the question: does it fit with my brand? Will this reflect what my customers understand about my brand?

A unified, on-brand message that integrates with your UX will always be more engaging and powerful than flashy UX.

At Bottle Rocket, our primary focus is the brand we develop for – when you have deep empathy with a brand and understand their position in the market, the rest of the process falls into place. We spend several days at the beginning of an engagement getting to understand the brand we’re working with and discovering what makes them tick.

Although two companies that are implementing UX with “best practices” in mind may come up with two very similar results, if both of those companies regarded their brand equity as an equal factor in the process, the result would be a highly branded experience that allows the customer to engage on a deeper, more familiar level.

The first expectation of good UX is ease of use and clarity. The user should know when an item is actionable and the structure of actions should be hierarchical in some way – but beyond that, UX decisions can’t all be made in a vacuum of best practices. If my brand prides itself on a subtle, minimalistic approach to business (and that’s the brand equity that I have established with my customers), then my outward facing materials need to reflect those values in their implementation. 

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Matt Johnson on Virtual Reality

Matt Johnson, EVP here at Bottle Rocket and General Manager of Thruster, sat down recently to discuss his experience at E3 and the direction that virtual reality is taking with platforms like the Oculus Rift headset.

VR is moving beyond gaming and taking on practical applications, such as real-world training scenarios. With an Oculus headset, for example, first responders can train for emergency situations without the danger of real world consequences.

“Now they can just simulate these environments and give them evaluations, grades, and analytics on how they did in real time,” Johnson said.

Oculus will release the second version of its development kit sometime this year, with several improvements to its successful formula. For one, DK2 should help eliminate judder and high latency. This means that putting on a VR headset will feel less jarring and move more fluidly, which should help with the nausea that some people experience.

DK2 also adds positional tracking to the Oculus toolbox – meaning developers can now use sensors to track where a user is and allow for greater range of motion within the simulated world. All of these factors (accelerometers and gyroscopes) combined will help establish the presence that Oculus and VR developers have been working to cement.

“Having a faster response display is key to this. If they can get that to a point where’s there’s no visible judder, then less people are going to be sick and it can be more widely consumed,” Johnson said.

According to Johnson, two markets are going to evolve in the virtual reality arena: one lower end consumer market for new challenges in gaming and higher end experiences like simulated art museums and monuments you can step into from half a world away.

“We’re still at the very beginning, but this is moving faster than anything that I’ve seen before,” Johnson said. 

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The Marcus Graham Project visits Bottle Rocket

Bottle Rocket was happy to welcome students with The Marcus Graham Project last month.

The Marcus Graham Project is a group dedicated to identifying and training ethnically diverse men and women in the media industry.

As a part of the project’s 6th annual summer boot camp, 10 students have formed Prismatic – a Dallas-based agency that provides media services to emerging and existing businesses.

We’re excited to see the great work The Marcus Graham Project is doing and we hope our paths cross again! 

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Android Evangelist Luke Wallace speaks at Mobile+Web DevCon

Our lead Android Developer, Luke Wallace, recently attended Mobile + Web DevCon in Chicago - a semi-annual conference focusing on both native & mobile web development, Luke has spoken several times on a variety of Android topics. This time, he focused on Building a Compatible Android UI, describing how Bottle Rocket builds apps that work on thousands of different devices, without being burdensome to designers or developers.

When asked his thoughts on trends he’s saw at the conference, he had these words:

"Mobile is really getting personal. It’s no longer appropriate to just build an app that checks the boxes of functionality. You need to make a connection with the user, and fit in with their life, not try to conform them to your vision of how to use the app. This can really take a functional app to the next level, resulting in more downloads, more usage, and more satisfaction from the user."
 

Luke’s presentation aligned with this thought by giving attendees tips on how to personalize their Android apps to look great on all sorts of Android devices. He split his talk between discussing design and development, giving attendees tips on how their apps could look, as well as how to do the implementation. A few of the key takeaways included:

  • Use dp, not px - Pixel counts are not as important on Android due to the various densities of different displays. Use the built in metric of dp to make your app look consistent across devices.
  • Group devices into buckets - Although there are thousands of devices, there are four big groups that most of these fall into: small phones, large phones, 7” tablets, and 10” tablets. Think about the design on those four, and you’ll handle nearly every device well.
  • Squash & Stretch & Scroll - Much like web design has changed to handle various browser window sizes, Android apps can be built to handle small variations in screen size. Think about screen elements in terms of relative placement, and decide which areas would stretch on a slightly larger screen.

Bottle Rocket strives to follow these best practices, and bring a personal experience to every user of our apps. With help from great Rocketeers like Luke, we’re able to push ourselves, our clients, and our users to the next level of great user experiences.

Luke Wallace

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Meeker releases annual report.

Mary Meeker  - a juggernaut in the venture capitalism world known to some as the “Queen of the Net” – recently released her latest report on Internet Trends.

The report, released by Meeker’s partner VC firm KPCB, has been an important reference in Bottle Rocket’s back pocket when it comes to discussing the leading edge of mobile innovation.

Some important points from the 2014 report:

  • 30% of all mobile users are now equipped with smartphones

One of the most important considerations we make is where eyeballs are moving and how we can follow them. With the percentage of mobile users on smartphones climbing every year, it means more and more eyeballs are on iPhone and Android screens.

  • Tablet shipments increased 53% over the last year

Tablets changed the landscape of mobile app development by providing a completely new layout and altering how users play with apps.

  • People spend 20% of their time consuming media on mobile
  • 84% of mobile owners use devices while watching TV (second screen)

Bottle Rocket has strong experience developing for second screen experiences – such as Showtime SYNC. Second Screen experiences bring the user into their favorite shows with interactive content and social media integration.

According to Meeker the tech boom we are currently experiencing does not have the same valuation risks as the “dot com” bust. With the continued increase in mobile screens there are new market opportunities that will utilize these devices to extend brand capabilities in new ways. Meeker also points valuation of Chinese companies as a foundation for continued strength in technology. 

Another interesting stat from Meeker’s report references the explosion of screens across the globe.

A decade from their inception, mobile devices are already 4-5 times greater in unit volume shipments than TVs and PCs.

Previously we’ve referenced Meeker’s 2013 report to discuss the massive potential for advertising on mobile.

Calvin Carter, our Founder and CEO, leveraged the same content during a talk in Austin last May:

"Mobile is an underutilized channel. That might seem like I'm overstating things because there is so much conversation about mobile. CMO's are likely saying "Are you kidding me, it seems like all we talk about is mobile". But take the time consumers spend in a channel compared to the amount of money spent advertising in that channel [see picture above]. In 2013, we spent about 4x more on ads in print than people spent time looking at print. TV is on balance. Internet and radio could actually nudge up a little bit in their spending relative to the time consumers spend there. But there is 4x as much usage on mobile than we are spending on mobile.  While it seems all we do is talk about mobile, it could be argued that advertisers and brands are not fully leveraging time spent in that channel.”

Mary Meeker’s work has helped us to analyze important trends in digital and mobile, and we’re looking forward to fully digesting KPCB’s latest findings.

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Recent News

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