With each WWDC and Google IO, more and better UI elements and patterns are made available to developers for easy integration into the apps they build. This is great, it ensures your app will get to market quicker, look professionally designed, is usable and works as it should. Used correctly, these things can help make a mediocre app a good, fundamentally sound app. But how do you make a good app great? How do you make a utilitarian task an experience that users will choose over other and want to engage. How do you make the leap from a simple app experience to a brand experience?
To build an app, all you need as the starting point is a list of desired features, functionality and content. Building a brand experience requires a deep understanding of the brand, the brand equities, and brand goals. Brand goes well beyond a logo, a color palette and some fonts. Brand is a combination of the consumer’s perception of the company, their understanding of the companies products and services, their expectations and relationship with the company.
This deep understanding of a brand takes a little time. Time that does not involve pushing pixels in photoshop or writing lines of code. It starts with research and discovery. Nearly every brand as at least a couple brand equities. Simple brand traits may or may not be unique and might also be found in other brands or in the competition’s brand. A Brand equity is something that has been built over time and is a unique promise to the consumer that is always delivered. It’s something own-able. As an example, let’s look at Lego. Brand traits would include things like fun, colorful, and quality. Many toy companies share those traits. A brand equity of Lego is that it inspires personal creativity and expression. Very few toy companies can claim that. Building upon that brand equity is a surefire way to ensure your app will stand out from all the others.
In the Showtime Sync app, the transitions from screen to screen needed to exceed what would be normal expectations for an app. The standard became the highly crafted motion and timing found in Showtime programming. Another Showtime hallmark is the depth of its character development. In the motion of the transitions a subtle zoom into the actor is also included as a dive into the mind of the character.
Apps that are brand experiences are not confined to well known consumer facing companies you would expect (ex. Coca-Cola, BMW, Starbucks, etc.).
A great example we are very proud of an enterprise sales enablement tool for Baker Hughes. BitGenie helps the sales team and engineers select the best drill bit for any drilling situation. The utility of this app could have been accomplished with straight forward standard UI elements like list views and common UX filtering techniques. That would have worked fine, but we saw an opportunity to deliver both the utility and to extend the Baker Hughes brand. The app reflects the brand traits of innovation, leadership, and technology but also introduces an entertainment aspect with an interface inspired my Iron Man’s Mach IV heads up display. The result is an app with a higher engagement level, engineers enjoy exploring and comparing the drill bits in a 3d game like environment.
Challenging ourselves to take this extra step into our clients brand ensures we are not just building apps. We are building brand experiences.