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Travel Channel App featured during Google I/O Keynote

After a high-energy week at Google I/O, all of our Rocketeers are back home and sharing what they learned in California (and reluctantly sharing their 'Cardboard'). 

We're excited to see where Material Design, wearables,  and other announcements from I/O will take Android Development, but one of the biggest standouts from the keynote was our work being featured during the Android TV announcement! 

Congratulations to our friends at Travel Channel and our team of Rocketeers who worked to help with the reveal. 

We're looking forward to more awesome innovations on Google's new platforms. 

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Why is Speculative creative so wrong, but feels so right?

Doing speculative creative as part of a pitch has almost become an accepted practice within the advertising agency world. Within the industry, doing unpaid speculative creative is a controversial topic. Due to internal and external pressures, it quickly becomes a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation.  Although we are not an advertising agency, the expectations of clients can sometimes be very similar. Often as part of a pitch, a potential client will ask for speculative creative as a sneak peak into what the app screens could look like. When that happens, we try to find some alternative options that can work to the benefit of both our potential client and Bottle Rocket.

First, it is important to help the client understand why speculative creative isn’t a good criteria in selecting a partner. Many of our reasons are similar to reasons cited in the past by others such as Function Fox and NO!SPEC. The primary reasons all relate to not yet completing a client discovery, it is unlikely speculative creative will correctly serve the strategic business, brand, and consumer objectives. In addition to those, there are a few reasons unique to mobile and app design. 

The cinematic nature of apps 

Nothing is static. The motion and timing of animations, transitions, screen morphing, and audio is all be part of a the brand experience. Those things can not be depicted in the usually static images done for speculative creative. It would be similar to pitching a movie based on the capture of a single frame from the movie.

Interactions and sensors

Gesture inputs and sensors built into the device for proximity, motion, light and a gyroscope can be used to affect the user experience. Static screen designs fall short of expressing the experience to the depth needed to judge the work.

Navigation 

Unlike most web sites, navigation within apps is less rarely based on a traditional menu and very hard to illustrate in the static images of speculative creative. Navigation through app content structures and functionality driven by gestures (multi finger swipes, taps and pinch zooms for example) often require prototypes to convey their magic and how they might work. Prototypes that require greater time and effort than static comps associated with speculative work.   

We feel a more important criteria for selection than speculative creative, is to see how we work and how we will work together. For that reason, instead of speculative creative we often offer to do a mini discovery session. These sessions are usually about 3 hours. They do not replace the longer and more in-depth discovery session upon hiring Bottle Rocket but do give the client insight into our approach, our people, and how we will interact with them.

Another alternative to speculative creative is speculative ideation. Usually fresh ideas are more important than the visual execution of the ideas at this point in a potential project. In the time it takes to put one idea through the visual design, we could likely put three ideas though a white board session. Most client’s would actually prefer three big ideas at a concept level than one highly detailed idea at an executional level. This is a simple and fast way to demonstrate our thinking and does not tax as many resources (no Art Director needed to build comps, no Project Manager, etc.). 

A third alternative to doing speculative creative is doing real research, and presenting the insights that would ultimately inform the creative. Rarely in pitch situations is there the time to do that level of research, so why not spend that time on the real and actionable research (vs. what is usually throw away creative). 

In the end, the client is trying to figure out which potential partner is the smartest, most innovative, and creative. There are many other ways to demonstrate that than speculative creative.

Prepared by Michael Griffith 

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Rocketeer Charity: Pets For Vets

For our latest charity drawing, Bottle Rocket has selected the Pets for Vets Program – a group dedicated to supporting veterans by pairing them with rescued companion animals.

Rocketeer Laurie Irish-Duncan entered Pets for Vets into our bi-monthly charity drawing.

“By combining their needs, physical, psychological, and emotional, with rescuing a dog or cat who would most likely not be adopted from a shelter, matching the two and training them as companions, is such an all-around awesome win - what a great charity!” Duncan said.

Pets for Vets tackles two problems: veterans with mental health and post-combat trauma and the millions of cats and dogs euthanized annually. The program aims to train rescued animals and match them with returning veterans to provide friendship and therapy. 

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So you have an idea for an app...

The great thing about what I do is all of the ideas I get thrown at me on a weekly basis. If you ever wondered how prevalent apps are in mainstream culture today, just tell people you make them for a living. Reactions are almost all the same.

“I’ve always had an idea for an app, but it will never happen because…”

I smile every time, because I spend my work days with people who once thought that way and decided to do something about it. That’s the encouragement I give each person who offers that idea, because we are all makers. The conversation is always ended positively as a result and we move on to something else.

So what would I tell them if they took me up on my words of affirmation? Here’s five ideas that anyone can use to get started. 

1. What’s the one thing you want the app to be awesome at?

Before you can build a product roadmap… 

Before you can plan a release cycle that keeps users engaged… 

Before you can decide how to transition between the views…

You must decide on that one thing you want your app to do well. At Bottle Rocket, we call that the mission statement of an app. It’s the core value and experience we want to give our customers and their users. If you want to release an amazing piece of software, you must nail this piece first or the rest of your work will be for naught.

A single experience done well can mean many things. Watching your favorite television shows from anywhere in the world. Finding and making your favorite recipes. Booking a hotel room with ease. Connecting with your favorite local restaurant. These are all experiences that drive the fundamental approach to everything in your app.

2. There’s more than one decision to make in your app.

As much as your first insight must be dead on, the one pitfall to avoid is to see that as a single solitary decision to make along the road to greatness. The execution of your one thing to do well may not necessarily mean one single feature. It shouldn’t be a boatload of features, but if your app is a single feature that must be correctly planned before you begin validating you will be working on this for quite a while.

An app, despite its small size, is not the personification of a single decision. There are, instead, many small decisions to make. As those decisions multiply and fit together, they begin to form a larger piece. That’s how great design and development work is created.

If you view your app as one big decision, it could lead to you putting off important parts of the process. Putting off decisions is only appropriate when you see a decision for what it is: a small step in the direction of progress.

3. Your instinct may be wrong.

This is why you need to start validating your ideas sooner. Your experience may be perfectly tuned and refined, but if you spend six months on an execution that is not right for most users you have wasted those six months. Instead, you should start getting feedback as soon as you can.

This is not to say you should release it into the wild for all to see immediately. User testing is a cheap and easy way to see if you are on the right track. A walk down the hall of your office might get another insider’s view of what looks great, but your co-workers are not the ultimate feedback you need.

Social media is filled with tech-saavy people who are dying to take a swing at your latest release. You can use tools such as Test Flight to get them regular builds and then follow up with targeted questions on their experience. Don’t view this as a chore, but the most exciting part of the journey. Sooner you get the thumbs up on your design, the sooner you can move on to the next decision.

4. Simplicity is the tiebreaker.

If you are stuck on a decision, there’s one simple way to break the tie and start validating: ask your self which one is more simple. The simplest design, user flow or engineering implantation can help you in a multitude of ways.

First off, it gets the feature out the door and into users hands quickly. If you pick the complex idea first, and are wrong, you wasted way more time than if you did it vice versa. Second, as much as it seems as I’m pushing for quick and easy, app awards are not usually handed out for overly complex interfaces. If you look back on iOS Hall of Fame award winners (four of them are ours), you will see uncluttered and simplistic UI. 

Now, by "simplistic" I dont mean “plain”. You can’t pick a solid color with one button and call it a design. Overdoing it and oversimplifying are both wrong choices. If there’s one you need to start validating, though, put simple out there and build off of it.

5. Don’t be afraid to put it out there.

A common fear is to put out work that you are afraid won’t be good enough. If you have this thought running through your head at night causing you to miss sleep, that’s great! It means you are passionate about your work and want to achieve greatness. (You might also give us a call, we are always looking for people that think this way)

That said, the tech industry is littered with ideas that didn’t quite achieve the heights its creators once had. Your idea will either take root in users or it won’t, so there’s no need in putting off this feedback. Imagine if ideas such as Twitter, Gmail or Skype had waited to perfect their execution before letting people see. Someone else would have beat them to market and cost them greatly!

Feedback means a tweak to your feature or UI. It means a pivot might be in order (which many successful Silicon Valley companies have done). Most certainly it means people’s interest is piqued.

While there is so much that goes into the implantation of the idea you’ve always had, this is at the core of what we do. If you get this down, with some humility and perseverance there is no doubt that the stars can be with your grasp! 

Written by Chris Murman 

Murman regularly blogs about mobile and agile methodologies at chrismurman.com 

Murman co-wrote Designing Apps for Success with Matthew David. The book, which provides web/app designers and developers with consisten app design practices, is available on Amazon

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Rocketeer Charity: Ashoka Changemakers

For our first charity drawing this month, Rocketeers are supporting Ashoka Changemakers – the world’s largest network of social entrepreneurs.

Ashoka Fellows in 70 countries across the globe work at putting world-changing ideas into practice through start-up financing, professional support services, and high level networking across both business and social sectors.

Founded in 1980 by Bill Drayton, the organization is named after Ashoka - a 3rd Century BC leader who unified the Indian subcontinent and is considered by many the earliest example of a social innovator.

Bottle Rocket is committed to a balance between business and community, and it’s special when the two can find equal footing. We’re looking forward to seeing how the donation will be put to good use by Ashoka’s global network.

For more info visit Ashoka Changemakers' website. 

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Bottle Rocket App’s new 49,570 square-foot space, not only almost doubles the size of its current offices in Addison, it provides it with a more-conducive environment to a fast-paced tech company, founder Calvin Carter said.

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