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Turning User Experience into a Brand Experience

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.

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For more information on how Bottle Rocket can elevate your brand experience, get in touch

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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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Judy Johnson, director of product innovation for Dallas-based app developer Bottle Rocket, thinks a lot of people are approaching the idea of the second screen completely wrong.

“Up until now, [second screen] has been mobile,” she said Oct. 20, speaking during a second screen panel at the Digital Hollywood conference. “Now, we’re seeing any screen can be the second screen.”

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