Sweller is a mobile game built for iOS. The main goal of the project was to find a way to engage users quickly in an intuitive and rewarding playground. The idea behind the game was simple, have users tap rapidly growing circles that appear at random before they shrink and disappear. You miss three circles, or tap a black circle, and it’s game over.
Honest game development means creating a game that is genuinely fun to play for the user. With a concept so simple at heart, the key was to rapidly convey information about the swellers to the user without interrupting game play.
We quickly realized that the lifespan of a sweller should be illustrated using both size and colors. The color scheme had to be intuitive, and so that is how we settled on a toned down green, yellow and red lifecycle for the sweller, as shown below.
Requirements were simple. Get people to say this is fun, and play for at least 3 minutes. A key part of this was keeping the time spent from clicking the app to actually playing at a minimum. Additionally, an easily accessible “play again” button that let’s you start over as soon as the game ends was key.
We spent over 80 hours conceptualizing game ideas that would make Sweller fun to play. Then we spent another 80 hours designing an interface that was simple, yet intuitive.
Respecting privacy, we didn’t ask for the users to let us listen through their mic. So we can’t say if they actually said the game was fun but if engagement times speak louder than words – they more than loved the game.
Average engagement time was 7-10 minutes per user. Yup. We went well over 100% of our required game play time.
And that is how we do things.
Early 2014 one of our advisors suggested we build a mobile product for the education market. We decided to look at tutors that teach middle school and high school students. After two weeks of brainstorming, we revealed Wizrd as a concept for an internal project. We wanted to create a user interface and experience that would make finding and booking tutors easy. No one had done it right, so we decided it was time someone did.
Everyone on our team has attended middle school and high school (thankfully!). We knew first hand the pain of finding a good and reliable tutor. This is the point where everything started coming together. We needed to create a way for parents or students to easily find highly rated tutors in five or fewer taps.
Creating an experience that was intuitive was our number one goal. We wanted to make sure that the user’s hand was held each step of the way. The sign up process stuck closely to this vision for the app by showing the user why they were entering information and how it would help make the best tutor matches.
We had to make sure it was easy to book a tutor. That’s why our team spent over 160 hours trying to find a way to reduce the number of taps from finding matches to reserving a tutor. And we did. The magical number of taps required is three! That’s a 40% decrease from our initial requirement of five or less taps.
After all of this work, we had figured out how to on-board users and easily book tutors. Now we needed a way to retain users. The best way to do that was to keep them continuously engaged. How? By creating a platform that allowed students to share notes, assignments, and questions with tutors via the app. We integrated messaging and file sharing to facilitate a closed feedback loop. This kept users engaged and organized by saving their data in one place.
PokerKZ came to us at a critical time for their startup. They needed an iOS app to help scale the company. We were tasked with designing a native experience that would engage users and help them migrate from their existing desktop application.
Not only did we need to create an immersive mobile experience, we also needed to help develop a robust API that would reliably communicate with iOS devices. This was a real money gaming app – we couldn’t afford to gamble with the users’ money.
Our goal was to design a user experience that would keep people engaged. After all, the longer users remained engaged with the application, the more money PokerKZ made. Since their target market was users with high disposable incomes, it was also important to the client to create a chic and high end look for the app.
We wanted to do more than just design a good looking app – we wanted an experience that would build the user’s trust. That’s why our design was based on an environment that allowed users to open the app and explore the game without having to sign up. This was a key user experience decision because it allowed the user to understand what the app did before they spent money.
To ensure a bespoke tailored look for the app, we programmed all animations from the ground up using the CoreAnimation library that’s packaged with the iOS SDK. Making this decision was tough because it meant a later release date for the app. However, it was the right way to go. Sacrificing user experience for time to market on an app that required pleasing aesthetics is never a good idea.
PokerKZ allowed users to play with real money. This meant that the system had to be as secure and reliable at all times. We began by looking for solutions that would allow the server to create an open connection with the client for real time communication. We quickly realized that we couldn’t do without Socket Programming. Next we began searching for existing libraries that would help us speed up development.
Luck was on our side back then, and SignalR had just released a beta that was compatible with iOS. In conjunction with AFNetworking, an opensource networking library for iOS, we were able to send encrypted data packets in real time and built reliable exception handling for lost packets.
We couldn’t have created such a wonderful product without the close collaboration with PokerKZ’s development team. We effectively used Scrum to integrate both of our teams to meet deadlines. However, like any project, there were hiccups. It took us a couple of weeks to figure out how to closely collaborate with teams in four different geographic locations. Requiring us to change our work schedule to accommodate the client team, which was initially difficult but the payoff was immense. The processes we developed then are still used in-house today. We brought a truly revolutionary product to market creating a mobile team that learned about the product and built it from scratch in less than 6 months.