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August 22, 2019

WWDC 2019 Keynote Recap: This is Only the Beginning

One thing is for sure. Apple is working on something big. We’re not even exactly sure how big just yet.

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November 20, 2018

From Design Sprints to Proof Sprints

“Will this reliably integrate with our app?”

“Would users even want to use this feature?”

“How will we notify users?”

Simple questions, at face value. But any seasoned product or project manager knows there are no such luxuries. These inquiries could have sweeping implications for the duration and cost of a project. Even a simple “yes” or “no” can be followed by a storm of follow-up questions that cast a fog over future estimations or derail a feature set entirely.

At Bottle Rocket, we utilize a proven methodology to help clients investigate the unknowns and get answers in as little as one week. Our Proof Sprint methodology — a process for solving and testing ideas in as little as five days — is inspired by Google’s Design Sprint. Although the two processes are similar, one key difference is that Bottle Rocket’s Proof Sprints are specifically designed to answer questions beyond experience design (XD) and always begin with a hypothesis and end with a proof where Google’s Design Sprints center around XD.  Whether the result is accepting or rejecting the hypothesis, the exercise can provide key insights into a major project without pulling valuable resources from other teams.

4 Types of Proof Sprints

We’ve identified four types of Proof Sprints, each covering distinct project challenges and providing answers where our clients need them the most:

Foresight: As the name implies, a foresight Proof Sprint is forward-looking. It takes into account OS updates, upcoming technologies or trends in mobile, as well as digital services, to rapidly prototype a new offering or to find out how the new tech meshes with existing technologies.

Feature: These sprints test assumptions around new features in a product or roadmap. The outcome of a feature sprint might even find that a feature needs to be reduced, rethought, or possibly even removed.

Focus: A focus sprint is similar to a feature sprint but is based around the product’s user or workflow. As such, focus sprints work to reduce friction and improve efficiencies within the application.

Feasibility: A feasibility sprint is the most tactical Proof Sprint. The ultimate goal is to find out, “Does this work?” Does this SDK work in that technology stack? Does this database technology hook into this front-end tech via that API? Rather than making assumptions, a feasibility sprint quickly offers a definite answer on whether a technology approach works or not.

The result of a Proof Sprint can range from proof-of-concept for an idea, a prototype for a challenging spot within a project, or even shutting off a path the project was heading down because the sprint uncovered the idea wasn’t going to work. Proof Sprints aren’t intended to just validate an idea – knowing when to stop pursuing an idea can save valuable work hours and investments exploring possible solutions.

While every Proof Sprint is different, each follows a five-step template that is typically executed over a five-day workweek and includes a combined team from Bottle Rocket and client stakeholders.

  • Mapping the scope of the sprint, determining what success looks like and how the topic of the sprint impacts the customer.
  • Sketching and hands-on micro solutioning using whiteboards, sticky notes and 3×5 cards followed by looking at, discussing, and voting on the results.
  • Determining which of the sketched solutions move forward and modifying them to meet project requirements.
  • Actually building a prototype from the sketches that moved forward in the sprint.
  • Testing with a series of actual users.

Built for Results

Many things can be simplified through collaboration and uninterrupted thinking – which often is hard for fast-moving teams to accomplish. Roadblocks can cause projects to stall, or maybe six months into a project an issue arises that seems impossible to overcome. By leveraging Bottle Rocket’s Proof Sprint methodology, we are able to help our clients gain understanding quickly and with certainty in a matter of five days rather than what could take up to six months to uncover. It’s always less expensive to fail fast rather than to fail slowly. One Bottle Rocket client has even cited that via our Proof Sprint methodology, they were able to uncover more insights in just two days of the process than they had been able to on their own over the course of three months.

Proof Sprints have proven to be very effective in a variety of engagements across a range of industries and clients. Through Proof Sprints, we have investigated the optimal way to present information to a listener that is driving or traveling in an automobile. We have worked with a retailer to better understand their in-store customer flow, ultimately proposing more than forty ideas to optimize customer experiences and created four prototypes to test. Some clients have leveraged Proof Spints to test backlogged innovation ideas and validate them with users while others have examined the feasibility of integrating new technologies with mobile devices.

“Proof sprints are just another technique that’s consistent with our values, our culture and the way that we work. We love that our clients look to us to help them overcome these obstacles, and ultimately help them be more successful on their daily journeys,” said Monte Masters, SVP Solutions and Delivery.

Continue reading on Dallas Innovates.

November 19, 2018

How Bottle Rocket is Defining and Serving the Connected Lifestyle

An interview with Calvin Carter, Founder & CEO of Bottle Rocket

If you live and work in the technology space in Dallas, I’m guessing you might have heard of Bottle Rocket. But I’ll also wager a guess that you might not really know us. Officially born in 2008, the day after Steve Jobs opened up the App Store to third-party developers, we quickly became a leader in the world of mobile application development. Ten years later, just as the industry has continued to evolve at a mind-numbing pace, so has Bottle Rocket. And if you are still looking for the Bottle Rocket you might have once met, you may not even recognize us.

Today, more than ever, customers are in control. And digitally enabled experiences have created a new normal for all industries. Digital technology is a double-edged sword….the threat of potential disruption by competitors is only slightly as scary as the need to spark innovation and create a path for your company’s future. It’s no secret that digital native companies have generated 80% of the growth in market capitalization in the last 10 years (source: World Economic Forum, September 2018). Change is hard. But it’s only going to get harder. And that’s where we can help.

At Bottle Rocket, we are in the business of transformation. As experts at the intersection of people and technology, we create powerful, preeminent connected experiences that enable today’s Connected Lifestyle. What exactly do we mean by that? Let’s ask our own Founder and CEO, Calvin Carter.

So Calvin, how do you define the Connected Lifestyle?

If you look back at our first decade, it was about apps, new devices and form factors and new uses for mobile technology such as mobile OS’s being used for streaming players like Apple TV or Android TV. This impacted how we did everything. It was an important foundational time for us and our industry, but it’s over now.

The word “mobile” has failed us. Yes, it’s true, much of what we build is based on technology born from the mobile revolution, the world has gotten much more complicated than that.  So, a couple of years ago I started trying to define a new word to replace mobile. One that better described the new complexity and multi-platform, multi-experience, multi-use, multi-skilled and multi-everything reality in front of us. I couldn’t find one word, but I found two “Connected Lifestyle.”

The Connected Lifestyle is an ecosystem. It’s the way you deposit your checks. The way you get reservations at a restaurant, get a ride, board your plane, track your health, manage your finances, teach your children, spend money and make money. It’s no longer a collection of a few devices that I use for specific things. This is now an ecosystem with a full spectrum of devices, technologies and interactions that include what was formerly known as mobile, with in-home streaming players, AR and VR, AI and ML, voice, touch and click. All of it together. Everything you see in front of you as a human in this time. That’s the Connected Lifestyle.

And it’s complicated. Very complicated. I often say that it’s easy to make things hard and hard to make things easy. We’re in the business of ideating, designing, building and evolving preeminent experiences that are dead simple to use. Dead simple.

We were successful in our first decade because we knew everything about mobile. Now we must open ourselves to doing things differently as we follow our user and learn everything we can about the Connected Lifestyle. This is our company’s digital transformation. Just as every other company out there, we too must evolve.

What are the factors causing companies to start investing in Digital Transformation and the Connected Lifestyle?

It’s different for the early adopters, wait and see and wait and dies in each industry. For example, some QSR’s jumped in early to experiment, then later invested big time to get way out ahead and benefitted greatly from this move.

In every disruption, there are winners and losers. The early adopters moved and proved there is an ROI. The “wait and see’s” are following in mass right now in almost every industry. Unfortunately, the wait and die’s will likely do just that.

But the reason I think there has been such as a big uptick in investments in Digital Transformation and the Connected Lifestyle is 1) it’s no longer an experiment, it’s the new normal, and 2) C-suite executives are users too and they now have personal experiences as they entered the Connected Lifestyle.

People don’t compare their banking experience to another banking experience. They compare it to every other super amazing digital experience that they use on a daily basis. Their Starbucks, Uber, Hotel Tonight, Instagram and Slack experiences. C-suite execs are waking up realizing how hard it is to do business with them. If you can’t engage a brand through YOUR Connected Lifestyle, that brand could very quickly become obsolete.

For mobile, Bottle Rocket has an unprecedented four Apple Hall of fame awards to demonstrate unbelievable success. What will Bottle Rocket use as measures of success in Digital Transformation and The Connected Lifestyle?

Oh boy, I could go on for an hour on this one, but a few key examples come to mind. I’ve removed the client names to protect the innocent.

One of our largest accounts is posting 30% year over year growth in their Connected Lifestyle experiences. That’s a huge number, but it’s a REALLY huge number when I tell you that they have users have made billions of dollars’ worth of purchases on the platform. But this isn’t easy. The business is super complicated, and there are always setbacks. But our collective teams have been able to show demonstrable value in spite of any holdups.

For another Bottle Rocket client, our teams ideated, designed, and are developing a paradigm-shifting Connected Experience in an industry that isn’t known for being disruptive. This experience puts the control in the hands of the user, allows them to move faster, and control their own destiny. This literally would not be possible if it weren’t for the uber-connectedness of today’s consumers and our ability to tackle complex problems and create simple solutions.

Finally, I’ll mention yet another Bottle Rocket client that is on the verge of really shaking up an industry. This client, with a modest budget, came to us to find a completely new way to do an old, time-consuming, and highly involved and risky task. A once manual task that with the help technology has the potential to actually save lives. I know I’m being purposefully vague, but for this client, we had to come up with a Connected Experience that had never before been imagined. And one that would literally change how an age-old industry handles a very common task.

Thank you to Calvin for sharing his insights, wisdom, and thoughts about where Bottle Rocket and the Connected Lifestyle is headed. Stay tuned for more on this ever-changing topic.

April 17, 2015

Inventing Micro UX for the Apple Watch

The future can reveal itself in ever fleeting glimpses. Fortunately, a select group of marketing and tech executives had a bird’s eye view of it at our recent invitation-only Mobile Summit.

The event featured one session, presented by Michael Griffith, that expanded on the future potential and the ultimate vision for UX.

 

Consider these four immediate (and indelible) takeaways on future app development projects:

  1. Envision solutions designed as systems that have the flexibility to support all platforms and devices.
  2. If content is king then context is queen, all in the form of micro-experiences.
  3. Location, time, events, and algorithms are the initial drivers of the context revolution.
  4. Go beyond how it works on a screen. Also, think NO screen.

 

One of our own, Michael Griffith, led the “Emerging Experiences and Micro UX” session. Griffith provided examples such as Evernote, Neato, and Diptic, which all shared a common theme: the utility of getting what you need from the app on top without a levels-deep foray through cumbersome navigation and other options. To put it more simply, these applications offer the user a simplified experience with an intuitive interface that allows the user to take full advantage of what the app has to offer without having to sift through multiple layers of menus and options to complete desired tasks.

How will these shifts and trends realistically play out? Let us count the ways. Perhaps motorcycle helmets with built-in operating systems, or apps that actually share real-time data with each other; the possibilities are endless and offer the potential to create an entirely new experience.

All of which make emerging experiences and Micro UX trends not only important to watch, but also stay ahead of. (If that’s possible.)

 

Inventing micro UX for the Watch

Griffith even shared his quick take on the Apple Watch. Putting aside the price tag, this smartwatch moves the needle in some remarkable ways. Take the Glances feature for example. Glances are to the Apple Watch what widgets are to the phone. The user gets full functionality without actually launching an app. (Some relevant examples included weather, stocks, and sports scores.)

 

Enter a multi-nav approach

Of course, with every new technology, comes now design. Below are two of the most used techniques for designing navigation through applications and now watches.

 

Hierarchical navigation: think list view.

diagram representing hierarchical navigation

Paginated navigation: the ability to swipe through a number of screens.

examples of paginated navigation icons

It doesn't stop at the navigation though, even the way the wearer touches the Apple Watch will have different results. For example, pressing more firmly or forced touch actions will trigger a different outcome than just the normal tap.

Curious about our perspective on the Apple Watch?

 

Four Apple Watch predictions (bank on them)

  1. Early adopters? Likely fanboys and fitness band wearers.
  2. Primary use cases will be notifications and payments.
  3. Micro experiences will drive contextual experience design.
  4. Some industry players will benefit, others will be left behind.

 

All in all, the Mobile Summit was a real success when considering the ideas shared, the observations made and the conclusions drawn.

What micro experiences are you most excited about? Share your voice via Facebook or Twitter.

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