February 19, 2021

13 Expert Tips For Boosting Your Company’s Mobile Site Performance And UX

With the proliferation of smartphones and personal devices, “mobile-first” has become the watchword when it comes to website design for optimal user experience. Businesses must ensure their websites are just as responsive, appealing and easy to navigate on mobile devices as they are on desktop computers—if not more so.

To succeed, it’s important to not only adopt strategies specific to mobile design but also to follow good practices for serving users on any device. To help, 13 experts from Forbes Technology Council share their best tips for optimizing modern websites and designing them for the mobile era.

1. Understand your users.

“User experience” begins with “user.” Understand them. Create a story or narrative that represents their good day and create one that represents their bad day. Those stories become the lens through which you can create an experience that addresses your users’ needs. - Tim Mitrovich, Artisan

2. Consider edge data methods.

You need a clear data strategy and a robust data architecture. Otherwise, your app will be making massive data calls to the backend. Cached data is not great for app performance, so do look at edge data methods to serve the right data at the right time for optimal customer experience. - Jacqueline Teo, HGC Global Communications

3. Create a quick and simple path to your call to action.

Ensure a clear and simple flow for each persona use case. In the browser, we had three-click aspirations. On mobile, we’ve changed that to three swipes for the user to see the clearly understood and interactive button or call to action. - Gavin McMurdo, IStreamPlanet

4. Keep your operating systems and applications up to date.

One best tip for companies trying to improve their mobile sites’ performance or UX is to ensure that all servers are running the latest operating systems and applications. Frequently patching and updating the underlying infrastructure of mobile sites will provide the latest features and the most-up-to-date security posture, mitigating known vulnerabilities that might be exploitable in the wild. - Bob Fabien ZingaDirectly, Inc./U.S. Navy Reserve

5. Invest in progressive loading.

Progressive loading (a.k.a. lazyload) can help capture your users’ attention quickly by allowing your website to show meaningful content as soon as possible. From there, load in advance what your user will see next. By continuing to prioritize the loading of resources according to when your user will need them, the entire experience will feel much snappier. - Amy Czuchlewski, Bottle Rocket

6. Know your audience and which devices they use to interact with you.

As an enterprise business-to-business SaaS solution, we looked at our data and found that 95% of our visitors are on desktop. Because of that, we focus on the desktop first. If your data says mobile devices are what your visitors primarily use—which is typically true for business-to-consumer products—then really focus on a solid mobile UX or an app. - Richard Kahn, Anura Solutions, LLC

7. Get right to the point with your message.

A lot of mobile development focuses on UX, which is incredibly important, but the message is king. Spending as much or more time on immediately and effectively getting your most important messages to your audience is vital. UX plays a role in this. But having UX and your content/messaging strategy work in unison is the Holy Grail of mobile development. - James Draper, Bidstack

8. Understand the difference between responsive design and mobile-first design.

There is a difference between a responsively designed platform and a mobile-first platform—and the distinction is important. Most companies focus on compliance and the ability of their platform to respond to a smaller form factor such as a phone. Mobile-first design asks, “How do the needs of people differ when they’re using a phone?” Mobile-first considers that features may differ on mobile versus desktop. - Pierce Brantley, Cytracom

9. Make decisions based on data, not trends.

When you decide to make changes or improvements to your mobile site, don’t just stick to the “latest trends.” Make decisions based on the real data you’ve collected on how your users or site visitors interact with your website. Measure first, then optimize. - Ivailo Nikolov, SiteGround

10. Decouple your mobile strategy from your desktop strategy.

Website strategy for mobile should be totally decoupled from your primary website, with only the message and brand being constants. What you’re trying to say has an impact on the potential direction your team can take the design. Accessibility is not really front of mind—most often, mobile visitors appreciate content that speaks to them literally. Animations and voice-overs keep you in control. - Raymond Hicks5thColumn Inc.

11. Design your site based on your customers’ behavior.

Know your customers. Learn and analyze the way they use your products. Which browsers, which devices and which platforms do they prefer? Do they usually use the product during the day or at night? Do they prefer a horizontal (tablet) or vertical (smartphone) view? All these factors should help you design a better product that best suits your customers. - Ariel Rosenfeld, 3d Signals

12. Keep the design clean.

Minimalism is the word when it comes to smaller screens. Stick with simple one-column designs if you can. Check all elements for redundancy. Be very frugal with information—especially above the fold—but be generous with call-to-action elements. Give links and buttons good breathing room. Similarly, for forms, keep the number of fields to a minimum; use more checkboxes and fewer typing fields. - Vikram Joshi, pulsd

13. Get expert help.

Bring in outside expertise, and make sure your internal leaders are there to be the bridge, not subject matter experts. Be the experts about the business, but let the experts from outside handle the design, as this is what they do day in and day out. We often try to become the SMEs for a “solution” when we should simply be the business SMEs who help and guide the outside experts. - Gene Yoo, Resecurity, Inc.

This article was published on Forbes.com

November 10, 2020

Server-Driven UI for Android with Jetpack Compose

Jetpack Compose is a new UI toolkit for native Android UI development that enables declarative UI. Traditional Android UI development is done either using a markup language to create and style native components, or with imperative Kotlin statements. With its declarative Domain-Specific Language (DSL) Jetpack Compose allows efficient development of UI with compact, easy-to-read statements.

One exciting capability of this new toolkit is the ability to more closely couple the UI with the business logic. With a traditional Android app, the entire presentation layer is deployed as part of the application. If the appearance of the app needs to change, a new version of the app must be deployed. We often struggle with the desire to build apps in such a way that we can make changes on the server and have them immediately reflected on the user’s device.

In the past, the most efficient way to achieve this has been to embed web pages within the app, but this requires a number of sacrifices. Because the web page rendering is mediated through a WebView, integrating the web and native pages can be a struggle. By developing with Compose, we can build components into our native UI that are a direct reflection of the endpoint results. This gives us much greater control over the appearance and behavior of our app without redeploying.

There are a great number of strategies for this, depending on the amount of control we hope to exercise remotely. Here, we present an example of a technique that directly renders API results in native screens. The focus here is on presenting the far end of the spectrum, where the server totally drives the UI, including building in server callbacks to submit form selections. The complete sample is available on GitHub.

A Simple Form

A form with two text fields

All of the UI in this form, displayed in an Android app, was generated from this JSON:

{
     "children" : [
         {
             "viewtype" : "TEXT",
             "label" : "Form Header"
         },
         {
             "viewtype" : "FORM",
             "children" : [
                 {
                     "viewtype" : "TEXT",
                     "label" : "Personal Information"
                 },
                 {
                     "viewtype" : "TEXTFIELD",
                     "label" : "First",
                     "data" : "first_name"
                 }, {
                     "viewtype" : "TEXTFIELD",
                     "label": "Last",
                     "data" : "last_name"
                 }
             ],
             "label" : "Submit",
             "data" : "/check"
         }
     ]
 }

To make it easier to follow, the objects are labeled with the type of view that they will produce. The screen root is a Column view that presents its list of children, each of which is converted into a @Composable. For instance, this is the code that generates the First Name text input:

class TextFieldElement(val elementDto: ElementDto) : ComposableElement {
     val fieldName = elementDto.data?:"value"
     @Composable
     override fun compose(hoist: Map<String, MutableState<String>>) {
         TextField(value = hoist.get(fieldName)?.value?:"", onValueChange = {hoist.get(fieldName)?.value = it}, label = { Text (elementDto.label?:"") })
     }
 
     override fun getHoist(): Map<String, MutableState<String>> {
         return mapOf(Pair(fieldName, mutableStateOf(elementDto.default?:"")))
     }
 }

When we parse the JSON, we transform each element from a Data Transfer Object (DTO) to an object that can return a @Composable. When the element accepts input, it also generates the hoists necessary to access and act on that data at a higher level in the view hierarchy. Here, our submit button is able to retrieve the text from the text input fields, and pass it on to our server. (In this case, the server is actually a fake built into the app for ease of portability.)

Building the Application

Our MainActivity is extremely small, because all it does is ask the server for the screen we will render. All the activity onCreate does is instantiate our base @Composable with the app theme:

setContent {
     MyApplicationTheme {
         MyScreenContent()
     }
 }

Our @Composable has an external holder for the server JSON result that it provides as an Ambient to allow screen elements to trigger loading a new screen:

data class StringHolder(var held: MutableState<String>)
 val ScreenJson = ambientOf<StringHolder>()

And here is our main @Composable that does the work of loading the screen from JSON. We use Moshi here instead of kotlinx serialization because kotlinx serialization is currently incompatible with Jetpack Compose. A workaround exists that will work for many situations, by separating the DTOs into a different module, but because we are converting our DTOs directly into @Composable, this will not work for us.

@Composable
 fun MyScreenContent() {
     // Load initial API endpoint
     val screenJson = ServiceLocator.resolve(BackEndService::class.java).getPage("/", mapOf())
     // Create the holder that can be updated by other @Composables
     val screenJsonString = StringHolder(remember {mutableStateOf(screenJson)})
     val screenAdapter: JsonAdapter<ScreenDto> = ServiceLocator.resolve(JsonAdapter::class.java) as JsonAdapter<ScreenDto>
     Providers(ScreenJson provides screenJsonString) {
         val holder = ScreenJson.current
         screenAdapter
             .fromJson(holder.held.value)?.let {
                 Screen(it).compose()
             }
     }
 }

The FORM element in the JSON is the most customized element. It expects a data field which is the URL to which the form submissions will be passed. Each element that hoists data is responsible for identifying the key that it will be passed as, and these are sent along as a map.

Button(onClick = {
     val parameters = children.flatMap { it.second.entries.map { Pair(it.key, it.value.value)  } }.toMap()
     val newPage = ServiceLocator.resolve(BackEndService::class.java).getPage(elementDto.data?:"", parameters)
     json.held.value = newPage
 }){
     Text(elementDto.label?:"")
 }

Another Form

When the JSON text holder is updated at the Button level, it triggers a new compose phase at the top level, in MyScreenContent. The JSON is read:

{
     "children" : [
         {
             "viewtype" : "TEXT",
             "label" : "Form Header"
         },
         {
             "viewtype" : "FORM",
             "children" : [
                 {
                     "viewtype" : "TEXT",
                     "label" : "Checkboxes"
                 },
                 {
                     "viewtype" : "CHECKBOX",
                     "label" : "First",
                     "data" : "first_check"
                 }, {
                     "viewtype" : "CHECKBOX",
                     "label": "Last",
                     "data" : "last_check"
                 }
             ],
             "label" : "Submit",
             "data" : "/welcome"
         }
     ]
 }

And we display a new screen:

Form with two checkboxes

Moving On

Obviously, there is a lot of work to do to make this look polished. We can choose to do that work on the app side, by applying consistent styling to our building blocks and allowing the backend to compose them. We can also defer those decisions to the backend by allowing the backend to specify Modifier attributes that we will apply to each element.

This is just a small glimpse into a totally different style of app development. It will not be a great match for every project, but for projects with a high degree of control over the backend, and constantly evolving business logic, it can allow the Android app to seem as responsive as a webpage.

July 15, 2020

AI and ML help digital brands deliver exceptional UX

Adolphus Nolan III, Solution Architect at Bottle Rocket, highlights how AI and ML are helping marketers exceed some of the loftier user experience expectations with essentially minimal effort.

30-second summary:

  • An individual user experience can now be influenced, enriched and personalized using the learnings from millions of similar (or dissimilar) user experiences. And the tools to get started have never been easier to access.
  • Machine learning (ML) will be most valuable for brands if your marketing and product teams are brought into the fold.
  • Widespread adoption of ML tools will drive product teams and marketers to rely on AI for decision making and improving the overall customer experience.
  • Investment in AI and ML should be focused and tied to a single real-world problem such as reducing customer service costs or improving conversion rates.

Artificial intelligence (AI)—like most disciplines—has made staggering advancements in the 2010s due in large part to powerful leaps forward in cloud computing.

Through AI and machine learning (ML), systems can now perform functions based on what they learned from data rather than what was explicitly programmed by a human.

This allows the software to adapt, become more robust and process information that the software wasn’t specifically coded to handle.

An individual user experience can now be influenced, enriched and personalized using the learnings from millions of similar (or dissimilar) user experiences. And the tools to get started have never been easier to access.

For the first time in recent history, digital brands are empowered to meet or exceed some of the loftier user experience expectations with essentially minimal effort.

Marketing and AI

Marketers will be able to use AI to better predict customer lifetime value and target customers more accurately.

Using ML, each potential customer’s likelihood to churn can be compared to current high-value customers by comparing profiles. And while this propensity can be guessed, it would be without any strong degree of fidelity.

ML offers objective analysis at scale for your dataset or other datasets you may want to compare against.

Product teams and AI

Product teams will be able to link data from disparate data sources to craft a richer experience.

When developing digital (or physical) products in which the goal is to inspire utility, it is paramount to continue to gather usage information from users: every screen viewed in an app, every level completed in a game, every cup of coffee digitally initiated, all produce usage logs.

At scale, this could amount to millions of records sent from hundreds of different touchpoints. And for product teams working with designers and engineers, some insights are required to continually improve product offerings.

The demand for ML keeps growing

Crowdflower ran a recent survey with data scientists from a broad range of backgrounds, including those who were new to the field and those who were at a chief data officer level.

The survey revealed 50 percent of respondents noted ML had significant importance for their companies and their departments. The problem is that most companies don’t know where to start or are boiling the ocean by including too many things.

Investment in AI and ML should be focused and tied to a single real-world problem such as reducing customer service costs or improving conversion rates.

The demand for ML keeps growing. As businesses are shifting to stay relevant in the cognitive era, ML will both support and drive today’s data scientists and advanced analytics leaders into the future.

This article was originally published in ClickZ.com.

February 20, 2019

Creating Preeminent Experiences for the Connected Lifestyle

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 the iPhone to third-party developers, we quickly became a leader in the world of mobile application development. Eleven 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 to 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 our deep understanding of the Connected Lifestyle 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 the last decade, it was about apps, new devices and form factors and new uses for mobile technology such as mobile OS’s being used for wearables or streaming players like Apple TV and 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, but 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 to the airport, board your plane, communicate with your colleagues and family, get a hotel room, track your health, manage your finances, teach your children and buy stuff. 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 smartphones, tablets, computers,  in-home streaming players, voice assistants, bots, and even headier stuff like AR and VR experiences, AI and ML. All of it together, whether it’s your phone, watch, car or house. Everything you see in front of you every day is the Connected Lifestyle.

And, it’s where your customers and employees live right now!

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. Simple drives enjoyment. Enjoying drives engagement. Engagement drives revenue.

This is our new normal. We don’t come back from this.

Experience is now a leading factor in consumer motivation, and many share that experience - whether good or bad.

( Source: "State of the Connected Customer" Salesforce Research June 2018 )

Does this mean a company has to invest in all of these technologies to be relevant?

Absolutely not. In fact, that would be a mistake. For each brand, there is a set of highly valuable experiences that you must make frictionless and dead simple. You start there, then determine which technologies make sense. Do not start with technology or you’ll just get technology. Start with experience and back into the best technologies for the job.

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

It’s different for the early adopters, the wait-and-see and the wait-and-dies in each industry. For example, some quick-serve restaurants jumped in early to experiment, then later invested big time to get way out ahead and benefitted greatly from this move. Like Chick-fil-A, who reduced wait times and line abandonment while increasing average basket size with mobile orders. They also reduced transaction fees with mobile ordering and increased repeat visits, daypart usage, and overall engagement with mobile loyalty. All of this was made possible by their iOS and Android apps that we had the great honor to build alongside them.

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 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 themselves.

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. Like their Starbucks, Uber, Hotel Tonight, Open Table and Slack experiences. C-suite execs are waking up realizing how hard it is for connected consumers to do business with their own company. If you can’t engage a brand through YOUR Connected Lifestyle, that brand is immediately less relevant to you.

Your transformation must be customer-centric. And the customer has changed.

What do you mean the customer has changed?

It’s now the Connected Customer, which is a digital native who uses technology regularly to meet wants and needs. A Connected Customer wants to make a connection with a brand but prefers the convenience and utility of a digital interaction.

And I don’t mean just young customers. Take a look at this study from Salesforce Research. Sure, Millennials are off the charts on the Connected Lifestyle gauge. But look at the Baby Boomers. Nearly half also demand a cutting-edge digital experience to keep their business and prefer innovative companies over the rest of the competitive set.

Let’s not underestimate the sheer power of these numbers. Put simply, no matter what age range you target, the vast majority of your customers have a completely new expectation from you. You can meet them where they are or lose them.

Customers are seeking more cutting-edge experiences and actively looking for innovative companies.

(Source: "State of the Connected Customer" Salesforce Research June 2018)

When serving the Connected Customer, it’s important to put them at the center of all of your thinking. Here are three key questions that must be answered to create value for them:

1. Where is the friction to doing business with us?

2. What would need to happen to make that go away? What context do we know that we can leverage to make this experience more valuable for the customer?

3. What do we know about the customer, so we can make this experience more personalized?

But to answer this, you can’t answer the questions yourself. You have to talk to your customers. It’s a scary thing to do if you’ve never done it. But once you do, you’ll never design anything in your business again without it. I don’t mean a Net Promoter Score or customer feedback survey. I mean ethnographic studies and the development of insightful user journeys that pinpoint the friction and the opportunity to provide value your competitors can’t or won’t.

When thinking about and taking action with your customers, consider these three things:

1. Practice empathy and realize everything is an experience for your customer. Design every product, process and interaction in service of your customer. This is table stakes. Most companies think they know their customer, but when stress tested, the truth comes out.

2. Don’t assume you understand them or their loyalty to you. Loyalty is abandoned in one click or tap, and everyone is looking for the best deal. Earn it daily through lifestyle experiences and engagement.

3. Understand how technology has changed the way they behave. Get out and talk to your Connected Customers to understand what “easy and helpful” means to them.

You’ve said the word experience a lot in this interview. Can you please explain the importance of experience for brands?

Never before has the total brand experience mattered more to consumers. In fact, 80% of both business and consumer buyers say the experience a company provides is as important as the products and services they receive through their experience with you.

80% of customers say experience is as important as the services. 67% of customers say their standards for good experiences are higher than ever.


(Source: "State of the Connected Customer" Salesforce Research June 2018)

And to make it even more challenging for brands, 67% of both business and consumer buyers say their standard for good experiences are higher than ever. Like I mentioned before, people don’t compare their banking experience, for example, to another banking experience. They compare it to every other super amazing digital experience that they have on a daily basis. Like their Starbucks, Uber, Hotel Tonight, Open Table, AirBnB, Venmo and Amazon experiences.

In the experience economy, the companies your customers are comparing you to has changed.

But here is the amazing news for you. If you take action, you can leverage this shift to your advantage. 57% of business and consumer buyers have moved their business because another company provided them a better experience. That could be you…

The absolute best news for you is that 67% of business and consumer buyers will pay more for a great experience. That is why brand experience is one of the highest ROI initiatives a company can start today. The returns are strong.

Experience is now a leading factor in consumer motivation, and many share that experience - whether good or bad.

(Source: "State of the Connected Customer" Salesforce Research June 2018)

So, where does a CEO reading this start?

Well, like anything, it starts with insight, reflection, opportunity identification, a bold vision and relentless action.

But first, start with “why.” It’s so important to figure out the “why” behind the “what” you are going to do, or you’ll never figure out the “how.” But if you get the right "why," you’ll figure out the how even if it seems impossible from your current vantage point.

I could write a book on the importance of “why” but Simon Sinek already wrote some great ones you should check out.

But it’s also important to figure out the “who.” Obviously every stakeholder, including the customer, is a “who,” but I’m talking about the team that is going to take action and execute your vision. This team will be made up of vendor/partners and, of course, your employees.

Here’s the three things I suggest you keep in mind when thinking about your vendor/partners:

1. Make them part of your business strategy. Transparency and authenticity are key, and many voices can help in times of chaos. Open up the “why” behind the “what” you hired them to help you with. You need requisite variety and outside voices to stay robust and relevant. If they can’t step up, then ask them to step out. The more they know about why you’re doing this and what you hope to achieve, the more value they can drive for you. Open up, include them in the conversation, not afterwards.

2. Don’t knee-jerk invest. There is new, shiny technology out every day. Go slow, think hard, reflect a lot, listen to others, then take action and invest. You can do this quickly and inexpensively if you have the right group.

3. Understand that diversity breeds strength, both internally and externally. By listening to many outside voices, you can benefit from a variety of perspectives and experiences. You will make more informed decisions and go down fewer rabbit holes. This is why public companies with boards that include a diversity of background, ethnicity, gender and outlook drive more enterprise value than those with homogenous inputs.

And, here are the three things that I suggest you keep in mind about your employees:

1. Hire and promote T-shaped people, those that have both breadth and depth. High EQ people that are a generalist in a lot of things but also an expert in one thing will produce better and longer lasting results in this new experience economy.

2. Don’t assume your team has what it needs to change with the market. The answer is simple. They don’t… Give them support, training and access to outside voices and partners who can help them cross the chasm. They must understand that things are going to change a lot, and what made them successful in the past won’t make them successful in the future. Some won’t be able to cross the chasm, but everyone deserves and authentic chance to change.

3. Understand that transformation is uncomfortable and ambiguous to your staff. Trust is the glue when logic and planning are in flux. Fill the gap with trust. You have to be upfront, honest and authentic. When we did our transformation I stood in front of the entire company and told them this was going to be hard. Some people left over it, but the net gains were clear as we attracted people who were more excited and committed than those that left.

Bottle Rocket has an unprecedented four Apple App Store Hall of fame awards to demonstrate unbelievable success in mobile. I understand no other company has won more than one, and less than 100 have ever been awarded. But 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 allow me to answer with real-world examples. I’ll change the client names to protect the innocent.

One of our largest clients is posting 30% year over year growth in their Connected Lifestyle experiences, including native smartphone apps and mobile web. That’s a huge number, but it’s a REALLY huge number when I tell you that 70% of their revenue (multi-billion/year) comes through its websites and apps. 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. We are truly with our client and we tear down obstacles together.

For another client, the largest product distributor in their sector, we were able to leverage our understanding of consumer behavior to disrupt how retailers manage inventory, order product, handle returns and track sell-through. Consumerization is changing everything and business buyers now act more like consumers than ever. We used this insight to produce a business tool that felt like a consumer tool. Their retail customers now report significant time savings which in turn drives more of their business to our client rather than competing distributors. Disrupt or be disrupted.

Any last minute thoughts before we wrap up?

If you only remember a few things from this time together, please remember these things:

  1.  Simple drives enjoyment. Enjoying drives engagement. Engagement drives revenue.
  2. Experiences are likely the most important thing you can be investing right now.
  3. Consumers, both B2B buyers and B2C buyers, have forever changed how they behave. Use this as your advantage to disrupt, or be disrupted by the guy who gets there first.
  4. Time is of the essence. Do not wait until you have it all figured out to take action. You must be comfortable with failure and ambiguity.
  5. Diversity will get you the voices you need to hear to stay relevant in this age.

Finally, I’ll mention yet another Bottle Rocket client that is on the verge of really shaking up the concrete industry. This client, with a modest budget, came to us to find a completely new way to do a frequent, time-consuming, highly involved and risky task. A once manual task, with the help of connected technology, now saves money and lives by improving real-time, in-field decision making.

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.

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.

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