What makes an app idea good?

Is Your App Idea Good or Bad?

A while ago, there was a lot of media attention around a particular app and many more criticisms posted online because of its controversial idea, to allow humans to rate other humans based on personal, professional or romantic experiences. The consensus was that this app would enable online harassment. So why did this app get built? Isn’t this just a bad app idea to begin with?

Coincidentally, we were asked to quote for the design and development of this app project but we were not hired to build this app. In those early discussions, we had called out the potential harassment and offered some ideas on how to avoid these issues. Our team didn’t feel so great about the idea without major modifications to it. From our perspective, it’s unfortunate really, all that time and money invested in building the app that could have been avoided if the idea was validated in the first place.

How can you tell if you have a good or bad app idea? You’ve asked a few friends/colleagues and they all think its great, is that really enough? What if you’ve asked three people and two of them don’t think it’s great, is that enough to shut it down? Rather than relying on the opinions of a few people, collect info and data to validate if you have a viable app idea. Some of the most successful apps out like Instagram, have gone through iterations by responding to user feedback.

The app projects we have the most fun creating doesn’t necessarily start out with a perfect idea, it comes from partnering up with the right people who are open to feedback, sharing a common goal in wanting to make a great product and building it the right way.

You have an app idea, where to begin?

Start by defining the problem you’re trying to solve. What are your business objectives and how do you define success? Do some preliminary research by looking at the competition and who are the customers you’re trying to attract? If there is a lot of competition, where are the opportunities for you to do it better or differently?

One method that many startups and companies (including ourselves) often start with is the business model canvas: to help define, design, challenge, and pivot the business model. It’s a visual way to describe your product’s value proposition, infrastructure, customers and finances.

If you don’t know, that’s alright too, find a trusted app studio to help you sort it out and do it before you get into the design and development stages. Create a plan to help you define your minimum viable product (MVP) and be open-minded to the feedback you gather along the way. Feedback from your core users are not simply positive or negative reviews, it can be very insightful and spur some “ah-ha” moments to help make your product even better.

Be Brave and Ask Tough Questions

We acknowledge that our clients have a wealth of knowledge about their companies and customers, but our job is to challenge assumptions and play devil’s advocate along the way to help ensure you’re building a great product. In fact, to only be agreeable would be a disservice to our clients. Like any expert, we’re hired to help bring a different perspective, our technical and industry knowledge, and most importantly, help you identify the opportunities. We like to recommend some form of validation of your app because it turns assumptions into real data.

Creating and launching a new app can be a big challenge but it can also be a very exciting and rewarding experience. Understand the process from start to finish and be ready to pivot if the feedback is indicating to do so.

At Uppercut, our motivation is to help make people’s lives better through design and technology. We like to partner with people who share a similar vision and are excited about their ideas. To learn more about our process and how we can work together, visit Uppercut’s services.


How Does a New Agency Brag About Nothing?

Challenge: You’re who and what?

There are many challenges when you start an agency and one of them is, what do you show on your website? We have a highly experienced team (most of us have been in the industry for 15+ years) and have worked with Veer & Corbis, Mercedes-Benz, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, Dell, and more but when you’re brand spanking new, you still have to prove yourself. How can we convince prospective clients that we have the SKILLZ to pull it off?

Solution: Show some personality

Come up with a fun idea and designed the sh*t out of it. We had this idea of a manifesto. Let’s show off our abilities: great design, copywriting, and programming. The site garnered a lot of attention and in our first year of operation, the Uppercut brand won two Anvil awards for best website and logo.

Why change something that got us noticed? As we grow, we need a better responsive site for mobile viewing and we have something to talk about, like our work!

It’s fun to be mysterious but at the same time, it’s nice to have an online showcase of all we’ve accomplished over the past three years.


Uppercut's original one page website.

Mobile users lead the way.

Mobile Leads The Way

Mobile leads the way with the latest data, more people are spending more time on their mobile devices versus desktop, and apps are driving the majority of activity. Mobile is defined by handheld devices which include smartphones, e-readers and tablets.

47% of all Internet traffic comes from apps

80% of media time is spent in apps

66% of all email is opened on phones

[source: Adobe]

Are you providing a good mobile experience for your audience?

It’s what your customers are expecting. Your website should be responsive which means it looks good on a variety of devices and window or screen sizes by sizing and shifting the content and images depending on the display format. If you’re building a brand new website, make sure the team you’re working is solving the user experience on both desktop and mobile. If your site is not responsive, it’s the time to start thinking of building a website that is. It’s easier to build a new responsive website with better frameworks and techniques available. If you’re wanting to rework your existing site, it’s doable but keep in mind, the cost will depend on how much rework versus rebuild is required.

Mobile experience is different

A huge consideration in crafting the mobile experience is the touch-based screen (tap, swipe, type). You have to think about the user interface working differently on mobile because users having different sized fingers and thumbs. You have to think about scale because your screen size is a lot smaller than on a desktop or laptop computer. Does your content stay the same or does it need to be shortened for mobile? Images display differently on mobile devices because many smartphones have very high-resolution screens, so keep that in mind when you’re getting new photography or getting photo assets to your web design and development team.

A mobile app makes sense

In some business cases, it’s smarter to build a mobile app because of the problem you’re trying to solve. If your product or service requires a lot of input from your customers, it can be a huge challenge to make it easy to use and look nice in a web browser on a mobile phone. Scrolling on a desktop or laptop computer is not difficult because of the widescreen but scrolling on a mobile phone can feel too long (like it never ends!) If your customers frequently visit your website, perhaps building a mobile app is a better way to service your customers. For example, booking a room or property is complex process from shopping to booking where a lot of information needs to be displayed. Which is why many travel and rental companies like Expedia and Airbnb will have a responsive website and mobile app. A mobile app allows you to create a tailored experience.

If you need help with improving your website for mobile or wondering if you should build a mobile help, contact us and let’s chat!

Testing Geolocation in an iOS App

Testing Geolocation in an iOS App

The Challenge

A client asked us to build an iOS app that uses geolocation to map routes. At any time during tracking, the user needs the ability to record different observations. Usually, mimicking a single GPS location is pretty straightforward, one would simply set the location in Xcode, but what about testing a route?

Fortunately, in Xcode there is a way to add a GPX file to simulate locations and I will demonstrate a way to generate the file easily in this article.

Here are the required tools:

Step 1: Google Maps

Go to Google Maps, enable directions, and enter a starting location and destination. A suggested route should be created on the map. Clicking and dragging on this route would create waypoints, just be aware that at this time Google Maps only allows a finite number of points (workaround for longer routes later), and it seems to have something to do with the URL length that it generates.

Google Maps Route

Once a route has been plotted, copy that URL.

Tip: If a longer route is needed, start a new map that continues on, or for a looping route, paste the URL into a new window, flip the locations, and plot a new route.

Google Maps Route

Step 2: GPX Conversion Tool

Open this tool in a new browser window, and paste the URL from the previous step. Make sure Track Points, GPX, and Create Waypoints are checked, then click “Let’s Go”. It will prompt you to download a GPX file. Simple right?

GPX Generation Tool

Step 3: Text Editor

There are a couple of manual manipulations required to complete a GPX file that will work in Xcode. Go ahead and open the generated GPX file in a text editor.

In this file, there will be a list of <trkpt> nodes, these are the waypoints created in step 1.

Editing GPX

Since Xcode uses <wpt> nodes (this GPX file should have two: start and end locations), let’s move these <trkpt> nodes between the existing <wpt> nodes. The first and last <trkpt> nodes are start and end locations, so these can be excluded. Then rename all <trkpt> nodes to <wpt> and save the file. Additional routes (see step 1) can be added to this in the same manner.

Editing GPX

Tip: Xcode also recognizes <time> nodes within <wpt>. If these are present, the geolocations will be simulated in sequence. This is useful when it comes to testing an actual route. Without the <time> nodes, the waypoints seem to be simulated in a pseudo-random fashion (i.e.: randomized but with same seed), which can be useful if the test required is only to plot a cluster of markers and order is irrelevant.

Step 4: Xcode

In Xcode, start the app in either a simulator or a device. Simulate location by loading the GPX file into the project.

Load GPX into Xcode

Now see the geolocations getting plotted in the app!

See route in app

Final Thoughts

While this method does take a bit of manual work, it saves a lot of time for either generating a file manually, using a GPS device or actually moving around. One drawback is that this does not provide information on speed and heading, which in some situations is necessary. For these scenarios, check out this post for a solution.

Let's Spark Something

Let’s spark something together. We created a short video for CAMP Festival 2015. CAMP Festival celebrates creative technology, art and design. This short video was created by our talented art director, Dan Parry.