Company Pivot / Application Redesign
While working with Banjo, the world of technology was rapidly changing, and we were becoming more connected than ever before. With design evolving, Banjo wanted to update their styling while they were transitioning to keep the world up to date with breaking news and events as they happened.
Reimagining a Success
Banjo was already a great mobile application. It had an active user base in the millions, and a majority of the features were widely used. However, the world is always changing, as is the way in which we interact with it, and each other. And sometimes, how we intend our users to use our products is very different from how they take advantage of the features. This was the case with Banjo. An app, which was originally created to see which of your friends are nearby, quickly evolved into a platform that users used to see everything that was happening around them in real-time.
When I met the founder of Banjo, we began conversations on how we could make this experience better, and give the users an app that was specifically designed for how they wanted to use it, and not just a clever way of using existing features. The Live Internet. View anything that is happening anywhere, through the eyes of people who are actually there, talking about it in real-time. After being invited to join the team, I knew I had huge shoes to fill, and a large user base to please. It was a project that would affect and shape the entire future of Banjo and a real journey into a new type of product.
Launch and Reception
With the launch of Banjo Version 4.0, we were astounded to find that the app had been featured on both the front page of the Google Play store and the Apple App Store in over 16 countries across the world. Over the following weeks, the app was flooded with 5-star reviews. The many endless nights put in by the entire team lived up to the expectations of the users, and we couldn't have been more proud.
We designed Banjo V4 in a very open environment. The team was expanding rapidly and we wanted to ensure that we had feedback from everyone that had joined the team. With offices split between San Francisco and Las Vegas, we used Skype for cross-office communication for realtime feedback, and I would travel between offices during sprints.
Each design began on a large white-dry board in the middle of our office where we allowed the entire team to post sticky notes on rough sketches and wireframes for feedback. Once a design moved to digital wireframes, we would share the mocks using both Flinto and InVision App, as well as post-physical prints on the wall for written feedback.
I believe it's important to see designs in different scenarios, as each time you notice something new. We collected feedback internally until a majority of the team felt comfortable with what we had created, then we conducted research with everyday users. Our users helped us identify how the app would be used once we released it to the wild. This allowed us to make a few major UX updates which I believe were the key to Banjo's success.
Takeaway – Transparency
Banjo was the first app in which I lead the design process. I couldn't be more proud of the team or the end result. I learned a lot of lessons from Banjo that I have taken to every project I have worked on since, particularly the User Research process. I employed the use of Personas and encouraged testing of our mockups by our most loyal users. Transparency in the design process can create a night or day difference in the finished product. What we learned is, you can make a product as pretty as you want, and sometimes there are trade-offs between functionality and beauty.
Before Banjo, many of my projects were not allowed to be shared in an open environment until they were launched. I have learned that feedback is a designer and developer's best friend, and the more eyes on the project, the better. A designer's worst critic is themselves, and those critiques can often cloud what is important for the overall vision. Teamwork and Transparency creates a much more open and vivid environment to create the best possible product.