Coming into the busy holiday season, retailers of all kinds are looking at crowded stores and busy online shopping. Keeping up with the best and the latest in technology has never been more important in general, but definitely during that all-important fourth quarter.
That is why Collage.com co-founders Joe Golden and Kevin Borders brought out a new app to make sure anyone who orders from the online company has top-notch customer service, gets the right product and ensures it arrives in a timely fashion for holiday gifting.
Their company, Collage.com, makes custom products easy for anyone to create. It has grown tremendously since the two friends started the company as a University of Michigan nights-and-weekends hobby project in 2007.
“With our busy holiday season approaching, we made rolling out a new mobile app for iOS (iPhones and iPads) and Android devices a major priority this fall,” Golden said. “Our new app launched recently, allowing our customers to create more than 50 products – from photo books to fleece photo blankets – entirely on their phones.”
Months of work went into creating the new mobile app. Here are some of their “lessons learned” in case they might be helpful to your business – even if you’re not planning to launch an app soon:
1. Think “mobile-first.” It’s incredible how fast mobile technology has evolved and grown. Mobile used to be an afterthought for many brands. Not anymore! More and more of our customers use their smartphones as their preferred way to use the Internet at home. Accordingly, we built our new mobile apps to include every single product and feature that our desktop website offers.
Designing for desktop first and mobile second results in a cramped and forced mobile experience. At the same time, it’s important to not neglect your website when rolling out an app. Many people want to try out a product or service through the Web before committing to a download. Too many companies’ websites feature poor mobile browsing experiences, which causes them to lose potential customers.
2. Listen to your customers. This is a no-brainer when it comes to business, and is at the core of how we manage Collage.com. We constantly survey our own customers to see how satisfied they are with their purchases. If there are problems, we can fix them right away, and pick up on patterns that might reveal a larger underlying issue to be addressed.
We also run user tests, where we directly observe “real people” using our website and mobile apps. Seeing exactly how a customer interacts with our site is invaluable. Every time we’ve run a test, we’ve had surprising feedback that we didn’t originally consider. There are many online tools that make it easy to run user tests online, too.
3. Talk to experts in the field for tips and advice. We reached out to friends who had successfully launched mobile apps to see what we could learn.
This feedback was very useful – and is why we’re happy to give back to Michigan’s developer community however we can, including through this post. There’s no monopoly on good ideas and best practices.
4. “Eat your own dog food.” We’re dog lovers, but we’re not suggesting Dog Chow for dinner. Instead, we mean that it’s important for a company’s employees to use a product before it rolls out to the wider public.
Before our apps were ready for public consumption, we asked our entire team of more than 50 full-time and seasonal employees to put our apps to the test. This internal testing picked up a number of bugs and glitches we were able to easily fix – and helped get our entire team excited for this important app launch.
5. Know your work is never finished. We released our new mobile apps, but we know our work isn’t done. We’re always refining our company’s processes and presentation to make sure we’re meeting our customers’ needs.
Our team will keep working on new features and improvements to make our apps the easiest and best ways to create custom products online.