It is no secret that mobile apps are everywhere. Restaurants have them, retail stores, coupon companies, mass transit, events, news sites and magazines – if you are in a consumer-driven industry you want the best app and you want it to be on every device. But what about the business world? Sure, you have clients and projects, and you might even advise a client to have an app developed, but without that built-in consumer culture, could a mobile application really be beneficial for your business?
According to Keith Fletcher and Jerry Hill of Fletch Creative, the answer is a resounding yes. They are the core of Fletch Creative’s mobile application team and shared some insights into how apps can transform a company’s sales and marketing efforts and into what sets Fletch apart from other mobile app developers.
Q: Introduce yourselves and tell me about your role in app development at Fletch Creative.
J: Jerry Hill, I am the developer. I build the application from the technical side.
K: Keith Fletcher. I create the app design based on the brand needs and make sure it comes through in the final product.
Q: Tell us a bit about Fletch Creative’s application development team.
K: Jerry and I make a great team. The reason for that, I think, has to do with what makes an app truly great. The ideal app has great technology married with brilliant user interface design and simplified graphics. We always work to imbed our Simplificationism principles into our apps. Basically, Jerry takes my designs and I make sure that they stay true to how I intended them to look. It can be really hard to get [programmers] to understand and effectively implement a design. Sometimes a designer has to compromise the design based on the technological requirements or restraints of what the technology can offer. It really has to be a symbiotic relationship and I think that’s what we bring to the table better than anybody else. Jerry is so well versed technically and we are so well versed visually and able to brilliantly implement the brand and carry that through the user interface. I don’t think that just anybody can do that.
J: I don’t think so either. To dovetail, if we look at mobile apps, they are mostly in the consumer world. The business world has not done much with iPad apps. Where we think the real potential for revenue is, is not only a sales app, but also apps for business development. Corporations can hire [Fletch Creative] to use their brand standards and bring out a truly beautiful device to put into the hands of sales people and business development people all over the country and be able to show a portfolio. There can even be confidential portfolios available with the proper credentials, and they can show a design, maybe a medical device, that type of thing. We really think that this is a cornerstone, the next stage for the iPad for internal business use and sales. We are really excited about it.
Q: So, does Fletch work exclusively with Apple devices?
K: We don’t want to limit ourselves to the iPad. We are also working with the latest windows devices. We figure out the messaging, the branding, and then work on the deliverables.
J: We just recently put a new app for a large corporation into the Apple Store, but we have experience creating and publishing apps for a variety of mobile platforms. We’ve not done artwork for Android, but we have done some side programming there. Android is not our favorite business device as the Android tablets are not as prevalent in the business world. The iPad is the market leader and we would rather focus on that because it is what marketing people are likely to have in their hands. At the same time, if a company comes to us with Windows devices, we can do that also.
Q: How does Fletch test apps?
K: We use an agile development process. We test all along the way to check functionality and the backend.
J: Once the app is functional, we test it in-house. We call that Alpha testing. We make sure it does what it is supposed to do. Then we move it to a website that allows a select group of testers to download the app. Before we release to the store, we open up to a larger group through the site for a final test. Once it is in the store, we test after each update to make sure that the correct update has been pushed through and that everything works correctly.
Q: Can you tell me about your goals for further integrating application development into Fletch Creative’s services?
K: My goal is to be a viewed as a thinking company. I want to use design to benefit technology and do a brilliant job marrying the two. There’s often a breakdown that happens at the handoff between the designer and the engineer or programmer that I want to avoid in our work.
J: Oh yeah.
Q: A breakdown between the engineer and the artist? Can you tell me about why that happens?
J: I think the missing word is user experience. User experience is more about research on a product than just the usability of the interface. The technology cannot be in the way of doing what you need to do. Keith has a good approach to user experience – we flesh out what the user needs [from a design perspective], but at the same time, the required functionality is put foremost in the design. We are letting the art elements become the product, rather than the technology become the product. That’s really where the breakdown happens. I have found that the developer will take shortcuts with the design to save time and to create something functional, but once it’s functional they don’t go back to rewrite to make it work within the original design. Apps and products often fail not because they lack functionality, but because we should be testing products from a design standpoint as well. Were the original design elements implemented? Do we still have the easy-to-use menu and the art? So much of the value of the product comes from the high quality of the design, not just the functionality. In many cases people rush because they are so excited that it even works, and they ignore the design and user experience.
K: Spot on, Jerry. We don’t really experience that breakdown because our approach is more symbiotic.
Q: That’s a great insight. I can tell that you approach application development differently than others do. What do you feel sets Fletch Creative apart?
J: What you’re not going to find from other app development companies is that we have, in house, the power to align their brand to what the app is delivering. We cut out all the internal work for companies. Keith can work with their art people while I work with their development people and we can get it to market much faster. We don’t have to deal with outsourcing.
K: We can represent the brand very effectively through the app.
J: When your company wants to stand apart with a custom app aligned with your brand, that’s really what sets our work apart. We don’t create stock.
Q: Being able to offer branding and app development at the same time is huge, given the problems with app development that you have highlighted. You mentioned earlier some of the ways that apps can be used in the business world. Can you elaborate on the value of those apps for a company? What makes a mobile app better than a more traditional approach?
K: Mobile apps are the way that people are starting to sell. Coming into a meeting with powerpoint presentations and that sort of thing is starting to feel behind the times. We are also giving companies the ability to update information in real time. Historically, we give people a brochure and it usually ends up in the trashcan. But mobile gives us something interactive that can be carried with you and sent directly to a client’s computer. There’s an immediacy. This also helps address the fact that the sales people are not always on the same page. One person may have brand new brochures, but another might have older ones with different information, or a different look. With mobile, new information can be loaded onto the app and every person has the same information instantly. The branding is always consistent.
Q: What is so appealing for you guys about creating mobile apps? How did you get into it?
J: I’ve been involved with development for a wide variety of companies over the years and what appeals to me is the challenge of creating something useful on a mobile device. Using a mobile device allows you to have real, live, helpful information for people where ever they are. It frees you up. Mobile makes lives better because we are not tied to one way of thinking, tied to our desks and our computers. That’s what motivates me.
K: The immediacy of mobile makes apps important. It’s a great way for people to further their brands, which has always been my focus.
To inquire about developing mobile for your company, or for more information about Fletch Creative, call or email Keith Fletcher directly.
Like what you see? Want to learn more? Check us out on FletchCreative.com for information on working with us, and follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to keep up with the latest news from Fletch!