Conventional wisdom would say that you need to shake off shiny object syndrome to keep your startup laser-focused. But with the many partnerships and collaborations we’ve made building and launching apps, I’ve learned that startups — and even established businesses for that matter — are far from conventional.
Success often means taking the road less traveled. Just look at today’s high-profile tech companies. How many thought they had it all figured out when they first started? They were all born from experiments — ideas that seemed outlandish at the time, but they tried and did them anyway.
In fact, some of the most successful businesses started as moonshot ideas. Look at Waze: How did it become a standout in a sea of map and navigation apps? Waze started out as a community project. Rather than diligently mapping out every single road, lane, and highway like what many apps did at the time, Waze’s team brought in crowdsourcing into the mix. It banked on its users to update traffic as they drive, aggregating real-time data to calculate the best possible routes for drivers. This interactive user experience was Waze’s unique value proposition — so much so that Google bought it for US$1 billion.
Another example is WeChat. While you can argue that it benefited from the absence of big players like Facebook and Google, WeChat’s success wasn’t a cakewalk. It had to contend with local competitors and had to continuously reinvent itself. It’s winning formula? Less is more. That means significantly less ads, simpler (and more coherent) design, and fewer hoops and loops to jump through in order to buy, sell, or interact with other users. WeChat restrained the user experience in a way that would still let the technologically challenged be able to use it. WeChat’s approach to user experience, in fact, is something that even Facebook reportedly wants to emulate.
What’s creativity like at Oursky?
Ourskyers don’t just crunch codes and numbers into a screen — and we don’t just accentuate “creativity” in the design phase of our digital products either. From developers to data scientists and down to our sales and marketing team and founders, our projects are the intersection of logic, individuality, and creativity. Here’s a glimpse of how inventiveness figures into our work:
- For us, programming is a form of self-expression. We create code that not only functions as intended, but is also clean and aesthetically appealing. Ourskyers don’t strive for anything less.
- Ourskyers have dedicated Slack channels to discuss the most inventive yet practical ways to work with user stories.
- We nurture our developers to experiment — from learning new programming languages to using unconventional tools. Not only does this expand their skill sets; it empowers them to see problems in different perspectives and devise novel ways to solve them. This has always been our philosophy when hiring and onboarding developers.
- We support everyone to play to their strengths but also foster them to expand their mindset. We have a stringent standard for commit quality, for example.
- We constantly iterate ideas. Whether we’re brainstorming for ideas or wireframing and prototyping an app, we always try to validate them through data-driven and lean approaches. This way, an idea doesn’t just become a distraction. Everyone involved in the project can see if an idea is worth its salt.
- Everyone is encouraged to think outside the box — not necessarily creating things anew. Innovation often comes from assembling reusable entities that could more than meet product requirements. What’s important for us is to refine ideas and strategies that can help improve the performance, usability, and security of a digital product.
Case study: A tailored fast-fashion shopping experience with ASOS
To further illustrate, let’s dive into one of our projects.
ASOS, one of the largest fashion retailers based in London, curates and sells over 75,000 designer and private-label apparel and accessories and serves customers from 239 countries and territories. More than 4,000 new items are added weekly to their online store. With such a huge catalog, delivering a tailored fast-fashion shopping experience — while enticing new and existing customers to browse through these new arrivals — seemed like an uphill climb.
To address this need, our team worked with ASOS to develop an app that would showcase a daily feed of its new items. But we didn’t want to just create an app. After all, creating a gallery of new arrivals on their website is easy enough if all we wanted was to have a feed. Together with ASOS, we envisioned a mobile experience that would spur customers.
After putting our thinking caps on and throwing in as many ideas as we can during brainstorming, we rode the coattails of Tinder’s swipe-right mechanic. Why? When we analyzed ASOS’ data, we found that most of its customers used the app while they’re on the go — while commuting to work or school, during lunch or dinner, or through afternoon coffee or tea breaks. The Tinder-style approach was a match. It’s an intuitively quick way for customers to browse ASOS’ massive catalog without having to go through one webpage after another just to find items that fit their personal style.
But to get to this unique browsing experience, we had to be data-driven, user-centric, and conscientious. We started the project with a proof-of-concept iOS app, creating the NEW IN ASOS feed that showcased the new items that ASOS brings in every week. For the front end, we designed the user interface (UI) to have prominent catalogue images, ensured that swiping animations are smooth, and let customers share content on social media.
Perhaps the more distinct selling point we enabled for customers was to allow them to save items for later purchase. We did this by integrating the app into ASOS’ back-end application programming interfaces (APIs). We also incorporated a notification feature so that customers can buy these saved items when they get back to their desktops. Behavioral data is analyzed so ASOS can better understand customer preferences and serve personalized content they may be interested in.
The result? Higher engagement and app retention rate, less abandoned carts, and a seamless shopping experience. After the app’s pilot release in the UK and Denmark, ASOS rolled out the NEW IN app globally.
Don’t just shove away ideas
At the time, it was relatively uncommon (and it still kind of is) for e-commerce apps — or even business apps — to take design cues from the likes of Tinder. Many online shops stuck to their galleries and feeds, but they, too, adopted a swipe-right strategy, albeit to the detriment of some retailers.
Nevertheless, our work with ASOS proved how going off the beaten path can work to your advantage. Don’t just discount ideas that may seem out there or too distracting. Look at why they could be good ideas for your customers, what the market is now, and what it can be in the future. After all, 42% of startups fail because there wasn’t enough market need for them. Balance creativity with feasibility, technological or otherwise — and once you do, deliver an experience that solves your customers’ problems.
In app or software development, creativity doesn’t mean mimicking Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, or Allen Zhang. Instead, think of it as being inspired by a retailer up the road who ingeniously turned the family-owned kiosk into a regional chain that does online ordering and delivery. That’s definitely a far harder achievement than finding your startup or business at the precipice of technology and unthinkingly jumping on the bandwagon.
At the heart of Oursky is the art of software engineering: translating ideas into opportunities. We work with startups in bringing their ideas to life with the right blend of people, process, and technology — from MVP development to scalable digital products powered by the latest technologies. Schedule a no-commitment consultation with us and we can explore how to creatively harness the digital space to solve real-world problems.
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