About the Project
Created in March 2012, the Apps for Venues platform is a joint venture with Carbonhouse (now owned by AEG) to provide full-service apps built exclusively for arenas, performing arts centers, and convention centers. The platform ties directly to AEG's Showtime CMS to allow the clients to manage their own app and app functionality. The platform is an easy way to spin up new apps; Carbonhouse sells an app to one of their customers, and in turn WillowTree quickly alters specific aspects of the designs and code to brand the app for the new client.
In August 2014, I was assigned the role of DRI (Directly Responsible Individual), a term coined by Apple and adopted by WillowTree which essentially means lead of the entire project and held liable for the success of the project. With this assignment came great responsibility, as this project was treasured by the CTO, and he was looking to me to create a better process for the platform. Although active for two years before I became the DRI, the project process was not well-defined or effective. The beginning of each app process was not clear, communication with Carbonhouse and the client was easily lost as it was all through email, the team was not involved throughout the entire process, payment schedules were not set up, and there was no documentation of the process at all. What was meant to be an easy, straightforward project was often times complicated and a hassle for all parties involved.
Communication was entirely over email when I came onto the project. I set up a Teamwork account to create a common location for project collaboration amongst all team members. The Teamwork account is mostly used for project planning, communication, and documentation and is a much better solution for a team than communicating through email.
There needed to be a clear path for all team members to follow when a new app was signed. After consulting with all parties involved with the project, I created a detailed step by step process for spinning up a new app. For example, to address the payment issue, the new process begins with Carbonhouse filling out a form to notify WT about a new venue sold as well as all billing information needed. To ensure all necessary information from the client was addressed and gathered, I created two forms for them to fill out at the beginning of the project: a design form (to determine colors, sections within the app) and a development form (information needed to submit the app to the app store). The process also includes details such as when the UX designer should create designs, when to present the visual designs to the client, the typical timeline expectations, as well as how to submit to the store once development is complete.
Visual Design Process Instructions
When I became the DRI, I was also appointed Lead Designer on the project. At the time, the user experience and visual designs for the updated version 2.0 of the platform had already been created by the previous designer on the project. He had the Photoshop file set up to allow for very easy color changes to quickly demonstrate to the client how their app would look without spending excessive time on the visuals. After exploration, trial and error, and talking to other team members, I created documentation stating exactly how the design process for each app unfolds. The guide is an in-depth set of instructions for five processes: create the Photoshop file, create the comps, create the InVision project, create the app icons, and slice assets for the developers. This process helped me stay on track each time a venue converted from v1 to v2 or when a new venue signs for an app. The documentation will also be beneficial for other designers that may need to help with the project or take lead on the project at some point.
Improve Client Communication
Previously, when Carbonhouse pitched the app to a client, there was no way to visually indicate what would be customized for their particular venue. To solve this problem, I create a sample app named "AFV Arena" and created a set of annotated comps for Carbonhouse to easily show exactly what would be customized so there would be no confusion once the project began. The comps are now used to pitch clients and are presented to the client at the beginning of the project to set clear expectations and help while filling out their design form.
Provide Interactive Prototypes
To complete the process, the last addition was creating interactive prototypes for each venue in InVision. The prototypes can be shared with the client to be viewed on their computer or mobile phone. This helps the client get a clear visualization of how their app will look, function, and what features will be included. Now that the initial prototype has been created, its takes less than five minutes to duplicate the InVision project and upload visual designs to create a prototype for a new venue.
Since August 2014, my team has successfully converted 17 apps from version 1.0 to 2.0. We also signed and created 13 new venue apps including The O2, Oracle Arena, and an app for the Grammy's after party. With the addition of my project improvements, the process is much faster, easier to understand, and is considered by the Chief Experience Officer at WillowTree to be a "substantial improvement" to the previous process. Since being given the opportunity of Directly Responsible Individual for Apps for Venues, I have been able to integrate aspects of the project manager role to my UX designer role, allowing me to become a more well-rounded user experience designer.