From design to development in 4 weeks. Creating a mobile and web MVP for an iconic brand
Sabco Media had a clear goal. They wanted to launch a web and a mobile app for the new radio station - Virgin Radio Oman. The trick? They had only 4 weeks to design, develop and test before launching their MVPs in the real world.
When SABCO Media turned to Boldare, they had only four weeks to develop a web app and two mobile apps for Virgin Radio Oman, a brand new radio station targeting the country’s young, hip demographic. The Boldare team proposed a lean startup approach, an ideal framework when launching brand new products to the market that minimizes risks and maximizes learning based on real data. During the product workshop, the client and the team got to know the product requirements inside out and selected the core features for the MVP. In order to meet the tight deadline, each development team member worked simultaneously from day one and the product was tested daily.
The Boldare designers who created the apps’ UX and UI from scratch had to take special care to let Virgin’s strong visual identity lead their designs. Apart from the lean startup approach the development was delivered within the Scrum framework. Working increments of the product were released every week, allowing the Boldare team to deliver on time without compromising on the quality of the solution. Currently, the apps have been tested live and data gathered from real users. The analysis will serve as the basis of the second phase of development, due to start soon.
Client: Oman’s biggest media company launches Virgin Radio Oman
SABCO Media is the biggest media provider in Oman. Their portfolio includes radio station, magazines, and outdoor media. They are focused on aggressive growth and are constantly on the lookout for new expansion possibilities. SABCO spotted a niche in the Oman market - the Generation Z and Millennial demographic. The company acquired the rights to the Virgin Radio brand and planned to launch a new radio station targeting that specific market: young, fashionable people who enjoy contemporary culture and music. SABCO executives realized that in order to really conquer the hearts of Generation Z and Millennials and match their lifestyles, they would need to employ the latest technologies. This meant, first and foremost, online streaming from desktop and mobile devices. They had four weeks to launch the radio station and needed a team who could deliver a perfect product for a specific and demanding audience.
Problem: 4 weeks to deliver three products
SABCO doesn’t employ inhouse development experts and thus needed to find a partner to deliver their new digital product to the market. They wanted not only technical experts but also a company who could develop a website and mobile apps with a fresh, appealing design for the chosen demographic. That partner company would have just four weeks to complete the web and mobile apps (Android and iOS) as well as develop the main website.
SABCO’s IT Manager, Neil D’Souza, had specific criteria for the partner company. Firstly he researched their past work, looking for clean, fresh, responsive designs and web products addressing a certain segment of the market. Secondly, knowing such products can be tricky to develop, he focused on technical experience. Thirdly, he searched for companies with a fresh take on websites and apps, looking for something that could disrupt standards, fit the target market, and most importantly, something that fitted the Virgin brand. After careful consideration, _D’Souza chose Boldare.
Solution: lean startup and delivering simultaneously on all fronts
Taking into consideration the timeline and the scope of the work, Boldare selected a team of eight to kick off the product development: two designers, three frontend developers, one iOS developer, one Android developer and a Scrum Master. The team was fully self-organizing and had all the skills necessary to complete the products. The core members had worked together in the past, which allowed the team to reach a high-performance level quickly.
Product Vision Workshop
The Boldare team held a product vision workshop with stakeholders and the Product Owner. These workshops are one of the most efficient methods to gather all information regarding the client, product and the target audience. It also allowed the team to grasp the whole vision and ask questions, as well as give the client an opportunity to verify the product goals. As a rule, the entire development team takes part in the workshop, which allows everyone to be on the same page from day one.
Having the deadline in mind, Boldare and the client shortlisted all product goals but as usual they needed to pick only one main goal: in this case, introducing young, hip music lovers to a completely new disruptive and innovative place they can call their own.
The platform that the team set out to create was a completely new formula for the average teenage music lover in Oman and so there was no legacy data they could build on. Keeping that in mind, the team set up, “convert users into active and returning radio listeners” as our number-one key metric.
As the first result of the workshop, the client was able to select one system story - answering 4 key questions: what? how? who? what for? The system story acts as a guide for the team through the entire product development process - when in doubt, refer to the system story.
The second result was the user stories - high-level requirements for the system which create a basis for the development backlog. The user stories allow the team to think what specific, low-level tasks must be completed to achieve those high-level requirements. User stories also allow the team to re-estimate the product scope after the workshop and propose a solution to fit the time and budget of the client.
Lean Startup approach
Boldare estimated the scope of work and and having the deadline in mind, proposed to SABCO a lean approach to product development. The team would first provide prototypes, which would be mostly peer-reviewed (both due to time limitations and lack of access to the target users) and then put together an MVP with only key functionalities in place. Following that, the radio apps would launch to the public and the team would be able to gather real data from the users. The rest of the planned functionalities would be delivered and tested iteratively during the next stages of product development.
Agile development within the Scrum framework
As well as taking a lean startup approach, the product was delivered within a Scrum framework. Neil D’Souza became the Product Owner on the client side and although he was new to Scrum, the introductory sessions with the Boldare Scrum Master allowed him to quickly get the hang of it: prioritizing the backlog, feedbacking the team’s efforts, answering their questions and helping to alleviate the obstacles.
An agile, iterative approach to product delivery is ideal in situations when time is scarce. The team delivers often, and working increments of the final product are presented with every sprint. The Product Owner is involved all the way, seeing the work in progress, and can change the priorities and scope of work with every sprint. This means that when the product goes live, it is exactly in line with the Product Owner’s vision.
The team proactively developed a viable plan to deliver and implement the final product. During phase one, we needed to build a basic platform and mobile apps by our radio channel launch date. They managed minute aspects of design and development.
Keeping in mind the tight deadline, the team knew that this development would require constant day-to-day contact between the development team, stakeholders and Virgin employees. Apart from Scrum meetings held remotely via Google Meet, the team communicated with all the parties other using Slack and quick conference calls. Progress was monitored via Jira and all visuals were communicated using InVision, with the software development work being synchronized via GitHub.
Boldare teams are not only “doers” but also “thinkers”. An important part of every product development Boldare undertakes is the consulting aspect. In the case of Virgin Radio Oman for example, the team advised against using readymade plug-ins and solutions as they presented a serious security threat and offered little stability when exploited by a large number of users. Despite the lack of time, they proposed creating a custom solution for Virgin. The team created two custom plugins - one for the radio player and one for displaying content from Twitter and Facebook.
“They took ownership of the product as if it were their own. The team took a hands-on approach, worked autonomously, and required minimal oversight.”
In order to meet the goal and deadline, each development team member worked simultaneously from day one. While product designers worked on moodboards, information architecture and wireframes, the developers concentrated on a working prototype of the online radio player.
Working simultaneously is always the best way to go as it keeps all team members (including stakeholders) engaged and, most importantly, it avoids the use of dry runs.
“I admire their organized methodology. At several stages, their work made me feel confident I’d chosen the right partner. Their constant feedback at the micro level provided tremendous reassurance. Frequent updates let our management and in-house team easily track progress.”
Keeping the design in line with the brand guidelines
Crucial for design work was staying in line with the brand guidelines. Virgin is a global and iconic brand and thus its identity must remain intact. However, the local cultural aspects should also be taken into consideration when designing for a specific region. The Boldare designers took special care to let Virgin’s strong visual identity lead their designs, adding only some subtle new graphic elements specifically for the Oman franchise of the radio.
Setting up and later reaching such a tight deadline required the Boldare team to test everything daily. Code reviews, implementation checks and design ideas (either based on wireframes or later on actually designs/prototypes) had to be done daily. Having such a confirmation system in place helped to keep the whole process going and predict future hiccups.
The tech stack for the web app included WordPressie, Laravel (a PHP framework), ES6 (js) and jQuery. For mobile, the technologies used included Swift 4.0, VIPER for architecture, and SwiftAPI (Boldare’s custom Swift library) for iOS and Java for Android.
Results: launching a valuable product within the tight deadline
The Boldare team managed to deliver a responsive Virgin Radio Oman website, a web app featuring SHOUTcast live streaming and Google DoubleClick for Publishers (DFP) for ad management, and two mobile apps (iOS and Android) in just four weeks, meeting the client’s tight deadline.
The radio was launched in March 2018. All apps received very positive feedback from the users and the team at Virgin and Boldare are currently gathering data for the next phase of development.
SABCO has turned to Boldare to develop the next phase of the apps and the team has already started to analyze the data gathered from the MVP.