Mobile Inc

Mobile and Web Product Designer from London

0

Introducing Picdeck.co – A Tweetdeck Style Viewer For Instagram

If you’ve been reading this blog regularly throughout the years, you’ll probably have noticed me bang on about the importance of hackdays and allowing people the space to explore new tech and ideas. (here, here and here).

After starting Marvel we began discussing the type of company we wanted to build. There was a lot of unanswered questions, but one thing we did know – if we had a team, there would be monthly hackdays no matter what.

Last month we hired our first two employees and on Friday 22nd August, the first ever Marvel hackday took place.

The key to a good hackday is making sure your idea can actually be created in one day. Making half finished stuff never feels good but walking out the door at the end of the day knowing you’ve shipped something new to the world gives you a buzz.

So with that in mind we had two simple rules:

1) The hack doesn’t need to be related to Marvel, it just needs to be fun/cool

2) The hack needs to be ready to ship by the end of the day

I’ve been in too many hackdays where people want to try and build some crazy platform and after 8 hours all you have to show for it is a coming soon page and unused Twitter account.

We kicked off and after 10 hours and 33 minutes, we built….

Picdeck - a Tweetdeck-style viewer for Instagram.

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We’re all hardcore users of Tweetdeck and have always wanted the same sort of thing for Instagram. Simply add columns for hashtags and users you want to follow and BAM! Photos start streaming in.

There’s something about watching images and videos from around the world appear as they get posted – it’s hypnotising (check out another great example of this is Vpeeker which pulls in Vine videos in real-time)

A few hours after we launched Picdeck, it got picked up by TNWMashableThe Verge and Fast Company, which resulted in over 10,000 sign-ups in the first week. 

Over 25,000 columns have been added so far with the most popular columns being:

@teslamotors (450 people, we have no idea why this is top)
#GoEags (300 people)
#cycling (162 people)
#hyperlapse (110 people)

Check out Picdeck for yourself http://picdeck.co/

We got a ton of request for features, but now we have to decide whether to continue developing it on the next hackday or move onto something new.

All in all it was a lot of fun and we can’t wait for the next one at the end of September. Follow @marvelapp for news!

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Launched! Turn Sketches Into Prototypes With The Marvel iPhone App

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One of the biggest goals of Marvel is to turn prototyping into something that is accessible to anyone, no matter what level of design or technical skill.

The first piece of that puzzle is our new iPhone app, it allows you to turn any sketch or doodle into an interactive prototype without needing to be near a computer.

This really opens up prototyping to the masses, with more and more people coming up with their own ideas for apps and services, the Marvel app will help them bring those ideas to life.

All photos on the iPhone are automatically uploaded and synced with the Marvel web app.

It’s really simple to use and is great for brainstorming or trying out ideas before jumping into Photoshop. Within a few minutes you’ll have a working prototype to share and test on devices.

Download it now, it’s free!

Or sign up for free prototyping using Marvel

24

Follow Pie – The Story Of The Instagram Bot Made To Increase App Store Downloads

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“How the hell do you have 18,000 followers on Instagram???”

I get this question every few weeks when another one of my friends joins Instagram and takes a look at my profile. They often wonder why a freelance designer from Streatham has so many people interested in his sunset and food photos.

I’ve never spilled the beans about how I managed to increase my followers to 18,000 so quickly.

So now it’s time to come clean –

Last year I teamed up with Brendan (@oh_moore) and created an Instagram bot that automated many of the manual interactions I had to go through to get more followers (i.e liking and following).

Essentially, it pretended to be me and by doing so, it generated several thousand downloads for our iPhone app, InstaBAM.

The following post is the story behind it, I tried my best to document everything so it’s a long read. If you want to head straight to the code it’s available on Github. Read More

4

Introducing Marvel – Free and Unlimited Prototyping For Designers

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Over the last few months I’ve been working on a free service for designers called Marvel, a super-simple way to create mobile and web prototypes using your images and PSDs on Dropbox.

We went into public beta with our MVP around a month ago and we’ve now got over 2000 users and over 8400 design files synced. The feedback has been amazing, I’ve been stunned that so many people have taken the time to write huge emails detailing things they love, hate and want to see in the future. It’s given us tons to work on. We’re now gearing up for our proper launch with lots of new features and fixes.

A bit of background

The idea for Marvel came about whilst I was freelancing at a big global agency. Like most of the designers there, a large part of my time was spent on pitch work.

There was one pitch in particular that sparked the idea. It was a iPhone app for a big brand worth 6 figures, so everyone had their heads down all week working hard on putting something impressive together.

All of my time was spent doing the interface and ux for the app, I more or less designed the whole thing by the end of the week. I sweated details, I did it all in Retina, I displayed interactions and gestures, it was full on.

What happened next is pretty typical in most agencies I’ve worked in. You hand over the finished mockups to the account director, who then crams them into a Powerpoint and presents the whole thing on a screen 5 metres away from the client whilst flicking through each slide every few seconds.

A couple of things happen at that point:

  • The attention to detail and the impact of that design is lost
  • The user journey isn’t communicated efficiently
  • It looks like every other presentation

We ended up losing the pitch.

In an ideal world I would have handed my designs over to one of the devs and they would have coded it up so that we could have presented a prototype that the client could have played with. The reality is that in most agencies all the developers are stacked on existing projects and don’t have time to anything else. Placing developers on each pitch can also lead to the cost of pitching spiraling out of control.

It wasn’t the first pitch I had ever lost nor was it the most disappointing, but I was frustrated. What’s the point of spending days on design when it’s presented in such a poor way?

For the next pitch I decided to put all my mockups on the photoroll of the device and give it to the client myself.

The result was incredible, even though the only thing you could do was swipe through the screens, the client loved it and actually thought we had finished the app. I had to explain that it was static mockups but she was impressed.

I was able to talk through the flow with the designs in context and the client got it instantly.

After we won the work, the idea for Marvel began to form.

Read More

218

Why Talented Creatives Are Leaving Your Shitty Agency

tumblr_lh381zD16r1qzbytdo1_1280Over the past few months it seems like I keep having the same conversation over and over again with friends in dozens of agencies around London, it usually starts off like this:

“Who do you think is the best agency is at the moment? Is anyone doing good work?”

And ends with them explaining why they are thinking of moving on. The reasons why are always the same:

“I want to work on an actual product people want to use”

“I want to build my own thing”

“I want to explore more new technology and ideas not gimmicks”

“We never do any interesting work”

“We only care about hitting targets”

“I don’t feel like I’m learning”

“We never push back and tell the client their ideas are shit”

The exodus of talent we’ve been hearing so much about at executive/director level is now filtering down to smart young digital/mobile creatives, planners and account managers.

And can you blame them?

The people who generate all the ideas and work are evolving and realising that they themselves could be reaping the rewards rather than the agency.

Agencies on the other hand are happy to keep trying to live in a world which is ceasing to exist. Clinging onto the same ideas, tools, and ways of working with CEOs who are either oblivious to the current mindset or too frightened to instigate change.

It’s the perfect storm of increasing entrepreneurialism, decreasing  loyalty and an industry reveling in mediocrity.

Startups are offering equal or better salaries than agencies with more perks and chances to get equity, brands are taking design and development in-house after realising they’ve been spending a fuck-load of money on sub-standard work, pure play product and design studios are quickly emerging with young and talented leaders, and of course technology is lowering the barrier to starting your own business, in both time and cost with the freelance market also booming.

Many agencies are offering whatever trend makes them seem relevant to existing and potential clients (who sadly lap this shit up). Whether that’s UX (which never goes beyond wireframes), User Centred Design, MVP,  incubators or the current shiny thing – innovation labs.

While many people will shout “Well agencies aren’t about innovation or hacker-like creativity, it’s just about billable hours”, the sad truth is that whether they are or not, this is what agencies sell, not only to clients but to staff, and that’s the problem.

Promises are made in job descriptions and interviews that aren’t kept.

You never get an agency intro that says “We pride ourselves on creating branded apps that no one wants and churning out banners that no one clicks on, we say yes to all our clients daft suggestions because we know it’s the easiest way to make money. Oh and you’re gonna leave here with nothing worth putting in your portfolio, fancy joining us?”

The talent is there, as is the desire, agencies can try to stop the bleeding and try create places where talented people want to use their skills to build great things for clients and users, or they’ll take their passion and curiosity somewhere else and be left with the deadwood.

So here’s a small but potent list, a view from the ground for the agency execs and CEOs. My own thoughts and those of my peoples, collected from designers and creatives (and a few PMs/devs/planners too) in agencies around London.

1) You won’t stop taking on shit work

We understand, you’re an agency, you need to keep the lights on and pay people. We get that. Everyone gets that.

But at the same time we expect you to have ambitions just like we do.

In the beginning it was cool to take the low-hanging fruit of animated GIF mobile banners and cookie-cutter augmented reality apps, just like we thought making nightclub flyers at uni was cool when we first got into design, but after a while that shit has to stop and you need to start aiming higher. Read More

1

Introducing Marvel – Turn Images Into Prototypes In Just A Few Clicks

I’ve been hard at work with @oh_moore and @pakmee over the last couple of months building a new service for designers called Marvel and I’m proud to announce that it’s just gone into early private beta.

Marvel turns any image including PSD’s, PNG’s and JPEG’s into shareable,
interactive prototypes that you can view on desktop, tablet & mobile devices,
all synced in real-time from your project folders on Dropbox.

Prototypes are created by drawing hotspots over any area of the image you want to turn into a link to another images. Once you’re done you can email or SMS the URL of your prototype and open it on any device with a browser.

Marvel seamlessly updates prototypes on the fly, soon as you save a file in Photoshop, the prototype updates! No need to save out PSDs, PNGs and JPEGs then re-upload. We’re harnessing the power, convenience and scale of Dropbox to provide a superior experience than our competitors at a much lower cost (free!)

Get on the waiting list by signing up at www.marvelapp.com or follow @marvelapp for more updates.

29

How, When and Where Will The First Truly Great Digital Design Studio Emerge?

The following post is by Jules Ehrhardt, (@ezyjules), partner at digital design studio ustwo’s New York outpost. Jules offers his thoughts on where the digital design sector might be headed following the recent flurry of acquisitions.

State of the digital design nation

This week, service design studio Fjord announced its sale to the management consultancy behemoth Accenture. This move follows a dizzying flurry of industry acquisitions, pivots and mergers on both sides of the Atlantic. Big group moves: AKQA selling to WPP, LBi selling to Publicis (to subsequently merge with Digitas), Rokkan selling to Publicis. TechGiant acqui-hires such as Hot Studio selling to Facebook and NYC design studio 80/20 selling to Square. Not to forget last week’s pivot of London boutique consultancy Berg into a cloud services company.

Whilst this is not an exhaustive list, there is clearly a great deal going down in the digital sector. Most of these plays are driven by the shift towards user experience and digital product design. Under the ‘experience is the brand’ mantra, these moves are an effort to integrate such capabilities into an all-encompassing, 360, integrated service offering. The reality is that for those in digital product design*, these ecosystem changes present us all with a number of challenges and opportunities.

*By ‘digital product design’ I refer specifically to companies with the capacity to design and build digital products and services in house. This includes a range of companies from boutique mobile studios, interactive marketing agencies and design consultancies, to global management consultancies and the exciting new wave of digital product studios.

The opportunity

In the same way that consultancies such as IDEO and Frog achieved permanent association with innovation and industrial design in people’s minds, and consequently safe commercial orbit; the same opportunity and path is emerging for digital product design.

Importantly the opportunity to become truly great is about more than just financial reward. It’s about the chance to become a recognised design leader and partner to the brands whose digital products and services shape our world. It’s about the experiences and opportunities presented, which cannot be bought. The one shot you might be lucky enough to have at all this is however all too easily sold. Read More

2

48 Hours At The D&AD Awards

Last week I spent a couple of great days on the jury of the 2013 D&AD Awards at Kensington Olympia after being invited to judge the mobile marketing category.

I loved the experience, I got the opportunity to chat with some of the smartest people in the design industry and by the time the judging was over I felt inspired and energised by some of  work I had seen, not just in mobile but in branding, packaging and poster design too.

My biggest surprise was the scale of the operation, I heard someone say that there was over 20,000 pieces of digital and physical work submitted to the D&AD over all the categories, that’s insane.

The staff were really friendly and patient, especially when the jury is in full flow and debating whether entries should make it to the next round, which can sometimes last hours (or days in some categories!).

We had the opportunity to test out every app and site and talk about what we liked and disliked about it. If someone thought the claims made in the entry video were unrealistic we could also request further information from the brand or agency.

I firmly believe that the future of the mobile category belongs to products and services. I hope to see more entries from startups, problem solving products and creations made at hackathons.

That’s why I loved Secret Fishing Spots and Pothole Season, two apps with a great story behind them but also try to fix specific problems in a clever way.

Another favourite of mine was Easy Way Subtitles, a service that takes live TV subtitles and translates them on-the-fly with Google Translate.

You can view all the results here.

I also took a ton of photos of all the entries I liked in the other categories, check them out below (click to enlarge)

Thanks to everyone at @dandand for having me, really enjoyed myself and it was definitely one of the highlights of my career so far.

@mutlu82
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