Feb 13, 2018
When Apple announced the original App Store in 2008, it immediately sparked a business idea for two former college roommates: There would be money to be made from iPhone apps.
Adam Fingerman and Eric N. Shapiro went on to start San Francisco-based ArcTouch — which officially opened its doors in 2009, and has since become one of the top app design and development firms in the U.S.
The duo, who’d each spent time at Apple in the 90s after attending Tufts together, had several late-night “app brainstorms.” Ideas began flowing, and Fingerman vividly recalls a notebook where he logged some of those early ideas.
“It wasn’t quite like that cliché cocktail napkin in a bar, but we definitely were energized by the App Store idea. Suddenly the phone in your pocket had the potential to become a trusted assistant for all things with the right software.” Fingerman says. “We had some brilliant ideas — and some really bad ones — that made it into that notebook.”
Fingerman, now officially the co-founder and chief experience officer of ArcTouch, acknowledges that he and Shapiro weren’t the only ones who saw early opportunity in the App Store. But while many tried building businesses around the promise of paid app downloads, ArcTouch quickly became a trusted consulting company for early clients like Honeywell and Merck, building app-based experiences for their existing products and customers. Fingerman, now officially the co-founder and chief experience officer of ArcTouch, acknowledges that he and Shapiro weren’t the only ones who saw early opportunity in the App Store. But while many tried building businesses around the promise of paid app downloads, ArcTouch quickly became a trusted consulting company for early clients like Honeywell and Merck, building app-based experiences for their existing products and customers.
Fast forward 10 years and ArcTouch has more than 150 team members and a who’s who of clients, including 3M, Tile, Quizlet, Guess, NBC, HP and more. We recently caught up with Fingerman to talk about the trends he’s seeing in mobile, the IoT and beyond.
Mobile has matured a lot since the introduction of the original App Store. From an app design and development point of view, what’s been the biggest change?
The quality and the richness of the experiences. The stores are saturated with millions of apps. To be successful, consumer apps have to be useful, technically sound, and delightful — they have to deliver a rich experience that makes people want to come back. There’s also been a related shift in terms of how companies think about the app lifecycle. An app today is more of a product and less of a marketing campaign. It requires regular “care and feeding.” You have to commit longer term to an app and its lifecycle. That’s why optimization and testing are so important today — if you’re not continually improving your app, you’ll inevitably lose your users.
Some research suggests that consumers are downloading fewer apps these days — what’s ArcTouch’s perspective on this?
Stats like that can be both true and misleading. I’ve seen studies showing the average number of apps a user downloads each month have dropped. But those same studies show we’re spending more time than ever using apps.
The fact is, we as consumers are more dependent than ever on our mobile devices — and the software that powers those devices. And as we continue to see a proliferation of connected devices, the mobile phone is often at the center of those experiences.
So, I don’t buy the idea that we as consumers are growing tired of apps. But I do think we’re tired of bad apps — and our tolerance for a bad user experience is lower than ever.
So, how do you create a great app and position it for long-term growth?
It’s a process — and starts with a sound app strategy, just like any great product. When we conduct a strategy session, we take the app idea and deconstruct it to the very core value proposition. From there, we try to identify the intersection between the business opportunity and the user problem we’re trying to solve. Once we feel like we have a sound business case, we identify the measurable objectives and how we’ll track those over time. We are firm believers in using metrics to guide decision making. That includes prescribing analytics tools like Apptimize that we’ll need to test, measure and optimize app performance after launch. All through the design and development process (see “From Great Idea to Successful App”), those metrics help keep the project and its stakeholders aligned.
You recently said that 2018 will be the year of voice as an interface. Are your clients thinking more in terms of Alexa and Google Home this year than iOS and Android?
No, not necessarily more. There’s a growing continuum of digital experiences that brands can create to engage with their customers — from the web, to traditional mobile and wearables, and now voice platforms like Alexa and Google Home. Obviously Alexa is an example of a voice-first platform — but voice is becoming a more important means of interfacing on all digital platforms. We think this is particularly true on mobile, where touch has historically been the primary interface for information on our devices. We’re becoming more comfortable using voice to activate search and engage with our apps. And Apple’s Siri and the Google Assistant are more open than ever for developers to integrate with their applications. If you think about it, voice has come full-circle on mobile. We actually used to just use our mobile phones to make voice calls. 😉
What other emerging trends do you see when it comes to mobile development?
We think augmented reality (AR) is poised to explode this year. Apple’s ARKit makes it easy for developers to build augmented reality experiences. And unlike virtual reality (VR), AR can be experienced on most smartphones — and with hundreds of millions of devices in the market, that helps the business case for brands interested in creating AR experiences for their customers.
It also doesn’t hurt that Niantic, the developer behind Pokémon Go, announced it’s begun work on a Harry Potter AR game. As that game gets closer to production, it will encourage more brands to reimagine AR experiences they could extend to their customers.
There’s an incredible amount of buzz right now around blockchain — what does this mean for the world of mobile?
Great question — and a tough one to answer in short, but let me try. From a user experience perspective, mobile experiences built on blockchain will result in safer transactions and more trustworthy information. From a development point of view, we think blockchain will be as significant to businesses in the next decade as the mobile revolution has been to the past decade.
With blockchain, applications (including mobile apps) become decentralized — and referred to as DApps. This means millions of users and connected devices can form a network with unhackable and permanent data stores and ledgers. As blockchain developers, we’ve already begun doing some proof-of-concept projects with a few of our enterprise clients, exploring some pretty interesting use cases in areas like digital identity, supply chain, and brand loyalty.
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