Much of my work at frog is covered by client confidentiality agreements, which prohibit me disclosing many details of my contributions in a public forum. The projects talked about here have been released into the wild or have been scrubbed to remove any mention of proprietary or confidential information.

Nokia Ovi Store

Completed
Winter of 2009

The Problem

How do you compete with the Apple App Store and Google Marketplace on your mobile platform when they have such a huge head start and your first version of your app store is called a "complete disaster" by Techcrunch?

The Solution

Do some soul-searching about who you are as a company, then use that knowledge to differentiate and innovate.

The Process

A large part of the initial work was understanding, internally and with our stakeholders, what made the Nokia Ovi Store different than its competitors and how its first version failed to meet the expectations of the market and its customers.

Nokia already had its first version of the app store and it was a dud. This version suffered from many deficiencies, including slow rendering, a crippled browsing experience, and a marginalization of the user experience to the lowest common denominator phone platform.

I, along with my colleagues at frog, devised a strategy and positioning statement that encouraged Nokia to win the hearts and minds of a worldwide audience through unique experiences no other app store had done.

Nailing the Basics

Much of the first few weeks with Nokia was spent level-setting performance benchmarks for what determined "good user experience". Like many companies, Nokia was first focused on features. I spent a lot of time with stakeholders convincing them to nail the basics first before moving on to more adventurous features. Make sure scrolling, searching, downloading, installing, and consuming were pitch-perfect. The toughest problem was optimizing the purchase process to remove barriers and make the most streamlined flow in the system. Partnering with product management, I advocated purchase flows through operator billing, so no credit card (or huge credit card form) was required.

My job throughout the program was to make sure development understood those benchmarks and standards of good experience were being expressed and solving those technology issues preventing good user experience metrics from being achieved.

Content-first approach

After level-setting, I focused on content and metadata. The Ovi Store's catalog was growing in volume and quality. I knew we needed to focus on a system that surfaced quality relevant apps and content without the need of strict editorial control while also facilitating a casual browse experience that was fun to explore. I advocated for a content structure that leveraged all types of data beyond the strictly taxonomical: how much resources did it suck from the phone, what were my friends saying about it, and how was it trending in number of downloads compared to other content items (to name just a few).

Ovi Content Strategy

Browsing interaction architecture

The browsing interaction needed to also facilitate this new content discovery structure. I advocated for infinite lists of content that kept refreshing, targeted related content structures when viewing a title, and the surfacing of content that went beyond mere popularity, as the Apple App Store and Google Marketplace did.

Refined look

The visual design of Ovi Store version 1 lacked polish, feeling, and a clear system of how objects existed in the system. I, along with a group of visual designers, explored many directions that combined novel interactions with fluidity and aimed for greater emotional connection. We looked at pushing the boundaries of the sometimes conservative Finnish company in order to bring forth tough conversations about injecting feeling and life into the visual design. While the more wild design directions were not selected as the final direction for the Ovi Store redesign, they did help inform a fresh, clean look that greatly improved on the previous design.

Ovi Glamor Shot

Performance and responsiveness

Many of the most important discussions I had on the project happened when I was sitting in backend architecture meetings, listening to developers express their assumptions about the metadata required or the way content was surfaced. Course-correcting before writing a line of code saved valuable time, effort, and money and solidified my role as a trusted partner to Nokia.

I morphed my role from designer to quality assurance engineer during the last few weeks of the project. I continually tested scenarios on fresh builds of the Ovi Store on what was then a prototype version of the N8 smartphone. Using some of my game show host emcee skills, I made engaging videos of me using the interim builds and talking about the issues I saw. This helped communicate the design challenges to a set of stakeholders across the globe from my tiny cubicle in Vancouver, BC.

The Result

A huge win for the Nokia / frog partnership in the press and from the design community. Such a huge win for frog, they wrote a case study about the experience.

Press accolades

The release of the new Ovi Store was lauded throughout the traditional and new-media press and downloads have been skyrocketing ever since launch.

  • The Handheld Blog: "One of the new things that the N8 brings is a completely revamped Ovi Store which offers a much more pleasing experience that not only makes finding content easier, also makes sure that you don't have to go through hoops trying to download an application."
  • Mobiletor: "Well with the new look and features, the Nokia Ovi Store might just offer formidable competition to other app stores in the mobile terrain."
  • Nokia Experts: "I have been purchasing apps from the Ovi Store and do feel it is now good enough for me to enjoy and use on a regular basis." (On a side note, one of my favorite comments reads "I was personally positively surprised that Store does not suck in N8." Success!)

Awards

The Nokia Ovi Store was selected as an IDEA 2011 Finalist in the interactive category.

tv Chatter

Completed
Summer of 2010

The Need

How do encourage live television watching in the age of TiVo and the DVR while taking advantage of modern technology?

The Solution

Make a premier social networking app leveraging a large online community to connect people on the TV they love across many platforms. We called this application tvChatter.

tvChatter Glamor Shot

The first version of tvChatter was just an iPhone application. My job as lead interaction designer was to extend tvChatter to an entire ecosystem and to make sure the heart and soul of tvChatter was manifested in all the parts of the ecosystem. tvChatter became a web application, native iPhone application, and web-hosted iPad application.

In addition, many innovative features were imagined and concepted through the eight week engagement, such as viewing parties (private Tweeting parties to avoid Tweet-stream pollution) and Tweet theatre (a focused sit-back consumption experience with little interaction). The web application version of Tweet theatre is shown below.

tvChatter Tweet Theatre

The sketchy spec process allowed for quick turnaround to the development team for implementation within their agile sprints. An example spec is shown below.

tvChatter example spec

Improvements to the iPhone app to bring more in line with the iPhone interaction style and allow for better control was also introduced in this phase of work. You can tell it's my work because my Twitter name is in the comps. ;)

tvChatter 2 Stream tvChatter 2 Show Pages

The Result

An entertaining, engaging television watching experience well received by media such as Gigaom and Fast Company.

tvChatter with TV and Computer

Social Connected Phone

Completed
Fall of 2009

The Challenge

In late 2008, frog was approached by a global handset maker to create an entry-level smartphone concept for a youth demographic. The challenge was to concept and design a touchscreen phone that combined the social tenets that the phone manufacturer wanted with the requirements from the carrier.

The Solution

A phone that was backed by a rigorous spec deliverable that highlighted recommended enhancements to the carrier spec while authoring in a style that allowed an offshore engineering team to implement the design.

First, I created a list of "most important" flows and compared the carrier's suggested implementation to our proposed flow. This was to get agreement from the stakeholders where the majority of our time should be spent for each area of the phone.

Social connected phone example overview

Then, I demonstrated each of the flows while talking about various transitions and highlighting specific changes to the carrier spec. This allowed us to effectively communicate the design to an offshore development team.

Social connected phone example flow

Finally, I wrote specific details about each of the screens, including variant states, interaction points, and connections to other specs. This allowed the handset maker to effectively communicate the reasoning behind the changes and to facilitate trust between the handset maker and carrier.

Social connected phone example spec

My year-long work on Social Connected Phone extends well past what is talked about on my public portfolio. However, the work is protected by client confidentiality agreements which creates a boundary as to what can be shared.

Enterprise iPad app

Completed
Spring of 2011

The Need

A way to bring some sexiness to the realm of human capital management.

The Solution

An iPad app focused on leveraging the uniqueness of the platform to bring an engaging experience to a staid task. Again, my work extends well past what is talked about on my public portfolio. The work is protected by client confidentiality agreements.