Datacolor’s ColorReader devices
Industry
Enterprise and consumer paint-and-coatings
Challenge
Define and develop a connected mobile app (iOS & Android) in just 4 months
Services
Discovery, UX Design, Mobile App Development, API design
Strategy
Put color measurement and analysis in the palm of users’ hands using iterative design and development practices as well as bluetooth and SDK integrations
Results
1MM in new sales opportunities and growing
Timeline
Discovery to iOS and Android app store launch in 4 months

The Challenge

Transforming product definition to MVP in 4 months, with a delightful user experience and connection to an IoT device

When it comes to consumer technology, connectivity is king. The ability to reach a user wherever they may be has become the standard for widely-adopted products. While mobile apps are favored for making a product just a finger-swipe away, they can be challenging to design and develop. Given the saturation of the marketplace, mobile apps have to compete for a user’s phone space and their attention.

Datacolor’s main product lines are physical color meters priced in the neighborhood of $30,000 and bound to a stable surface. Their team wanted to make color measurement and analysis flexible, simple, cost-effective, and fun. Their product team developed a physical hand-held device to sell at just $30, but they still needed a mobile app to competitively capture market share because adoption at-scale would be a question of connectivity.

Your ColorReader is ready

Software development in an enterprise setting is challenging

Due to the characteristics typical of large companies, often the expertise in new technologies doesn’t exist, resources are rarely dedicated, and the weight of institutional processes sinks speed-to-market.

Defining and developing a technically functional mobile app for both iOS and Android in just a few months is an ambitious undertaking in and of itself. To design an engaging user experience that’s connected to a physical device on top of a short development timeline takes the challenge to another level.

With no time to waste in getting their product to market, Datacolor looked for a development partner who could quickly grasp the product strategy and industry domain, design a captivating user experience, and use the latest technologies to launch their product efficiently and effectively.

Our Strategy

Being laser-focused on speed-to-market for the greatest market capture, our product development strategy needed to parallel Datacolor’s ambitious product vision without compromising adoption factors such as quality and usability.

Here’s how we helped Datacolor launch their mobile app and increase sales opportunities in just four months:

1. Aligned understanding and priorities

The Datacolor team had identified as many as 10 different potential use cases from various stakeholders within the company. Trying to develop a product that met all the use cases on the given timeline wasn’t possible, so prioritization would be key in defining the needs for a minimum viable product (MVP).

Discovery process with Datacolor
Plenty of sticky notes are used during the discovery process.

We gathered key stakeholders and started the discussion at a broad, visionary level of product strategy to understand the context and drivers behind the new mobile app. We then dove deeper through the nuts and bolts of requirements and design to get to a detailed picture we felt confident estimating against.

With so much brain power and a diversity of opinions in one place, you can imagine that conversations can be challenging. But getting the team aligned in both definition and expectation early in the development cycle saved hours of time over the course of the project and improved the overall quality of our collaboration. The up-front investment of thorough conversations avoided the much larger cost of miscommunication and missed expectations later in the development cycle when changes are harder (and more expensive) to make.

2. Kept the product vision and business outcomes tightly coupled

Part of our job is to help advise on the technical approach taken when building a product. But products are only valuable when they’re used and help a company improve its business value. Our team deep-dives into the domain area to ensure that we’re making the best possible technical recommendation.

[Their] people aren’t just developers …[they] also rapidly learn their client’s domain…The way in which they’ve solved issues for some of our designs has allowed us to map out our business processes simply and have PromptWorks come back with wireframes. This is truly innovative and exciting to us. They get it and propose solutions that are delighting us as well as our customers.

Brian Levey, VP of Consumer Solutions, Datacolor.

The PromptWorks team included software engineers, design experts, and a business analyst. Business analysts see the vision of a product, the business case, and collaborates closely with the client and engineering team to translate a broad vision into an actionable development plan. As some of the finer points of the development strategy will adapt with new information, the business analyst firmly holds the business objectives as the guiding principles of the project.

We coupled subject-matter knowledge and business analysis with our process to ensure that we moved quickly on product development without getting off-track from the business outcomes the product would drive.

3. Built for sustainability and scale

Companies don’t contract out software development with the expectation that they’ll spend tens of thousands of dollars just to rebuild the same technology in a few years. But it’s never surprising when a client comes to us with a custom tool they outsourced that either needs serious refactoring or a complete rebuild. The reality is that it’s easier to write code for a problem today rather than code that handles future changes–leaving clients with technical debt and compounding interest.

ColorReader reading a color and making a match

Software development is risky. There’s no getting around it. But it is possible to minimize risk by making early investments in the groundwork. Making technical decisions based on sustainability reduces the lifetime cost of a software project.

There are two main factors for how we built a strong software architecture without compromising on the project’s ambitious timeline, making Datacolor’s mobile app easy to maintain and scale.

  1. Picking the best-fit technology.
  2. Process-driven design and development practices.

The right tech–React Native

Native mobile app development is a time-consuming endeavor. Expertise with iOS and Android require specialized skillsets that makes talent difficult to find and expensive to retain. It also means keeping separate environments, each with their own codebase, that can bloat a budget and slow development.

Rather than build in these native languages and maintain two separate codebases, we picked React Native because it enabled us to build once and deploy on multiple platforms. This one aspect of the technology saved tens of thousands of lines of code and many engineering hours on the project–both today and in the future.

React Native is also becoming a more popular approach because of its robust developer community and the general popularity of Javascript. This meant it would also be easier and less costly for Datacolor to build a team to take over the project upon completion.

ColorReader suggesting coordinated colors

Standards baked into the process

Delightful user experience design and code quality don’t need to fall into the “nice-to-have” column. Though standards and best practices may sound like too much overhead for projects that need to ship quickly, following them doesn’t have to drag down the speed of development.

People-driven design

Starting with an iterative, user-centric design approach our UX/UI designer combined human-centered design practices with lean product development methods to get the most learning for the least resource investment. Using iterations allows ideas to take shape at a measured pace so that the product can be tested and refined without heading too far in any one direction. Datacolor was able to review each iteration and evaluate if the product was meeting expectations and reset priorities.

Code quality

Our engineers used test-driven development, pair programming, continuous delivery and integration, and regular code reviews to ensure the quality and cleanliness of the codebase. By baking quality-control practices directly into our process, it’s part of the engineering culture at PromptWorks.

Being part of the routine makes the rigor of standards achievable, and it keeps project delivery timely. The attention to detail didn’t impact the 4-month timeline, and Datacolor ultimately had a solid software foundation to build upon.

Datacolor’s Results

Within 4 months, Datacolor had taken their idea from an abstract concept to a ready-to-demo digital product. Within 3 months of completion, Datacolor had already tracked $1MM in sales opportunities and was looking to grow the business line to $20MM.

Starting with Discovery, the PromptWorks and Datacolor teams came to shared understanding on the product vision early and collaborated often throughout the development process. This early understanding established clear expectations before development to avoid costly misunderstandings later in the process and improve the quality of collaboration.

…the latest version of the app is a dream to demo and use. Very simple and elegant.

Brian Levey, VP of Consumer Solutions, Datacolor.

Including a business analyst on the development team kept the product vision and business outcomes tightly coupled. We used a maintainable and scalable development strategy using React Native for the software architecture; and a culture of iterative, user-centric design practices, code standards and quality control made it so that Datacolor didn’t have to choose between quality and speed.

With this approach, Datacolor was able to launch their MVP on time as well as extend functionality with ongoing iterations in collaboration with PromptWorks.

Not only did the mobile app bring value in sales opportunities, it also changed how Datacolor thought about software development as a whole, “We no longer think in terms of 18-month software cycles but rather three or four months.” Brian Levey, VP of Consumer Solutions, Datacolor.