Evolution of an App

The road from concept to creation of technology is always a bumpy one. We, at Talos, had no trouble hitting the potholes and train tracks while developing RDV, a mobile application that helps you discover the here and now. Along the way, RDV hit some snags and some growth spurts and eventually ended the year as the application we always dreamed it would be. 

I’d like to take you on a journey of our last year with RDV, what has changed and what we learned.

(L) Brandon's original sketch of the RDV logo, (R) an intermediary logo designed by Emma.

(L) Brandon's original sketch of the RDV logo, (R) an intermediary logo designed by Emma.

If you start with some very lofty goals and add a large dose of reality, you'll be precisely where we found ourselves at the start of this year, needing to complete a total overhaul and simplification of our first mobile application. But, despite the challenges and setbacks, the overhaul produced exactly what we wanted: a new application that puts the social back in media and connects users with exciting things happening in their here and now, no advertisements allowed. Ever. 

The evolution of our application has streamlined many aspects, potentially none more drastic than the application's functionality. This isn’t to say that we lost important features or that we don’t have plans to expand the feature set in future updates because we certainly do. But, with a little nudging from our developers at JAKT, we landed on RDV 1.0 that is incredibly simple and, more importantly, incredibly useful.

(L-R) The two year design evolution of the RDV feed.

(L-R) The two year design evolution of the RDV feed.

We kept the original feed display but downsized our filters to toggle on here, now, or both. This means the user can decide to view posts based on location (near them), time (most recent), or both. They can also view location-based posts in our heat map feature. There is a post function (allowing only photos taken in the here and now or plain text), a simple profile screen, and settings that complete the application. Striping our old design of groups, lengthy profiles, and post privacy settings means that RDV 1.0 is ready to achieve the highest possible functionality with the least amount of user confusion.

The original turquoise theme has been left behind, owing to problems with readability, something I cried a tear over and then moved on to embrace the new bold purple color while trying not to remind myself of past NYU days. RDV will be hard to miss, standing in contrast to the blue giants of social media, namely Facebook and Twitter. 

One of our main goals from the beginning was to set ourselves apart visually from other applications. This was the original concept behind a main sidebar in the first versions of the design. One important lesson we learned on this app making journey? Most applications look similar not because they want to, but because they have to. Our developers and coders at JAKT kindly told us that the sidebar we wanted just wasn't feasible, so we went back to the design board. To take a traditional feed and make it better, we found it really came down to the post function.

JAKT had some invaluable input on how to make the post function really stand out, and the overlay text boxes, color background options, and full screen display make an RDV post unlike any other. My favorite feature? The camera function does not let you pull from your photo library, forcing the user to be in the here and the now. Relevant posting, commence!

And one of our biggest lessons? Simplify, and then simplify some more. Not just in concept but also in design.

(L) The first RDV app icon, (R) the final RDV app icon you'll find in the Apple Store next week.

(L) The first RDV app icon, (R) the final RDV app icon you'll find in the Apple Store next week.

After journeying from the first iteration of our logo to the final geometric app icon, our branding is now ready to play in the big leagues. The first logo was overdesigned and far too complicated for effective, consistent branding across all devices. Our final simplified RDV "spike" is derived from the original logo concept and a quickly identifiable icon, making our brand unique and easy to recognize.

The final thing we've learned is that you can’t be too prepared, so we’ve already began cooking up the 2.0 feature set. A few things on the docket for RDV 2.0: patterned post backgrounds, user-to-user communication tools, and expansion beyond New York City's five boroughs. RDV will be available in the Apple app store in early December, and we encourage you to download and give it a spin. Just search RDV and look for the spike. There shouldn't be any problems, but if you do run into one, check yourself for broken bones first and then send us an email right away. We can't wait to meet our users and continue down the application evolutionary road.

Now that we have RDV development in the final week, we are turning our attention to finding and securing a strong user base and marketing our venture. Launching it off right, we will host an event at one of lower Manhattan's hottest watering holes and also at one of Brooklyn's greatest hideouts.

To sign up for our newsletter and event invites, go to www.rdv.io

(And to see the evolution of apps like Airbnb and Uber, check out UX Timeline for some 2010 mobile design hilarity.)