Apps We’re Loving

As a mobile development company, it should come as no surprise that Prolific’s employees spend a lot of time on their phones. In between weekly meetings and brainstorming sessions to design and build the best apps out there, the team is always on the lookout for other standout apps on the market today. This round of Apps We’re Loving features the Yahoo Weather app, PackPoint and har.mo.ny!

YAHOO WEATHER

Reviewed by Al Harnisch, Product Strategist

The Yahoo Weather app for Android combines usability, convenience and visual appeal to deliver a one-of-a-kind user experience that goes way beyond checking the temperature.

When you check the weather for a certain city, the app pulls in a picture from Flickr that matches the region (ie: Brooklyn) AND matches the actual weather as best as possible. I recorded myself using the app around dusk at the Prolific office in DUMBO, so you can see in the app a dusky Manhattan skyline view!

As you move down the screen, the background blurs out and there are subtle animations and places to interact. All of this happens while the app seamlessly delivers on its core focus – the weather. You can also move the widgets around to prioritize things you like and have those appear higher up.

The app also responds well to location changes. As I switch to Saratoga Springs (where Phish played this summer, no less), the background picture and all of the corresponding data update to reflect dusk on a clear night in Saratoga Springs.

 

PACKPOINT

Reviewed by Kevin Bui, Business Development Manager

As Prolific’s business development manager, I am constantly traveling for work and spending a lot of my time in hotels and airports. Because I’m traveling so often, packing items for my trip can become cumbersome and I always seem to forget something. This is why I use PackPoint.

PackPoint tells you what you need to pack for your trip based on your length of travel, weather of your destination, and activities you have planned. Once you have inputed all of this information, the app curates a list of suggested items that you can manually edit.

PackPoint allows you to input items that you want to pack when they don’t appear on the list, and edit the quantity of those items (ex. Work shirts, pants, umbrella, etc.)

This app is great as it allows me to pack all of the essentials for my trips, which saves a lot of time, stress, and interaction with the TSA!

 

HAR.MO.NY

Reviewed by Kenya Stewart, Software Engineer

har.mo.ny is a visually-appealing puzzler that challenges you to rearrange color blocks back into their original color palette.

Each block contains a dot that indicates the number of times the block can be moved. Blocks can only be moved vertically or horizontally via swaps.

The app certainly lives up to its name: the color palettes are harmoniously hand-crafted, the sound effects are harmonious and there’s harmonized ambient music that plays in the background. The music arrangements even coincide with the style and feel of the color scheme.

Over 1000 levels are available, and each level can contain anywhere between 3 – 10 different colors.

The app also offers an undo feature that serves to help you rewind and backtrack faulty moves. 20 undos can be purchased for $.99, while you can get 100 for $2.99, 1000 for $7.99 and unlimited undos for $11.99. Alternatively, you can just skip them altogether and simply restart the level. Having to start from scratch actually adds to the challenge of each level and helps to build your game strategy.

Harmony keeps my attention because the aesthetic is clean, simple and pleasing. The objective is also very simple, but progressively challenging.

  • Bailey Bennett

Right Back At It Again


A lot has changed for me since I interned for Prolific last summer. For starters, I graduated college and dyed my hair. But, I’m not the only one who has changed in 52 “sprints.” After spending last summer as a marketing intern, I returned this year to find that they have undergone some drastic changes as well. To start off my first day of work in the “real” world, I walked to the old Prolific office on Washington St., expecting to enter the familiar environment I had grown used to. As I was standing outside the door, I smelled the familiar scent of rich and bold coffee, but couldn’t find the blue sticker with a fluent “P” on it. At that moment, I knew I walked to the wrong office: old habits are hard to break.

Old vs. New

Upon my arrival to the right office, I found the team had grown to nearly 40 people, doubling that of which I was working with a year ago. After about 30 minutes of staring at the company website memorizing new faces and names, I realized that the company I had gotten so familiar with last summer has grown in more ways than one. The projects are much bigger and this “small start-up” should no longer be called that. Fortunately, change is never a negative word for Prolific, as the passion to develop innovative and impressive products will always remain the same. Plus, there are plenty of signs of the old Prolific that still endure: Jaclyn’s scrumptious baked goods, the copious amounts of Red Bull cans scattered around the engineers’ desks, Pat’s very faded Quinnipiac t-shirt on his chair, the “standing” desks, Joe’s award-winning beard, Pauly’s Brooklyn Roasting Company cans stacked on his desk, and the kegerator.

I didn’t have to think twice about coming back to work full-time at Prolific after graduation, even if that meant taking a break from binge-watching Game of Thrones. Last summer was a rewarding experience for me both professionally and personally. Prolific is filled with a desire to learn and to grow, which makes for the most perfect and ideal work place one can find.

An Offer I Couldn’t Refuse

When Prolific told me they wanted to hire me as a Project Manager, I was thrilled but a little confused. My responsibilities as an intern last summer were completely different from the responsibilities I would have in this new role. But, out of desperation to come back to Prolific, I decided to take it and signed my offer letter that day. I knew that because this role was new to both Prolific and myself, we’d be learning together and defining how projects should be managed as a team. I wanted to learn the ins and outs of an app and take advantage of my PM role to understand how it all comes together.

I’ve noticed that as the digital and mobile industries are constantly changing, Prolific is always adapting to new trends. Because of this, I’m learning something new every day from the projects I’m working on and the people I’m working with. Still, I know there’s so much learning to be done. In just a short month (and 2 months last summer), I have realized how important learning and adapting is to Prolific, and I want to continue to grow with them. I can only imagine what my future has in store for me as ProlificSahithi.

  • Sahithi Akula

UX & Other Extreme Sports

“Testing is like having friends visiting from out of town. Inevitably, as you make the tourist rounds with them, you see things about your home town that you usually don’t notice because you’re so used to them. And at the same time, you realize that a lot of things that you take for granted aren’t obvious to everybody.”

           –Steve Krug on usability testing

As a UX designer at Prolific, I understand this feeling all too well. Since I started here, I have been able to dive right into what user experience is all about: putting our product in front of our users in order to learn about them through frequent user testing. I have also had the pleasure of sharing that process with the rest of the team. However, this is not something I would have ever imagined myself doing a year ago.

Tackling the Great Unknown

This past May, I quit my job in consulting to pursue a career in user experience design. It may have seemed sudden to some, but in reality the decision (or series of decisions, I should say) had been a couple of years in the making. Nonetheless, it was terrifying. I felt like I had just jumped off a cliff without knowing what lay beneath, clinging to the hope that I’d be able to survive through sheer will. But I didn’t want to be governed by my fear of the unknown. So I took the leap.

After fully immersing myself in the world of user experience design by way of General Assembly’s full-time UX design course, I started to look for job opportunities that would continue to feed my design education. I constantly fielded the question, “I know you want to be a UX designer, but what specifically are you looking for?” This was always a struggle for me to answer, since choosing UX design was already a significant narrowing of choices for me. To go even deeper beyond that seemed like a whole new level for which I wasn’t ready. I really wanted to be able to say, “I’m looking for a startup of about 7 people that is doing cool things in the Uber-for-gondolas space,” but I just couldn’t. I didn’t have enough experience in tech to know for sure. Anything I thought I believed about my preferences would have been pure speculation.

In reality, I was looking for three things:

  1. 1. Awesome people that I could happily have lunch (or a beer) with.
  2. 2. An environment in which to learn and grow as a UX designer.
  3. 3. A mission I could stand behind.

Suffice it to say that I found that at Prolific.

Focusing on the People

There is only so much you can glean from a couple of interviews. Sometimes you just have to go with your intuition, but even in a couple of scattered hours over the course of a week, I had a feeling that I was in the company of some pretty great people, and that’s always been one of the most important things to me. I knew I would be able to have the support of other designers while still helping to define and shape the role of UX at the company. We’re all just figuring it out, and I think that’s the best way to learn.

I’ve always had a fascination with technology’s potential and, simultaneously, a fear of technology taking over all of humanity (I think I watched too much anime as a kid). I believe that innovations in the mobile space are headed in the right direction when it comes to integrating technology into people’s lives in a non-intrusive, Spike-Jonze’s-Her way. That’s really what brought me to UX design in the first place. How can we make technology work for people, rather than the other way around? We’re all just at the beginning of figuring that out, and I’m so curious to find out where we can go from here.

Bringing it All Together

It’s been a month since I joined Prolific, and it has been quite a ride already. It’s been exciting and fast-paced but not overwhelmingly so. I have never worked in an environment where an entire team of diverse roles is so closely aligned on what is going on within the project. It truly feels like a collaboration, and this includes the client as well. It has been great to work so closely with them. It feels like we are all in it together. Such a partnership means that we can focus on what’s best for the people who will be using our product.

I’ll end with one more quote because I’m just not eloquent enough to say it myself:

“When you’ve made the leap and you’re far from shore, nothing is guaranteed, but we do it together and that’s what makes it worth it.” – Elle Luna

I’m so happy I made that leap.

  • Christine Lee

“If the table moves, move with it.” : Mobile Media Summit 2014

The day began with some very impressive stats. In a dimly-lit auditorium, surrounded by bright, glowing screens and projections, Mobile Media Summit’s CEO and Founder Paran Johar prepped the conference’s audience for a day of mobile-focused talks and panels by spouting out the latest statistics on the industry: 33% of holiday sales will come from mobile shopping this year, TMZ reports that 74.3% of their traffic now comes from mobile, and the share of time an adult spends on their mobile device vs. other devices has risen from 3.7% to 23.3% within the last four years, to name a few.

Although stats like this can often vary from source to source, the sentiment behind them is clear: mobile is here, and it’s not going anywhere. This idea remained evident throughout the summit, shaping every panel and discussion in some way. The day was filled with presentations from executives at mobile and technology companies from all corners of the industry, from Razorfish and DigitasLBi to OpenX and MediaVest. Although the conference focused mainly on mobile advertising and marketing, the talks provided many take-aways for those of us on the product side as well.

The morning keynote introduced some of the most obvious game-changing trends in the mobile space right now: the growing size of smartphone screens and the induction of Apple Pay and NFC into more mainstream commerce. With the release of the iPhone 6 Plus, they discussed, comes higher engagement and conversion rates from the larger screen, Apple’s announcement of new ad formats, and more opportunity for the size to appeal to the older generation, as well as the younger. Additionally, Apple Pay paves the road for growth of the payment industry, as well as a shake-up in the current PayPal/Venmo ecosystem.

Within just a few minutes, it became clear to everyone in the audience that each shifting piece in the mobile industry, no matter how small or large, has the ability to move many pieces around it as well, forcing the mobile playing field to remain open and ever-changing with each new innovation. But, as CEO of Neo@Ogilvy Sean Muzzy put it, “If the table moves, move with it.” For him, and for most of the executives and speakers present at the conference, the growing and changing mobile industry simply presents a great opportunity for growth for every start-up, agency and company who wants a piece of that mobile pie.

The rest of the conference proved successful in showing just how today’s mobile and tech companies are keeping up with the times. Panel topics included less “obvious” focuses than the giant iPhone screen, like programmatic buying, location-based analytics, the rise and fall of banner ads, and the connection between mobile advertising and offline purchases. Although topics were varied, many speakers expressed similar points about the power of mobile. As the device that most of us carry around in our pockets (and won’t leave home without), smartphones are increasingly becoming the most personal and intimate way for brands to interact directly with their customers. Therefore, advertisers, marketers, product designers and everyone in between must increasingly attempt to provide value to that customer by learning as much as they can about their behavior through that mobile device. This new and improved targeting makes it possible to reach customers at precisely the right time, in the right place, in the right way to convince them to enter a store, tune in to a television program, or make an online purchase.

Getting the customer to take that final step can be the hardest part. As Duncan McCall of PlaceIQ and Charles Fiordalis of Media Storm explained in their talk “Going Where No Media Measurement Has Gone Before,” “intent is not conversion.” Purchases left by a customer in your app’s shopping cart don’t translate into revenue for a retailer. Therefore, although mobile is quickly becoming one of the most powerful tools in our arsenal for connecting with the customer, the summit speakers stressed that this must be done correctly in order for customers to follow through. The conference was the perfect jumping-off point for thinking about these issues and discussing them with the like-minded, forward-thinking minds of New York’s current mobile scene.

  • Bailey Bennett

Adventures at a Swift Hack Day

Last weekend, I had the chance to drop by a fun and helpful Swift Hack Day event hosted at GitHub headquarters. Swift is the new language announced at WWDC 2014 that developers will use to create mobile apps on all iOS devices– so it’s new to everyone and it’s an exciting time!

Time for some Swift!

The event kicked off with an introductory talk by Natasha the Robot, who writes a lot of other helpful Swift-related blog posts. The event was packed with iOS developers, so the material was well-tailored for people already familiar with Objective-C.

(The material was also well-tailored for fans of the Despicable Me movies!)

Standing-room-only in the speaker area!

She covered new aspects like how to use optionals:

if let actualNumber = possibleNumber.toInt() {
  println("\(possibleNumber) has an integer value of \(actualNumber)")
} else {
  println("\(possibleNumber) could not be converted to an integer")
}

or Downcasting, helpful when you want to divide objects by subclass:

for employee in prolificEmployees {
  if let developer = employee as? Developer {
    println("\(developer.name) programs in \(developer.language)")
  } else if let designer = employee as? Designer {
    println("\(designer.name) designs using \(designer.approach)")
  }
}

Those are just two quick examples, but she also went through how to use Playgrounds, setting default parameters for your methods, type inference, and using tuples in switch-case statements. There was a lot of material, but it was presented very well.

Now, these new things about Swift save a few lines here and there, and but are they enough to justify a new language? That’s a big question that probably only time will tell. But, either way, Apple has thrown its weight behind the language for now. And that’s enough for most people.

Eventually, it came time for some hacking. I spent basically the whole day working through the new Swift by Tutorials book from the fine folks at RayWenderlich.com. It really covers a lot of Swift concepts in-depth, and it’s always good to work through an example piece-by-piece.

As with the best of these events, the biggest takeaway was the collaboration between everyone there. No matter their day job (at big companies, small companies, rival companies, freelance, whatever), everyone was there to learn, experiment, and help each other.

I’ve never liked the myth of the lone genius hacker working in some dark basement on some secret project. If a language like Swift is going to take off and be used for projects that really matter and make the world a better place, a spirit of collaboration and sharing knowledge/practices across the usual boundaries is going to be key.

Besides, it was fun to spend some time working at the GitHub office over the weekend. Octocats everywhere!

Notice the octocat seal :]

  • Matt Luedke