In this dig­i­tally-sat­u­rated world, de­sign forms the ar­chi­tec­ture of our daily lives. But its im­por­tance goes be­yond aes­thet­ics – it changes the prof­itabil­ity of com­pa­nies. Here, dig­i­tal prod­uct agency Roam tells Find­lay Buchanan why great de­sign can pay

Idealog - - IDEALOGY / ROAM -

Roam fuses well-crafted de­sign with tech­nol­ogy to cre­ate mo­bile and web ap­pli­ca­tions for mul­ti­ple busi­nesses. Its cre­ation dates back to 2013, when mem­bers of ri­val mo­bile agen­cies, Roam co-founders Ben Mor­reau and Chris Moore, joined forces to fo­cus on mo­bile ap­pli­ca­tions.

Four years on, the pair has moved from the mo­bile app space into a mul­ti­fac­eted de­sign-led tech­nol­ogy com­pany that de­liv­ers dig­i­tal prod­ucts for its clients. The team has pro­gressed from five em­ploy­ees, to a squad of 75 with arms in Auck­land and Syd­ney.

Roam boasts clients such as Ebay, ASB, The Ware­house Group and more. Roam’s suc­cess comes at a time when in a mod­ern world be­witched by tech­nol­ogy, prod­ucts and ser­vices have forged into in­tan­gi­ble, in­dis­pens­able forms.

Mo­bile pen­e­tra­tion con­tin­ues to grow glob­ally and here in New Zealand, smart­phone own­er­ship is ex­pected to reach 90 per­cent this year. Those fig­ures are bound to grow and while busi­ness is con­tin­u­ously up­rooted by dig­i­tal dis­rup­tion, dig­i­tal de­sign has never been more crit­i­cal.

Dig­i­tal de­sign is the ar­chi­tect of our daily lives. The rise of user ex­pe­ri­ence de­sign has meant the dig­i­tal world has man­i­fested into so­cial and busi­ness prac­tices. Whether it’s trans­porta­tion net­works such as Zoomy or small busi­ness own­ers us­ing ASB Plus, dig­i­tal de­sign has be­come the cor­ner­stone to day-to-day life.

It’s the for­ward think­ing dig­i­tal de­sign prac­tise and tech­nol­ogy up­take that un­der­pins Roam, which aims to help busi­nesses har­ness a pro­gres­sively mo­bilised world. Although many are un­fa­mil­iar with the dig­i­tal in­fra­struc­ture that builds mo­bile and web app ser­vices, we are all fa­mil­iar with the im­pli­ca­tions of good and bad de­sign.

Here, Lu­cas Coelho head of de­sign, and Ben Mor­reau, chief de­sign of­fi­cer and co-founder, dis­cuss how Roam has built up its im­pres­sive port­fo­lio and how in­te­grated de­sign can pro­vide a great re­turn for busi­nesses.

The i mpor­tance of di­ver­sity

It might not look like it now, but Roam be­gan as a team of five em­ploy­ees who worked out of a shared space in Auck­land’s CBD.

Mor­reau says the busi­ness started by tap­ping into a gap in the mar­ket: the mo­bile ap­pli­ca­tion space. Since then, Roam has trans­formed into a global tech­nol­ogy com­pany that pro­vides dig­i­tal prod­ucts for its large ros­ter of clients.

“By de­liv­er­ing dig­i­tal prod­ucts, we end up de­sign­ing and build­ing com­plete so­lu­tions for our cus­tomers, en­sur­ing our qual­ity of work isn’t just con­tained to a sin­gle com­po­nent of a prod­uct ex­pe­ri­ence,” he says.

Ac­cord­ing to Mor­reau, Roam’s key points of dis­tinc­tion is its ethos – that the power of de­sign en­hances people's lives, as well as pri­ori­tis­ing user needs to achieve busi­ness out­comes.

“We’re also unique be­cause of our

The chang­ing busi­ness l and­scape of beau­ti­fully de­signed ex­pe­ri­ences means that cus­tomers are pri­ori­tis­ing a good ex­pe­ri­ence over a cheap one. The bat­tle for cus­tomers i s no l onger fought over price, but over ex­pe­ri­ence.

tech­ni­cal IP and our in­cred­i­bly di­verse and tal­ented tech team, who ex­e­cute on our de­sign vi­sion. It’s one thing to de­sign a beau­ti­ful ex­pe­ri­ence, it’s another to bring it to life to that same stan­dard.”

Di­ver­sity is a val­ued trait for Roam in both its team and its de­sign process. Aside from the de­sign dis­ci­plines of user ex­pe­ri­ence de­sign, user in­ter­face de­sign, in­ter­ac­tion de­sign and ser­vice de­sign, Coelho says it’s im­por­tant to look out­side of the in­dus­try and into phi­los­o­phy, psy­chol­ogy and other so­ci­o­log­i­cal fields, such as be­havioural eco­nomics, to seek in­spi­ra­tion.

Roam also main­tains a vast range of clients, from ASB through to fash­ion brands like Su­perette. Coelho says the key to cre­at­ing good de­sign for each brand is be­ing hon­est. He also notes that each brand has its own per­son­al­ity, vi­sion and prob­lems to solve and that it is isn’t a one-size-fits-all ap­proach.

“That's why one brand does not speak or look like one another, they are liv­ing chang­ing be­ings with per­son­al­ity, like us. That's how we con­nect with brands, per­ceiv­ing them as a hu­man en­tity.”

While Roam con­tin­ues to grow, the search for tal­ent in the New Zealand mar­ket has been tough. The com­puter sys­tem de­sign sub-sec­tor has been cited by Im­mi­gra­tion New Zealand as the strong­est driver of growth in the IT sec­tor, as well as hav­ing clear is­sues with job va­can­cies. To counter the is­sue, Roam sup­ports the ‘No De­gree No Prob­lem’ cam­paign.

Mor­reau says: “We pre­fer to fo­cus on their drive, their pas­sion, and whether they’ve got the smarts to do well in their re­spec­tive field. It’s dif­fer­ent per dis­ci­pline, but the soft skills are re­ally how we eval­u­ate whether we in­vest in emerg­ing tal­ent or not.”

Why good de­sign equals dol­lars

The chang­ing and com­pet­i­tive land­scape of busi­ness has also meant user ex­pe­ri­ence (UX) de­sign and other forms of dig­i­tal de­sign im­pact hugely on bot­tom line prof­itabil­ity for busi­nesses.

A study con­ducted by UX Mas­tery sug­gests the com­pa­nies who have in­vested the most in UX saw sales in­crease by 75 per­cent. The claim is backed by fig­ures re­ported by Telepa­thy, which says 89 per­cent of con­sumers pur­chase from a com­peti­tor fol­low­ing a poor cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence.

Coelho em­pha­sises the im­por­tance of user ex­pe­ri­ence de­sign: “We put the user at the cen­ter of our de­ci­sions and our prod­uct prin­ci­ples and when you solve a prob­lem for a per­son, they will re­turn to you.”

He later al­ludes to people hav­ing a favourite cof­fee shop as an ex­am­ple of the im­por­tance of user ex­pe­ri­ence. He says the loy­alty to our favourite cof­fee shop is based on ex­pe­ri­ence, which en­cour­ages people to stick with their favourite brands and prod­ucts.

“It does not mat­ter if you have a beau­ti­ful brand­ing strat­egy and a good look­ing app or prod­uct if it’s not solv­ing a real prob­lem and pro­vid­ing a good user ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Coelho says good dig­i­tal de­sign is cru­cial in this fast-mov­ing sec­tor.

“The chang­ing busi­ness land­scape of beau­ti­fully de­signed ex­pe­ri­ences means that cus­tomers are pri­ori­tis­ing a good ex­pe­ri­ence over a cheap one. The bat­tle for cus­tomers is no longer fought over price, but over ex­pe­ri­ence,” he says.

Coelho points to a case study, where Roam re­built and re­designed the Tradera mo­bile app na­tively. He says the new app in­te­grated fea­tures to en­hance user ex­pe­ri­ence and de­liv­ered tech­ni­cal sta­bil­ity.

“The net re­sult was their app store rat­ing shot up to 4.8 stars, their users grew from 700,000 to over one mil­lion, and they have con­firmed their sales from mo­bile are back in growth, which was di­rectly con­tributable to their im­proved bot­tom line po­si­tion.”

Cou­pled with in­no­va­tive de­sign tech­niques is the ne­ces­sity to em­ploy emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies. MBIE re­cently re­leased a re­port that in­cen­tivises Kiwi busi­nesses, people and gov­ern­ments to boost in­no­va­tion and pro­duc­tiv­ity through a thriv­ing dig­i­tal econ­omy. From AR/VR to blockchain, tech­nol­ogy up­take has been ubiq­ui­tous to mod­ern day pro­gres­sive busi­ness mod­els.

It’s a ve­hi­cle for Roam’s suc­cess and Mor­reau shares his thoughts on prospec­tive up­take. He says blockchain will move be­yond the hype of cur­ren­cies and into a broader busi­ness sense, while AI will con­tinue to be pre­v­e­lant in all cor­ners of busi­ness.

“We’re also ex­cited by AR Kit be­ing in­tro­duced into iOS11. By mak­ing AR de­vel­op­ment ac­ces­si­ble across their de­vices run­ning iOS11 and up it’s go­ing to make AR a far eas­ier ex­pe­ri­ence to de­velop for which should im­prove its like­li­hood for user adop­tion.”

Ben Mor­reau (left) and Lu­cas Coelho.

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