What evidence can you share that demonstrates the impact of the engagement?
Even though we are a national governing body for a sport and we are part of that Olympic movement, we have never done a lot of tracking and analytics at that grassroots level. This has allowed us to see into what is going on with the athletes that are just starting their journey.
Even though we launched this unfortunately right at the start of a pandemic, we had to adapt things on the fly and turn on challenges and turn off challenges and find ways to take the app into something that works for the sport when they couldn't actually practice. That has been really hard for us, but what is great is that the framework for that app actually allowed us to continue to engage with our users when they weren’t allowed to practice.
We actually had about 1200 users right off the bat with the challenges programmed into the app. The fact that it could be used in that type of setting and still engage our users when they couldn’t even use it the way we initially designed for them to use it was really great for us.
We realized there were things that we wanted and we had a few add-ons that we stuck onto the end of the project before we rolled out, so it kind of delayed things a little bit on our end. It was slated to take about six months, but I think it took between nine months to a year, but a lot of that was learning throughout the process that we actually wanted to add things on instead and expanding our scope a little bit as the project went on and then also realizing the complexity of what we were doing.
We also had a few staff changes, so we would have to get people up to speed.
There were some issues getting the app into the App Store. We were trying to create a separate App Store account for this part of the organization, but because we are owned and operated by our other organization, we ended up having to go under that. I would say we had a two to three month hang up with us trying to figure out the best configuration for the App Store, so we did run into some issues just trying to figure out stuff with Apple. We ended up not being able to do what we were trying to do.
Our sport is kind of a complex world, and we haven’t seen an app that is similar to what we were trying to do before, so I think the team was really flexible in terms of working with us and trying to understand a sport that has so many nuances and has so many different users and so many different pieces of data and information coming in.
I thought they did a really good job of trying to step into our users' shoes and the parents of our users. Our main user is probably between the ages of 7 to 12. We designed the app so that the athlete and a parent could use it together to track their journey. I think they did a really good job of getting into the parent and the child's headspace and what the user was looking for. They dealt with a lot of curveballs along the way.
This was so foreign for us, so we didn’t really know what we were wanting; we just knew we wanted this thing that would help us see this type of data. We didn’t know what that data or the app would look like; we just had a wish list. They did a good job of helping us make that come to fruition. Their team was great at listening to our feedback and coming back with something that we felt aligned more with what we wanted and needed, so they did a good job of that.
How did Epic Apps perform from a project management standpoint?
They did a great job communicating and meeting deadlines. We were actually the ones that pushed deadlines a lot. We have a lot of other projects on our plate, and there were times where I had to shift my focus and couldn’t focus entirely on the app, so I think they dealt with us pushing deadlines a lot.
What did you find most impressive about them?
They are cost-effective, so I think their price is very reasonable. I like the fact that they weren’t trying to create an out of the box solution for us or trying to create something they created before; they really got inside the heads of us and our customer and were trying their best to really create something super unique and different that had never been done before.
I think the fact that they are a smaller company and we were working directly with the founder, working with someone who had a lot of passion and drive, and wanted to see this project succeed. It wasn’t just another project on their plate. It was also something very exciting for them that they wanted to work on. It was good to have that energy and drive on their end, so I really liked that.
Are there any areas they could improve?
The only constructive feedback I could give communication-wise is that everything was done via email, and it was very hard for me to keep up with a running email conversation. I would have preferred if everything was in more of a project management platform or a project management arena where something like Teamwork or Basecamp, which had more of a project management workflow, and it wasn’t just via email.
The conversation subject would change over the course of 30 back and forth emails, and it was sometimes hard to go back and reference the information we were looking for.
I have always liked this, and this is going back through my whole career, and when I am making design decisions for a look and feel for something, I really like to see an option A and an option B. When we are coming up with a look and feel for something, almost giving three different angles we could come from and then narrowing down to one is good.
When I am working with web design or any sort of creative product, I like that to see different options of a look and feel in front of me. I think that would have been nice. We were presented with one initially, and that was when we wanted to go back to the drawing board and change it. I think it would have been great if right off the bat, we saw three different concepts, and then we could choose the direction we wanted to go in from there.
I think that would have helped us narrow our focus from a look and feel perspective. I understand that is extra design work. I totally get that, but I think it would have helped us wrap our brain around the project's look and feel.
Do you have any advice for potential customers?
When you go into the project, you definitely know your goal and what you are looking for this app to do. Know those goals right out of the gate and know your infrastructure and framework.
Know your backend system and what you’re working with, and really, really know your customers and what needs you are trying to fulfill.
Map out that customer persona and the customer journey because I think it will help you figure out that process. We sort of lost sight of some of that in the discovery phase and realized what we were really looking to achieve later on.
I think if we had sat down and done a little more research and planning and thought on our end, I think it would have maybe saved them and us a little bit of time.