WayUp: Yep we just launched our App
How it first started…
“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”
Well not really (I had to throw in a Star Wars reference for good measure). About 5 months ago I joined WayUp — a team of eager 20 somethings on a mission to build the biggest, baddest and best online marketplace for students looking for part time jobs, internships and entry level positions. If you don’t know much about WayUp, definitely read our great backstory here. As the new Head of Product my short term goal was very clear; taking an iPhone app to market in a little less than 3 months.
So in a previous life, my role had been CTO where I oversaw product, design and engineering teams that spanned upwards of 30 people. Stepping into my new role at WayUp I was eager to get hands on, scrappy and build a new team that would ultimately be responsible for the launch of our first mobile app.
On my first day I looked around….
and saw no one
Literally I remember sitting down at my desk in late July/early August thinking to myself…okay its me, the CTO and our CEO. I have no designer, no iOS engineer(s) and a deadline that was going to come sooner rather than later. But while the “team” was in the forefront of my mind I couldn’t help but start to think about the “How’s”, the “What’s” and the “When’s”.
- What should the guiding product principles be? Every great product has solid guiding principles!
- What’s the right process? Where will individual contributors shine, where should we collaborate and where does that meet in the middle?
- How should we prototype? What features should iterate on before investing the time to build?
- How should we ship?
- How should we get feedback?
- When is it time to REALLY launch?
As I thought more and more about this I kept going back to that first bullet? What are OUR product principles? How did WE want to shape building this product now and moving forward. What tone do we want to set?
So I needed that whole team thing…
and I needed a team that was going to be a cohesive unit in every sense of the word.
The teams I had built before were really great, one of a kind. We all knew each others strengths and weaknesses. We all knew how to best avoid common pitfalls and we all knew how to ship great mobile products. But as I thought about that first bullet again I knew we needed a few special individuals that were going to all align on some product principles, something that we could get behind. So who best to build this thing with a bunch of individuals bought into a similar ideology?! The team needed to consist of a blend of specialists and generalists who all could get comfortable with each others work styles, and come together quickly. Ultimately we landed on a team of myself, a designer and 2 iOS engineers…all unique in our own right and all people who could get the job done and done really REALLY well(fingers crossed).
What were these principles again?
They were/are pretty simple
- Attack low hanging fruit where we could. Things like personalization (anyone that knows me knows I am a huge fanboy of Branch.io), 3rd party libraries, proven A/B testing tools, etc.
- Commit to making everything we do measurable (not just the integration of tools like Mixpanel and Optimizely, but the commitment to exploit the power of their platform in entirety)
- Be thoughtful about how we prototype, build, and release
- Be a fully transparent team with the tools we use
- And finally, strive to release frequently on iOS, something easier said than done. We really wanted to create a user expectation
So what did the process look like?
some things went well and well others…
Iterate on core functionality! I thought we did a nice job of identifying key functionality like the user registration flow that we tirelessly iterated and tested on, while other things that weren’t core to the product we built based off of hypothesis and best guesses.
Talk to anyone and everyone. We got the rest of the WayUp group involved by dogfooding at least 10 versions of the app internally before we launched. We talked to our most important assets, our students. Whether it was on whether a feature made sense or helping us make critical design decisions, we tried to get our student users involved
Build a SICK workflow. I think our workflow was REALLY unique. I have built a lot of apps over the last couple of years, but this type of workflow was new to us. As designers, developers and product specialists we all obviously had one common goal in place which was to get a GREAT app out the door in a reasonable amount of time. But as “product engineers” there are obviously things that we all key in on as we are building product:
- The engineer — typically hones in on performance, stability, architecture decisions, maintainability and scalability
- The product “guy” — likes to make sure everything is adhering to the our product principles. Keys in on the sensibility of what we are building and can at times be thought of as the “janitor” or “CEO” of the product..take your pick
- The designer — the guardian of UI/UX. Generally responsible for making sure what we build looks good across the entire iOS ecosystem. Motto is “no iOS device will be left behind”
So we started with incorporating our core value into our daily workflow, transparency. It was important to us that we all knew how to “build” in each others tools (Sketch, Xcode, Pixate, GitHub). None of us ever wanted to be a roadblock for the other, and if we needed something like an asset and a designer was out of the office or unavailable then the others just had to be able to get shit done. We really took that to heart and our workflow reflected it. The process typically started with the engineers and ended with the designers…with product in between. We all submitted PRs(Pull Requests), we all merged and we all helped refine the product. Once engineering built the core functionality it was usually passed over to me where I would have the opportunity to code up small product tweaks as well as implement the analytics. Once that was done and tested our designer would come in and refine the storyboards and animations. Rinse, Wash, Repeat. As iterations went by and by, we improved velocity and increased our scope (I know thats a no no). But you know what? This amazing thing happened; our burndown remained the same. We were actually increasing scope and building functionality faster and faster!
We really achieved the best of many worlds as we built; speed, efficiency and reliability. It was by no means a fire drill, or some sh*t hitting the fan drill people tend to run into. It truly was a well defined and executed gameplan where we all worked harmoniously and as one.
And finally a launch
Well did we get it out in 3 months? Not exactly. We submitted to the app store on Halloween, exactly 3 months to the day of our first line of code being written. Once it was approved (on the first try) we decided to take a wait and see approach and make sure that there were no other product tweaks that we wanted to make before a wider release. So we did a soft launch, let our users find it organically and iterated 3 times before we got to what you see today on the app store (version 1.0.4). Today I am proud to formally announce the release of the WayUp app for iOS. No matter who you are (student, parent, aunt, uncle, grandfather or grandmother) I am sure that you can relate to being a college student and looking for that first job. I hope you pass along our app to someone you know in hopes of getting them that first awesome opportunity and giving them the ability to getWayUp!