Case Study: How My First App Ranked #2 in the Google Play Store

10,000+ active users worldwide ~ 4.7/5.0 stars from 500+ reviews

Overview

I researched, designed, tested, coded, and published an app called Latter Day Temples, which has achieved the following:

  • 10,000+ active users worldwide
  • 4.7/5.0 average star rating from 500+ reviews
  • Ranked #2 in Google Play’s Lifestyle category (September 2016)

This is a case study explaining my design process and how my app made these achievements.

Background

The 15 million members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are encouraged to set personal goals for how often they attend one of the 150+ temples around the world.

Temples differ from regular meetinghouses and weekly services. More information on temples can be found here.

The Problem

Church members want a convenient way to track where temples are being built, personal goals and temple attendance, as well as temple information.

My Design Approach

My design process takes a center-balanced approach between business, technology, and design in order to innovate solutions that solve user pain points.

Project Goals

Although this project was not a business, I prioritized my project goals as if they were business goals. My project goals were to:

  • Build personal branding for my portfolio
  • Empathize with developers by implementing my own designs
  • Help members of my religious community set and reach their personal temple attendance goals
I set a time constraint of 2 months to design, develop, and publish my app.

User Research

Recruiting

Using my social network and personal contacts, I quickly recruited users that matched my target audience (church members that attend temples).

Primary Research

I started out by interviewing users, doing usability tests with competitor’s apps, and posting online surveys.

Secondary Research

I also scoured the internet, news articles, and group forums to discover what other people were saying.

Existing Competitors

When I started this project in July 2016, there were only two direct competitors in the Google Play App Store:

  1. LDS Temples Pro (no longer listed in Google Play)
  2. Temple Passport (no longer listed in Google Play)

Interviews with users, online reviews, and app store ratings revealed that these apps had limited functionality and offered a poor user experience.

The common alternatives to using an app for tracking personal attendance included spreadsheets, calendars, and journals.

Data Synthesis

Church members want a way to visualize where temples have been built, as well as where temples are being built.

They also want a way to set goals and keep track of their attendance on the go.

Many church members live in areas with limited wifi connections. Hence, they want a

Personas

Personas were created based off my research. Using personas allowed me to acquire user empathy and make targeted design decisions.

User Stories

User stories were gathered from my interviews. They helped me focus on solving actual user needs as opposed to just building random features.

  • “I want a better way to keep track of my temple attendance so I can see how I’m doing with my personal goals.”
  • “I want a quick way to look up temple schedules so I can plan my visits.”
  • “I want a world map with all the temples so I can see how and where the Church is growing.”
  • “I want a visual way to keep track of the temples I have visited so I can plan trips to the ones I haven’t visited.”

Ideation: Sketching

Sketching allowed me to rapidly generate ideas and solutions.

Selected samples from the final versions of my sketches

Information Hierarchy: Card Sorting

Card sorting helped me see patterns in how my users organize and group information.

Selected samples from doing card sorting

Visual Layout: Wireframes

Wireframes helped me to focus on navigation, structure, and allocation of space. I first created frames on paper, then I used Sketch to create higher fidelity.

Selected samples from the final versions of my wireframes

Interaction: Low-Fidelity Prototype

Using InVision, I stitched my frames together to create a low-fidelity prototype. This allowed me to focus on interaction, flow, and navigation.

Check out my wireframe prototype made with InVision.

Usability Testing

Testing

I conducted 20 minute tests with my prototype that involved several tasks and open-ended questions such as, “Where would you look to find directions to a temple you want to visit?”

Learning

During testing, I discovered several flaws in my design. For example, when users were asked to log a recent visit, they would navigate to the attendance page or a specific temple’s info page. This insight led to providing the “log a visit” functionality on both pages.

Iterating

Re-occurring problems identified during testing informed my design. I did multiple iterations, cycling through design and testing, until my prototype matched my users’ expectations.

High-Fidelity Prototype

InVision, Marvel, and other prototyping tools back in 2016 did not offer a convenient way to test user interaction with the temple map or animations such as collapsing toolbars. These limitations left me with unanswered questions.

I decided to use Android Studio, Google Map’s API, and other open source code to quickly create a high-fidelity prototype.

Screen shots of my high-fidelity prototype using code:
Unfortunately its difficult to demonstrate a native coded Android app on the web, so I’ve provided screenshots.

More Usability Testing

I conducted additional usability testing with my high-fidelity prototype, and discovered new design flaws.

Discovery

For example, recording ordinances performed using the keyboard was awkward and discouraged users from recording visits. Since my personas typically only record 1–5 ordinances per visit, I solved this issue by replacing the text input fields with incremental/decremental buttons.

It was a small change, but the change eliminated frustration and nearly doubled the amount of users that would actually finish the task of recording a visit.

After several iterations, my design was ready for implementation.

Implementation

“Hand off to the developers” is not an event, but a process of communication from project inception.

Transition from Design to Code

Because my high-fidelity prototype was created using code, most of that code was used in the final implementation. In addition, the app was designed with existing API’s, libraries, and components in mind, so the transition from design to code was fast and efficient.

Coding in Android Studio

Constraints and Prioritization

I was, however, new to Android development, and I encountered problems and errors that I was learning to solve. In order to adapt, I considered my users’ needs, project goals, and developer resources in order to re-prioritize features and deliver an MVP on time.

Internationalization

More than half of my targeted user base lives outside the United States, and have phones with limited wifi connections and storage space. This meant I needed to:

  1. Compress all the images and code base to reduce the download file size
  2. Ensure the app worked in offline mode
  3. Implement language localization for each country

Publishing

You can view or download the app in the Google Play App Store.

Promoting

With my app published, it was time to promote awareness, analyze analytics, and follow up with users. I landed an interview with LDSLiving, a news and blog source that targets my same user group. They published an article about my app, and within a few days I had my first 1,000 users.

Results

Since then, the app has continued to grow and eventually ranked as No. 2 in Google Play’s Lifestyle category in the United States.

Best. Day. Of. My. Life. My app was ranked just above PayPal and Subway!

User Testimonials

Today the app supports 10,000+ active users with a 4.7/5.0 average star rating from 500+ reviews.

And then there’s always that one guy… 🤷‍♂️

Did he confuse it with one of the other discontinued competitor apps in the Google Play Store? He still hasn’t replied. This remains a mystery to me to this day.

A Work In Progress

My design approach is iterative, not linear.

Although the results have been very positive, I am still receiving user feedback, analyzing analytics, and updating the app according to my project goals and users’ needs.

In addition, I am always exploring new methods and tools, including A/B testing, to improve my product and design process.

What I Learned

  • Understanding my users’ needs and doing essential research was the key to making my app successful.
  • Communicating and collaborating with developers from the beginning leads to greater efficiency overall.
  • Fixing mistakes during the prototyping stage is much easier than fixing mistakes during production.
  • Finding a balance between project goals and user needs is tough, but necessary and achievable.

The Most Important Takeaway:

UX design is so much fun! I enjoy the processes of developing empathy, making discoveries, learning from my mistakes, and innovating to create solutions that solve problems.

Thank You

Thank you for your time reviewing this case study.
I would love to hear your thoughts!

Sincerely, Mitch Clements

P.S Do you hate doing laundry? Discover how I’m combining both design and technology to solve a common pain point when doing laundry.

When I’m not designing, innovating, or coding, you will find me hanging in a hammock, driving around in my Jeep, listening to a Coldplay song, hunting for a geocache, or playing expert pro drums on Rockband.