With the film, we made a decision before shooting a foto. We chose the right roll and we knew how many photos we had left (they were limited and each photo would be unique). We did double exposure, or we left the shutter open in a dark place, and the same person could be in two places on the same frame. We wanted to take that photography experience to the mobile plane.
Camille is an app that functions as a professional iOS camera with manual functions that allow you to modify the values of a photograph before shooting. This post is about its ideation, test and execution. Download it at www.lateralview.co/camille
In the middle of January of this year, we talked in the office about the re-launch of the campaign “Shot on iPhone” that showed incredible photos taken with the mobile phone. We also debated the launch of the iPhone Plus and the bet they were making on the double camera that let the user play with two focal distances.
These characteristics led us to think about Reflex cameras!🤗
In addition, Apple had recently released an update of the AVFoundation Capture Framework, which allowed developers to have a higher control of their iPhones’ cameras.
However, it took me by surprise, when Juan Manuel, CEO of Lateral View, proposed that day a really interesting challenge: we had to create our own photo app. The idea was so simple and original that immediately inspired the team:
The goal was to achieve the versatility of a reflex camera, but from our iPhone.
We wanted to take into account every possibility offered by the iPhone and bring a professional tool to iphonographers. The challenge was accepted and we began working in our experimentation area: the Lab55.
Every day more and more photos are taken with the iPhone camera than with any other kind of camera in the world but there is no doubt that an analog camera has a certain vibe that allows a different experience.
First we focused on defining which analogue world sensations we wanted to transfer to the digital world:
We remembered that in analog cameras everything was controlled from a dial: a physical thread that turns, locks, and has a texture. We realized how much we missed using that dial.
We came up with some ideas and noted them down:
- The control of all the photographic variables has to be in the user's hand.
- The user has to use the iPhone without missing his SLR.
- The app has to be an add-on for the users that already have an analog camera (cameras and cell phones are good friends 📸📲 💓)
In order to develop the app we had to immerse ourselves in the world of photography. We started doing a deep research of different analog cameras that vary on brand, size and format. We analyzed pockets, semi-professional, professional, point & shoot, Reflex, analog and digital. We took note of the differences between old and new analogues. We made drawings and diagrams and drew the iconography used in each of them. We looked for factory manuals on the Internet. We wanted to have a really good understanding of the the state of the art in photography. With a clearer picture, we began thinking more concrete ideas. What would the ideal camera look like? What functions should it have?
It was chaotic. Every idea seemed to work. We began to categorize them with colored markers trying to distinguish which were our favorites. We organized them in modes, pre-armed scenes and functions. We added a color dot next to each concept to contribute to the order.
In the office we have printed templates with mockups of real-life iPhones. With a pencil we started drawing wireframes of the main screen and then tried different concepts. We erased, crossed out and re-sketched: we created paper apps that included each and every single piece of information we gathered and thought was necessary for our ideal app.
With a dot we marked which functionality had already been applied. We did not want to leave anything out. We continued drawing the rest of the screens and proposed a flow. Working with paper and pencil is a simple and agile way to visualize ideas, cut them and try them with our own hands.
Together with Elisa Goyeneche, UX-Leader, we agreed that the stronger prototype was the one based on a great dial that controlled the different modes of photography. We put the dial near the volume button to take advantage of its existence.
Design, test, iterate
We transferred the paper drawing to the computer using Sketch. We maintained the visual simplicity since it was still a wireframe concept. But digitizing it allowed us to take into account the interaction that handling an app on a real mobile phone implies.
In order to add tactile gestures and to change screens just with gestures (pinch, swipe, tap) we used inVision. Thus we generated the first digital prototype which could be downloaded as an app on a real mobile phone and simulated the experience of what the final product should be.
We had our first prototype but we knew it was not the final one (it never is on the first try). So we decided to use a code of “animals doing selfies” to identify each version. And with our first version (the cat selfie) we went out to do some guerrilla usability testing.
Each test gave a new perspective. The first version allowed the user to take photos from the volume button and a thread near it showed the functions that occupied almost the entire screen. It was very complex and the interface was not familiar to iPhone users. Then, as we received feedback, we drew, digitized and tested different ideas. The app was redesigned and tested six times generating six different versions:
CAT VERSION (0.1)
The first idea.
DOG VERSION (0.2)
A more friendly version.
GIRAFFE VERSION (0.3)
The most extended camera functions.
More attractive for user option A.
KOALA VERSION (0.5)
More attractive for user option B.
SLOTH VERSION (0.6)
A version that requires less effort in order to use it.
We ruled out many of our crazy ideas and started to analyze which were the ones that users really wanted and used. Once we found the desired result, we took the whole process to the next level.
Project Kick Off
The wireframe and the app’s flow were tested and this allowed us to map and start the development. Cristian (UI-Designer) and Fer (iOS dev) joined the Labs55 team. The team was already more robust. That was when we gave a tentative name to the project and we did a kick off. `Camera iOS` was starting to become a real product.
The team was divided around two first objectives:
The beginnings of development
An interactive visual prototype brought us very close to the real experience. But still, our prototype did not take photos or modify the image. There were certain issues that made us doubt.
Our dial had changed from a thread into a slider that simulated the thread. It was an essential controller since all key functions were controlled from it. The success or failure of our app depended on the experience as a whole. We had to consider the speed of movement, the vibrations when passing by each step and the visualization of the changes in the camera when modifying a value. We needed to test the functionality that had already been implemented in a native iOS prototype. To test the dial we needed to start with a native development.
Designing the interface
Most of the functions the app had could be proved by testing them and we knew they worked. Now we needed to start working on the UI to reach the final product. Cristian made a BenchMark to find visual references and to define the tone and the identity that we wanted the app to have.
Building a product
A product is much more than just the result of a team work. It needs a philosophy, an identity and a brand that reflect its approach to the world and the added value that distinguishes it from competitors. A product can only be successful once its target is defined and the developers have gotten in touch with it. A product responds to a business model: it needs resources and has value.
Then we needed to define our business model. We built a Business Canvas: a very useful graphic that conforms the Lean methodology. It became handful when we needed to understand where we had to place a greater effort and our resources. We were able to anticipate certain problems and improve our strategies to reach the established target. We came closer to our user and this was essential when making decisions in every area involved in the making of the product.
With the Canvas we were able to perform and test different hypotheses that dealt with the value of the product. But we needed to finish the product and that was when we started working together with the area of Marketing & Design.
In order to get to know our users we built an “UX Personas”. The goal was to define the identity of the product. Once we did this we would be able to understand who they were and also who we were in the market.
We discovered that our users valued life experiences, discovering places and people and that they were really into social media especially Instagram. They wanted fresh and agile apps that support in photography. We made an identikit for different kind of users and named them.
And if our users had names the app was also ready to have one. We had a naming meeting. A brainstorming session was held. We were looking for names with a strong identity that made reference to the semantic field of photography. We wanted something sophisticated but that also established an emotional connection. Elegant and human.
We took note of the names that came up during the brainstorming. Camille was definitely the name that stood out among the rest and perfectly reflected what we were looking for.
Months later, with the app already in the store and the name in full use, we found that in Spanish it is pronounced in the same way as a great model of Pentax: K-1000 (Ka-mil). That coincidence, which remains as homage, does nothing more than cheerfully reinforce the connection we have with photography.
The next step in branding was to create the Iso-Logo, which was was in charge of Gisela Abrigo, Lateral View’s Designer.
Redefining the horizon
The project grew so much that it exceeded Labs55’s limits and ended up gaining its own space. More persons were added to the team in charge of its development. Joaquín started working as the Project Manager and organized the work in short sprints. Its development continued for months, establishing objectives and priorities. There was a horizon: a distant line that the team wanted to reach. It was something big: our reinvention of the camera, our own Reflex for iPhone.
We faced technical adversities. Mobile phones turned out not to be as versatile as analog cameras. As we tested the app with real users, we discovered that the most important characteristic was not the level of technical control that we wanted to offer but the possibility of getting the best photos in the easiest possible way. Our target users are not professionals. They are amateurs who want to improve. They want tips and advice.
Many original ideas were discarded in order to maintain the product’s high quality and we decided to reinforce tutorials. A function that seemed unimportant and only an accessory became something central to Camille.
The final round
Just weeks before launching Camille, the development team insisted on a very small functionality: allowing the user to close the dial. But its development began to take more and more time than what we estimated. They insisted that without its implementation the app would fail flatly. The situation was apocalyptic.
The team had already decided to ditch the idea of removing the photo viewer from the first version in order to work more on cards that would function as tutorials. It became impossible for them to see the future in a positive way and the stress was not helping to remain focused.
We did a new test on real users that belonged to different identikits. We introduced them Camille and let everyone try the camera at ease. The development team attended and was able to listen to the test. We asked the users what they thought about the camera, if they found an error or if they felt that something was missing. Then we asked them what they thought about closing the Dial. We needed to know if they considered it fundamental or not.
The result was magical. We discovered that the functionality that was blocking the launch was not necessary. No one spontaneously claimed for it and when asked them specifically about closing the dial they coincided that it did not affect the app’s functioning, freshness or agility.
Everybody in the team ended up understanding the original purposes and objectives and had plenty of time to finish everything leaving the product spotless.
The first version of Camille had a great acceptance and many downloads in Argentina, United States, Spain and China. We are currently working on new versions to make Camille an outstanding app without losing focus on our target and the identity of our brand.
Now you have to try it. We look forward to your feedback.
If you want to know more about technology and innovation, check us out at Lateral View!