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The Making of a Great Mobile App

Posted on November 23, 2015 by Derek Messling

Phone App

Create an app. 

Sounds straight forward enough. Build a world-class app, and in turn, help thousands of insurance agents mobilize their business. 

But where do you start? For the newly created mobile team, the answer started with questions. Lots of them.

Customer-centric decisions

The team - comprised of experts in development, design, and product - decided right off the bat to shelve any preconceived notions, instead choosing to enter the project with open minds. This project had one clearly-defined leader heading into the project: the customer, or more specifically, a producer, agent, or agency staff member who wanted to access information in their management system while they're away from the office.

“This was a customer-driven process from the beginning,” explains Kim Smith, Sr. Product Manager at Vertafore.

When discussions between team members led to questions, they turned to their customers for answers. It was the customers who made the final vote.  End of story.

“It didn’t matter if we agreed with the decision, the customers were right because this app is for them,” says Tech Program Manager Steve Engelhart.

From countless customers at NetVU15 to recurring weekly meetings with Vertafore customers,  fifteen different agencies and over 100 different users were ultimately tabbed as design partners throughout the process. 

Phone App

Defining mobile

Two points became abundantly clear early on: users wanted the app to be simple to use and they wanted the information to always be available at their fingertips.

Armed with these findings, one would think the team would move to create an app replicating the desktop version of Vertafore Agency Platform and make it accessible on phones and tablets. Sounds logical, right?

Not quite.

The team returned to Bothell from NetVU15 and dove into using their learnings to improve the app. The realization was clear: the team needed to focus first on creating an app for the tool that is always with you – the smartphone. Producers explained time and again how constant accessibility is what matters most in the field.

“We took all of our opinions out of it and said, ‘This is theirs and we need to let them make the decisions for themselves,’” says Engelhart.

Now featuring

Interestingly, Vertafore’s competitors had done just the opposite, choosing to focus on shrinking their desktop software onto a tablet sized screen rather than rethinking the customer experience. This leads to a cluttered, hard-to-navigate user experience. The Vertafore team took a different approach, completely redesigning the interface for the mobile experience by first learning what it is customers were looking to accomplish, and then matching features to those actions.

“It’s a complete paradigm shift in how you design something,” says Smith. “What we are proud of is the way in which we are delivering this app, which is vastly different from our competitors."

By making sure the app was intuitive, fun to use, and visually appealing, the team is convinced they created a modern app.

“What we are releasing is a true manifestation of that original story our customers told us,” says Sr. Experience Designer Ryan Gachet.

What’s next?

The thing about chasing the future is you’re never quite there. Assembling a designated mobile team made a world a difference in this process and should pay dividends in upcoming endeavors.

And therein lies the beauty of this whole process.  This dedicated mobile team can now leverage their learnings from this process, take those to new products, and hit the ground running. Members will be able to focus their time on the customers needs rather than ramping up on technical data.

"This is our first foray into that way of thinking, as we release future apps and future functionality in the mobile space, this conversation is going to continue,” says Gachet. “If we remain committed to that conversation, we are going to delight our customers to no end.”

For more information on the mobile app, available at no charge for Vertafore Agency Platform users, go to Vertafore Agency Platform.  There is a short video, as a well as a datasheet describing the new Vertafore Mobile.




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