It can often be a challenge to maintain a design philosophy while providing a good smartphone experience. SF Bio managed to achieve this, and here's how.
Work on the SF Bio app was started some three years ago, at a time when the technology was not ready for all the functionality that SF Bio really wanted, and demonstrating the importance of continuity in a project like this.
"The idea was to show that we are at the forefront, making our mark," says Anna Rosang, Nordic business area manager for digital media at SF Bio.
It turned into an app on which you can now watch trailers and book seats in the auditorium. With this version you can even buy tickets, something that customers have wanted but which has only now become realistic to implement.
"We have also reworked the flow to make the service faster," says Anna Rosang.
Psychology and machines
A user interface goes deeper than the design and the classic user-to-machine image that often characterises the perception of the phenomenon. It is also about communication between client and server or intuitive ways to interact with a service. There are also psychological aspects to consider.
"We have both usability experts and graphic designers working with these components," says project manager Magnus Månsson at Cybercom in Malmö.
He is not trying to say that they conduct their own research, but that the Digital Solutions business area plays host to an ocean of knowledge, insights, and tools that ultimately enable Cybercom to generate tangible business benefits for its clients. This includes everyone from interaction designers to business developers.
Magnus Månsson says that the role of a consultant includes an educational component in being able to deliver a holistic approach with credibility and courage. Understanding what the client wants can be a process that involves numerous interviews. After that, you need to try to match what is achievable with what is wanted. In the case of SF Bio, there was metadata available that theoretically could have been used, but which had its limitations at the other end – including the size of a mobile phone screen, something that is less of a problem today.
"You have to let go of some things and then build from there. Many clients want to issue no more than one or two releases per year. We encourage them to issue more," says Magnus Månsson.
Project office toolbox
The collaboration between SF Bio and Cybercom has been close. It's not been about passing the ball back and forth, but about finding the right path by working together.
"Working together, we dealt with both the user and business perspectives within a small group that maintained close contact," says Anna Rosang, and points out that work started quickly.
"We have something we call a project office toolbox, which has all the tools we need to get started as quickly as the same day. We receive specifications, estimate them and initiate the flow between departments," explains Magnus Månsson.
Cybercom also attaches great importance to keeping tight links between the group dealing with the UX and the developers. This deeper understanding of each other's worlds is a must if expectations are to be met.
The SF Bio app has now been downloaded 1.5 million times, and traffic through these apps accounts for about a third of the total.
"We are seeing a rapid increase in mobile traffic, both to the website at www.sf.se and through the app," says Anna Rosang
Traffic from mobile phones accounts for over half of the digital total, and we expect the new app to further increase this mobile traffic.
Purchasing function is a challenge
In the next version of the app, SF Bio will introduce its updated digital identity.
"This will be a big design change, and we have worked to enhance the cinema experience, and to simplify and clarify the purchasing flow. The updated identity will eventually be introduced on all digital platforms to create greater uniformity."
"In addition to the design update, we have placed the location selection earlier in the flow because it is such a central feature. The new app also allows the user to save their card details through simplified payments. This means that we have speeded up the purchasing for our most loyal customers," says Anna Rosang.
A little further along in the development of the SF Bio app there will be possibilities that Cybercom has already started to investigate, but that may seem a bit like science fiction.
"We are working on audio detection at the cinema, similar to what we do with Sony's music identification service. This technology would make it possible to introduce synchronised audio description and spoken text on a smartphone. We have already built a module to test it," says Magnus Månsson.