by Jim Garrett
After working in three different companies that were not focused on the end-user, Pritam Hasabnis decided to start his own company, Omni-Bridge Systems Private Limited, India. For more than 10 years his company has provided a tailored mobile app design and development service to startups and small to medium-scale entrepreneurs. With a very skilled team of forty-five engineers, including usability analysts (CUAs), they have developed over one hundred applications with each averaging a span of three to five months to develop.
I understand mobile is very important in India as it reaches all economic strata and remote areas.
Mobile has really penetrated well in India though it is still quite low in rural areas in comparison to the urban landscape. Proliferation of smartphones has developed to the extent that it has become a personal identity of an individual. Internet penetration and local language support has given a big boost to banking, content and social media apps like mWallet, Gmail, Facebook, Whatsapp, etc.
What are some of the apps that you have developed?
We have developed apps for various clients globally across different verticals (consumer and enterprise market). Apps were platform agnostic and native (iOS, Windows, Android, and BlackBerry). One of the interesting ones was Gold’s Gym that targets B2C, a fitness content delivery platform through various channels. The content included workout videos (by expert trainers) and step-by-step instructions of performing these workouts. We built a detailed UX strategy for the client, making it a truly cross-channel experience.
Another interesting app developed for a startupcompany was a contract management app(for B2B), which was for managing all the enterprise contracts. The interface on the mobile was key to the success of this product. Key stakeholders and decision makers are always on the move, which makes accessing these contracts from desktop devices difficult. We delivered consistent user experience across all mobile platforms (Windows Media, iOS, and Android).
What are the challenges in developing apps?
Every new customer brings a different level of challenges and experience. Customers usually come up with too little clarity about their app and have the expectation of meeting their needs within a given timeframe. An app is more often than not driven by lots of features, with many of them never to be used by the end-user. Project managers or key stakeholders mostly drive these features without even validating theiractual need for the user. This results in a lot of unused features in an app. Lack of UI/UX understanding (mostly driven by having WOW factors) results in an app that is graphic-richand fancy but fails to address the user’s need. The UI and UX have to be upgraded based on observed user behavior and response.
With the inception of a user-centered philosophy in our organization, we have managed to tackle these challenges. We take only those assignments in which we interact with end-users throughout the life cycle of a project. We validate features and designs with actual users in each iteration, thus ensuring that only those features that are necessary come into the engineering process. We continuously monitor the user’s behavior towards the release, therefore keeping the product evolving with enhancements and requiring less support.
These few approaches have helped us to become extended partners with our clients and present us as not just any other vendor.
Can you describe some one of the most interesting apps you created?
We recently did an enterprise application that was targeted to streamline communication channels between employees of large-scale organizations. Senior executives of an organization are continuously moving about, which takes them away from internal communications, updates, events and news that happen within the company. This app, with a strong content delivery platform, allows them to stay connected anytime, anywhere through mobile. A secured org chat feature allows every employee to chat with other employees within a team or across the organization. We designed and developed end-to-end cross channel UX for this app.
What do you feel makes your company unique?
We do not take any services assignments. We are very clear with prospective clients from the initial communication that we work on assignments only if it is a user-centered design and development approach. We try our level best to make clients realize the importance of taking this approach, with ROI benefits in the long term. I feel this approach is the key differentiator for us. Unlike any other vendors, we truly partner with the client’s product vision.
We iterate and reiterate every deliverable (design and engineering) with end-users and, based on their feedback, we make refinements in further releases. This approach has given amazing results. The support and training phase has drastically reduced adaptability to the app and has improved due to active involvement of end-users throughout the life cycle.
The depth of insight gathered from the user has helped during the monitoring and enhancement phase, as we no longer just add features which customers want. Instead, we add those features that are really essential to the end-user.
Basically your usability angle aspect separates you from your competition. Is that your strength?
Did a lot of that come from your UX training?
Yes. We used to practice some of the elementary level of UI principles (restricted to graphics only). But the HFI training courses gave me a bigger picture on how best practices are followed and applied practically in live projects. Well-trained instructors explained theoretical content through engaging workshops and experiences, which directly helped us in actual implementation.
The biggest advantage of going through the courses was the confidence and knowledge it gave me to institutionalize the user-centered approach within our organization. We started the change with speaking to every individual in a team about the importance of practicing the user-centered approach and its long-term benefits for the success of the product. This approach was possible only after attending the HFI courses.
What is the vision for your company in the future?
We are aiming to become a leader in the field of mobile apps with UX and, to achieve that, we are constantly focusing on innovating our UX practice. Every group in the company wants to excel in that objective. We would also love to share this knowledge with other budding entrepreneurs and startups through seminars and consultancy services.
What is your primary motivator? Where do you find the passion in your work?
Talking with people and addressing their challenges to come up with workable solutions is the big motivating factor for me. That drives me in my work every day. We encourage strong team collaboration and, to achieve that, we find transparency and fluent communication are musts.
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