Why Your UX Design Should Start with Product Thinking

By on September 22, 2020 | Product Design, UI/UX Design | No Comments

The great researcher, professor, and author, Donald Norman, began to bridge the gaps between design, usability, and cognitive science when he coined the term “user experience” in the early 1990s. As the technological landscape began to change rapidly in the 1980s, with the introduction of graphical user interfaces (the first interactive screens, as we know them today), a major focus began to be placed on the interaction between human users, machines, and contextual environments. Graphical user interfaces made technology more accessible by introducing things like the computer mouse, icons, and graphics. For the first time, digital technology had a significant decrease in the barrier to entry. 

As the progression of technology continued; and desktop computers, various operating systems, and the internet became commonplace, as did the crucial field of User Experience. In order to keep technology accessible to the average person, developers and designers needed  to find ways to make digital machines as easy to use as possible. They started to apply the principles of “good design” and the methodology behind Design Thinking to the digital landscape, and thus, modern user experience, or UX, was born. 

Fast forward to today in 2020, where 44.8% of the world population has a smartphone in their pocket, the world of user experience looks a lot different. Interfaces have become so advanced that the average user rarely finds themselves confused about how a digital product or app works. The iPhone’s interface has become so seamless that even babies and monkeys can operate them with little instruction. Fifteen years ago, interactions like swiping left and right didn’t even exist, and now, twelve variations of the iPhone later, we can’t even imagine a world without something like the endless scroll — that’s how intuitive the user experience has become.

Looking towards the future, digital products can no longer rely on having a good user experience alone to stand apart from the competition. That’s where product thinking comes in. Product thinking is the journey from the problem space to the solution space. The center of focus for any modern product needs to be the problem the product is trying to solve. A good user experience is getting easier to find. But a product with a good user experience that solves a real problem? That’s where a product can really stand apart from the rest. 

Product thinking starts with finding a problem worth solving, and working to gain a deep understanding of what the problem really is, where it comes from, who it affects, and what other solutions (if any) have been tried in order to solve it before. Product thinking isn’t about jumping immediately to a solution. It is about spending time in the gray space, testing out different ideas, talking to real potential users, and a lot of iteration. Once the questions around what the problem is, where it comes from, and who it affects are answered, then is the time to develop a strategy for how to achieve building the right product, defining features, KPIs and metrics, and starting the design process. 

At Red Foundry, we call this initial product thinking and design process phase “Discovery & Design” or “D&D,” as we like to refer to it. Though product thinking needs to be a constant state of mind throughout the entire design and development process, the initial “discovery” phase is a time dedicated to holistically thinking about the product. By giving space to truly understand the problem the product is trying to solve, the users pain points and goals, and what is really causing the problem, the team is able to start by first knowing that we are building the right product, before starting to design or develop it. It helps the team to understand the market value for what is being built and gives the power to make the right decisions when it comes to defining features. 

Product thinking looks different for each problem, as there are an endless amount of variables that help define a problem. More often than not, the process is not linear, but one that is slightly more unpredictable. But when keeping an open mind to understanding the problem is the goal, unpredictability is the desired outcome. If you can alter your approach to defining what the product is going to look like, you’ll have a better chance of finding the right solution. If you can find the right solution and pair it with a seamless user experience, now that’s a great product. 

iOS 14 – New Features & Observations

By on July 27, 2020 | iOS, Mobile App Development | No Comments
Apple recently announced at this year’s WWDC (World-Wide Developers Conference) the iOS 14 beta, which is due to be released to the public sometime in September 2020. While there are dozens of updates that mobile app users will enjoy, we are particularly focused on the updated development tools and the new app features and enhancements that can deliver value to our client’s mobile applications and their end users. The new features in iOS 14 that have us excited are: App Widgets, App Clips, and the upcoming Privacy Updates.
iOS 14 Feature Summary

App Clips

With App Clips, Apple has created a fast way to link users to a rich application experience that works like a standard web link. So instead of directing users to the app store to download, install and load your app (which can be time consuming), users can bring up the lightweight feature immediately and quickly perform a key app function. 
ios 14 app clips
Apple offered a few examples of the functionality that this new tool could be perfect for, including “A museum could have visitors scan visual codes on labels next to displayed works to launch an app clip that reveals augmented reality content or provides audio commentary” or “A rental bike could come with an NFC tag that people scan to launch an app clip that lets them rent the bike.”

Other examples might be: Adding yourself to a reservation wait list or checking yourself in upon arrival for a restaurant/retail app, perform a quick pay action using Apple Pay, credit card or even loyalty points, or accessing pushed content that shows up as an alert.

App Clips are launchable directly by scanning a QR Code or NFC tags, and easily integrated with Apple Pay.  We expect to see a lot of real world integrations to take advantage of app clips and are excited to see how our clients will put them to use.
App Clips Overview

App Widgets
ios 14 app widgets
While Android devices have been able to use widgets on their mobile phones for years, iPhone and iPad users join the party with iOS 14. This feature has us the most excited for our clients as the possibilities are truly endless to offer bite size content to users without requiring them to fully open the application. Think of these as dynamic app icons, in 3 different available sizes on your home screen.

For example: weather apps can now show the current temperature, a loyalty/rewards app can show your available points and membership status, a health app can show the calories burned for the day, your smart car app can show you whether or not your doors are locked or the battery charge level….all while avoiding the delay and clicks needed to launch the app and navigate to the desired information.

Beyond simply displaying data, app widgets can be a very useful tool to encourage re-engagement with your application. A game or health-club app can show you your current spot on the leaderboards, a news-reader app can tease new content, or a loyalty app can show the “deal of the day” and indicate today is a double rewards points day.
App Widgets Overview

App Privacy Updates

With rumors of mobile applications “spying” on users, Apple has released privacy updates to give users more control and visibility if/when their personal data is collected. This will include requirements for posting privacy practices in the app stores and updates to key features.
ios 14 privacy declarations
Approximate Location Permissions

Prior to iOS 14 an app could request “When in Use” or “Always On” location permissions. Once granted an app could monitor the location of a user down to 1 meter in accuracy. Now users will be able to deny app developers their precise location. Instead, you can grant an approximate location for the user. If your application requires accurate location data (for mileage capture, or presenting nearby locations or services) this could cause issues with the functionality of your app and we recommend investigating and testing your application to get ahead of this change.

Microphone and Camera Indicators

Once released, Apple will give you clear visible notifications when the camera or microphone are capturing data. When your phone’s mic is on, an orange dot appears on the top right side of the screen. The dot shows up green when an app is using your camera.  While we hope or expect that your app isn’t capturing sound or video without your user’s knowledge, this upcoming change is a reminder to confirm your app isn’t recording your user’s actions in this manner.

App Tracking Transparency Permissions

Apple is now making it more difficult to associate data collected within one app, across multiple websites or other mobile applications. While we don’t anticipate this affecting our clients directly, we expect to continue monitoring this feature, as many common Analytics and Advertising SDKs may run afoul of Apple’s new guidelines and restrictions, even if the App is not using those built in features directly. We anticipate the Google Analytics SDK and the Facebook SDK will likely need to be updated in your apps to avoid your users being prompted that they are being tracked.
App Privacy Overview

Red Foundry Recognized as a 2019 Top Chicago Developer

By on April 3, 2019 | Press Release | No Comments

At Red Foundry, we are a mobile and web application design and development consulting firm. Utilizing our mobile-optimized methodology, we create world-class mobile and web applications through a native and hybrid approach on iOS and Android platforms in order to help drive success for entrepreneurs and established corporations. We help companies with a variety of development and design features that can enhance the customer experience, improve business operations and transform business models.  


clutchLogoWe are very excited to announce that we have been recognized as a Top Mobile App Development Firm in Chicago for 2019.  “On behalf of the Red Foundry team, I’m honored to be included in the 2019 Clutch Leaders in Mobile Application Development.  We value feedback from our clients and strive to deliver an outstanding result and experience with each project. Their positive feedback leading to this award is very much appreciated.” – Rich Linden, Partner, Red Foundry   

  We are also very proud to have been featured in the Top 5 mobile app development companies in Chicago by The Manifest – a business news and how-to website that compiles and analyzes practical business wisdom for innovators, entrepreneurs, and small and mid-market businesses.

We look forward to continued success in 2019 and we would like to thank Clutch for awarding us such an honorable distinction. Our philosophy at Red Foundry is to create beautiful, unique, intuitive, and relevant mobile apps and mobile responsible websites, and that any company (regardless of size) should always leverage their opportunities to benefit from delivering a mobile experience to their stakeholders.  Every day we tackle the tough challenges that businesses face when going mobile, and we love it.


Red Foundry Announces Renewal of i.c.stars Sponsorship Agreement

By on January 26, 2019 | Press Release | No Comments


The annual agreement provides financial sponsorship and community engagement to Chicago and Milwaukee through the funding of events, volunteering on Board and Advisory committees, and the technical mentoring of i.c.stars students.

January 24, 2019 – Red Foundry, a leading provider of mobile product design, development and digital innovation services in the Chicago area, today announced the renewal of a   sponsorship agreement with i.c.stars.  For over 19 years,  i.c.stars has been developing future IT and community leaders through their innovative and intensive project-based training programs designed to develop the business and technical skills of program participants.

“We are honored to have worked closely with i.c.stars over many years, and excited to build on that relationship by reaffirming our commitment to i.c.stars and renewing our sponsorship. We are also excited to apply our commitment to IT community engagement through the hiring of i.c.stars graduates. We look forward to contributing to their ongoing national expansion and assisting with the delivery of their mission to talented IT professionals,” commented Rich Linden, Red Foundry Partner.

About Red Foundry:

Red Foundry is a mobile application design and development consulting firm. Founded in 2009, and led by seasoned business and technology executives, we help our clients “Mobilize Their Business” by creating award-winning native and cross-platform mobile applications for the iOS and Android platforms. Utilizing our mobile optimized methodology, we partner with entrepreneurs and early stage startups to launch their mobile-enabled business, and we work with established corporations to build mobile products that support their digital transformation.  For more information, visit www.redfoundry.com, or call 888.406.1099.

About i.c.stars:

Formed in 1999, Inner-City Computer Stars Foundation (i.c.stars) is a national technology workforce training and placement program that prepares young adults for technology careers and community leadership. Using project-based learning and full-immersion teaching, i.c.stars has trained more than 500 individuals and places 90 percent of qualified graduates in jobs. Participants see their annual earnings increase by an average of 300 percent as a result of the program. In addition to Chicago, i.c.stars has affiliates in Columbus, Ohio, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. More at http://www.icstars.org.