Inspiration comes to us in all sorts of funny and unexpected ways, and sometimes, when passionate people come together, these ideas start to mold into delightful, palpable apps and experiences. I wouldn’t say this is an awfully rare phenomenon, as we at Halcyon Mobile, get to work on pretty cool mobile projects with awesome clients, so we know how it goes and we like it. We like it so much, in fact, that we design and develop some of our ideas into products, too. And because we have recently hatched and launched our latest little egg, called Nest by Halcyon Mobile, I sat down with Barna Erdei – UX/UI Design Team Lead – and Botond Magyarosi – iOS Team Lead – two members of the larger team that brought it to life, to tell you more about it.
How would you describe NEST to someone who hasn’t heard of it?
BE: Very simply put NEST is an iOS app. More appropriately though, NEST is Halcyon Mobile’s expression platform that lets you explore one-of-a-kind user interfaces and experiments that we designed and implemented to bring people a unique mobile experience and create joy through technology.
How did the idea of this expression platform come about?
BM: The concept of NEST came to us sort of naturally. We always had a passion for exceptional design and well crafted mobile products and an insatiable desire for challenges and self-improvement, so when the design team showed us some unique, daring, and fun designs as part of their UI Challenges initiatives, we decided to turn their work into a delightful mobile app and let others experience it too. We named it NEST because it’s an ongoing theme at Halcyon Mobile that we try to tag our own products with something bird-related, given the name of the company.
BE: We used to have these bi-weekly UI challenges where we would come up with a central theme or prompt and everyone from the design team would put their creative muscles to work and brainstorm ideas on how to shape their solution into uncommon designs. However, because these designs weren’t destined to be featured in actual products, the results of these challenges were often pretty bold. We designed interactions, transitions, and animations that we haven’t yet seen in other apps and are quite difficult to implement, so you can imagine our excitement when the devs proposed to bring them to life. We knew this project would push our boundaries and it would be challenging, but at the same time, we saw it as an opportunity to grow and a chance to create something that would wow professionals and laymen alike.
How did you decide which concepts to implement?
MB: Well, there were quite a few ambitious examples to choose from, but ultimately we picked a few unique pieces that would stretch our abilities and would come together in a beautifully crafted experience. We had to consider a couple of factors like: technical difficulty, the time and resources we’d need to invest, the user experience, and such. We ended up with 5 experiments, and we’re planning on extending that number in the future. What’s more, we’re planning on making them open source, so others can reproduce them and build them in their products, too.
Which UI experiment is your favorite and why?
EB: I believe the Sushi ordering app represents best what we want to achieve with NEST – to challenge ourselves by trying out various navigation patterns, create unexpected yet useful flows that make a difference.
Navigation is at the core of the sushi app concept which works similarly to the Apple Watch. We combined it with traditional food ordering patterns which resulted in a gorgeous user interface and a shopping experience that could make any restaurant stand out.
MB: Easy. The sushi ordering experience. And I say this both as a developer and a man who loves sushi.
The app is filled with beautiful transitions when we open and close a detail page of a product or the cart screen. Developers know that custom transitions between two ViewControllers are one of the most difficult things to master, but it was worth it and I’m very proud that we managed to create these kinds of animated transitions because the results are stunning.
What were the major challenges you have encountered along the way?
EB: In the context of our UI challenges, when we discussed a central theme or a pain point to which we’d design beautiful and practical solutions, we had to research new design approaches and navigation patterns, then condense that knowledge, add our personal twist to it and boil it down to actual designs that would address and solve the issue at hand. Coming up with somewhat original ideas, adopting an outside the box thinking and a fresh perspective on the task is rather hard at times, so I’d definitely list those here.
BM: Every experiment had something particular about it: a transition, a layout, an interaction, an animation that required a different approach and solution, but apart from the obvious – the technical difficulty of implementing these custom interfaces – the most challenging part was to manage and coordinate the schedule of all designers and developers involved. All of us were busy on our projects so we had to get organized and progress in our free time. It was quite a journey, but in the end, we managed to complete NEST despite the limitations and dependencies we faced. I know it sounds easy if I put it like this, but in reality, our common vision and desire to try something new and measure ourselves against the challenges made it possible to bring this product in front of the eyes of the world.
How big was the team who worked on NEST?
BM: Each experiment was created by a different designer (during our UI challenges) and implemented by a different developer. There are 5 UI experiments so it’s easy to do the math, but it’s important to mention that this initiative was a real team effort. We revised each other’s work and asked for feedback from our colleagues also. Without their dedication and help, we wouldn’t be able to proud ourselves with an expression platform in the App Store today.
Have you checked NEST out yet? We’d love to hear about your experience and thoughts as it would help us perfect our products. So feel free to download it, give it a spin and let us know your feedback. Also, if you have a project that could benefit from the experiences these UIs could offer, reach out to us, we’d be happy to make your product stand out with cool stuff like this.