We developed the Luxury Wines iPad application for Constellation Brands in 90 days. 13 brands, 150 pages, 485MB video, image galleries with slideshows, optional text bullets vs. full content display, in-app email sharing, and the ability to assemble custom presentations using content from any brand across the entire collection. It’s a pleasure to work with beautiful and these brands are all about beautiful. It’s also a pleasure to collaborate with enthusiastic clients and trusted partners and this project provided exactly that kind of collaboration. This is how it came to be.
We were invited to the Constellation Brands annual sales meeting in August 2010 to present our view of the state-of-the-iPad-Union and to provide a blue sky vision for the potential of the platform to support the sales teams in their priority objective of selling more wine. We assembled our presentation in Keynote and projected our slides from a first generation iPad. The trends were optimistic, enterprise adoption was on the rise, App Store inventory was increasing hourly and exponentially, and the iOS development community was exploding with bigger and better ideas for global domination through exceptional mobility.Our blue sky vision centered around what-if scenarios that placed the iPad at the center of the Constellation sales universe. “What if you could replace your 12 pound laptop with this tablet? What if you could access all of your enterprise tools and data from this tablet? What if you could reduce the number of suitcases that you carry on the road because all of your print brochures and sales collateral are readily available on this tablet? And what if this tablet provided immediate access to up-to-date text, images, and video that would help you tell engaging stories about the history, culture, and quality of your brands and the art of making premium wines? The vision was shared.
Following our presentation at the annual sales meeting, we were approached by the Luxury Brands group with an interest in exploring first-steps in the grand vision. Specifically, they wanted to understand more about the potential for presenting 13 premium brands in the context of a single iPad application. What would that experience look like to the user? Would the app be overwhelmingly complicated? How could we establish and maintain a unique presence for each brand, but still convey the message that this collection comprises a single portfolio of fine wines? And how would we organize ourselves in the process of developing content, collecting image and video assets, and producing an application that represents the interests of 13 distinctly different, uniquely competitive business entities who were already tasked beyond capacity with annual goals and objectives that did not account for a seemingly complex and previously unknown technical endeavor like this? We initiated the first phase of the customer centered design process and went to work, discovering.
We use the discovery process to ask and answer questions about goals, priorities, constraints, dependencies, and success metrics. Outcomes from these initial discussions lead to a definition of requirements that help to inform our design and technology approach, and ultimately lead to an estimate of project cost and schedule. But along the way, in the context of our discussions we find critical value in the dialog. We learn about apprehensions that stem from prior initiatives, we begin to understand the customer’s unique personalities, strengths, and areas of expertise that will come into play during the course of our engagement. We help to clarify misconceptions and instill confidence with explanations based on best practices and proven experience. In this sense, we discover together how to approach the opportunity and ensure that it will succeed.
Two significant findings emerged in discovery. First, it was clear that the individual brands would require close participation in the design of their respective content modules, and their participation would include an established and potentially lengthy review and approval cycle. Second, we were advised by our executive sponsor that the application should be released to production within 90 days from the date of contract initiation. We developed our strategy.
To accommodate the schedule requirement we proposed an iterative development approach with incremental releases at 15 day intervals. With this plan, we would achieve the company’s release schedule and provide sufficient functionality to elicit feedback from the sales staff as we worked toward the final deliverable.
Brand Review and Approval
We met with Constellation’s Creative Services group to discuss the potential for design collaboration. Based on our findings in the discovery phase, we knew that this group could be instrumental in helping us navigate the brand review and approval process. We also knew that their design expertise was primarily focused on graphics and packaging with limited prior experience in interaction design for software applications. Creative Services agreed to partner with us in the design process and we established a plan for distributing tasks so that we could work with efficiency in our respective areas of expertise. Creative Services would assume responsibility for graphic design and brand integration, KnowledgeSource would focus on user experience and interaction design throughout the application. In addition, we provided wireframe design templates to guide content development and ensure that the application would deliver an intuitive and predictable experience as the user transitioned between the individual brand sections.
The first step in our implementation phase was to provide a static design prototype for initial review with the brand teams. The prototype included representative content in layout with an accompanying interaction model to convey the overarching navigational strategy. The prototype was approved and we shifted our focus to the formal design process, working closely with the Creative Services team as they produced design comps for 13 individual brand modules in our march toward final design delivery.
With brand design in motion, our engineering team initiated parallel software design and development and we aligned ourselves for convergence. As each brand was approved in it’s independent review cycle, we integrated content and proceeded with application development in preparation for iterative release.
To facilitate feedback from the review team, we included an in-app comment form to help manage the flow of questions and comments for collaborative review between our developers and key stakeholders. This feature was instrumental in helping us to identify opportunities for improvement and future enhancement.
We delivered three successful iterations, on schedule. And then we collected ourselves and returned to the beginning of our design process where we initiated the strategy phase for a second “Enhancements” release of the Luxury Wines iPad application. That’s another story.