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Mobile Users Deserve A Mobile Experience

31 July

When First American Title came to us with the desire to build an iPhone app for their already existing myFirstAm.com web experience, we were excited. And not for the obvious reasons.

Too often we have prospective clients who approach us with the desire to simply mimic their website experience in an attempt to have “something” in the iTunes store. Unless a website naturally lends itself to a mobile environment, which few do, this doesn’t excite us very much. If you’re simply attempting to mirror your web experience in an iPhone app, my advice is almost always going to be, “don’t build an app.”

Alan AroraAlan Arora, VP of Customer Facing Technology at First American Title, and his team came to us with a different mission. “We want to make the myFirstAm iPhone app incredibly cool,” Alan said, “but to us that doesn’t mean just a pretty iPhone version of our web app. We want the customer experience in the app to be in tune with the way Realtors® actually work on the go, as if it were one step ahead in anticipating their needs. If we could do that we think our customers would agree that is cool!” This was music to our ears.

A User-Focused App Experience Goal

Our goal was to make some assumptions about how the app would be used on the road, and present a “typical user” experience that would create a high value right at launch. What we found, in looking at competitive apps, is that other title company apps were doing exactly what we advise against. They presented an essentially non-mobile experience to the app upon launch, pushing the user to menu-based options right out of the gate. As you can see from the screen grabs below, each app presented basically the same experience. And that experience did not take advantage of the unique capabilities of a truly mobile app or make any assumptions about what a mobiel user would be doing in their app.

Thankfully, we happen to have a former real estate agent managing our production here at Zeek, Kelley Koehler. So, we turned to Kelley to provide us with insight on how, as a real estate agent, she would want to use an app that gave her access to property records and related documents. “If I’m going to use this app on my phone, I’m most likely out with clients, trying to find answers about the home we’re standing in at the time.  Or wanting information about the neighbor’s home.  Or quick comps for that area,” Kelley said. “If I’m using this on a mobile device, I want fast information about the homes around me, without having to tell the app where I am.”

So, we painted the picture of a specific user type for this app experience. As a result, the myFirstAm iPhone app uses a very different approach than the competitor apps. It takes advantage of the phone’s ability to know exactly where you are, and makes an educated assumption, backed up by web data, about how a real estate agent would want to use the app on their phone. In doing so, it purposefully strays from the standard menu-based approach that other mobile title apps take.

The myFirstAm iPhone app completely deviates from the myFirstAm web experience and returns, upon launch, a completed search for property data based on where you are when you launch the app. It also drops the results on a hybrid satellite view of the location to make it easy to verify that the results returned are indeed the right results. “This house has a pool in the backyard,” for example.

In one click, you have the property records. If you want to do a more advanced search, you can do that right from the launch screen and in one click can also expose a menu for options to view things like title and escrow orders or ordering customer service. The “typical user” assumption does not impede easy access to the other options for accessing information. That’s important.

We believe mobile users require their own user experience. We believe myFirstAm delivers on that belief. Too often companies mimic their online experience simply to keep the “brand experience” consistent. In many cases, this is simply a mistake. It’s based on a misconception of what “brand” really means and often sacrifices the user at the altar of corporate consistency.

The myFirstAm iPhone/iPad app is making its public debut at Inman Connect‘s “Show Me Your App” party on Wednesday, August 1, 2012. It will be free to download and requires a myFirstAm.com account to use. A myFirstAm.com account is also free. A First American Title representative can assist you in setting up your account.

We’re thankful for the opportunity to work with a company that understood, from the beginning, that the mobile user deserved a unique mobile experience. And we’re thankful for the freedom to build it.