Five Key Learnings On Launching A Greenfield App

On Tuesday 9th February, we were joined by the founders of Splink Industries, the ambitious team behind the extremely successful learning app: My Theory Test By James May.

The driving theory test is the biggest test in the UK, with 1.8+ million people taking it every year. 53% of those people fail the test, and at £30 a pop, it can end up being an expensive process.

Cassian Harrison and Gus Colquhoun, the founders of Splink Industries, recognised the need to overhaul theory test prep and so set about delivering My Theory Test By James May.

Here are five key learnings from Splink from their journey of being a new organisation without prior experience of launching an app.

Gus and Cassian are the first people to recognise that, although they had an idea of what they wanted the app to do and achieve, they didn’t really know how to get there, as they’d never built an app before.

After getting a business plan together and looking at initial ways to finance the work, they knew the next step was to bring in the right people to deliver the work. And they did their homework, which is an important part of the process.

When doing partner research, you should meet multiple agencies, talk through what it is you want to build and share what you want to achieve, ask for examples of similar work and - potentially most importantly, see if there’s chemistry.

Splink, wanted a partner that shared their ambition, was as excited about what they were trying to do and really got on side with it - and that was AND Digital.

Once you have a concrete idea in place, it might feel like you need to rush to get it to market, however, as Cassian and Gus realised, pausing and doing in-depth research ensures you create a product that both fills a gap in the market and delivers something your users truly need.

For Splink, the research period happened in two parts:

  1. Research into the educational app space and how to optimise learning. Before partnering up with AND, they researched their direct competition in the driving theory app market, as well as looking at the wider learning app space. Through this they identified a learning science that had not yet been implemented in an app. First devised in the 1970s, this learning algorithm optimised a person’s intake of information through repetition and frequency of practice - all based on a deadline to hit.

  2. A Discovery period with AND. Before moving forward with building the app, AND first took Splink’s ideas to a lower level, exploring the proposition, their users, and any challenges that might appear, as well as completing an additional competitor analysis. The Discovery also allowed time to ensure all the critical technical approaches that would underpin the app were mapped out, and all details were reflected in the business plan and roadmap.

As well as bringing in the right delivery partner, Splink also worked with AND to make sure the right people were brought on board for the different stages of the process. Building a successful app from the ground up isn’t as simple as bringing in a few developers - to get every step of the process right, you need to have specialists on board every step of the way.

For Splink, AND brought in:

  • Product specialists to break down what they wanted to achieve and understand the idea behind it.

  • UX specialists to frame the story the app needed to tell and to complete user research, through interacting with end users and tweaking the product based on feedback.

  • Technical leadership - especially during discovery - to define the tech stack needed to deliver Splink’s requirements for the app, and compare how this checked out against the budget.

  • A delivery lead, who upskilled Splink in Agile ways of working, made sure prioritisation was done properly, and aligned everyone in the team on any challenges and what we wanted to achieve.

Storytelling is a transferable skill across many different industries and roles - and Cassian and Gus realised it is hugely relevant when building digital products as well - you need to give your end users a story to be a part of.

So, how do you translate storytelling into your app? For Splink, this included:

  • Organising the official DVLA content into a system that made more sense. They realised that the original content had been divided into 13 random categories that had no real bearing on real-world experience of driving. To improve user experience, they recategorised content into a structure that was more relevant to the audience, making it more memorable and structured.

  • Embedding the content from James May into the official theory test material. People learn in different ways, and so including videos of James May talking through the different areas of the test made it easier for the user to digest the content.

Although new to the world of app development, Splink knew that, because they were starting from ground zero, the app would through multiple iterations to get it to where they wanted it to go. Rather than rushing to get the app to market, they wanted to get it right.

At the end of the Discovery period, the Build was estimated to take 24-25 weeks, however, in practice, an additional 10 weeks were indeed to accommodate the iterations. Some elements that meant the timeline was extended included defining the design and branding. This hadn’t been done prior to AND joining, and so evolved alongside the app build.

By breaking down the work into small, digestible chunks, AND and Splink were able to deliver a product that had a great user experience and made the process of learning driving theory engaging and enjoyable.

Though the timeline had to be extended, this flexibility brought in great results:

  • The app is currently rated 4.9 out of 5 stars on the App Store, and ranks fourth overall in the Education category.

  • It was featured as App of the Week in the App Store in its second week of launch - and has been featured multiple times since.

  • The app has been shortlisted in two categories at the 2020 Effective Mobile Marketing Awards and for App of the Year at the UK Dev Awards.

If you’d like to talk to us about the process of launching a greenfield app, or want to know how you successfully bring a product idea to life, email [email protected].