#AFtalks: Making Apps People Need With Litha Soyizwapi, Creative Director and Founder of GauRider App

Welcome to our #AFtalks recap!

This week we decided to take a step back and look at the bigger picture when developing an app. We dove into what goes into making apps that people need and want, everything from the ideation phase to the best way to get those first few users.

Our guest this week was Litha Soyizwapi, creative director and founder of the GauRider App. We asked Litha to share his insights and advice on this topic with the questions below. Included are his answers:

Q1: How did you come up with the idea for your app?

A: I am an everyday user of the Gautrain service. Gautrain is the mass-rapid transit system that connects Johannesburg, Pretoria and OR Tambo international airport in South Africa. When I was teaching myself how to code, I wanted to create an app for the real world. Creating a Gautrain app was interesting and attractive to me because of the potential to grow the user base. There were already three other Gautrain apps at the store. I wanted to create something unique and well designed. Something I would use every day. I wanted it to work well offline since data is still expensive in South Africa. I also wanted to sell the app at the AppStore.

Q2: How/when did you know the idea was good?

A: After creating a lot of prototypes and navigation systems. I found out that when I tested the app on an actual device, certain steps where tedious. I realized that there was a difference in designing a user interface based on what I thought worked well and what really worked well on the actual device. I tested different navigation systems and I wanted to limit the number of steps to get the next train or bus time. I tried tapping techniques, long presses, double taps, single taps and many other techniques to simplify the user experience. When I experimented with drag and drop I knew that the experience was elegant than anything I’ve tried before. A single drag and drop from a departure station to arrival station made it really simple and fun to navigate the app. When GauRider became No.1 on Top Paid and Top Grossing of the iPhone Travel category in the South African AppStore. I knew the app idea was good.

Q3: How much time/effort did you spend selecting a name for your app? Do you think that had an effect on its success?

A: It took a long time. I had a long list of names and I had multiple screenshots with all the proposed names written under the app icons. The first criteria for the app name was that it had to be short and not truncated. Second criteria was not to include the Gautrain name on my app name since I do not own the Gautrain trademark. I chose GauRider because it was shorter and easier to pronounce. It is also easier to search at the AppStore. When I demo the app for Gautrain commuters, some say it is a cool and a memorable name. I think the name has an effect on the app success.

Q4: Getting traction is hard. How did you go about getting those first few users?

A: As I was building certain components of the app I focused on the bus section. At the time the official Gautrain app did not have the bus schedule. I built my popular bus stops first. This helped me to refine and share a section of what I was working on with potential customers. When they were frustrated not knowing the next bus departure time, I showed the prototype to them and this was a great conversation starter. Some signed up for the mailing list others gave me their contacts to let them know when I launch the app.

Followup: Did you target specific groups or specific people? How/why?

A: I targeted mostly people who would pay for value. I focused on business people who value time and quality. I also knew that if the app did not work well they were going to call me out. This helped me to raise my own bar in terms of care and quality. Whenever I saw someone with an iPhone or iPad I spoke to them and demo the app to them. I met some amazing people this way.

Q5: How does user feedback factor into your app’s roadmap?

A: When I built the app, I built it up to version 4 but I only released it up to version 1. I’ve received great feedback since launch and I continue to do so. I’ve seen what works well and what does not. I was clear about the roadmap from the start. A lot of features request things that are part of my roadmap. Some are not implemented yet because the solution is not yet elegant or simplified. I still make UX prototypes to simplify the user experience. I also prototype features based on future potential business models.

Q6: Design is a major factor in an app’s success. How did you decide on your app’s design, and how has it evolved since the app launched?

A: From the beginning I focused on differentiation and user experience. The drag and drop navigation was the main differentiator from the start. I wanted to focus on iconic graphic elements to make the UI memorable. I do not want to add more elements to the UI. When the Gautrain added a multiple train and bus fares based on peak and off-peak periods, I had to create an elegant dynamic current fare indicator to show the current fare based on peak or off-peak time. I also designed the signature display font from the ground up. It is called GauRider LED and I’ve added more glyphs. To my surprise, by doing this the font file size became smaller on my app bundle than before. I always experiment with new ways to make the design evolve over time. I’m currently working on an iPhone X optimized UI and a major update with some of the most requested features.

Q7: If you could go back to the past, what advice would you give yourself before you launched your app?

A: I would trust myself more and realize that everyone around the world is learning every day. Learn and apply what you really care about. Ask great questions and be patient in finding the answers. Just because you do not grasp a concept yet, it does not mean you will never grasp it. Things can always be better. You have to start. You are never done…


Final Thoughts:

Tell us about your experience with localization in the comments section below.


Check out the rest of the insights we heard today on the #AFtalks hashtag.

Huge thanks to Litha and to all those that were part of today’s discussion! Join us for our weekly Twitter chat every Tuesday at 2pm ET (bring your friends!). See you all next week!

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