A Facelift at Age 1

To celebrate one year on the app store, we have refreshed our look for the next version of benjamin: sixty-second deals. Big deal, right?

While we're not one of those apps that gets thousands of words on AdWeek, TechCrunch, or Bloomberg every time we make a change to our icon, I'm writing this post for two reasons:

  1. This serves as written proof that we heard our loyal users' feedback loud and clear
  2. There aren't enough posts like this and I think there should be. If you're an app developer and you want to know how long you should go between design refreshes, there just isn't an answer.* Let this post serve as a datapoint.

We came up with the design for the benjamin app in mid-2014. We had the product screen down before anything else: we had no name, not a single line of code, and we didn't have a clue what we would sell.

The goal is simplicity. Our job is to offer product and do so in a way that you are comfortable making a decision within sixty seconds. We spent countless hours thinking about what information a user needs to make a buying decision. We even did a non-scientific poll of 600 18-24 year old smartphone owners in Massachusetts:

"What is the most important item to see in a product listing?"

We were able to work four of the top five requests into our initial version and felt good that we were able to do so. We put it together, launched in June 2015 and lived happily ever after.

Okay, maybe not. Here's a sampling of some design feedback we've received:

  • How do I see multiple photos?
  • How do I buy the item?
  • Where is the price?
  • The colors make me sleepy.
  • How do I share this deal?
  • The timer freaks me out.
  • (insert a complaint about the font and then three counter-arguments)
  • I want to see % off, not a strike-through of the original price.
  • The timer really freaks me out.
  • I want to see a strike-through of the original price, not % off.

After a few months, we gathered a solid understanding of what we wanted to change but the big question remained: when?

I'm guilty of thinking that a design refresh was a back-burner item even though we had totally ignored the then-recently-released iOS 7's shift to flat design principles. I honestly don't know why. I think I thought that flat would go away. Whoops. Our developer resources, stretched thin (as they always are in a startup), were focused on bug fixes and items that had a more tangible impact on top-line revenue. 

What we hadn't considered is that slapping a new coat of paint on the user interface can ease the pain-points of your loyal users while drawing old users back in. A refresh generates a little buzz and creates an emotional response. After a year in the wild, it was time to give benjamin a facelift.

Anyway, here it is. Our previous design on the left, our refreshed version on the right: 

Our refresh brings improved clarity and focus. The most important piece of information, price, is front, center, and bold. The second most important piece of information, the product image, no longer has a dark gray translucent bar pulling attention away from the product - the white bar interferes far less. 

We addressed concerns about X and $, opting for larger buttons with clear copy. We added some color along the top to add some life to the screen. We even managed to negotiate peace between the people who prefer seeing "% Off" and those who prefer seeing the original price with a strike-through line: we've got both. And finally, we replaced the digital timer. While our deals are still timed, the animated clock takes a little bit of the edge off. 

How long will this design last? Time will tell.

What do you think? We would love to hear from you. Leave your thoughts below or send us a quick e-mail.

* - That is not to say that there are not great app design blogs. I dig boxesandarrows, Usability Geek, and A List Apart, among others.