UX Awards

The Premier Awards for Exceptional Digital Experience

A Different Mobile First Strategy Details


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A small agile team at AppFolio developed a strategy to rebuild a very large, heavily trafficked B2B web application to be fully responsive.

AppFolio Property Manager is a cloud-based property management software that allows apartment, residential, commercial, student housing, and community association property managers to more effectively market, manage and grow their business. Our app is used by tens of thousands of people daily to get their job done. Being easy to use and highly available is a primary reason why our customers use our software.

We faced our most substantial technology challenge in our drive to exceed the competition with a compelling mobile strategy. Our customers were becoming more mobile, so having limited mobile functionality was not sufficient. To be successful, our mobile strategy had to (1) optimize workflows across 400+ pages of a mature web app, (2) provide full functionality across all devices, (3) leverage a shared code-base for consistent parity, and (4) follow our iterative development approach while having little to no impact on the desktop experience.

Through a phased approach, a small agile team of 3 developers, 1 QA, 1 product manager and 1 UX designer focused on making quick, lightweight changes with minimal disruption to users, addressed UX debt and retired a limited mobile app. We focused on the most frequently trafficked pages from mobile devices and gave desktop users the option to opt in/out. We used data and direct user feedback to improve mobile specific workflows, optimize navigation, and build new design patterns for reuse. This strategy gave our users full access to our web app, not just a select set of pages for mobile, so that users could get their jobs done from anywhere on any device with no app required. While successful, we quickly learned our users still wanted native apps. With testing and feedback, we pivoted to create a mobile app that wrapped our responsive site to provide iOS and Android users with a native experience that rivaled our competition.

Why this project is worthy of a UX Award:

You can’t always do “mobile first”. While most SaaS companies hire a "mobile team" that works only on mobile apps, AppFolio took the approach of converting all 400+ pages of our web app to be mobile responsive. This creative approach allowed us to convert our app page-by-page so that the mobile experience improved iteratively. Ongoing feedback from early beta users assured that we gave our customers what they needed throughout the entire process. We were able to convert pages in such a way that responsive and non-responsive pages were completely indistinguishable to the desktop user, therefore causing no disruption to their workflow. Updates included completely revamping navigation, improving time-on-task for common workflows, creating a new, standard page template for the whole development team to use, a standardized component library, and native mobile apps for iOS and Android. This gave our users the freedom to do their work from anywhere on any device, and ensure that they don’t fall behind the curve of technology but instead leverage technology in their business.

Submitted By: AppFolio

4.5/5 (21)

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