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Are you an industry thought leader with a strong network in mobile, cloud, or web and the ability to build new business? Fed up with endless meetings, stifling bureaucracy, and caps on your potential? Explore a unique opportunity to drive your own future as Sourcebits Studio Director.
Sourcebits Studios are discrete practice groups with focus in specific areas from Mobile Enterprise Applications to Web Gaming. Each is headed by a highly qualified Studio Director who is responsible for driving their Studio’s projects from initial client engagement to final delivery.
Studio Directors are industry leaders in mobile, cloud, and UX design—from the former CEO of the world’s largest open-source mobile platform, to an Apple Design Award winner.
As a Director you’ll share completely in the success of your studio, and have full authority to run it as your own business unit—with unlimited potential. At the same time, you’ll have access to all of the resources Sourcebits provides as a global company backed by Sequoia Capital and IDG Ventures. Sourcebits gives an unprecedented level of support and trust to Studio Directors, and Directors return that trust by delivering spectacular service and results for their clients.
You’ll work with amazing people throughout the company who care as deeply about the success of your clients’ projects as you do. Because Studios work together, clients have access to the best minds in mobile, web, and cloud development across multiple platforms and disciplines. At the core of Sourcebits Studios you’ll find more than 400 Sourcebits employees, each whom bring their extreme passion and focus to client projects across a wide range of talents and skills.
We’re looking for a few people who share that passion and focus and can back it up with a track record of success. If you think you have what it takes to lead your own Studio, get in touch below to learn more.
Closely following the rumors and reports, this Tuesday Apple released a new revision of the iPhone, as well as branching into a completely new product category: the Apple Watch. There are many interesting aspects related to these devices, however in this blog post I'd like to focus on characteristics relevant to UI designers and technology in general.
The New, Cheeky Retina
The new iPhones come with displays bigger than the current generation: 4.7 and 5.5 inches respectively. iPhone 6 has a resolution of 750 x 1334 at 326 dpi, and iPhone 6 Plus comes with full 1080p frame resolution of 1920 x 1080 at an 401 ppi density. And as it turns out, the iPhone 6 Plus screen is actually hardware downsampled from internally rendered resolution of 1242 x 2208. What does it mean to us, fellow designers? Put simply, the desire to throw Photoshop out of the window should grow even stronger. These two new screens force new and different UI element sizes, different proportions, different layout compositions, and in the case of iPhone 6 Plus — the new @3x asset size together. On top of that, hardware resampling means we will never see 1px wide lines, ever again. As designers, we need to be able to project our work on the screen it is destined to live at, and as of today there is very little hardware and software capable of helping us with that.
With the advent of the Auto-Layout concept in iOS7, further strengthened by the flexible nature of the new iPhone displays, Adobe Photoshop is quickly becoming more obsolete than ever. It's going to be hard to work with these new resolutions, and very difficult to imagine how your designs should work on the device, even if you project them live using tools such as Skala Preview, XScope or LiveView. On top of that, computer hardware requirements to process multi-layered designs at such high resolutions are increasing. We saw it for the first time with retina iPad resolution: 1536 x 2048 has been difficult to swallow by our computers.
Auto Layouts and Auto Design
The concept of a flexible, dynamically adjusting and resolution-independent UI layout was introduced with iOS7. Apple's Interface Builder has been available for many years before that, and provided similar functionality, but never before has Apple put so much pressure on encouraging developers to exclusively use Auto Layouts.
The beautiful thing about Auto Layouts is that it takes away all the frustration that comes from working with classical design apps: the constraints of raster graphics, the amount of time wasted on re-adjusting things to faulty pixel grids, the nightmare of defining typography rules, performance inefficiencies, workflow fundamentally inappropriate to app UI design…the list goes on. Auto Layouts takes all of that away by a) providing an extremely strong foundation of iOS design language, applied to UI building process in real time and b) letting developers specify additional strong, logical rules to which the interface will adhere.
With iPhone 6 Plus and iOS 8, we need to start thinking about split views in landscape orientation, a paradigm that was once available only on the iPad and now makes it way to the iPhone. A smaller and more dense screen, different usage contexts and different UI element sizes essentially constitute a completely new design challenge. How to use the split view effectively? What are the creative ways of splitting information into two panes on a phone? How to hierarchize the content, so we stay within the constraints of Fitt's Law? Auto Layouts help resolve the majority of such problems, or at least provide viable potential solutions.
Let's be clear though: it's not the ultimate design tool yet. Usefulness of Auto Layout is limited to a specific area, one which luckily for us happens to be where classical design apps fail pretty miserably. However, as designers, we still need to have the additional creative power of Photoshop, Sketch or Fireworks, just to be able to experiment and go beyond what iOS design language provides. There are two additional techniques I can recommend in order to get a better feel for your work:
- Attain a mindset where singular pixels, pixel-perfect accuracy and microscopic details don't matter anymore. Your canvas is much larger and more dense, and your users don't see your pixels anymore. Pay more attention to typography and interesting layouts; spend more time creating behaviors and responses to user actions; obsess over speed and transformation curves.
- Prototype the hell out of it. Grab Keynote, make your interactions, rotate the file with this sweet script (warning: OS X Yosemite only!), shove it onto your brand new iPhone 6 and experience your design right away, without the necessary overhead and complexity of engineering. Use Quartz Composer, Framer.js, or whatever floats your boat, as long as you understand that design is realized in motion, not amongst static pixels.
One of the most interesting features of the new iPhones is a proof that Apple hit the wall of usability, and conceded to a slightly shady compromise. Both iPhone 6 models clearly fail to adhere to Fitt's Law and Reachability attempts to fix that. Double-tap the home button and the screen contents either shrinks or moves down within the reach of user's thumb. It doesn't sound very elegant in theory, but realistically, what else can be done with such a big screen, and the functional "one-finger-operation" requirement?
Having such large screens, which constitutes a new usage context, should provoke innovative design solutions. iOS has been sticking to the paradigm of keeping linear navigational elements at the top of the screens since version one. With iPhone 6, that doesn't make any sense anymore. That paradigm forced the introduction of Reachability, which feels like a stop-gap solution Apple shouldn't be proud of. What else can be done then? Be creative, consider your thumb and figure out what are the other ways of navigating through apps. Apple introduced "swipe-to-go-back" in iOS7 purely due to anticipated usability problems with iPhone 6. And even third-party developers are exploring new solutions — I suggest you check out how Pocket resolves navigating out of an article.
Apple Watch is an interesting little device. It feels a bit like a digital parasite: heteronomous, dependent on tethering data, content and even sensor readings from its parent iPhone. It's definitely a genius business tactic, where Apple can tighten the ecosystem loop and lock users down to solutions dependent on each other in more ways. Along with that, coupling with the power of the parent iPhone makes this tiny device much smarter and more powerful. But the Apple Watch is no slouch, it does have its own sensors and cool capabilities too.
As of today, we know that Apple Watch comes with Bluetooth 4.0 LE, NFC and a heart rate sensor. Judging from Apple's past practices with Bluetooth, its support for third party developers will be severely limited. Basically developers will be able to use it to send notifications and/or data to WatchKit apps. We shouldn't have high hopes for extensive pairing and independent data exchange capabilities.
An interesting tidbit about Bluetooth: it seems that Apple is working on a wireless BT headset, focused on fitness applications. We can read on the Apple Watch pages:
Music. Control the music on your iPhone without taking it out of your pocket. And when you leave iPhone at home to go for a jog, listen to music directly on Apple Watch.
There is no headphone port on the watch, so we’ll look forward to seeing how Apple sorts that out.
Moving along, we have the long-awaited Near Field Communications module. Originally designed to support the Apple Pay platform, NFC can be used in a myriad of other, amazing ways. It enables short-range communication and data exchange between watches, supported phones, sensors and anything else that conforms to the NFC standard. According to the internet rumor mill, there will be an API available for third party developers on day one!
Data from the heart rate sensor and accelerometer will be made available through the HealthKit platform. Apple showed us how heartbeat data can be used to initiate a very intimate kind of communication — users can simply send their heartbeat animation to another user. It sounds very simple, but I want to believe that its effect on how people communicate will be substantial, by leading us to invent even more new ways of personal, deep information and emotional exchange.
Third party developers get access to Apple Watch's screen in three ways: Glimpses, WatchKit apps and interactive notifications.
A Glimpse is a widget-like panel, which users access by swiping up on the screen, from anywhere in the UI, a bit like Dashboard on OS X. A Glimpse is designed to provide an essential piece of functionality: think closing garage doors, turning off lights or adjusting thermostat. The level of accessibility this setup provides is very exciting: just think how much more you will be able to do in your e-connected home using a tiny bit of hardware strapped to your wrist.
Apps are the miniature versions of mobile apps, built using the WatchKit SDK. We saw a pretty good representation of those during Keynote: remember the Twitter app? Users can access the timeline, read tweets, retweet, favorite, and more. It is up to designers and developers to decide how much functionality they find appropriate to fit onto the watch. To a designer especially, this is a brand new challenge: how to fit a useful and actionable amount of data on such a small screen, with such a limited interaction model? I for one am very excited about the perspective of exercising an enormous amount of self-discipline and creativity in order to design short, sensible and meaningful pieces of software on the Apple Watch.
Interactive notifications arrive onto the Apple Watch straight from iOS8. Think of regular banner notifications, sliding down from the top of the screen, and add a piece of interactivity to them: 2-3 buttons providing actions which are the most appropriate in the specific moment of perceiving a notification. Less technological and more of a design innovation, this feature still results in a massive convenience increase. Users will be able to deal with messages, emails, calendar invitations, Facebook notifications, in a meaningful, and most importantly, much faster and convenient way. I think designers will have a lot of fun work to do in figuring out which actions are the most important, asking questions like, out of ten possible responses to this piece of content, which is the one used or desired the most? I'm looking forward to an increased focus on user testing to gain such knowledge, as well as heated feature brainstorming sessions.
Aside from technical aspects of the new product, I think it's worth noting how the Apple Watch is presented to the public, and what kind of effort went into creating it. Let's focus on tiny details.
Did you notice how many videos of the watch Apple made? Did you notice how each shot of the watch is the definition of absolute perfection of form, texture, play of light and shadow? Did you synchronize your desire to learn more with the deliberately slow pacing of the shots, macro close-ups showing just the juiciest, most beautiful details? These videos are so perfect that they are almost unnatural. Formally, these videos are nothing like we have ever seen before. Even the most luxurious car brands, known for immense advertising budgets, don't come close to the visual perfection of Apple's Watch videos. Apple knew this would just be a teaser and they poured a lot of sweat into creating pieces that would leave the audience excited and clamoring for more, for months until the release. For designers, it's a huge piece of inspiration in how to use visuals to sell the product, through the right combination of motion progression, shot composition, pacing, contrasts and color palettes.
Speaking of design effort, I'd like to focus on one aspect: typography. The typeface used on the Apple Watch is not Helvetica Neue, Helvetica, Chicago, Lucinda Grande, and definitely not Myriad. What's going on? Has Apple just added a new typeface to their catalog? Looks like it! According to The Verge, Apple designed a completely new typeface exclusively for the Apple Watch, with the overarching goal of maximizing legibility.
To me, the typeface that Apple designed is yet another homage to the Swiss school of design. As the watch itself inspires itself with years of development of Swiss horology, I see this typeface as a descendant of the ideals of typefaces such as Akzidenz and Univers, and maybe a trace of DIN 1451 too. I think Apple succeeded in paying respects and drawing the best qualities from the pillars of Swiss and German typography, while gaining the desired level of legibility at the same time. I would like to think that Jonathan Ive reached to the revered roots of typography instead of blatantly copying from Google’s Roboto font, according to some sources.
Even though the relentless rumor machine spoiled the surprise, I still think what Apple released on Tuesday is very significant. Apple is entering new venues: mobile payments, wearables, fitness and health. Apart from that, they are shifting focus in their existing lines of business: not many noticed, but those who did mourned the disappearance of the iPod Classic from the Apple Store. This is significant, because iPod Classic was the last device using Apple's iconic click wheel interface. Apple is not afraid to abandon previously proven solutions to advance into new product lines. As a designer, I welcome the opportunity to work with new platforms, new hardware capabilities, and finally the new restrictions imposed by technology as well as newly generated user expectations.
Want to know more about how Apple's new releases are going to impact the mobile world?
Just a quick glance around our tablet-and-smartphone immersed world will confirm the ubiquity of mobile technology. The statistics below show how integral mobile has become to daily life, as well as a driving force in our economy.
- By 2017, the mobile app market is expected to generate revenues of $77 billion
- Worldwide, there were 1.2 billion smartphone shipments in 2014
- Smartphones make up 63.1% of the global mobile market
Businesses are taking note, and making major investments in the future of technology. The four most impactful, emerging trends are Social, Mobile, Analytics, and Cloud, or SMAC. Spurred on by powerful evidence and an always-increasing user base, it’s no wonder adopting and improving SMAC has become a top priority for businesses. This Forbes article expands upon the definitions and uses of the individual components of SMAC. In summary:
Social: Known for being “...the easiest to understand and perhaps the hardest to manage and control,” social media is changing the way businesses market and present their brands and brand messaging, and how consumers interact with that messaging.
Mobile: Mobile means more “...than a smartphone connected to the web. It involves data mobility and the idea of safe and secure data transfer any time, any place, on any device.”
Analytics: “This torrent of new data offers an opportunity to gain unprecedented insight and to quickly test new ideas...it also provides the power to fundamentally change business operations.”
Cloud: With so many different kinds of cloud computing, such as public, private and hybrid, delivering platform, infrastructure and SaaS, to name a few, cloud is generally the least understood of the four.
Collectively, SMAC is estimated to generate revenue from between $70 - $200 billion over the next three years. Clearly, SMAC is taking the future by storm, and Sourcebits is ready to help your business build its social, mobile, analytics and cloud solutions. Have questions on how your business can more effectively implement SMAC?
You’ve got a brilliant app idea, but you might be clueless where to go from there. When it’s time to get your mobile application built, companies have two choices:
Recruit and hire an internal team.
Find a mobile development company.
While building your own team may appeal to you (since your app is your baby, after all, and you want it to be perfect) there are several issues with creating an internal team. For example, when you’re searching for the right candidate, recruiting can take a long time, weeks or sometimes even months. And don’t forget hiring costs, such as a recruiter’s fees or relocation expenses, which all together can quickly add up. Even when you do finally find that someone who seems perfect for the role, you may discover they may not be the right long-term fit. For more specific numbers and an in-depth analysis of building your own team versus hiring a mobile development firm, check out our slideshow.
If after reviewing the pros and cons list, you’ve decided going with an outside company is what’s right for you, congratulations! Your app is one step closer to success! This is an especially good decision if you meet any of the criteria below:
A) You don’t know how to bring your app idea into reality
B) You’ve created a minimum viable product but now it’s time to put the “big app pants” on
C) You need a lot of help and you need it fast
D) You can’t or don’t want to hire internal employees
But with so many factors to consider and options to choose from when it comes to an external development company, where do you even start? You know you don’t want to sacrifice quality to make some cookie-cutter app.
In the second part of the slideshow, we’ll enlighten you on the six steps to finding the right development team from start to finish, such as setting a ballpark budget, determining logistics, and hiring “ninjas”. Scroll through for more details.
Have questions about your app? Our team of experts has the answers!