Designing my first mobile application

A process snapshot of Hidden Square v1.1

In 2012, friends and I have built a curated night guide for Berlin. The main USP versus other guides was the possibility to win tickets for a range of events and concerts. We have chosen a mobile-first strategy and decided to start designing for iOS while planning to release a responsive web version later.

When we thought of the app’s visual appearance, we wanted to spread the feeling of something hidden or even prohibited and equip the app with a minimal and straightforward UX. With that in mind, I started designing the product and discovered some challenges in different parts of the realization process.

The event list view and the event page

UX Design

From the beginning, we wanted to stick to Apple’s human interface guidelines, which provide an integrated experience throughout Apple’s whole eco-system.

“People appreciate iOS apps that feel as though they were designed expressly for the device. For example, when an app fits well on the device screen and responds to the gestures that people know, it provides much of the experience people are looking for.”

This sounds boring first but is best for usability reasons as users will find themselves in a familiar environment. We came up with a simple list from where you can dive deeper into the various sections of the app. The feedback was great and most of the users liked the simple UX. When sticking to a certain degree of minimalism, we had to decide which features should be in- or excluded from the product. These decisions were hard sometimes. It’s easy to artificially blow up a product with features no one needs. For example, we first thought of integrating sub-views for artists or pictures of parties but struck that off the list because it blurred the main experience.

UI Design

The design was supposed to feel like entering a hidden spot. You should feel like digging for rare items, in this case, free-tickets for events and concerts. Therefore, I skipped the idea to develop a too minimalistic and clear design and decided to go for skeuomorphism.

In the first version I came up with a wooden background image, but after evaluating the feedback and playing around with version 1.0, it felt like not completely nailing it. By replacing the wood with rough concrete we made a further step in visually mirroring most people’s nightlife perceptions.

List view with changed background

Besides the changes in design, we introduced a menu to the app with new features. Version 1.1 made it possible to favorite and share events and to add them to any calendar. Further, we added an ‘around me’ functionality, which showed all events nearby.

Pulling down the view reveals hidden features
The new app menu

At this moment we were also working on a web-app and started jumping into the Android world. We aimed to max-out our reach by providing a clutter-free experience throughout most common platforms.

We maintained Hidden Square as a side project for 4 years. Sometimes more, sometimes less active. By the time, we realized that this project was too time-consuming running it on the side and it didn’t show the numbers to turn it into a full-time venture.