Velocity is an app that helps people read a lot faster. Studies have long shown increased comprehension and speed in readers when the text is displayed word-by-word only. Capitalizing on this well-tested, yet perhaps non-intuitive psychological data, Velocity is an app that imports written content directly from Pocket or Instapaper, two of the best offline bookmark-access tools around.
Users of Velocity can customize the speed at which the text scrolls by, and can use it to read, essentially, anything found online – one word at a time!
We recently had the chance to interview the co-creator of Velocity app, Matthew Bishcoff, and he had some absolute treasures of wisdom to share – we hope you enjoy the interview.
UI Palette: Your app is kind of a gateway for everything written on the web, what were some of the biggest challenges in designing such a unique app?
Matthew Bischoff: One of the biggest challenges in designing Velocity was the fact that we had to build an app that could be extensible to many more services in the future; we had to avoid trapping ourselves in an interface that wouldn’t grow. There are only a few other apps like Velocity on the store, so we didn’t have a lot of precedent to look at, but typically we trust our collective experience as designers and developers to make the right decisions. Plus we’re very responsive to customers offering phone, Twitter and e-mail support and they usually tell us very quickly when we get something wrong. As huge readers ourselves, we got to test Velocity for many hundreds of hours, but there’s nothing like a group of incredible beta testers to help you find those tiny details to perfect. Our biggest challenge was keeping the interface simple and easy to use in the face of increasing complexity and feature creep. We had to keep stripping away layers of interface chrome, and the entire app had to be completely redesigned when iOS 7 was announced.
UIP: We love your logo design, how did you go about brainstorming and creating your logo?
MB: First of all, we need to give credit to the two incredible designers that worked with us on this project. Marcelo Marfil, who worked on apps like Instacast and Byword, gave the apps interface its signature feel. Talos Tsui from The Iconfactory realized our vision for the app’s icon. We always knew we wanted the icon to represent speed, and a speedometer felt like a perfect glyph to portray that concept.
UIP: Do you have any words on mobile design philosophy, and what gives a mobile app great design?
MB: Mobile design should be about presenting users the information that’s relevant to them in their context and allowing them to act on it quickly. Users don’t often have a lot of time on the subway or in line when they check their phones, so we want to delight them and provide them value in that window. There are also lots of practical concerns to worry about on mobile like touch target size, battery life, and intermittent connectivity. We try to make those details disappear for our user and give them exactly what they want when they want it. Hopefully, it seems like magic.
UIP: What are some habits you’d recommend to help people with some outside design knowledge to become better designers for mobile?
MB: Three words. Human Interface Guidelines. We’ve worked with many designers both personally and professionally, and the best are those that take the time to learn the platform. Whether it’s watching videos from Apple’s WWDC, reading the documents they produce, or staying up on the latest mobile design patterns via websites like pttrns.com, the most important thing about being a mobile designer is to never stop learning. Another often overlooked design strategy is to create an App Definition Statement which is a simple one sentence summary of what your app does, and who it is for.
UIP: What resources and tools can you recommend for people designing mobile apps?
MB: There are so many great ones. At Lickability we rely heavily on Apple’s Xcode, Adobe Creative Cloud, Xscope, Skala View, and Apoio to get the job done. Along with dozens of mobile apps made by our friends and colleagues, it’s not really the tools you use that matter, it’s what you do with them.
UIP: What are the most cost-effective ways you’ve found to market your app?
MB: E-mailing pitches to journalists that would have a natural interest in promoting our apps. We also stay really engaged with our users through Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and e-mail. Making a great website, writing a good App Store description, and crafting a great app are all essential for any of the marketing you do to even matter.
UIP: How did the inspiration for Velocity come to you? Or put differently, how or when did you realize that this was possible and that you wanted to make it happen?
MB: We have tons of ideas all the time, but the problem is selecting which one we can do. Oftentimes one or two of us will start working on a prototype and show it to the others, and if that person is truly blown away, we know we’ve got something. For Velocity, the idea came from having to read tons of material in short periods of time for college classes. There were already a few speed reading tools for the web, so we thought we should bring that to iOS.
What’s next for Velocity? It seems to have huge potential for everyone, what kind of partners are you looking for?
MB: We’re looking at partnering with all kinds of premium content providers. Our number one request by far is Readability, which we will begin working on in the near future. After that we would love to work with providers like Longform, Longreads, and Dropbox as potential sources in the app. We’re also looking at making it easier to use Velocity on other platforms like the iPad.