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Creative App Design Thinking



Take a Look Back

Since I joined Creative, I have been involved in several app development cycles. Out of these, those in-house developed apps are all tied with series or sub-brands. For example, the SB Connect and SB Connect 2 were for the Sound BlasterX series which is targeting gaming markets; and the SXFI Control debuted for the first-gen of Super X-Fi headsets. When comes to mid of 2018, the focus was pulled back to a broader audience rather than just gamers with the revival of Sound Blaster. As a result, the SB Command app was designed and well-received by the customers.

App of Creative in Past Years
Opportunity

Since the SB Command was released, though it’s highly acclaimed, we received a few user feedbacks asking for merging the apps or supporting legacy products on the SB Command app. Meanwhile, due to every OS platform releasing a new OS yearly and even Windows was going to upgrade to Windows 11, the recurring cost of maintenance of the app drained more resources than expected.


When comes to the day that the top management announced the realignment of the company strategy, I saw an opportunity to do the app in a new way, whereby converge into an app platform. Furthermore, to align with the direction, the functions are modularized as a set that is coherent from firmware to the app.


There are two key design goals brought up - Modularization and Platform Building, which would make the app highly scalable for the products or functions and a coherent experience across OS and products.


Modularization

A function or a set of functions is packed as a module, which focuses on a specific task or feature. Each module is independent and can be developed, tested, and maintained separately, though some of the modules are mutually exclusive, e.g., turning on one module will cause another module to turn off.


The modularization allows the functions developed reusable and interchangeable so that the effort spent on development and maintenance is accumulated along the way. In the past, the lifecycle of the app software is tied to the lifespan of the product hardware, which is typically 2-3 years for Creative.


Creative App Modules

Furthermore, when comes to a point where there are plenty of modules developed by inhouse or 3rd-party developers to cater to different use cases, a module store would emerge in the app. (There were some users who developed a tool kit for the older app for users to easily configure the product.)

Module Store

Platform Building

The second key concept is a platform-building mindset. The app is designed not only as a platform to support all the Creative products consolidating all sub-brands and series but also as a software platform hosting all the modules. The app will enumerate the modules in accordance with the product connected.


With modularization and platform building, it achieves consistency across the products and across the PC/phones. Some of the products are supported on 4 devices, Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. Switching from one device to another or switching from one product to another would cost a little for the user to learn on the app. To development, the reusable and decoupled modules make the development more efficient and manageable. To the business, it provides more possibilities from its scalability.

Color Themes
Non-functional Design Goals

Apart from the app as a controller, I have been thinking about how to add value to the business with the app. A completed user journey of a Creative user is started from search – evaluate – purchase – use – support and then purchase again. Looking at the past, the app is solely focused on its key purpose at the stage of use. That’s correct but it’s also one-sided. There are a few more value and roles the app can play a part, in the stage of support and loyal user do a second purchase.

User Journey of Consumer Electronic

In the use of the product, users might face a lot of problems inevitably, due to all kinds of root causes. Providing convenient technical support to users can quickly help them resolve pressing issues or urgent matters they are facing. There are two types of support: Self Support and Tech Support. For those users with a certain level of knowledge and skills, they can support themselves by searching for relevant knowledgebase articles from the app; while for the case where the user can’t solve themselves, the app also provides an entry for the user to contact technical support with a diagnosis log file attached if the user permits.


Tech Support


As for the loyal user, who are looking for another purchase of the product for either upgrading or for other purposes, the app would provide access to the store. Furthermore, the app can push notifications when there is a new product launch or a promotional event for the relevant potential customers for awareness.


The Creative app is available in the App Store / Google Play Store.

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