#BuildMyApp - You tweeted, we listened.
March 18 2019

You tweeted, we listened. There were a lot of good points raised in the feed from @JulieDodd 's original tweet about our #BuildMyApp competition, so we thought we’d respond here, in full.




Totally agree. It’s so easy for charities to get sucked into this. One of our team just pointed this out to me and I’ve just said the same thing that you should never start with the tech and retrofit it to solve a user problem.

— Michael Wilkinson (@ThatMichaelW) 15 March 2019

In response to the very valid point @ThatMichaelW alludes to here, we completely agree that apps shouldn’t be built for the sake of it, and that the cart should obviously never lead the horse. Last year we reviewed and talked through around forty submissions where we felt that an app really wasn’t the best fit to solve their problem - for a lot of people the solution was actually already out there in a white-labelled guise that they could use for a fraction of the cost it would’ve taken to produce their own, for others the solution was a better-executed mobile website, or even just an easily accessible PDF guide or list of links. We’re not in the business of writing meaningless code; it’s not good for the cause, and quite frankly it doesn’t make us feel nice.


The catalyst for our #BuildMyApp competitions originally was, and continues to be, that we wanted to extend the opportunity to have something built that would provide genuine useful impact. This could be a product that a team already had in their pipeline, or a product that a charity has always wanted but never been able to responsibly fund.


We should also probably point out at this point that #BuildMyApp has always been open to everyone - it is not limited to submissions from charities only. Last year around 50% of our entries were from individuals entirely removed from the third sector, that just had good ideas they wanted to see in the world.


We also wanted to take the opportunity to help a charity test the art of the possible. We think it’s a crying shame that many not for profits are so hamstrung by tight budgets that they can’t really test out ideas - we wanted to give people the opportunity to innovate, to test, to play (and create something useful in the process).




Another well meaning but dangerous offer for charities to have an app built for ‘free’. Who’s paying for constant maintenance, upgrades, marketing, bug fixes? 99.9% of time the answer to charity problems is NOT an app. https://t.co/bQKsw8SDwB 😡

— Julie Dodd (@JulieDodd) 15 March 2019

In short, any bug fixes required to the app (that is, any fixes to functionality from the original scope) are absolutely covered under the “free” banner. Any enhancements to functionality, changes to previously agreed designs or updates required as a result of a third party (due to major iOS updates, for example) would need to be paid for, although at our heavily-reduced third sector rate card. We’re committed and committing to this project, and have no intention of handing over something half-baked, broken or not worth the pixels it takes up!


Also, a key legal point here - the submitter will own the intellectual property and codebase of the final app, in its entirety. No ifs, no buts.


In terms of marketing the app, last year our Digital Marketing team worked with the winning cause on their marketing effort for the charity as a whole (both during and after the build period) fee-free,. as well as offering (again, free and with absolutely no obligation) one on one consulting sessions with all submissions to talk about any digital challenges their not for profit organisations were facing (so yes, Julie - we hear you, and agree of the value there!). We’ll be following that approach this year too.


If it was billed as a very rough prototype then maybe... but still an app is almost certainly not the right answer. An offer of some free advice, or a web-based proof of concept would have more value

— Julie Dodd (@JulieDodd) 15 March 2019





The thought and number of people involved in #BECCA though is arguably case for how an app should be thought out, planned and invested in... Not always the case - which is where the issues come in and such a free offer hinders appropriate digital awareness.

— Joe Freeman (@JosephFreeman) 16 March 2019

Agree with all the above. Plus building app in this way (5 days only) leaves no room for proper user testing, iteration or any other basic good practice so highly unlikely to hit mark in first place

— Janet Thorne (@janetthorne) 15 March 2019


@JosephFreeman, @JanetThorne - we hear you. And regarding process - admittedly we’ve been a little trite here for the sake of succinctness. From the point of selecting a winner, our Product Management and Strategy team work with the submitter on a mutually agreed project scope and user stories (which is basically a jargon-y way of saying that we work with the submitter to agree what is both most important and possible within the timeframe ahead of time) amongst any other technical queries that need ironing out ahead of the core design and build week, and then following the five day hack, will continue to work with the product and submitter to go through a full UAT process before a launch. Also, we should point out that the process during the five days is not waterfall - there will likely be between 3 to 4 people working on the project on any given day in a super collaborative, agile fashion.


The inspiration for the #BuildMyApp format was actually from Good For Nothing - an international, chapter-based organisation that organised and ran hundreds of hack events for social causes (set up by the awesome team at Swarm). One of our Strategists used to run a chapter, saw the tech-hack approach work for numerous awesome causes over the years, and believed we could also use this approach here. The concept of the Sign Studio app is, under the surface, very simple - Signalong had a database of descriptions and illustrations already built, and we used the free Google Vision service to then hook this in to the user’s camera. We wrapped it in a clean design, and essentially - that was it! Signalong had the idea, and the information to back it up, and we provided the tech, the design and the time.





It may not be that well meaning either. I smell a marketing wheeze.

— Ian Williamson (@betteriser) 15 March 2019


Ian - we’re a bit saddened by your cynicism here, though we can understand where it comes from. Full disclosure - if by us doing something genuinely good makes people think we're good then that's brilliant, but this is not a mission in exploiting charities’ limited budgets for our own personal gain.


It’s easy for us to talk “as an agency” and stand behind a cloud of group mystique but, as individuals, we all feel the want to contribute to projects that actually make the world a better place - and, quite honestly, the #BuildMyApp competitions allow us to use our collective expertise to do something, however small, toward this.


And, as for any wheezing you might hear, that’s entirely down to our inconsistency with cardio training.




We hope that this has cleared up any uncertainties, and for those of you on the original thread that said you saw the competition come up but shied away from it because you thought we would give you five days for free but then slam you on support, felt like it was an insincere offer of goodwill, or that it was unhelpful in general - we hope that this may have changed your mind. If it hasn’t, then that’s OK too.


If any questions remain unanswered then please, get in touch with us directly! We’re real-life people, and totally open to talk about it - no debates in the comments section for us... You can tweet us @studiographene (and Jess will see your message come in and get back to you), you can email us on buildmyapp@studiographene.com (and Christine will be replying to you) or - quite frankly - we’re based at Huckletree Shoreditch near Old Street and are always happy to sit down and have a coffee and go through any concerns, queries (or ideas!) you might have.

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