Broken Thumbs Apps

Pocket Home Interaction & Game Design

Broken Thumbs Apps wanted to develop an open-ended enhanced creative environment app. As a free-to-download game, the app was also required to incorporate game features which encouraged in-app purchases, daily play, and virality.

Project Description

In BTA's start-up environment, I wore many hats which allowed me to:

  • research and produce a competitor analysis in this app space
  • collaborate on game feature development
  • design the app's interaction via wireframes
  • perform user testing
  • analyze Flurry user data to adjust the discoverability of features
  • edit .json files to manage content
  • write and maintain online help documentation

In researching this app space, we examined competitive products and found there was an open opportunity in creating a building app that would appeal to teen and young adult female players. We chose a doll house theme because of the inexhaustible possibilities of content inventory.

I wrote several drafts of specs detailing game play and feature set along with wireframes which illustrated the game flow. The first version was quickly developed and released with a small set of content and promises of more to come. Upon release, Pocket Home's popularity grew rapidly, with users eager to share their creations with each other and on social media. We launched a blog which ran regular themed contests and received thousands of entries, which we anonymized before posting. To support our users' enthusiasm for sharing, I designed the ability to take snapshots of rooms, which is an improvement over using the iDevice's native snapshot feature because the in-app feature eliminates the interface elements from the capture.

To encourage users to play daily, I designed a series of goals and rewards. The tasks range from simply launching the app to decorating an elaborate room and sharing it via social media. Players reaching these goals earn in-app credits which which they can purchase more decor items from the Pocket Home store. Mindful of our younger users, my goal in setting these rewards was to allow players who might not have the ability to purchase in-app credits from Apple App Store a reliable (albeit slow) way to gain fresh content.

Pocket Home was BTAs most user persistent app: users who returned for a second day stayed to play the app an average of 30 minutes per session across a span of several months.

Process Spotlight

Here's a few pages of the first draft spec document that I wrote, our early assumptions lead us to believe a portrait layout would best suit the game which is reflected in the captures below.

After paper testing, I started to consider a horizontal orientation as being a better fit for what we were trying to achieve. I suggested we go with an isometric view which would bring the user visually into the room, give them greater control over where to place room contents and vastly simplify content asset production. Even with turning the app's orientation on its end, most of the feature specs I originally developed were able to make the transition and are in the shipped product. It was a good experience in how to avoid wasting engineering time by working out issues in advance with wireframes and early user testing as well as triaging what we had to see if it still worked.

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Project Details

Client: Broken Thumbs Apps
Usage: Shipped product
Tools: Adobe Illustrator, Fireworks, BBEdit