Interview: Jeff Rock, Elixr – Poor user experience is kinda rude

Interview: Jeff Rock, Elixr – Poor user experience is kinda rude

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Jeff Rock Interview, Elixr App, User Experience a Priority

Elixr’s community-driven app helps you discover and share the best drinks in town and the best places to enjoy them.

The mobile app’s killer user experience sets it apart from some of the more popular apps of its kind.

I asked Jeff Rock of Mobelux why Elixr’s UX was so good. The best quote from the interview below had to be:

“Would you let the person at the front desk of your business be rude to the people that walked in?

Well, your app or website is your front desk, and a poorly thought out, hard to use, frustrating website is just as bad as being rude to the potential customers that come through the door.”

– Jeff Rock, Elixr

Here’s the full interview:

 

Malcom McCutcheon:  Ok, I’ll cover the basics. You are Jeff Rock. You live and work in Richmond, VA. You started a company called Mobelux with your co-founder Garrett Ross. From what I recall, one of your first successes was Tumblrette, which later became the official Tumblr iPhone app. How am I doing so far?

Jeff Rock: Good!

Mobelux Founders - Garrett Ross and Jeff Rock
Mobelux Founders – Garrett Ross (left) and Jeff Rock (right)

MM: Mobelux has grown steadily over the past 6+ years. Your client list is impressive and so is your portfolio of work. You guys are about more than mobile app development though, right?

JR: Right. We were pinned with the “app” badge early on since there weren’t a lot of shops focusing on building great iOS apps for other companies, but we’ve come to cover a wide range of services since then. In addition to our iOS and Android work, we design responsive websites that play nice on screens of any size, build the platforms that support those apps and websites, and even offer brand & identity design.

MM: Elixr, which Mobelux developed, is one of my favorite apps to-date. I understand that your co-conspirator in this was Marc LaFountain, the artist formerly known as Tumblr Employee #3. So what prompted you guys to build a social drinking app?

JR: Marc was up for a change. His wife had recently accepted a job offer abroad and he was leaving Tumblr. Being a cocktail guy that travelled a lot, he was always trying to find the best bar in town with pretty poor results. Like, just ending up in an Applebee’s poor results. There just wasn’t anything good out there for drink discovery. So it seemed like there was an opportunity to make something useful to us while creating something that we felt was missing in the market. For Mobelux, we had been itching to ship something we had more control over. A no-compromises, first-class, platform-driven social network. Elixr as a project fit the bill nicely.

MM: And your motivation wasn’t profit right out of the gate? Crazy talk.

JR: Ha. No. I guess you could call Elixr more of an experiment at first. We had questions about its viability, and unlike most idea guys, we had the design and development resources to test the theory. So we jumped in. None of this is to say that we had no monetization strategy, we wanted to make something, use it, and see if it was worth exploring further.

MM: Ok, we’ll leave words like “monetize” out of this for now.

JR: No, it’s fair to bring it up. Everyone should be asking those questions about every new service they sign up for. My answer may not be very satisfying, but not everything is about making a ton of money. Sometimes you just want to put something out into the world and see what happens.

Mobelux Office - Richmond, VA
Mobelux Office – Richmond, VA

MM: So why is your app so damned good?

JR: I’m glad you like it! We focus on experience and usability with every product that we take on. I think there’s a good many product decisions that get made for the wrong reasons; legacy support, too-tight budgets, too many cooks in the kitchen, etc. With Elixr we weren’t constrained with any of that burden. We simply tried to come up with the most frictionless way to capture, explore, track, and share drinks. Our only rules were that the apps needed to be first-class citizens on their respective platforms and that they be as intuitive to use as we knew how to make them.

MM: I didn’t realize how good the Elixr user experience was until I used Untappd. After a few weeks of using both side-by-side, I realized that little things like logging a new entry and posting to a social network (correctly!) were vastly different experiences. It was enough to make me delete Untappd.

JR: That might have to do with the fact that Untappd is really just a website wrapped in app clothing (or was last time I tried to use it). It’s a strategy that many companies use when they want a cross-platform app and want to write it once. The problem with the frameworks that allow for that kind of thing is that they perpetuate poor, non-native UI and UX decisions. People can smell it when an app isn’t built to the standards and paradigms of the platform that it runs on. Plus, these frameworks are always behind the curve and playing catch-up when Google and Apple ship new operating system updates. That means that things are constantly breaking and you can’t always follow expected patterns on iOS or Android. That can, and will, needlessly frustrate a user.

Log New Entry - Elixr

MM: How long did it take to plan and develop the first version, and where are you now with the app?

JR: It took approximately 4 months to build 1.0 for iPhone and then an additional 3 to build 2.0 for iPhone and Android.

MM: What’s on the roadmap for Elixr?

JR: Elixr 2.1 will add support for iPhone 6 and 6 Plus and give the feed a much needed refresh, among other things. Look for it soon!

MM: Elixr, Untappd, Flickr, Tumblr. What’s with the missing vowels?

JR: I believe that fad started with Flickr because it was so hard to get a short domain name that was in english. People started getting creative and dropping the vowel to get the name they wanted and it started flowing back upstream and defining the company name. We did it with Elixr as a homage to Marc’s long-time employer, and Mobelux’s first client, Tumblr.

MM: That makes sense, thanks. What advice would you give business owners regarding the importance of user experience in their digital projects?

JR: The fact is, your users are living in a world where the expectations for websites and apps are very high, and there’s likely competition in your space. If a competitor shares 70% of your features but executes UX even 10% better, you will lose that business.

Here’s a different way to think about UX; it’s the digital equivalent of in-person customer service. Would you let the person at the front desk of your business be rude to the people that walked in? Well, your app or website is your front desk, and a poorly thought out, hard to use, frustrating website is just as bad as being rude to the potential customers that come through the door. That’s why UX should be the second thing you focus on after usability; the success of your company likely depends on it.

MM: That’s a damned good way to put it! Jeff, thanks for your time, and my gratitude to you, Marc, and the Mobelux team for Elixr.

JR: Anytime. Thanks!

That’s a wrap

Whether you’re a connoisseur of fine adult beverages or just curious about how a good user experience makes a difference in any project, you should download the Elixr app now, or find out more at elxr.co.

For anyone that’s a fan of Untappd, no disrespect intended here. It’s a great concept, but the mobile execution left me frustrated. I really wanted it to work better, and hope the dev team at Untappd will make it so in the future!

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