APPS – SEISMIC SHIFT FROM SEXY TO SUBSTANCE

Opinion by Ali MacFarlane, award winning Sugar Rush Creative

Award winning Sugar Rush Creative, which operates with a team of experts based in Belfast and London, has been developing apps under the guidance of founder Ali MacFarlane for five years.

The forerunners to what is now a highly populated app development market, in the past five years Ali has seen a seismic shift in what clients’ expectations of apps are. There was a time when the phone at Sugar Rush rang off the hook with millennials asking for quotes to develop their ideas for shiny sexy apps which they didn’t have the finance to take forward. However Ali has witnessed a huge transformation as more and more clients are taking the reason for developing an app seriously and he is developing enterprise apps which are making a real difference to users’ lives, organisations bottom lines and which make real business sense.

Clients now understand the economic and environmental benefits, how apps can assist with accountability and minimise risk whereas before, apps were something of a luxury which helped match shoes to an outfit or chose which music the user should listen to that day.

Ali said: “To this day I still receive requests from people who have a great idea but in my heart I know their idea isn’t going to make them a millionaire. Some of these requests come from the nicest of people and whilst I could easily take their last penny to develop their idea, my integrity and Sugar Rush Creative’s reputation is more important to me and I have to let them down gently.

“Genuinely though people are now beginning to realise what I’ve been preaching for the last five years and that’s that apps aren’t a quick business fix but that they require time and investment understanding the placement and positioning for the best user experience to truly receive the best return for the app and the organisation’s investment.

“I spoke to someone recently who took development of an app overseas as it was a fraction of the cost of having it developed in the UK. When I asked them about the process, functionality, after sales care and ultimately what would happen if the app crashed – I received a blank stare.”

At Sugar Rush Creative the process from initial idea to the app becoming live is a robust one. Each client is challenged face to face as to the reasoning behind their idea and its purpose. Ali provides advice and direction on investment and funding opportunities and return on investment for clients to consider before developing a prototype. Sugar Rush Creative hand hold their clients from concept to conclusion and every conceivable click in between. They provide custom apps rather than templates as there is no real one size fits all.

Is this app going to save the user time, is it going to increase staff productivity, is it going to reduce costs for the organisation or is this app being created solely because it’s a nice thing to do? For Ali, unless he can stand over creating something that will ultimately make real business sense or provide the client with value for money, he simply won’t take on the work.

“Our clients don’t have deep pockets. It’s extremely important for me to develop an app with clients that either saves them money, saves them time, captures data, increases productivity, provides a worthy experience for the user or ultimately assists in increasing turnover and that’s why I sit down with clients and develop their objectives and goals for the app before the first click of the mouse. I don’t see an app as a promotional tool – it has to have real purpose,” he says.

Recently Sugar Rush Creative entered two awards for the first time and won on both occasions. Industry recognition for the work being done by the team in Belfast and London.

The winning apps provide two very different functions. One is an enterprise app developed for the commercial sector aimed at eliminating the risk of legionella whilst the other has been developed for the public sector and helps rehabilitate young offenders back into society.

Ali said: “We’ve never invested the time in entering awards before. This year we decided to enter the DANI and Digital DNA awards and we were awarded in both. It’s a real testament to the work that we do to receive this recognition from our peers and to be acknowledged as being at the top of our game.”

Sugar Rush Creative’s client list spans the globe with sporting clients in USA, enterprise clients in Northern Ireland, music clients in the UK and whether the client is in a time zone 10 hours ahead or 10 hours behind, the service they receive is the same as the client based on the ground in Belfast or London.

And Ali works with a team of trusted experts who are available along the journey from test bed to launch to advise on how best to market the app and launch it to potential users.

Ali believes that the talent in Northern Ireland is revolutionary and that there is the ability locally for developers to take bespoke to a whole new level with the new channels and technology available to them. “When we started out there were a handful of techies playing with app development and very few were operating at our level but with the focus on tech here recently I think it’s a really exciting time to be involved in our industry as we’re on the cusp of truly competing with the global experts who have traditionally been seen as the leaders in our field.”

Sugar Rush Creative awards – Digital DNA ‘App of the Year’ Probation Service for Northern Ireland and DANI Awards ‘App of the Year’ highly commended for ELRM.