Designing The Dots iOS App

We’re proud to announce the debut of The Dots in the App Store. We’ve spent the last few months researching, designing, developing, and testing it. We hope you love using it as much as we loved making it.
Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at what went into the making of the app.

Our vision

The vision has (and always will be) to build The Dots into the biggest professional networking platform for the future workforce of ‘No Collar’ workers globally. This has never been about just helping people create better McDonalds ads; this has always been about empowering our community to create better work and a better future for themselves and for society — with diversity at our core.
We do this by:
  • Promotion: Helping people and teams promote themselves online.
  • Inspiration: Inspiring them to create great work ideally with a social conscience.
  • Networking: Helping connect our community to useful contacts.
  • Jobs: Helping connect our community to the jobs they want.
Being a sole female tech founder (they’re rarer than hen's teeth!), our CEO Pip Jamieson has definitely seen things from a minority perspective, so she’s put diversity at the core of everything we do. As such, at the top of our agenda I’ve put helping the 6000+ companies on The Dots connect with and hire diverse talent  — 61% of The Dots community are female, 31% BAME, 16% LGBT+ and 30% international.

Voice of the community

The Dots is a professional creator network that champions and supports the people and teams that bring ideas to life — from graduates through to innovators in their field. We have over 250,000 members and over 6,000 companies who use the platform to promote their brand, products and services; attract clients; and hire talent - including Google, BBC, Burberry, Sony Pictures, Apple, Viacom, M&C Saatchi, Warner Music, Tate, Discovery Networks, Vice and more here :-)
We surveyed over a thousand members to find out if they’d be interested in using an app from us and if so, what they’d want to do with it.
  • Nearly 60% said they would use our app. Another 30% said they might
  • 70% would use it to find a job
  • 54% would use it to connect and network with others
  • 47% would use it to find inspiration
  • 45% would use it build their profile

Scaling up the team

While we were taking early steps to create the app we were also creating our product design team. We were beyond excited to have scooped up a trio of terrific designers. They each join us from successful runs at world-class design agencies.
Daniel Harvey came onboard as our Head of Product Design & Brand after 20 years in executive roles at R/GA, SapientNitro, and Zone.
Joyce Li joined us from UsTwo where she was instrumental in leading the excellent work on Moodnotes. Her consideration, precision, and commitment to delivery is staggering.
Nadine Grant comes from IDEO and Made By Many. She’s got a strong focus on research, tons of curiosity, and a hunger to learn.
And it wasn’t just in the new product design function where we expanded. We also welcomed Hugh Waldren to our project management team. Amarjeet Rai joined our software engineering team. Patrick Traynor, formerly of LinkedIn, became our Head of Sales and Danielle Barry came on as an Account Manager.
The Dots was already home to a rockstar product development team: Michal Palys-Dudek (Head of Engineering), Małgorzata Pałys-Dudek (Web Developer), Kosta Vasileiou (Head of Front-end Engineering), Paul Werelds (Web Developer), and Mohan Wickramasinghe (Web Developer). Their tech wizardry spanned the front-end, back-end, and all sorts of gnarly bits in-between. They were whip-smart and tireless throughout the process.

Experience principles

Before we hit the ground running we wanted to give ourselves some criteria by which to judge the work. When we were talking about the sort of experience we wanted to create, a number of sentiments came up over and over again. In brief we wanted the app to be:
  • Immersive: Projects are at the heart of The Dots experience. We wanted to create a feed and flow that people could use to get lost in the great work shared by our community. We’ve got some terrific tweaks in the pipleline to really deliver on this point.
  • Elegant: We serve the creative industries. Our community is made up of some of the most respected and talented digital designers, art directors, creative directors (and more!). We wouldn’t be serving them to the best of our ability if we didn’t meet the same sort of exacting standards they hold their own work to.
  • Simple: The app is full of useful features and great content but we didn’t want that to make things complex. We also didn’t want to distract from conventional functionality like messaging, notifications, etc. with needless bells and whistles. This is our first release and we’re taking a “slow and steady” wins the race approach to some things.
  • Blank canvas: This was a two-fold sensibility. We wanted our own branding to be knocked back and get out of the way of awesome projects, people, and jobs on the platform. We also wanted to let people create projects however they wanted.

Pencils before pixels

We’re big believers in the value of sketching. We drew the entire app out by hand in good ol’ fashioned pencil and paper before even firing up any design apps. We were able to debate and iterate different ideas for navigation, layouts, and whole flows quickly. The early sketches also let us prioritize amends to our existing web platform and APIs and do a raft of due diligence and technical prep that would be necessary to launch the app.

Pixels & prototypes

As more and more of our new team joined us we spent the next few weeks ramping up the fidelity of the designs, making prototypes, and iterating very early versions of the app. We went from sketches to launched in the store in about 3 months. And we still managed to have Christmas (6 xmas parties. It was crazy). Ho ho ho.

Guerilla testing

Throughout our design & dev process we’d turn to friends, family and our amazing community to see how we were doing. We’d share sketches and prototypes to gauge any number of things: if copy was clear and concise, if an interaction was delightful, etc. As flows like on-boarding, project creation, and job applications were developed we’d do 1-on-1 in-depth interviews with our studio mates, attendees of our portfolio masterclasses, and existing members of our community that expressed an interest in helping us out.

Core content & key features

70% of the community said they would use the app to find a job so we made a ton of improvements to the job application flow. Changes to our on-boarding and profile building flows should go a long way to making that easier too. Posting a great project, or being credited in one, is the best way to get noticed by companies. Because of that project posting has been completely reimagined. We’re especially proud of how easy and useful we’ve made crediting a whole team for the great work they’ve done.Nearly 50% said they would use the app to find inspiration so we've brought projects front and centre. Our awesome curated feed of the best work on the platform is the first thing you see. From there you can quickly dive into the profile pages of the people behind the work. And try to land your dream job at any of the terrific brands we’re lucky to have as clients. Everything you love from the web experience is here but re-designed from the ground up for iOS.We’ve also added new and improved features too. 54% said they would use the app to network so we've added group messaging and better notifications. 45% would use it build their profile so we've redesigned your profile to showcase your skills, projects, and connections.

App store optimisation

Alongside our awesome engineering team one of our secret weapons at The Dots has long been our SEO. Adapting those skills for app store optimization was a learning curve for us. The effort has paid off though as we’re already outperforming our competition on a number of key terms we care about.

Launch campaign

I mentioned “No collar” professionals earlier. That’s our term for the people — often millennial creators, freelancers and entrepreneurs — who have different attitudes about the workplace than those of “white collar” workers. No collar professionals:
  • job hop (rather than climb the job ladder)
  • emphasize creative-led skills (rather than mangerial or clerical ones)
  • have a constantly evolving skill-set (rather than pursuing skills specialization)
  • value purpose over pay check (rather than chasing promotions)
Our #NewYearNewCareer campaign stars members of our community expressing their thoughts and feelings around these topics. Keep an eye peeled across Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and more and let us know what you think in the comments on those platforms.

Closing thoughts

A lot of startups talk about MVP. With our app we’ve launched something more substantial in its first iteration. We’ve evolved some elements and parked a few things to come for later but we’ve covered a lot of use cases here. We were able to jam pack features in because:
  • We have a demanding community with established (and emerging) expectations and of what they can do with us as a platform.
  • We have a mature web experience with rich APIs that we were able to spring off of.
  • We have an outstanding product team made up of world-class designers, developers, and product managers.
  • We had the full support of our awesome CEO and our brilliant board of directors.
We’re hugely supportive of the dialog about “Time well spent” emerging in the tech community now. Our motivations have never been about Daily Average Users (DAU) or other ad driven targets. The most “meaningful interaction” we can help with is connecting our community and companies to make brilliant work.
Please give the app a whirl and let us know what you think. :)

Team Credits

Pip Jamieson

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Laura Richardson

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Harry Harrison

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Sophie Howe

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Mohan Wickramasinghe

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Valerio Oliveri

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John Down

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Tom Blackshire

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Leanne Hammill

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Nadine Grant

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Bethany Lloyd

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Daniel Harvey

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Danielle Barry

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Kosta Vasileiou

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Joshua Baker

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  • Multidisciplinary Technologist
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Gosia Pałys-Dudek

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Annie Ly

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Michal Palys-Dudek

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Paul Werelds

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Patrick Traynor

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Brendan McKnight

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Amarjeet Rai

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Joyce Li

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Hugh Waldren

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Max Spencer

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Companies

  • The Dots

    The Dots

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