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Our Secret to Building a Great Mobile App

From the very beginning, mobile has been core to the vision of Hightower. Many of our users are on-the-go everyday, but lack the necessary tools to run their leasing business from their phones.

Setting out to build Hightower’s iOS and Android apps, we believed we could address many of the painpoints felt by our most mobile customers. We wanted brokers to quickly log tours on-site and for portfolio managers to get instant updates from anywhere.

However, we quickly found that this notion of “mobility” wasn’t quite ambitious enough. Our customers are using the mobile app in more settings than we anticipated and in every case they simply want the best of Hightower.

Mobile is not about mobility, it’s about convenience

Non-mobile use of mobile apps is something I understand well: I’d estimate that most of my “mobile” app usage is from the comfort of my couch or while standing in my kitchen. I have once or twice looked up directions (with one hand) while riding a CitiBike, and I might occasionally buy something with the Amazon app while I walk home from work, but these examples are the exceptions, not the rule. My morning routine sees me checking emails before I’m fully dressed, possibly even before I get out of bed. While at work, I often open my phone to read a few emails or check my calendar, even with my computer open right in front of me. And before bed, I’ll spend at least half an hour reading a book or catching up on news, all from my phone.

It’s easier than ever to be a smartphone addict. A growing number of services I use daily have fantastic mobile apps, and more and more I see myself replacing web-based services with their mobile app counterparts. Even my bank has a decent iOS app that meets all my regular needs; I can’t recall the last time I signed in on the web. I use the FlyCleaners app to schedule laundry service (they don’t even have a website) and when I order take-out for dinner, I use the Seamless app. Even more complex tasks like buying a plane ticket or booking a hotel often start with me searching from my phone (and there’s nothing more frustrating than discovering that I can’t complete the task without opening my computer!).

My tasks and requirements are not becoming simpler — comparing fares or entering credit card information is still a pain — and I am not becoming more “mobile”, but my demands and my expectations for mobile apps only continue to grow. The power to accomplish tasks as I think of them, without waiting a moment to get back to my desk or to my laptop, is the real power of a great mobile experience.

And our customers share this excitement for mobile: Brad Rohrbaugh, Vice President of Retail Sales & Leasing at Bennett Williams Realty, tells us that he uses Hightower’s iOS app just as much on the couch as on-the-go. “With Hightower I’m now much more proactive with my business because the data I need is at my fingertips,” said Brad. “I can manage my entire leasing business from my phone. It is nice to know you have your entire deal portfolio, files, and contacts in one app on your phone at all times.”

Accordingly, our view toward mobile apps and mobile use has changed. The Hightower iOS app is still great for when you’re out-and-about, but we want to take this a step further and make the Hightower app the best and easiest experience for our customers wherever they happen to be. As we continue to innovate and build the Hightower platform, we are yet to introduce a feature that our users haven’t demanded on mobile as well. What began as an exercise thinking simply about “on-the-go” use cases has transitioned into a larger quest to put all of Hightower into the palm of your hand.

The most streamlined Hightower experience

Obviously, there are difficulties building complex apps for tiny screens, but we love the challenge and we continue to find better ways to empower our users to do more with less. By thinking about what actions and information are most important to our mobile users, we are forced to rethink how we complete these tasks in general. The constraints of iOS and Android require us to simplify interactions and build more intuitive workflows.

Some of our best ideas have come to the mobile apps first, and through this mobile-focused lens we sometimes see solutions that are missed when designing for larger screens. Getting all of Hightower into a mobile app without sacrificing usability requires us to concisely represent data and to minimize the actions required to complete tasks. It is our belief that we can maximize functionality and convenience by striving for simplicity.

There is still much work to be done, and now more than ever we are committed to continuously improving every aspect of Hightower. As always, we have a long list of great features that we can’t wait to build. Come check out our latest updates for iOS or Android.

Erik Ackermann
Erik Ackermann
Erik Ackermann is a former member of the VTS team. Subscribe to the VTS blog:

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