As part of our Behind the Scenes event series we invite successful people in creative industries to come and tell us what it’s really like to do what they do. We spoke to Tom Judd & James Chambers at our inagural event about their latest project, Boords.
Co-founders of Animade studio, Tom and James have known each other since they were kids. Having both studied at the Royal College of Art they built their animation studio on the foundations of a shared passion for design, technology and storytelling. You could say that trust runs high between these two. But this isn’t a story about how they began. It’s a story about how they developed an app so popular that it outgrew their agency.
Behind the Scenes of Boords
The team at Animade work hard to keep their skills razor sharp, and an air of focused creativity pervades the studio. When anyone gets some downtime they turn to the ‘brief jar’ and pick out an idea that will both stretch their skills and be something the business can be proud to share.
One of their internal projects, however, became far bigger than a standalone creative experiment. Boords started out life as an internal project that differed from the pure creative expression of something like the Olympops project (above). The team decided to build a simple tool to save them time on an extensive piece of upcoming work. Storyboarding is a core feature of any animation studio’s production life cycle, so automating the process would save them loads of time on this and subsequent jobs.
In its first iteration, Boords was a simple interface that allowed the team to add notes, arrange images and draw out the elements of a story. Once complete, the story could then be exported as a pdf in one click. As simple as it was, this was a game changer in terms of efficiency and time saved. Through using the tool and discussing it internally, Animade realised that this was something other creatives would also value.
After a round of UX interviews, undertaken to test assumptions and understand what people valued most, Tom & James made a short video to gauge interest from the wider world, demonstrated an ubiquitous pain point and how Boords solved the issue:
Introduction to Boords
The response was overwhelming. After receiving 5,000+ newsletter sign-ups to the newsletter and some rather effusive praise from Twitter followers in the first week, the guys knew they were onto something good.
“It was amazing to see so many people signing up to use such a bare bones app. We thought it would simply be creatives but there was clearly a far wider audience out there.”
Tom and James started to build in earnest from this point, iterating the interface and getting feedback at each stage. They weren’t solely interested in functionality either – developing a strong brand was also key. Instilling a sense of delight was just as important as providing a tool people could trust and it was important the product’s image reflected Animade in the best light.
Additional elements that helped with this included collaboration functionality and some great illustrations added as storyboard mockup figures.
When the product finally launched to the public, the team had already generated interest, integrated feedback and were ready to build a wider audience based on word of mouth recommendation.
The most important lessons learned
These are just some of the things the team took on board through the process:
- Adhere to UX design principles – prioritising this will mean that your product has the best chance of quick adoption post soft-launch
- Maintain a razor-sharp focus on what people value – keep solving users’ primary pain points
- Retain a personal stake in the project – don’t palm a product launch off to someone else in the business
- Get the initial idea out there quickly and gauge reactions before investing time on resource-intensive product iterations.
Tom & James presented Boords at our inaugural Behind the Scenes event in London earlier this year in front of a captivated creative marketing crowd. Join us at our next event, in person or via our Facebook feed.