Helping Telefonica design their TU Me iPhone app

Posted on Friday 11th May 2012

TU Me is an iPhone app from Telefonica Digital that offers free voice calls, texts and photo-sharing with other users, tying these elements together into threaded timelines.

Happily, we played a part in its creation – our User Experience design team developed the visual design, interactions and user flows.

TU Me iPhone app

Telefonica came to us with the concept (and no shortage of ambition). They understood that smartphone users were increasingly using OTT (over the top) communication apps like Skype, Viber and Whatsapp instead of native operator services. Rather than make a defensive move, they’d decided to do something admirably progressive, and try and beat them at their own game, by making an OTT app that offered a better experience.

They also had a really aggressive timeframe of 100 days to design, build and launch the app – with a fraction of that for us to complete a full UCD [User Centred Design] piece; research, concepting, design, testing, iteration, and production.

The team at Telefonica (led by the brilliant @benjkeys) had already thought hard about the timeline concept and feature set. We began by researching best (and sometimes worst) practice for iOS apps in the same spaces as the various features, pulling together both a picture of what worked and didn’t, but also the competitive landscape for the product.

The next phase was concepting. This took a lot of paper, and a lot of post-it notes. It always does.

We thought long and hard about each feature, based on our understanding of the audience and our research findings. Through a series of workshops, and close collaboration with the team from Telefonica, we refined the feature set and then we tested it with users. Some of it worked, some of it didn’t, so we iterated until we felt it was right, and then we tested again. With the concept validated we began work on the look and feel.

Meanwhile, in Madrid, the app was gaining a lot of attention at Telefonica HQ. The move into this territory is a bold one for a telco whose primary business is selling minutes and texts to mobile users. It was thrilling to hear the collaborative team’s approach to the product was making waves.

Much effort went to making the interface a cut above the majority of iOS apps. Polished, slick, detailed – those were adjectives we chased. We also worked hard on making the little interaction touches just right. These subtleties can make or break the feeling of an app’s quality. We delivered a thorough interaction guide for the team in Madrid, and we tested numerous alpha and beta releases via Testflight.

Barely a day after the iPhone assets were delivered, we began work on the Android version. A whole different kettle of fish, taking us right back to basics. Look out for the Android app soon. And don’t expect it to stop there.

Telefonica – with a hand from Albion – have taken a confident, meaningful step into uncharted telco territory. On the day after its launch, Tu Me was the number one free app in Spain, and ahead of some big players (Viber, Whatsapp, and even Facebook) in the UK.

The app has garnered some positive attention on launch: see BBC News, The FT, The Next Web, The Verge and The Kernel for starters.

Download the app and see for yourself.