React Native telemedicine

React Native Development – Create a telemedicine app onboarding process

In this article, I am going to talk you through how I used a React hook, namely useReducer, to create a smooth onboarding process for a telehealth app that I and my team at RebelDot have developed recently.

  1. Why is the onboarding process crucial in developing a telemedicine app?
  2. How did the decision tree idea emerge?
  3. What is a decision tree and why developing one?
  4. How to create a decision tree using React Native?
  5. What is useReducer and how to use it?
  6. A small way to digitalize healthcare.

Why is the onboarding process crucial in developing a telemedicine app?

Working on this healthcare project, I stumbled upon a challenge, trying to implement a complex feature within a relatively brief period of time.

To give you some context, the idea for this feature arisen in the very last stages of the development process, which is why finding a fast, yet effective solution was crucial to the project.

This feature was a decision tree needed for the user onboarding process, an essential machine learning-like feature to any telemedicine app or healthcare digital product developed nowadays.

It was imperative that the doctors knew relevant details about their patients so they can create an accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Thus, we had to create a dynamic onboarding process, intuitive and not repetitive, focusing only on a limited number of important questions, such as questions about any chronic diseases or allergies that the patient might suffer from, as well as details about its family medical history.

How did the decision tree idea emerge?

The first and perhaps most basic solution that we thought of was limiting the questionnaire to a simple form (.text input) where the questions are screened one after another and the user has to complete the answer to all those questions.

Now, in terms of implementing this type of approach, it is fair to say it would have been an easy process and most of all, a time-convenient one.

But.

Not so user-friendly and efficient.

Patients would have had to waste time answering an entire list of questions, even questions that might not be according to their circumstance while doctors would waste their time too, going through all those answers.

Instead, we decided to build something user-intuitive and easy to complete.

A decision tree.

What is a decision tree and why developing one?

This meant that the onboarding process and respectively the introductory questionnaire addressed to the users would now be based only on relevant questions, also having a series of predefined answers as well as the option to add custom ones.

If you have ever worked with SurveyMonkey or Qualtrics, you probably know what I am talking about – adding a questionnaire/survey logic so that subjects would skip unnecessary questions.

To give a more technical explanation, a decision tree is a decision support tool that uses a tree-like model of decisions and their possible consequences. It is one way to display an algorithm that only contains conditional control statements.

For example, should the user provide a positive answer to a yes/no question, the following question might be based on that particular answer. In the case where the answer was negative, then, according to the established flow, the questionnaire will move on to the next question, without addressing the one specifically designated for those who answered the following positive.

In simpler terms, though, think of it as a dynamic questionnaire that alters its questions in real-time depending on the answers you provide.

How to create a decision tree using React Native?

I started with a simple ‘useState‘, but seeing that I need to add a lot of data to that state (and starting to look like a list of objects), I realised that my simple state can’t handle that amount of changes, so I started looking for an alternative that would save the entire team time and allow us to launch the product on the initially established deadline.

This is how I began working with ‘useReducer‚Äô, an alternative solution to ‚ÄėuseState‚Äô, a react hook which helps managing complex state.

I read about all the react hooks, but the truth is that there are a lot of them which are rarely used, like ‘useMemo‘, ‘useCallback‘, or our ‘useReducer. Working with Redux before helped me understand the way ‘useReducer’ works.

In the beginning, my ‚ÄėuseReducer‚Äô state was pretty simple, but developing the algorithm and discovering every corner case, I ended up with a complex and strong component that allows me to deliver the onboarding process.

So I had a complex state and useReducer which handles complex states. This was the perfect fit that helped me to deliver a feature that appeared so hard to implement.

What is useReducer and how to use it?

Let’s start with some general information about what is useReducer and why it can be used.

useReducer is an alternative useState, the big differences are that useState is used for managing simple states (like strings, booleans, etc.) while useReducer is perfect for complex ones (state objects with multiple sub-values).

For those of you who are familiar with reducers, can easily understand how React’s useReducer hook works.

This is how you can use it, we have the state and the dispatch method attached to that state (as I said above, if you worked with reducers, you should know what dispatch is)

const [state, dispatch] = useReducer(reducer, initialState);

reducer is a function responsible for handling all the actions that are dispatched, hence modifying the new state.

initialState is, well.. the initial value of the state.

telemedicine app useReducer

In our case, the initial state is a list of questions with important sub-values such as question category, question text, answers (a list of objects), a prop which says if the questions accept multiple answers (boolean), a prop which says if the questions will be asked (a boolean) and other.

useReducer development telemedicine

Answer objects contain the answer text, the effect that that answer will have and the list of question indexes that will be affected by that answer.

In reducer I have defined the next actions: adding an answer, removing an answer, affecting a question and refreshing all the answers.

useReducer React

So how this work? When a user selects a predefined answer, the ADD_ANSWER action is dispatched (the answer will be saved) and the APPLY_EFFECT is dispatched to every question from the list of questions that is affected by that answer.

The last action will set if the questions will be displayed to the user or not.

A small way to digitalize healthcare.

Relying on this solution, this sort of machine-learning-like algorithm, allowed automatization of processes, eliminating the manual tasks and smoothening extraction of data directly from electronic records.

Besides, it created the possibility for doctors to predict trends in the patient conditions and their behaviors by discovering connections and relations from seemingly unrelated information, patterns that could then be used by to determine diagnoses, prognoses and treatments for patients in healthcare organizations.

On a more personal note, although I was a little scared when this task was assigned to me, I am now grateful for this, as the overall experience taught me that sometimes the solution is hidden in plain sight and that time pressure will have you uncover those solutions when you expect it the least.

Well, if you are looking for a reliable telemedicine app development company to bring your idea to life through the latest tech and a user-centric design, then don‚Äôt hesitate to reach out. ūüöÄ

You might want to read our latest case studies where we present how we developed a telemedicine app, as well as a healthcare platform used to digitalize healthcare institutions.

Oana Mihail Senior Product Designer RebelDot

What is a discovery workshop and how to facilitate it

What is a discovery workshop?

Whether you are building a product and you are a startup founder, a big company owner or you‚Äôre approaching a project as an agency, you might hear ‚ÄúWe gotta do a discovery workshop‚ÄĚ from the product designer.

Discovery workshops are in my opinion the stepping stones that lead to a better understanding of the product, and they focus on collaboration between teams to help collect information required to begin a project. When you find yourself passionate about a specific idea, it’s easy to get lost in the details Рdiscovery workshops shift the focus to looking at the project in its entirety and ensure all questions about business objectives, user experience, creative and technicalities are covered.

With this article, I hope to shed some light on this topic and explain the process I go through with our clients.

discovery workshop rebeldot

Why is a discovery workshop important for your project?

  1. No matter how great the idea is, a product can lose its value if not enough thought is given to it in the initial phase of development. You must answer in advance all the necessary questions that may arise from both parties during the app development lifecycle. Doing that in the beginning phase of a discovery workshop provides clarity and saves a lot of time to both parties.
  2. Through a workshop, complex projects can be easily simplified resulting in a structured roadmap and clear requirements that align with your goals.
  3. It helps the product team to arrive at a common ground even though they may have varying opinions. It also ensures that the project is completed in the given deadline or in some cases even earlier, as the core functionalities are always prioritized.
  4. Helps identify potential challenges that may arise later and unravel discrepancies, by highlighting project areas that lack clarity.
importance of a discovery workshop

Why you need a discovery workshop before working on your product?

In general, a discovery workshop usually lasts from 2 to 4 days depending on the scope of the project. Doing so, by the end of it you should have a structured roadmap to accomplish set milestones and goals.

It typically occurs at the beginning of a project or at the beginning of significant key substages of a project when there is a need to:

  • Understand existing research and gather existing knowledge
  • Understand stakeholder expectations
  • Build a common understanding of the overall project direction, key milestones, and vision for the entire team
  • Minimize the risk of building the wrong thing
  • Understand who the customers are and how the product will improve their lives
  • Define what sets the product apart in the market
  • Define what success looks like

But there are also situations in which conditions within the team make additional workshops necessary.

For example unaligned stakeholders. They can pull the team’s focus in different directions and away from the original purpose or problem being solved. During workshops, all stakeholders need to be active, vocal, and open-minded in order to make good forward progress. If a participant can’t or won’t make a decision about something, that can derail the entire process. Make sure key stakeholders are ready and willing to contribute.
It doesn’t really matter if the project is big or small, a discovery workshop is the most logical first step.

Small business owners tend to cut out discovery time and skip the workshop, but I observed that even with standard or minimum functionality, with a discovery workshop, you can unravel new frontiers and efficiently build a product.

For large and complex products, a discovery workshop is a necessity. It helps in defining and assessing the scope of work for every phase and streamlining the entire project at once. Through a discovery workshop, we dive deep, turn challenges into opportunities and explore new avenues to tackle a problem. It is an essential aspect of an agile development process. 

Sometimes when a client considers a project to be complex and outlines a big scope of work, a discovery workshop helps us identify which functionalities represent the core of the product for the initial phase. This reduces the scope and cuts costs for the client. In other cases, we unravel too many complexities as opposed to what was predicted which gradually increases the scope of the project.

What can be the output of a discovery workshop?

Focus on objectives and not only on deliverables.

A discovery workshop plays an important role in transforming an idea into a usable product. All the planning, scoping, and streamlining are done in the very beginning to witness tangible results.

Some of the desired and expected outputs from a discovery workshop are:

  • Aligned product vision and purpose inside the whole team
  • Setting clear, realistic goals for the product
  • Define the target audience, user personas, flows, and scenarios,
  • Sketch the User Journey mapping
  • Aligned vision over the project roadmap and priorities

Who can participate?

What I think it’s the best thing to do is to include representatives from every specialty like Founders, UX/ product designers, developers, and QA teams; In this way, everyone has a chance to weigh in from different perspectives and everyone feels more engaged with the business and product as a result.

Planning the Discovery Workshop.

1. Define a goal and output for the workshop.

Be clear about what you want to achieve, and what the tangible artifacts produced during the session will be.

2. Decide on workshop participants.

The power of design workshops comes from a varied perspective, so like I said, make sure you invite a wide range of roles.

3. Gather needed materials

The environment can be informal and creative if you are holding the workshop in the office (face-to-face) and plan on using tools such as markers and blank paper for sketching, post-its, and water and/or snacks for longer sessions. When we work remotely with our clients we rely on Miro.

4. Plan your agenda

If you are the facilitator of the workshop make sure to have an agenda in place. Plan for a structured sequence of rapid timed sketching cycles, presentation, critique, and choose a prioritization method such as dot voting.

Here is an example of how my agenda looks like:

It not only aligns the project team, stakeholders and clients but also provides the opportunity to mutually explore the scope of an idea and steer the project in the right direction.

agenda for a discovery workshop
  1. Introductions (Workshop intro, attendee intro) – 15 min
  2. Design process overview (Walkthrough the design process steps, milestone and desirable outcome for each) – 15 min
  3. Stakeholder interview (About the Client, Business Goals & Objectives)- 45 min
  4. Assumption mapping (Mapping how desirable, viable and feasible is the product)- 45 min
  5. Coffee break- 15 min
  6. Who are our users – 45 min
  7. What are your users goals (Get everyone to know the users better) – 30 min
  8. Personas – 45 min
  9. Lunch – 60 min
  10. Brain dump exercise (Great way to generate a lot of ideas)- 60 min
  11. Voting – 15 min
  12. Discuss the results – 15 min
  13. Coffee break – 15 min
  14. User journey mapping (Will help generate feature ideas)- 90 min
  15. Coffee break- 15 min
  16. Present journey – 30 min
  17. Final review – 60 min
  18. Coffee break- 15 min
  19. Feature prioritization – 90 min
  20. Coffee break – 15 min
  21. Define MVP – 90 min
discovery workshop for digital product

Even if a discovery workshop may seem like an added expense on the project’s budget, it is completely worth it. Having a discovery workshop at the beginning of the product will minimize the risk of building the wrong thing, will help everyone involved to understand who the users are and how the product will improve their lives and it will lead to defining clear, realistic goals for the product. Once you got through this stage, you can then move on to building an MVP and test the assumptions and insights gathered in this initial stage of the process. 

DRD telemedicine mobile app

Telemedicine apps to keep an eye on in 2021

There’s a new category of apps booming right now.

Actually, it has been here for a while now, but the context of the pandemic has triggered the emergence of even more of this kind of apps.

Yes, I am talking about dating telemedicine apps.

It looks like the amount of people relying on telemedicine solutions have gone through the roof. In fact, it has been reported that the pandemic boosted technology adoption, with the demand for such telemedicine apps increasing by over 65%.

To get even deeper into data, the global telemedicine market is expected to grow 37.7% annually until 2025, when it is estimated to exceed $191 billion in market value.

So..

How are telemedicine apps transforming healthcare?

Telemedicine apps allow you to speak with a health care provider using an app on your phone. Some may also work with your computer. Services may be on-demand, which means you see a different provider each time you use the app. Other services allow you to see the same provider for multiple visits.

What is also cool about telemedicine apps is that they also have a specialty, a specific niche to serve. Some focus on mental health care, others focus on reproductive care and others may focus on urgent care.

The apps may charge per visit, and most have relatively modest fees.

What seemed to be the norm some time ago, now became an ultimate alternative. More and more people prefer receiving expert medical consultations and prescriptions from the comfort of their home and even more institutions are recognizing these new needs and commit to adapt to them.

Healthcare processes are being transformed globally to these new tendencies with institutions managing to solve even more recurrent problems like providing fast healthcare access to remote areas and ensuring that there is a sufficient number of doctors who can cover certain territories and essentially decrease the number of diseases.

Basically, no matter where you are, now you can reach a doctor in no time so that you won‚Äôt have to google your symptoms and pretty much fear that your days are numbered. ūüėÖ

Keeping this in mind, I figured I’d highlight the most popular telemedicine apps of 2021, the game-changers, if you would, which you should keep an eye on.

Teladoc

Teladoc telemedicine app

The company offers fast and reliable access to its doctors via phone calls or video conferencing, either on the web or through the mobile app.

You get access to services like general care, pediatrics, preventative medicine or mental health. Teladoc’s on-demand service provides a high level of convenience and versatility, allowing users to connect with a doctor whenever the need arises. Typically, doctors connect with a patient within a 20 minutes time-frame since the initial request.

Physicians are available 24/7 and service is offered in over 30 languages. I must mention that according to the company’s data, nearly 90% of its clients have their medical issues addressed in a single call, which eliminates the need for further appointments and follow-ups for most users.

The cost of a Teladoc visit depends on the specific type of care that you are going for, as well as the insurance you got. A General Medical visit can be as low as $0 per visit with insurance, but prices vary outside your benefits plan or insurance coverage. The same General Medical visit would cost $75.

Visit Teladoc’s website for more information.

DRD

DRD telemedicine mobile app

DRD is a web and mobile app that brings together the functions of a doctor search platform and a telemedicine service to Austrian users. This idea came to life in 2017 when the two founders realized the importance of simplifying access to doctors and the need for support in choosing the right doctor for the course of treatment.

The platform functions as the first point of contact for patients with medical questions and offers the chance to get immediate assistance via video consultations with registered specialists.

As a start-up with a young, dynamic team, drd doctors online focused on offering the following functions as part of an iOS, Android and web app for users:

  • Chance to have a telemedical consultation with a general practitioner via an encrypted video consultation
  • Simple, secure and user-friendly patient file for all medical documents on your smartphone
  • Search function for all specialists registered in Austria.

Simple access to a family doctor via your smartphone – No waiting times, direct referral to a specialist and a laboratory and instant prescription on your smartphone.

All general practitioners on DRD doctors online have been recommended by medical professionals and continually undergo training in order to provide top-quality and highly targeted medical advice.

In terms of price, you got two options to chose from. One fit for trying out the platform, for a fixed price of 49.99 euros, and another one, subscription-based, for 9.99 euros per month.

Visit DRD’s site for more information.

Recomedica

Recomedica Telehealth app

Recomedica is a MedTech startup, a mobile app launched in November 2019 that bridges medical service providers worldwide and patients, offering users immediate access to online medical consultations, in order to streamline the diagnostics and treatment processes.

With more than 350 specialized medical professionals under the same umbrella and growing, Recomedica provides medical advice and recommendations to users posting an average of 300 requests daily.

Since 2019, Recomedica has been offering online medical guidance and access to healthcare services to more than 35,000 unique users who have already made over 80,000 medical requests within the web platform.

Besides common features amongst other telemedicine platforms like generating a full Medical Profile for both yourself and your family members, real-time chat with doctors from different specialties, management of medical cases and files, or medical requests, the platform also features a machine-learning-like algorithm as part of the onboarding process.

This is specifically important as it allows automatization of processes, eliminating the manual tasks and smoothening extraction of data directly from electronic records. It also creates the possibility for doctors to predict trends in the patient conditions and their behaviors by discovering connections and relations from seemingly unrelated information, patterns that could then be used by to determine diagnoses, prognoses and treatments for patients in healthcare organizations.

There are 3 different types of subscriptions that you can make and, depending on the one you chose to go with, the price varies between 5 to 20 euros per month. 

Visit Recomedica’s site for more information.

MDlive

MDlive telemedicine

MDLive helps patients to get in touch with psychiatrists or dermatologist doctors, counselors for discussion via a mobile application. Each doctor that works for MDlive is board-certified in their area of expertise, and the staff overall specializes in treating a wide variety of medical conditions. The overall experience of each of the physicians offering consultations is 15 years, making the MDlive’s staff a highly experienced team.

The doctors have 24/7 availability and you can reach them either through a phone call or a video chat. Specifically, their area of expertise relies on diagnosing skin conditions, allergies and plenty of other acute conditions. Nevertheless, the popularity of this platform also has to do with its mental health services and respectively the therapists who are available for counseling and support sessions on-demand.

Depending on the insurance, the cost per medical visit can be between $0 to $82. However, on their website you will find that part of the medical services that you can access, there is also a behavioral health and dermatology category including slightly pricier sessions.

Visit MDlive’s site for more information.

Amwell

Amwell telehealth app

Designed specifically to be a fast, reliable, and smarter way for patients to interact with doctors, Amwell is focused on convenience and service. Most of the virtual doctor’s visits are less than 10 minutes and don’t require an appointment. Amwell’s focus is on providing an accurate diagnosis and recommending the proper treatment in an expedient manner.

Amwell physicians can even write prescriptions or suggest homeopathic treatments for conditions like sinus infections, rashes, or acne. Interactions take place over the phone, video chat, or using the service’s app.

The cost is $79 per visit, and even less with most major insurance plans.

Visit Amwell’s site for more information.

Doctor On Demand

Doctor On Demand telehealth

Available over the web, phone, or smartphone app, the healthcare professionals at DoD provide assistance and advice for urgent care, chronic conditions, and preventative medicine.

The company keeps certified therapists on staff to assist patients with mental and behavioral health issues, while its doctors handle advice on how to treat everything from the cold and flu to asthma and diabetes.

One of the best aspects of this service is that patients can mark doctors as a favorite in order to connect with them again in the future when available.

The app is free with premium services and consultations varying per session basis.

Visit Doctor on Demand’s site for more information.

Plush Care

PlushCare telemedicine platform

Plush Care puts a large team of experienced physicians right at your fingertips thanks to its app. Using a smartphone, patients are able to make an appointment, speak directly with a doctor, and get a quick and simple diagnosis. The service also calls in prescriptions to a local pharmacy of choice and provides the ability for a follow-up after the initial consultation.

PlushCare treats urgent issues like the cold and flu or UTIs and STDs. It also provides support for ongoing conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, thyroid disorders, and depression. And the platform has a huge mental health care component via licensed therapists or primary care physicians. PlushCare even has options for prescription renewals, too, including birth control.

PlushCare has two membership plans: the monthly membership costs $14.99 per month, and the annual membership which costs $99 per year. You also get a 30-day free trial for both plans. Besides, there’s a $99 copay per visit. However, those of you that benefit from an insurance will have to pay a significantly lower fee, about $25 to see a doctor.

Visit Plush Care’s site for more information.

LiveHealth

LiveHealth healthcare app

Whether you need help dealing with common issues like pink eye, fever, or tooth pain, or you’re looking for more in-depth assistance with allergies or the flu, LiveHealth Online covers it all. The service allows members to connect with doctors 24/7 using their laptops or smartphones in order to get fast and reliable medical attention and prescriptions filled.

LiveHealth also connects users with psychologists and psychiatrists to get them the mental health support they need, too. One of the distinguishing features to this service is that it allows members to choose the specific doctor that they want to interact with.

The costs vary depending on the type of insurance you hold. In the case you don’t benefit from one, a visit would cost $59.

Visit LiveHealth Online’s site for more information.

Talkspace

Talkspace mental health app

Talkspace is a telehealth service that specializes in mental healthcare, offering features such as: chat, video and voice calls, user-friendly therapists’ search, AI-based assessments, billing and ePrescriptions. It is a highly rated online therapy platform, offering the patient the option to select from a list of recommended licensed therapists.

Users can engage in therapy sessions via video conferencing and messaging, for delicate matters ranging from family conflicts to substance abuse, bipolar, anger management, OCD etc. Talkspace offers 24/7 access and flexible plans to meet individual needs.

With the likes of Demi Lovato or Michael Phelps being strong advocates of the platform, since 2012, the application has reached over one million users. The pandemic was a blessing in disguise for Talkspace as the number of visitors drastically increased, in fact doubled since mid-March 2020.

The average cost starts from $260 a month

Visit Talkspace’s site for more information.

Lemonaid

Lemonaid app

Lemonaid is an app, an online doctor’s office, as they like to position themselves, widely used in the United States which features medical professionals licensed in all 50 states.

Its mission is to provide all Americans access to primary healthcare services and help patients get evaluated and treated for conditions like urinary tract infections (UTIs), cold sores, flu, acute sinusitis, acne, as well as treatment to quit smoking, get tested and treated for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), high cholesterol, diabetes and many more.

The thorough onboarding process is a key selling point of this platform. Specifically, patients receive a sort of questionnaire to fill out and based on the reviews these questionnaires get from the expert doctors of Lemonaid, each patient is given personalized medicine shipped with free delivery directly to the user’s door or the nearest pharmacy.

The costs vary based on the nature of consultation starting $10+ for lab tests, and $25 and more for telehealth appointments.

Visit Lemonaid’s site for more information.

Well, if you are looking for a reliable telemedicine app development company to bring your idea to life through the latest tech and a user-centric design, then don’t hesitate to reach out.

You might want to read our latest case-studies where we present how we developed a telemedicine app, as well as a white-label platform used to digitalize healthcare institutions.

NFT rebeldot

What’s an NFT? A jargon-free guide to answer your questions about NFTs.

If you are still struggling to understand how the blockchain operates and what it is, then you’re probably not so sure about what an NFT is either.  

I mean¬†it‚Äôs¬†totally cool¬†if¬†you‚Äôre¬†trying¬†to learn¬†these concepts¬†just¬†so you can be relevant too in the mainstream conversation, but besides¬†being looked at as¬†a tech guru, there are a couple of other advantages of knowing your way around¬†NFTs. ūüĎÄ

In this article we will discuss the advantages of having more than a basic idea of how an NFT works, by addressing the following questions: 

  1. What is an NFT? 
  2. What is Blockchain and how does it relate to NFTs?

    3. Why would anyone create an NFT?

    4. What makes NFTs unique?

    5. Can you make a copy of an NFT?

    6. Owning an NFT ‚Äď weird flex or not?

    7. What NFT marketplaces are out there?

    8. Can anyone make NFTs?

    9. How to create an NFT?

    10. How to ride the NFT wave? 

What is an NFT? ūü§Ē

NFT stands for non-fungible token, which is a unique digital asset that you cannot replace, much like an original Degas or Picasso. Or a rare baseball, or even Pokemon card. You got the idea.  

Technically, it represents a unit of data that can only exist online. It comes with a proof of ownership stamped on the blockchain, which functions as a digital ledger, hence making it unique. Formally, an NFT is a kind of contract, smart contract in this case, that is put together via open-source code, using blockchain technology.  

Although much of the current excitement is targeted towards cryptoart, it is safe to say that NFTs can really be anything digital. 

But to make sense of this, let’s first circle back a bit and understand: 

What is Blockchain how does it relate to NFTs? 

Blockchain is a decentralized public network, an open market that does not comply to any governmental or private entity power, where both people and institutions can store and securely transfer information and currency in seconds.  

An NFT is a unique token living on a blockchain. It can take many forms beyond simply images, video or other visual formats, but, in its essence, it is a container of authentic information. That information which the NFT stores is what makes it so unique.  

Because they live on a blockchain, usually Ethereum, NFTs are easy to track. This tracking allows for verification of their authenticity as well as their history and owners.  

Why would anyone create an NFT? 

It all started back in 2017 when the team at Larva Labs released the first ever NFT and ERC-721 smart contract consisting of 10.000 images of CryptoPunks. Back then, each of these unique digital artworks could be purchased for as little as a few Ethereum pennies, as TechCrunch mentions. 

Shortly after the launch, all these 10.000 unique characters were claimed by various crypto enthusiasts which today probably don’t regret that decision. Their value can go up to 7.5 million each. 

Since the end of February of this year, the NFT market has seen explosive growth as a lot of artists are pivoting their work to the crypto environment.  

An acquisition that you probably have heard of, spiking mainstream interest in NFTs was¬†Beeple‚Äôs¬†work which auctioned for no less than 69$ million to position him ‚Äúamong the¬†top three most valuable living artists,‚ÄĚ.¬†¬†Sports organizations have jumped on the bandwagon too, a good example being¬†the NFT-based¬†NBA Top Shots¬†platform¬†which surpassed the¬†$230¬†million¬†mark¬†in sales.¬†

 

Artists are also heavily adopting NFTs as it allows them to reach thousands of consumers worldwide directly to whom they can sell their craft in an authentic digital form. By-passing middle parties like auction houses or galleries means that artists get to keep a larger percentage of the profits from a sale.  

To put this into further context, think about the free aspect of the internet and social media.¬†–¬†It democratizes¬†access to an endless stream of¬†art but¬†decreases the value¬†of the content out there.¬†¬†

This means that whatever type of art you’re putting your time into, as soon as you will put it on the internet will most likely be drastically depreciated in financial value, since people can download your work.  

Having this scenario in mind, it quickly makes sense why more scarcity could be indeed helpful. That’s what creating an NFT would imply. Scarcity on something that, up until now, could be found in abundance.  

Art enthusiasts will be¬†willing to pay¬†much more to have a¬†particular connection to a piece of art or music, while the file¬†will¬†remain completely free and available. In that way,¬†as¬†Elinor Ostrom, a Nobel Prize-winning economist put it,¬†‚Äúyou kind of achieve the dream of the open internet, while also ensuring compensation for the producers.‚Ä̬†

However, there’s a flipside to that. While some artists can create an NFT with $100 dollars and then sell it for $10.000, for example, some other artists, if not most of them, are actually losing money, because, although they forge a scarce item, there is no demand for it. Not that the quality of the work is superficial, but because that specific artist does not have a personal brand already established, is probably lacking some good PR, some rich friends or God knows what else he’s missing out on.  

What makes NFTs unique? 

As a digital token, an NFT is a type of cryptocurrency, much like Bitcoin or Ethereum. But unlike¬†those two or any other coin existing on the¬†blockchain,¬†an NFT is unique and¬†can’t¬†be exchanged¬†(hence the term,¬†non-fungible).¬†

Yes, just¬†another fancy jargon type of word, but¬†really not¬†that strange as it sounds.¬†Investopedia¬†does a great job at explaining this term, saying that¬†‚Äúfungibility¬†of a good implies its ability to be exchanged with other goods of the same¬†value.‚Ä̬†

As a cryptographic asset on the blockchain, an NFT file stores extra information, which is why it is not just pure currency and can be pretty much anything, really.  

To put it into context,¬†NFTs¬†are like any other physical collector’s item,¬†but instead of having a picture to hang on your wall or¬†a miniature¬†statue to¬†display¬†it¬†in your fancy¬†furniture, you get¬†a digital piece of art to add to your digital gallery.¬†¬†

Can you make a copy of an NFT?  

As part of the Ethereum blockchain, NFTs are individual tokens¬†containing¬†extra information stored in them.¬†That extra information is what makes these tokens take the form of crypto art¬†like music, video, graphic design, in formats like JPGs MP3s, GIFs and many more. Because they hold value, they can be bought and sold just like other types of art ‚Ästand,¬†like with physical art,¬†the value is¬†largely set¬†by the market and by demand.¬†¬†

Now here is where it gets a bit tricky.. 

Much as in the case of an original art print which often gets a lot of copies made, bought and sold, an NFT does not have only one digital version available in the marketplace. You will find copies of that seemingly unique NFT available on the blockchain, although they won’t hold the same value as the original. 

Owning an NFT ‚Äď weird flex or not?¬†¬†

There’s a common desire amongst people to own scare objects and develop an online portfolio to reflect personality traits, much like wearing certain clothes and owning certain objects. 

Besides, as¬†most people associate¬†it¬†to cryptocurrency, they tend¬†to assume that¬†owning an¬†NFT has¬†tremendous financial potential.¬†‚ÄúYou¬†definitely don‚Äôt¬†want to miss out on this,¬†man..‚Ä̬†

Now that’s not necessarily wrong, but in order to actually make a profit out of an NFT, you either have to invest heavily, catch a fortunate timing and still invest heavily, or do some crazy stuff to skyrocket your personal brand overnight and make Banksy’s NFT look like a bargain.  

I know some of y‚Äôall may be thinking ‚ÄúBut¬†that¬†Beeple¬†guy who no one knew anything about¬†made 69$ million and I can‚Äôt?‚Ä̬†¬†

Uhmm..you probably can.. If you are at least as consistent as that guy, because, guess what? He’s been publishing a new digital artwork for the past 14 years eve-ry-day.  

Let that sink in. 

However, talking about value, you should know that there’s a difference between financial and hedonic value. 

Not everyone is buying NFT’s just to flex their cryptocurrency wallet or benefit from reselling art like sneakers. Some are simply fans, people who genuinely support an artist, people who purchase such digital tokens to have a sort of intimate bond with the creator.  

What NFT marketplaces are out there? 

Obviously, as the popularity of NFTs is soaring, you can also expect the same upward trend in the case of the NFT marketplaces. This means that you can sell & purchase NFTs off a variety of platforms, but it really depends on the specific kind of token you got in mind, as not all marketplaces buy and sell all types of NFT.  

No matter if you’re looking to buy or sell an NFT, you should know that different marketplaces support different NFT token standards. Until not long ago, most NFTs used to be part of the Ethereum blockchain as Ethereum has released two standards, specifically ERC-721 and ERC-1155. In time, though, other blockchains have started to emerge, facilitating NFTs, one example being Binance, which has also released two standards, BEP-721 and BEP-1155.  

With that being said, here are some of the most popular NFT marketplaces: 

  • OpenSea¬†–¬†Offering a wide range of NFTs such as art, domain names, virtual worlds, trading cards, sports, collectibles and many more,¬†OpenSea¬†wants to live up to its promise of being¬†the largest and most democratized¬†NFT marketplace¬†in the world, hence the name.¬†To some creators, it might seem a bit more¬†accessible, as anyone can mint¬†essentially anything¬†for free and have the cost¬†of creating an NFT processed only after the token is¬†purchased.¬†Not so bad, right?¬†On top of that, it features pieces from many other marketplaces, such as the ones featured below, as well as¬†a bunch of cryptocurrencies besides ETH, like DAI, WHALE, or RARI.¬† ¬†
OpenSea NFT Marketplace

SuperRare¬†‚ÄstA¬†marketplace that¬†specializes¬†on selling unique, single-edition digital artworks.¬†Besides positioning itself as an exclusive platform where¬†some of the highest worth transactions are being made,¬†SuperRare¬†is also the pioneer of an eco-system that connects artists with collectors,¬†having¬†a social network¬†component¬†built on top of the marketplace.¬†Due to its exclusive nature, it is¬†fairly difficult¬†to be accepted as an artist¬†and also¬†have your bid processed for a certain NFT.¬†The platform¬†operates¬†with Ethereum‚Äôs network, so¬†you‚Äôll¬†need to fund your account with ETH coins¬†to make your purchase.¬†

SuperRare NFT Marketplace

Rarible РOne of the most popular marketplaces to emerge in 2020. It is particularly useful for creators, as the minting process does not imply a lengthy process or any off-putting requirements. Because of that, buyers are provided with a larger variety of tokens they could choose from. Besides, as opposed to super rare which rather focuses on single edition NFTs, on Rarible the tokens appear to be listed in multiple editions. It is a community-owned marketplace with a native coin called RARI, which is yet to be commonly used, as most of the transactions are still done through ETH.  

Rarible NFT Marketplace

Once you decide which platform you will be using to purchase your NFT, you’ll need a wallet specific to that platform and you’ll need to fill that wallet with cryptocurrency.¬†

It is also worth mentioning that these crypto marketplaces all do share some similarities to Ebay, in the sense that people can either place bids for your NFT or directly buy it. Usually, NFTs with limited quantities are typically auctioned off and then resold. On the other side, other NFTs can just have set prices, being available for direct purchase. 

Can anyone make an NFT? 

Technically, yes.  

Anyone can create work, turn it into an NFT on the Blockchain and put it up for sale on a marketplace of choice. You can even attach a commission to the file, which¬†you will receive¬†every time someone buys the piece ‚Äď including resales.¬†¬†

Contrary to what you may believe, creating your own NFT does not imply any extensive knowledge of the crypto industry as it is rather a straightforward and intuitive process, especially with a lot of NFT marketplaces emerging to lure artists of all kinds.  

But because it¬†couldn‚Äôt¬†just be simple all the way through, someone had to¬†come up with¬†a fancy verb for creating NFTs ‚Ästminting.¬†¬†

Minting refers to the process of turning your digital token,¬†no matter if¬†it‚Äôs¬†a GIF or a controversial tweet,¬†as part of the Ethereum blockchain ‚Äď a public ledger,¬†specifically¬†a record-keeping system that¬†maintains¬†participants’ identities in secure and anonymous form.¬†

To put it briefly, think of it as the digital equivalent of minting metal coins prior to adding them into circulation. The same happens with your artwork, so that you can sell it or trade, but most importantly, track it digitally as it is highly likely that your NFT will be resold or collected again in the future.  

But how do you mint an NFT exactly? 

You will first have to decide whether you want to issue your NFT on the Ethereum Blockchain, or other less popular blockchains like Binance Smart Chain, Flow by Dapper Labs, Tron and many more which are starting to gain traction.  

Let’s take the Ethereum blockchain, for example, since it has the largest NFT ecosystem.  

In order to mint your own NFT on the Ethereum blockchain, you’ll need an Ethereum wallet that supports ERC-721, or any of the Ethereum-based NFT standards (as discussed above) and, of course, some budget, ideally between $50 to $100 in ether (ETH). 

Once you have these, just look for an NFT-centric platforms that allows you to connect your wallet and upload your chosen image or file that you want to turn into an NFT. 

Told you it‚Äôs way easier than it sounds.¬†ūüėȬ†¬†

Developing an NFT Marketplace.  

Now we have discussed about creating, selling, buying and reselling NFTs, which are all valid means of making profit. Still, there is one more that people seem to neglect, for some reason. 

At RebelDot we are already working on a bunch of NFT digital products. Lately, we’ve been constantly contacted by startup founders looking to build NFT marketplaces. 

It seems to us that more and more techies are sizing a profitable opportunity here, looking for technical partners to support their ideas from paper-sketched wireframes and all the way to fully functional products.  

You can hop on our blog to read more about the crypto art marketplace projects that we’ve been working on. 

 

Is this a long-term thing or just a bubble? 

While many rush to conclude that this is just another bubble that has already started bursting, I tend to share philosopher’s Naval Ravikant opinion who claims that, although NFT art is where the current mainstream focus is, this new technology will ultimately authenticate the entire world, as public blockchains will be the title registries for everything of value.  

Also, you might want to keep in mind that, (as it is usually the case with bubbles), the ones who will eventually benefit the most from the NFT hype won’t be the people who speculate, but rather the companies that will offer people the opportunity and the platform to speculate.  

As¬†James¬†Surowiecki¬†perfectly put it in his popular NFT article,¬†‚ÄúYou¬†can make money being a gambler. But¬†in the long run, it‚Äôs much safer to be the house.‚Ä̬†

CTO as a Service RebelDot

CTO as a Service (CaaS) – Finding the right team to build your digital product.

Most of the articles about CTO as a Service will focus on telling you that this is a low-cost alternative to hiring a full-time CTO as part of your company.

While this is often not the case, externalizing services to build new digital products can indeed be more cost-effective. However, there are far more important advantages of hiring an external CTO, aspects that go beyond price.

We will discuss these aspects further to help you wrap your head around this new fancy term, and understand the benefits of partnering with development agencies when it comes to making big decisions about your products and overall company’s growth.

For that, we are going to answer the following questions:

  1. What is CTO as a Service?
  2. What is the difference between a full-time CTO and CaaS?
  3. Why should startups consider referring to a CTO as a Service?
  4. What qualities should you look for in a consulting CTO?
  5. Choosing RebelDot as your CTO as a Service.

Context

As a startup founder, you want to collaborate with teams that believe in your product as much as you do and consider it as their own.

While this might be the case when you have an already established and consistent in-house team, we’re seeing a whole lot of tech, specifically early-stage startup founders looking towards web and mobile development companies that can cover the entire lifecycle of their digital product.

Now, there are some who are skeptical towards these collaborations, arguing that, unlike an in-house team, an external development agency won’t have the same level of implication, because it is not their own product that they are working on.

Still, it is safe to say that, within the current context where remote working is becoming a common thing, these concerned founders realize what they have been missing out on –

Commitment can flourish regardless of geographical borders and hiring cohesive and experimented teams can do much more to a company’s growth than a single leader could achieve.

What is CaaS?

CaaS stands for ‚ÄúCTO as a service‚ÄĚ which is a 3rd party consultant or company whose responsibilities are very much the same as those of a traditional full-time CTO.

With profound experience in scaling businesses and managing the technical aspects of a company, most consulting CTOs will bring you onboard their own individual experience, together with a team have previously collaborated with both startups as well as mature firms.

We know, it might look like another acronym emerged in the context of cloud computing to get your head spinning, but it is really not that complicated. At its simplest form, CTO as a Service represents a rebrand of the collaboration between a custom software development company and its clients.

The term is still relatively new to the market, but it’s gaining more traction by day as both startups and enterprises realize they can hire expert teams to lead technology implementation, create and manage in-house teams, and support strategic decision-making within their companies.

CTO team

What is the difference between a full-time CTO and CaaS?

A CTO as a Service is not much different from a permanent CTO when it comes to the responsibilities it holds within the organization.

Overall, both have to offer support throughout the end-to-end software development process and other tech-related queries by creating the software architecture, articulating a well-defined strategy and a budget to activate it, suggesting the right tech stack for your project, streamlining the workflow through automation where possible and ensuring top quality standards.

Though similar in terms of responsibilities, an important differentiator when hiring an external CTO is the team it brings and specifically the combined seniority of each member and overall versatility of the entire group.

You basically get to collaborate with a synergic group of experts that have worked before on many digital products ranging from different industries, which makes their collective knowledge an asset to any startup.

Why should startups consider the CTO as a Service model?

As it is often the case for most early-stage startups, teams are rather limited to a small number of members. That’s why we believe that their founders can benefit greatly from collaborating with external homogeneous teams to guide their product development process from idea stage and all the way to market launch.

In our experience, we’ve seen founders who disregard any collaborations in the initial stages of their business. This is a common misconception that costs startups a lot of money that be otherwise invested wisely.

Specifically, we are talking about the Research and MVP development stage, basically, the most important aspects that lead to product-market fit.

Thus, the CTO as a Service model implies that you will work with an Agile team that is already used to collaborating and has countless years of experience in launching, scaling and even pivoting web and mobile products.

This team will support you in addressing tech-related situations while aiming to achieve business performance growth by eliminating unnecessary risks and ensuring the budget is spent efficiently.

Overseeing the latest trends in the industry, just like a full time CTO, a consulting CTO will also guide your company towards staying relevant and constantly delivering value to its customers.

Now in terms of cost, you will find that, unlike hiring a single professional, CTO as a Service might seem more expensive. The reason being launching a collaboration with an entire team of developers, QA engineers, and designers led by a technical & business-minded engineer.

However, in the long run, this will only prove to be a cost-effective decision when looking at the output that such team can bring to your product development in terms of quality and resources spent.

CTO as a Service startup

What qualities should you look for in a consulting CTO?

  1. A solid technical background. Having technical expertise and a track record of working with various technologies will support your collaborating CTO team in understanding and dealing with complex technical challenges that your company might face. The entire team should be in loop with the latest tech trends and be able to choose the stack that fits best for your and your clients’ goals. This will bring added value to the projects you are developing, as well as provide a differentiating factor against the competitors.
  2. Experience working for a similar company. Depending on the size of the company, as well as the industry that you’re activating in, the responsibilities of most CTO teams will vary.
  3. Proven experience in communicating with and managing multiple parties. Being primarily responsible for the development process, your technical partners will also serve as a link between other 3rd party collaborators, as well as your own in-house teams, engineers, executives, investors, or clients. Hence, your designated collaborator will need to attract, engage, and persuade a wide variety of people, which is why outstanding social skills are fundamental.
  4. Leadership traits. As an integral part of a leadership team, the CTO will actively engage in building and maintaining a healthy corporate culture. The same applies for an external CTO team. They might not share the same experiences as you do within your company, but they surely can positively influence your teams, inspire them to achieve business goals and work together to achieve your company’s mission.
  5. Strategic thinking. By nature, CTOs are preoccupied with envisioning the big picture, not just the output of the development teams. That’s why you should make sure that your future partner can also display a business understanding and is able to zoom out when needed and assess how each small effort is a step forward towards completing the wider picture of your company.

Choosing RebelDot as your CTO as a Service.

RebelDot is a digital product company, helping businesses accelerate their process towards digitalization and innovation.

With over a decade of experience in building products for over 50 companies in multiple industries, we come with proven experience in building web and mobile apps from the idea phase to a thriving digital product.

At RebelDot, we collaborate with founders from over 15 industries, leveraging our expertise to lead the technical component of all our clients’ projects.

Overseeing the development process from start to end, our teams are actively involved in building fully working web and mobile products, as well as establishing strategies to scale these products and grow companies in the long term.

As a tech service provider, RebelDot can provide:

  1. Business analysis & Technology Consultancy
  2. UX & UI Design
  3. Discovery
  4. Full Product Development
  5. Blockchain Development
  6. Digital Product Testing & Quality Assurance
  7. Digital Product Launch and Maintenance
RebelDot team

Conclusion.

CTO as a Service might be a novel concept to most readers. Still, it is one that started to get quite a lot of traction lately, as an increasing number of companies are adopting a work-from-home approach, looking for remote partners to support their growth.

Many startups are considering launching a collaboration with a cohesive and experienced CTO team, aiming to increase return on investment, reduce the amount of risk involved in their business and build digital products that the users enjoy using. 

If you haven’t thought about getting on board a technical partner, this seems to be the right time. In the end, a well-researched software development partner can be a powerful asset to your business goals.¬†

We hope you now got a good overview of what it means to collaborate with CTO teams ‚ÄĒ‚Ääthe Agile way.

Ready to bring your digital product idea to life?¬†ūüöĬ†Get in touch and let‚Äôs explore your product idea together!

rescue app dashboard

Flutter mobile development and how we shipped an app in two weeks.

Every once in a while, the team at RebelDot finds an opportunity to develop a pro-bono app for the local community. Now this is usually the product of an epiphany that one of us had thinking about a problem that could be solved with tech.. And when this happens, we zone in and stubbornly work towards bringing that solution into the feeds and hands of the users as soon as possible.

Same happened with the CERT Rescue app, a simple and intuitive app that we developed to help the rescue team of CERT Transylvania locate and save people faster. We managed to launch it two weeks and we did so by using Flutter.

We asked Bianca, one of our Flutter enthusiasts who worked on this project, to share with you 5 reasons why we decided to go for Flutter instead of React Native and how, by doing that, we managed to successfully launch the app in such short notice and have people already using it since day one.

Here’s her take on Flutter for mobile development:

Please take the below ideas with a pinch of salt.

Disclaimer: a lot of personal bias might be not so subtly hidden in this article.

Just like any other area in programming, developing apps for mobile platforms rapidly evolves. As I wrote this article, React Native has probably gained 30 more open-source libraries and Google probably announced 3 more deprecated APIs.

Being a mobile developer, my experience largely consists of native Android development, but, at the moment, I’m mainly focused on React Native and Flutter. Out of the two, Flutter has caught our eye and we are more and more serious about it.

So why Flutter?

1. Material Design-compliant widgets. A lot of them.

Flutter comes bundled with all the widgets you’ve ever dreamed of. I am not joking.

Considering that my initial experiences as a programmer consist of one year of native Android/Kotlin programming, I am not going to talk behind Android’s back.

BUT.. let’s be fair.. its UI system slows you down.

You get drowned in XML files and rounding corners is simply a nightmare.

Clearly, when discussing cross-platform technologies, React Native and Flutter are faster from a UI perspective and pretty much tied in many aspects.

However, when it comes to designing a powerful and responsive UI, I can promise you that Flutter wins. – Create a new project and start writing your app with all that the framework has to offer ‚ÄĒ no writing widgets from scratch or 3rd parties from open-source projects.

With Flutter, Google has your back. They made sure that Flutter comes bundled with Material Design-compliant widgets.

Pro tip: if you’re curious about this, check out ‘Widget of the Week ‘, a YouTube series created by the Flutter developers where you can quickly and easily understand the widgets.

rescue mobile app design in Flutter

2. State management done easily

It is true that CERT doesn’t have a lot of business logic or state management challenges. However, it is important to see that we needed to access the live location from any screen in the app by making use of the Provider pattern, which also comes bundled with Flutter.

I felt that this is worth mentioning due to the contrast between React’s Redux steep learning curve and the much more intuitive and easier to assimilate Flutter’s Provider.

Not to mention that Redux doesn’t come bundled with the mobile framework itself, wink wink.

However, even if you’re a web dev, you’re in luck: Redux is also a viable choice on Flutter.

3. Easy to pick up or transition to

Flutter is easier to learn than other mobile frameworks, in my opinion. This depends, however, on the background of the developer.

For those coming from a native background (Android development, as in my case), Flutter will definitely be easier to catch up on compared to React Native.

When a web developer switches to writing mobile apps, Flutter might be more difficult to assimilate than React Native. Still, all things considered, I noticed that the development runs smoothly regardless of the initial experience.

We have to thank Google for this.

Flutter developer at rebeldot

4. Dart is great for writing fast apps

This is another advantage when it comes to Flutter.

Dart is a client-optimized programming language made by Google to support developers in accelerating the process of writing apps. Take this into account, along with the short build times (owed to hot reloading), and you’ll find yourself marathoning through the app development.

Many see Dart as the child of Java and JavaScript. It is object-oriented, optionally typed, and it is not bloated as it is the case with its parents.

If you’re curious about how quickly and easily you can move around with Dart when designing a fancy UI, check out Marcin SzaŇāek’s talk at Flutter Europe from 2020. I was amazed by how easily he managed to translate impossible-to-do Dribbble designs into actual Flutter code.

5. Debugging done easily

One thing that I love about Flutter is that it allows the developer to use an IDE of their choice.

In my case, I feel more comfortable writing code in Android Studio than in VSCode. The colleague with whom I developed the app is more of an expert on React Native, so her choice was VSCode.

Despite our differences, we manage to live in peace.

There might be a lot of bias, of course, because of my background. But what’s nice about being able to go for different IDEs is that you can write wherever you’re more comfortable, so you’re not going to be slowed down by your very ally. What’s really cool about AS is that it comes bundled with powerful debugging tools, so it is much easier and intuitive to debug your app without external tools (so is the case with React Native).

This, for me, was a huge advantage that sped up the development process significantly.

rescue and emergency mobile app developed in Flutter

Should you consider Flutter for your next mobile app?

As it usually goes with this type of questions: it depends. Flutter is really fast and powerful when it comes to designing a beautiful and user-friendly UI, perfect for an MVP.

Flutter apps might be faster in general because of the underlying architecture of the framework. The development is sped up from the beginning due to all the beautiful things that already come bundled with the framework.

Flutter is still young, but I think it has a lot of potential.

Just a few days ago, Flutter 2 has been announced. This means that Flutter’s capability to write a single app usable on iOS, Android, Windows, MacOS, Linux, and the web is no longer in beta.

This is huge news!

clubhouse for startup founders

Here’s what tech startup founders can learn from Clubhouse, the invite-only drop-in audio chat app.

Since you landed on this article, I’ll go ahead and assume you are already an avid user of this new, invite-only drop-in audio chat, or you’ve heard of this platform and might be curious to know its whereabouts and the lessons it can teach early startup founders.


If you’ve had enough of social media and exacerbating your FOMO with yet another platform with content you are missing out on is not on your priority list, we get it. No judgment here.

I’ll keep this short, but grab a cup of [your favorite drink] to keep you warm while scrolling through this.

What is Clubhouse? ūü§Ē

So Clubhouse is a free, audio-only social media app where people can meet and discuss anything in organized ‚Äúrooms‚ÄĚ that are typically moderated by one, two, or a group of people.

Imagine being on a semi-public Teams or Zoom call in which all cameras are turned off, and you are struggling to keep track of who and when is talking. (I honestly hope Clubhouse is working on making speakers appear a little bit more in our faces, so it‚Äôs easier to track down who is saying what.) I keep pulling my spectacles whenever someone’s saying something interesting in a room.

I have been using Clubhouse for a month now and joined a few talks on Startups, Tech, Investing, and, of course, Bitcoin. Although there are a few chats here and there on how this platform is going to maybe replace on-demand audio content like podcasts, I think it still has a long way to go.

People are startled at the ramp-up this platform received in the past weeks, but with the support of some of the biggest Silicon Valley names, and a powerful influx of influencers and bitcoin peddlers around the world (Elon Musk I am pointing at you), this (at least temporary ‚ÄĒ who knows?) boom has been inevitable.

Where can you get a Clubhouse invite from?

Although this is not the point of the article, I’ll tell you the app is iOS only (at least for now), and invite-only. If you have friends that might already be on Clubhouse, don’t shy away from asking for your own Clubhouse invite.

I tried buying my own Clubhouse invite in its earlier days (desperate marketer, I know) and would not recommend it. At this point, there are over 10.1 million registered users. If you can’t find one to invite you, DM me and we’ll sort it out.

Getting to the point.

Besides being one of the most talked-about social networks of the moment, I found out the story of Clubhouse has a few important lessons to teach tech founders and aspiring technology entrepreneurs.

Here we go!

The new app idea is right in front of your eyes. ūüĎÄ

Officially launched in April 2020, Clubhouse took advantage of the momentum. Looking at the lack of human interactions due to the global pandemic and launched a platform that promised to deliver social interactions at a different scale.

They looked at what the world was facing and came up with a solution to something that was represented as a global pain.

In isolation, people were more prone to trying out new ways of socially getting out of their comfort zone. Et voila, a simple idea that solves a real problem!

Don‚Äôt try to reinvent the wheel. ūüߨ

At the core, Clubhouse is a social networking platform. It’s an app concept we have all been accustomed to, but with a twist. Its two founders, Paul Davison and Rohan Seth took what was missing out of our day-to-day scrolling games and pulled out something new.

The morale?

Doing what everyone else is doing might not be that bad of an idea, as long as you have a different take on it.

The proof?

Clubhouse has over 10.1 million registered users, up from 600,000 in December 2020. And yes, it’s another networking platform.

Clubhouse is an invite-only and iOS-only app. ūüďú

If you have been around us for some time, you know we are huge advocates of small releases and investing as little time as possible before hitting the market with a product.

It’s not because we don’t trust the amazing product feature ideas you have. It’s simply because everything real users can tell you is 10x better than the assumptions you can make about your market. And of all things, Clubhouse got this right.

Everything real users can tell you is 10x better than the assumptions you can make about your market. And of all things, Clubhouse got this right.

Clubhouse is a fairly straightforward app, with limited functionality.

Users can jump in and out of different chats, on different subjects, in something that is pretty similar to a free-flowing podcast. They can simply listen or choose to throw in their thoughts, by raising their hand whenever in a chat. Imagine a cocktail party or clubhouse. Everyone gets a profile, and you can follow the people you want to stay in touch with. There is no typing inside the app, not photos, and no comments. Your voice is your only identity.

Add the fact that the app is invite-only and does not work on the web or Android devices, and, to some founders, this might already look like a disaster scenario.

The scarcity bias. ūü§©

People unconsciously assume things that are limited are valuable and things that are abundant are not.

Intended or not, making Clubhouse invite-only made it more popular than it probably would have been if available to the general public.

Something that is scarce will always be more tempting, and you might want to use this for your next launch. As seen for Clubhouse, limiting the number of users in your app not only gives you control over the number of users in your app but creates a bold PR wave around it as well.

Product > Marketing? ūüíį

Although I don‚Äôt feel like contributing to the entire ‚Äúgood product outsmart bad marketing‚ÄĚ discussion on the internet, Clubhouse is just another reminder that people respond to products that know how to feed their curiosity and momentum needs.

Their website is probably the most minimal Unicorn website you’ll find, and they do not seem to be bothered by this.

drop in audio chat for startups

So next time you want to invest months in the branding of your next product & website, remember Clubhouse. Or, launch an invite-only platform then have Elon Musk talk about it on Twitter.

The lesson?

Don’t overthink your branding and website design. It’s rarely important to spend months iterating on a website before launching a product.

Dave Gerthard
Dave Gerhardt clubhouse

Although Clubhouse has its own privacy issues, it is living proof that almost everything we are overthinking in product design, is unnecessary.

If you are not yet convinced that tons of features won’t grant the success of your app, allow us to change your mind:

  • Clubhouse is currently valued at $1 billion (up from $100 million in May 2020)
  • Clubhouse has raised over $10 million to date.
  • Over 180 organizations and venture capitalists have invested in Clubhouse to date.
  • With its $1 billion valuations, Clubhouse is now a Unicorn startup, joining the ranks of Uber and Airbnb.
  • Clubhouse is currently ranked #5 in the App Store under the ‚ÄúSocial Networking‚ÄĚ category.
  • Clubhouse officially launched in April 2020.

Source: Clubhouse Statistics

If you are looking for more startups and products related content, you might like the rest of the posts that we have on our blog.

Listen to our first podcast episode of Rebels Deconstructed, on Spotify your favorite streaming platform.

Flutter for mobile development

Flutter for mobile development and why should you consider it in 2021.

The trend continues.

The mobile market has been continuously growing and 2021 probably won’t be an exception, hence building a mobile application can be crucial for your business. Cross-platform solutions have proven to be successful, having major advantages and overcoming the disadvantages that come along. Some of the benefits include quick development time, low efforts & costs, easier maintenance and having the same consistency in UI/UX on both platforms. Lately, a new solution has been in the spotlight Рwithin a relatively short period of time, using Flutter for mobile development went from experimenting phase to the norm for cross-platform development in various big corporations, as well as innovative startups around the world.

Flutter has entered the chat.

Flutter is a cross-platform framework, launched in 2017 with a promise for fast development, small efforts and costs while maintaining great performance for your apps. Originally developed by Google (who are actively maintaining it), it became an open-source solution, the community having a great impact in developing the framework.

Big players such as Google itself, eBay, Square, or Alibaba have adopted Flutter for mobile development long before the hype. Some notable applications which have integrated it include Google Stadia, Google Ads, Google Pay, Reflectly, eBay Motors, Philips HUE.

Since its launch, Flutter has been rapidly growing in popularity. Taking a glance at the popularity of its main competitor, React Native (launched in 2015), with 92.7k stars on GitHub, the high adoption rate of Flutter becomes more evident, the latter having 111k stars in a shorter period.

Developing mobile applications with Flutter

But why use Flutter for mobile development?

Other than the general benefits of cross-platform development mentioned before, notable aspects include:

Fast development & great performance: Flutter features an extensive catalog of different components (called widgets), used to build complex and customizable UIs, shifting the developer attention on building the application’s core features. Flutter approaches cross-platform in a different manner, having its own rendering engine and components that are built entirely from scratch, making it a highly performant solution.

Easy to pick up or transition to: Flutter’s programming language is Dart (also developed by Google) which is a language that can be easily learnt or picked up by developers who are already familiar with programming languages such as Java, C# or JavaScript (TypeScript).

Flutter follows the same principles as other libraries/frameworks such as React and the transition can be easily done. As a bonus point: Google has included tutorials for transitioning from popular technologies such as: iOS, Android, React Native.

Developer’s happiness: Building mobile applications in Flutter is not only easy, but fun as well. According to the 2019 and 2020 Stack Overflow developer survey, Flutter is the third most loved framework Рbeing the most loved framework for developing mobile applications РA 2020 survey by Google Flutter team concluded that 94% participants were satisfied with the framework.

Flutter for cross-platform mobile development

Competitors.

Flutter is a great solution for building mobile applications, but it is not the only one. If we are talking about the cross-platform development, React Native also has a strong presence in the market. Also notable mentions are the native solutions for building applications for Android and iOS.

So, the question comes: Should you use React Native or Flutter for mobile development?

Answering these simple questions might help you in your next decision.

  1. Do you want to build a cross-platform mobile application?

If yes, Flutter or React Native are your go-to options.

If you want to build a performant application for Android and iOS, Flutter might be a better solution for its simplicity and fast pace development.

If you want to build a mobile application and further extend it to a web application, React Native is a better choice since it has the same core technology as some web applications (React)*.

2. Do you want to build a complex, highly-performant mobile app which makes use of extensive features of the phone?

While cross-platform solutions have become more and more stable and performant, native development is still the king in this area.

*It’s worth mentioning that Flutter Web has already been launched, but only time will tell if it will prove successful.

Wrapping it up.

Flutter has been rapidly increasing in popularity in the past few years and proven to be a viable solution for many big players in the industry as well as for many start-ups.

Giving its fast development, ease to adopt and great performance, Flutter is a worthy option in 2021 for your next mobile application.

2021 Web and Mobile app design trends

2021 Web and Mobile app design trends.

With the outside world being partially closed, this year we found ourselves evermore present in the digital universe. This was an immense opportunity for the organizations looking to step up their digital experiences, as well as for those brick-and-mortar businesses who transitioned to the online environment and switched from struggling to survive to thrive within this context.

Reflecting on some of the product design practices that lift the bar in 2020 in terms of innovation and efficiency, in this article I am going to present what are, in our opinion, the web and mobile app design trends for 2021.

As it is difficult to pinpoint exactly which of these trends are going to perform better, we advise that you don’t take the following list as a leaderboard, but rather as inspiration, an appreciation of what it is believed that will dominate the screens in the upcoming year.

Dark Mode.

We’ve all got excited when Apple introduced this feature. Being so widely adopted by most of the users in no-time, it became the norm for big tech companies such as Facebook, Instagram, or Slack, as well as small businesses looking to spice up their digital identities.

Slack Dark Mode design trend

Users seem to find the dark theme adding up a nuance of coolness to their devices, but besides this aesthetic factor, there are a couple of other reasons why this feature has been so requested recently and why we think will continue to dominate the UI guidelines.

· It reduces eye strain

· It provides safety in dark environments

· It allows highlighting and popping other design elements

· It saves device battery power

If you are thinking of adopting this trend for your digital experience too, there are some things that you should keep in mind so you can make the most of it:

Use a dark grey rather than a pure black (#000000); use lighter tones on dark themes, as saturated colors can create an irritating contrast on your UI; test your design in both dark and light appearances and allow your users to switch between regular to dark themes, rather than framing it as the only option.

There are more technicalities behind the simplicity of this sleek feature, but for that, we suggest that you read Nick’s Babich 8 tips for dark theme design.

Bold Typography.

Yet another design trend that seems to have found its way back into widespread practice nowadays, bold typography perfectly blends with pretty much every trend that this article will touch upon. Not only does it add an extra feel of modernness to your overall design, but it also an efficient means of driving users’ attention to certain elements on your web or mobile app.

Remember that when playing around with such heavy fonts, you should avoid overusing them and focus on short bits of text placed on more neutral backgrounds.

bold typography product design
Mobile Banking Service Website by Tubik

Micro interactions.

Micro interactions have become an essential part of designing great web and mobile apps. Being utterly subtle details, these design gimmicks articulate an enjoyable experience and ignite a priceless sense of excitement for those using your app or navigating your website.

Although the term might seem quite explanatory itself, one must remember that the word ‚Äúinteractions‚ÄĚ refers to engaging human moments, that can be grasped within seconds, without overwhelming.

Microinteraction Bookmark interaction by Paarth Desai
Microinteraction Bookmark interaction by Paarth Desai

Beyond conveying an aesthetic aspect, these animations aim to:

· Provide immediate feedback about a completed action, playing on our natural tendency to seek instant gratification in everything we do;

· Teach the functionality of the visual interface through intuitive design elements.

· Or encourage certain actions on the platform, functioning just like a visual Call To Action, but rather an indirect one.

Micro interaction Loading XXI by Oleg Frolov
Loading XXI by Oleg Frolov

Whether you are thinking of a swipe animation, an unconventional loading screen, a delicate call to action, or just a cool button, when designing these micro interactions, you should always put yourself in the user’s shoes, strive for functionality, be as less intrusive as possible and use plain human language.

Neumorphism.

Designers from all over the world seem to have not got over this trend which is somewhat recent, making most of the lists of 2020. Still, researching it could get a bit confusing because some tend to state that neumorphism is just a more recent term coined for skeuomorphism.

But there is a difference.

Skeumorphism, implies designing elements in a realistic and minimal style, focusing on the similarity between the real and digital worlds.

While neumorphism also attempts to replicate the real feel and aspect of elements such as buttons, layouts, or cards, it is more focused on the color palette. Specifically, this trend refers to creating an interface in which the previously stated elements look like they are placed behind the background, and not on the background.

digital product trend neumorphism Apple Watch UI Design by Sanad Daniyal
neumorphism Apple Watch UI Design by Sanad Daniyal

This is a subtle touch that can be done by manipulating shadow and light.

The image below should be explanatory enough, but if you want to get a crash course into how to properly implement it, we suggest reading this neumorphic design guide.

Shazam Neomorphism Version by Nardi Braho
Shazam Neomorphism Version by Nardi Braho

Immersive 3D visuals.

It is still quite early to tell if VR and AR technologies have gained a maturity level, but what is noticeable is that an increased number of product designers are pivoting similar hyper-realistic visuals onto websites, as well web and mobile apps. This gives brands more immersive touchpoints, an awe-inspiring user experience that could easily translate into conversions.

3d visual Timescope by Peter Tarka
Timescope by Peter Tarka

Successfully jumping on the bandwagon with this trend implies, however, a fine eye for design, but also a series of diligent efforts to increase your website performance. You may have some sleek animations or a 3D visual ready to take up the entire users’ screen and amaze them, but a slow-loading and poorly optimized platform will have them leave your website even before that fancy hero image will pop up, so be mindful about it. 

3d Landing Page by Tran Mau Tri Tam
3d Landing Page by Tran Mau Tri Tam

Abstract data visualization.

With so much data being available online, cluttering both our feeds and our minds, it is imperative that you find more engaging ways of displaying it. Gone are the days when we would get excited glancing at a colorful infographic, consuming the information with more curiosity than we would from a dull spreadsheet.

Indeed, it was exciting to see this abrupt transition from plane tables to creative data illustrations, but just like with every visual feature, we seem to have got used to this too now.

You have to find novel ways of data visualization. Dare to illustrate your information abstractly with a futuristic design that doesn’t necessarily conform to some predefined patterns. Challenging the norms might sound cliché, but when it comes to design it is how you move forward.

Leaps in Space by Bureau OberhaeuserDrowning in plastic by Reuters Graphics
Drowning in plastic by Reuters Graphics

Microcopy & UX writing.

Talking about plain human language, there’s not much to discuss about it, but a simple statement. People demand less jargon, less of those vague standard notions, and more copy that sounds human. The goal is to write as you talk, ideally as less formal as possible, similar to a casual dialogue that you would have with a friend.

Although we were not the fans of the term ‚Äúhuman-centered design‚ÄĚ, as it kinda feels like BS, to our surprise, it is a thing now. And so should the human-centered copy.

It doesn’t matter whether you are writing an article or UX copy for a new fintech app, you should aim to define a unique tone of voice, based on authentic non-corporate messaging that people can understand and resonate with. Being a content writer myself, I have often fallen into the trap of wanting to sound just as professional as the other players in the industry, but, looking at the engagement metrics, I got to understand that I was heading to a dead-end.

It is fascinating how challenging it is to write just as simple as we talk when most of us were schooled in a specific formal writing style, but, luckily, there are some organizations that are already mastering this art.

Have a look on Ueno’s website to draw some inspiration on what engaging UX writing looks like.

Minimalistic design.

We can’t be sure whether this is just a temporary phase or a long-awaited comeback, but it is clearly happening. With so many distractions, flashy elements, electrifying colors, and nerve-racking pop-ups, going back to the basics of minimalism feels like a refreshing breath of air for most of us who need a break from the distractions of the current always-on life.

Having just mentioned that you should dare to be bold in your design and play with the abstract notions, it might seem a bit contradictory to now encourage you towards minimalism.

I’m not saying you have to ditch your experimental ideas to the detriment of a bare design. What I am suggesting is that you can do both. Simply keep in mind that, these days, as users, we tend to feel overwhelmed and anxious by the clutter we are surrounded with.

No matter the industry, a loosen-up visual interface will trigger a sense of peacefulness which often correlates with increased levels of engagement. Still, this practice is even more effective for those businesses selling complex solutions such as SaaS products or even financial services, as it simplifies their narrative, keeping users hooked on the specific platform.

minimalistic design Finance Mobile App Design by Ghulam Rasool
Finance Mobile App Design by Ghulam Rasool

Final thoughts.

The web and mobile app design area is crowded with ephemeral trends, but some of them determine the industry norm for a longer term. In this article, I wanted to present the popular design trends of 2020, while also anticipating a few more that will gain increased traction in 2021, based on our work here, at RebelDot, as well as an analysis of the already existing articles on this topic.

Although neither of these trends implied rocket science, I hope that reading this piece reinforced some basic concepts and got you inspired to design the next digital solutions that you users won’t get enough of in 2021.

As the design phase is also an iterative part of the product development process, you might also want to read our complementary post about building an MVP to understand exactly just what it means to innovate with rapid customer feedback. ūüöÄ

RebelDot Video Live Streaming

How to build a video streaming application for your business.

The big picture.

Video content is king, there is no doubt about this. We have reached the time when video content is in high demand and it seems that this is not going to stop here. Companies around the world are exploring this niche especially now as we are making efforts to socially distance. Events that once happened on big arenas now are happening remote, on Zoom, WebEx, Whereby and other video streaming platforms. eLearning apps are taking the place of onsite learning opportunities and everything that used to happen in person, is now happening thorough a screen via video streaming.

The social distance is not the only decisive factor that creates this increased need for video streaming. Communities are more engaged to use video streaming platforms as a form of expression and communication with their peers. Platforms such as Twitch,Tiktok, Instagram (Reels) are coming to support this need of the market and to offer suitable streaming solutions.

Video streaming, either live or on-demand, is happening right now, while you are reading this.

So today, regardless of the sector you are operating in, if you plan on starting a stream into the virtual world, delivering quality content to millions of people you have 2 obvious options:

  1. Use an existing video streaming platform and comply with their terms, conditions, and prices.
  2. Build your own custom streaming platform using a reliable partner.

Let us focus on the second option and see what it takes to create your own streaming platform, what services you can use to achieve that and what could be the estimated cost. We will go forward in this article with a use case of Microsoft Azure and its related services to achieve our purpose.

Building a video streaming app.

You should know that there are 2 types of video streaming:

  • Live Streaming: a live event which is simultaneously recorded and broadcasted almost in real-time.
  • Video on-demand: broadcasting an existing video when this is requested.

For this specific matter, Microsoft Azure offers support via Microsoft Media Services for both mentioned streaming possibilities.

Let’s dive deeper and look at the operations that must be performed so you can deliver video on-demand streaming, what are the must know terminologies when it comes to videos and how the overall simplified architecture looks like.

Microsoft Azure Video Streaming
Fig. 1.0 Simplified Steaming Video on Demand Components Architecture

Concepts and Services.

A video file contains multiple components such as an audio track, caption track, metadata about the video and many more. All of this are stored in a structured manner inside a container which is described as the video format which can be MP4, AVI, or other types of format. In Azure Media Services any digital video file is described as an Asset. For example, when you upload a new video file this will be stored as an asset item inside the platform.

Before being able to stream a video, an operation called encoding must be done. The encoding operation is responsible to compress the initial file and to prepare multiple quality versions of it. The encoding process is based on a specific algorithm which is called codec such as H264. For the encoding process, Azure Media Services offers an integrated system which helps you process the raw digital files by offering a set of encoding presets and the possibility for custom defined ones.

Now we are a couple of steps away until we can stream a video. But first let us see if you and your business have the need to deliver the content in a secure way, to be able to restrict access to specific streams and to decrease the possibility of copyright infringement and piracy. For this specific matter, there is an integrated technology which helps to achieve all of this called DRM (Digital Right Management). Azure Content Policy Service allows you to manage DRM licenses in a convenient way with 3 biggest DRM providers:

  1. Widevine: proprietary technology owned by Google
  2. PlayReady: proprietary technology owned by Microsoft
  3. FairPlay: proprietary technology owned by Apple

Now, when you want to start streaming a video, you are in the position where you have a big video file. This must be sent in small pieces since you do not want to force the user to download all the video file at once. Here, the streaming protocols are coming into the picture and there are 2 approaches:

  1. Progressive download: send small chunks of data to the user
  2. Adaptive streaming: send small chunks of data to the user and select the best video quality based on multiple factors such as network speed. Some of these protocols are HLS, DASH or Smooth Streaming.

After the previous steps has been decided an output locator has to be created and a streaming endpoint. The output locator identifies which asset do you want to stream and under what policies (streaming policy and encryption policy). The streaming endpoint will stream your content to the clients and will provide the streaming URLs. For an easy integration, Azure offers its own player, which has an embed mechanism for the DRM licenses, called Azure Media Player.

How much does it cost?

Now that you have a clear overview on what are the technologies and services that will be used, we can look at what costs you might expect. The following scenario has been taken into consideration and it consists of:

  1. Usage of 1h of HD quality encoding services (done only one when the video is uploaded).
  2. 10GB of assets distributed around the globe using Content Delivery Network for a better network management and availability.
  3. Usage of 10000 DRM protection licenses for each of the 3 provides (Widevine, FairPlay and PlayReady).
  4. The usage of Azure streaming services.

All of these yield an estimated cost which starts from $135.08/month for a scalable and easy to integrate a streaming solution.

DIY Video Streaming Platform Costs

Next Steps.

After the overall picture is painted and the estimated costs are known, most of the unknown variables seem to get more clarity. As a business that wants to get into the video streaming sector, now, you can easily assess if this a suitable solution that satisfies your needs and enables you to provide quality video and audio content for your audience at a large scale.