Software development

Designing and building apps for four platforms in 50 hours

Topics
Mobile Camp, Ravintolapäivä, Restaurant Day

A couple of weeks ago, together with Restaurant Day volunteers, we organized a weekend-long camp at our Helsinki office. Our goal was to create mobile applications for the Restaurant Day concept.

A quick introduction to Restaurant Day (or Ravintolapäivä as it's known in Finland): it's a day during which people are encouraged to set up a pop-up restaurant. It was organized for the first time last May, and has seen spectacular growth, both in popularity and geographically. The whole event is organized by volunteers, and as such there is no commercial pressure involved. Everything is done for the love of food and the rush of organizing something great.

Close to 20 people signed up as volunteers to come help design and build the mobile applications. In addition to IT professionals – coders and designers – we also had excited people from completely different fields participating. They were interested in how mobile applications are built and wanted to help out in some way.

Based on the areas of expertise of the volunteers, we set ourselves a challenging goal. We would build applications for the iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7 and Symbian^3 mobile platforms. Making the goal even more challenging was our hard deadline: the next Restaurant Day was three weeks away, on the 4th of February. With the different application store review processes, this meant that we would have to submit our applications by the end of the following week.

On Friday, we focused on design. After introductions, we had an ideation phase, followed by MoSCoW prioritisation by Jyrki, the Restaurant Day CTO and our official product owner. The group then split up into platform teams (backend, iOS, Android, WP7, Symbian) to start setting everything up while the UX team drew up the first version of the general wireframes. These were presented, after which platform-specific UI tweaks were taken into consideration. The back-end team also drafted up some API specs. We finished the evening with a sauna and a trip to Kaunis Kampela, the local bar.

On Saturday, coding began. The UX team started making graphics and tweaking the wireframes. We had checkpoints during which everyone presented what they had achieved and others gave feedback. Lunch and dinner flew by, and coding stopped sometime after 01:00.

Coding continued on Sunday along with UI tweaks, checkpoints, food and drinks. At around 17:30, we had a final demo. The results:

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During the following week, we did some further testing, made some minor user interface tweaks and finally submitted the applications for review. Today, the last application received its stamp of approval from Microsoft, and all of them (along with a video recap of the weekend) can now be found at the Restaurant Day site.

The mobile camp weekend was a real eye-opener. It is a perfect showcase of how much can be accomplished in an extremely short timeframe with a clear vision, the right technology, tools and skilled people operating them. I believe that one crucial factor – in addition to having great participants – was having a product owner who had the final say in what would be done. Lots of great ideas were thrown around, but with such a tight schedule, we had to throw excellent ideas out of the window. Let's hope to see them in version 2.0!

I want to thank all the participants for making the weekend a success, and hope that the new mobile dimension will make Restaurant Day even more enjoyable for all participants. Enjoy your culinary experiences this upcoming Saturday!