‘We wanted to showcase a creative and entrepreneurial side to architects’

8 September, 2020

Creating a mobile app to help architects run a practice has been a long, sometimes frustrating journey and one that’s taken Gbolade Design Studio out of its comfort zone explains co-founder Lanre Gbolade.

One year on from winning the Architect Pitch with MyPart3 App, an iOS mobile resource for students navigating their way through the architectural education and professional practice arena, we have just launched the re-branded version which we have called the Architects’ App.

The journey from concept to the final product has taken us over five years.

In 2015 we realised there was an opportunity to create a mobile resource of high-quality content for the architectural community especially students who had to lug around countless Part 3 books while juggling practice work and studying in the evenings.

Critically though for us, it was an opportunity to break away from the normal architecture view of what it means to run a practice.

We wanted to showcase the creative and entrepreneurial side to architects so we took on the challenge of developing an app without any prior experience. Were we crazy?

After six months of toil on Xocde (Apple Coding application) we conceded we needed a developer. With him on board we could put our architectural expertise to best use developing the UX/UI design as well as collating all the app content.

We under-estimated the time this would take. We thought it would be a 6 month journey from start to app store launch but the process ended taking somewhere nearer 18 months to achieve the milestone of seeing it available on the iOS App Store in July 2016.

What followed was three years of highs and lows as we stumbled our way through the ups and downs of the product development cycle and navigated the challenges of marketing and advertising the app on various platforms and techniques, some successful, others less so.

We received support and sponsorship from Graphisoft and Ibstock who have sponsored the app along the way in return for prime advertising real estate in the app.

In summer of the 2019 the opportunity to revitalise the app and get some industry validation behind it came in the form of the Architect Pitch, with £5000 worth of digital marketing and PR courses as the prize. The pitch was part of the 2019 London Festival of Architecture and hosted by HOK at its London Studio.

Tara and Lanre after winning the Architect Pitch in 2019

The timing couldn’t have been better as we needed the impetus to kick-start the next leg of product development and re-branding to take the app to the next level.

Since then we’ve made the most of the prize with great courses on marketing from Digital Storey and PR from Piggy Goes to Market.

The app is a comprehensive digital library showcasing best practice in architecture and urban design all in one location, including links to design guides, sustainability resources, and product manufacturers.

We see the app as a great tool for advocating for higher quality design and collaboration within the built environment. We’ve developed it for both iOS and Android platforms and widened the reach to the whole profession and industry.

Behind the scenes we also invested in a Content Management System (CMS)  to make the app content far easier to keep updated. This is crucial and one of the items we missed when we first developed the app. With this feature we can now respond to users’ needs and requirements with a far quicker turnaround without having to re-submit for approval on each content update. This is one feature we would have invested in first-time round with the benefit of hindsight.

We’ve also learnt from our first experience and engaged a social media manager to help with promoting the app online, and a business development manager to manage agreements and relationships with partner sponsors.

 We’ve self-funded the project to the tune of £11,000 with revenues in excess of that through in-app sponsorship.

We took the decision early on to make the app free and focus on attracting a high numbers of users and app engagement which would in turn attract industry partners to engage with how the app could support their businesses and products.

We’re still refining and adjusting this revenue strategy, but with the ability to keep content readily up to date, potential partner sponsors are responding more enthusiastically to the potential of the app this time round.

We firmly believe in the app and definitely feel there’s lots more we can do to make it a key industry resource so be sure to download it, engage with us and watch this space for the latest updates in the coming months and year ahead.

You can download the Architects’ App now from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store

Gbolade Design Studio is a London-based  practice and sustainability consultancy.