This UX Design Suite Makes Developing Mobile Apps Quick And Simple

Technology > IT

The app economy is projected to reach a market worth of $101 billion globally by 2020, with mobile gaming expected to account for $74.6 billion.

In America, the time spent consuming digital media has risen over 50% since 2014, with mobile apps credited for 90% of overall growth. Smartphones and tablets are responsible for over 60% of media time spent, with approximately half of total media time spent pointing to smartphones.

As more media and technology is created and experienced using mobile devices, app designers and developers are today’s architects tasked with constructing platforms for the future. With demand for mobile growing exponentially in real-time, the ability to rapidly develop and deploy apps has become critical across industries.

Recognizing the need for a simple solution that boosts productivity while saving companies time and money, one startup created a streamlined, all-in-one product designed to reshape how apps are built in the modern world.

Founded in 2011, Fuse is a user experience (UX) suite for developers and designers looking to build top-tier native apps quickly, efficiently and at scale. Their toolkit provides a markup language and unique visual tools that bridge the gap between designer and developer, while also providing native libraries for iOS and Android.

Beyond syncing design and development, Fuse also shortens iteration times. Developers are able to not only build well-designed, intuitive apps with quality UX in a shorter time; they can also produce iterations at a faster pace than outsourcing. This allows companies to save money and integrate feedback in real-time to frequently enhance the experience, design and performance.

The company has raised $19 million in funding to date, following a $12 million Series A round Fuse received back in January.

Fuse CEO and Co-Founder Anders Lassen shares the vision behind his company, disrupting the mobile market and the future of building apps in a digital age.

 What specific void or opportunity did you discover that inspired the idea behind your company?

Anders Lassen: First, our jobs as programmers at ARM gave us a front-row view of all the capabilities of modern mobile devices, and it became apparent that most developers underutilized a lot of these devices. As a consequence, much of the raw power didn't benefit the end users who bought these pocket-sized supercomputers. Secondly, the way apps are developed hasn't changed much in the last 20-30 years. New tools and computer languages have come and gone, but the process remains largely the same, with developers and designers operating in separate worlds, using a different set of tools. This is partly because collaboration across these boundaries requires a huge amount of additional work just to translate and re-implement the vision of stakeholders and designers into production code. In turn, this resulted in unsustainable processes of slow iterations for testing and validating ideas. Consequently, you end up with products and user experiences that are less thought-through or polished, even though you've spent an unacceptable amount of time, resources and risk to produce them. These two takeaways lead us to realize that what was needed wasn’t another micro-optimization tool. We had to take a step back and consider the entire development process from through the lens of product owners and designers, as well as developers. Fuse is the byproduct of that process.

What were some of the challenges you faced getting your company off the ground and what lessons did you learn from this process?

Anders Lassen: ‘Make better apps in less time’ is a fairly open-ended and ambitious statement that meant we had to tackle a lot of different challenges in different domains. Building Fuse required compiler expertise, deep knowledge of multiple native mobile platforms (iOS and Android), as well as the capability to design programming interfaces that are intuitive and easy to learn, yet still remain flexible. Being a bottom-up technology company means things are sure to take time, especially in the early stages. You can go months without being able to test or demo anything directly relevant to the headline problem you're trying to solve. Compared to a top-down point solution for a specific issue, this required us to plan for the long term and build technology that's flexible enough to tackle any new challenges and platforms the future may bring, while also solving the issues we see right now. Finding the balance between the two was crucial to avoiding an entirely theoretical exercise.

Describe the different tools you offer developers and designers and what makes bridging the gap between them so important

Anders Lassen: Our primary offering is the platform itself and UX Markup; a declarative-reactive XML-based language used to create native, responsive and smoothly animated interactive components you use to build your app. Through UX Markup, you get connected access to the three most powerful UI technologies available in mobile devices: each platform's native UI components, fast OpenGL accelerated rendering and flexible vector-based graphics. Everything written in UX Markup compiles to native C++ for optimal native performance. Living side by side with your code, our desktop preview tool lets you see your code come to life as you write it. This is available for Windows and macOS and does not require any kind of development environment installed to function. Just by bundling those two things together, we’ve made it a lot easier for people to develop apps. We also have Fuse Studio, which is an extended visual toolkit for professional users and teams who want to work even more hands on. With Fuse Studio, you can visually select and manipulate elements, simultaneously previewing multiple parts of your app in different aspects and resolutions in real-time. When you make a change, it’s instantly reflected in the app.

What unique advantage does your company offer developers and designers that give you a competitive advantage in the space?

Anders Lassen: Over last year or so, the prototyping tool space has become incredibly crowded. Now, there’s multiple websites solely dedicated to telling them apart. However, none of these tools address the fundamental problem we think they should solve. Since Fuse outputs real, native code, the advantage of prototyping and building your app as part of the same integrated process is very compelling. This allows for fast iterations, as well as letting designers work directly on the app instead of keeping them out of the process once the app enters the code domain. Fuse also allows developers to do more with less code, without giving up flexibility and control of the native platform underneath. As a result, the whole process improves from initial idea to launch.

Explain how equipping designers and developers with a toolkit like yours shift the approach to building apps?

Anders Lassen: You get to take your idea to a testable, native prototype in just a few hours. This means you can validate or scrap an idea with minimum effort. Maximizing efficiency on the top of the funnel has huge gains in productivity for everyone involved, and offers a shift in how we see apps being tested and developed. Being able to evolve your prototype into a full product without any hard handover along the way is a game changer. As your app moves from a theoretical exercise to a real product, you catch problems and incorrect assumptions as early as possible, removing the ‘human translation errors’ and friction traditionally associated with this process. Fuse aims to be the future of app development by keeping everyone on the same page -- with their ideas, designs and their code during every stage of the process.

How do you see the company evolving in 3-5 years and in what way do you hope to impact the industry?

Anders Lassen: We intend to make Fuse an integral part of creating, maintaining and managing any user experience on any digital platform. Specifically, our goal is to accelerate user-centric, design-driven innovation to help product owners, designers and developers create a new world of useful and engaging experiences. By making tools that are manifestations of these concepts and ideas, we hope to drive the entire app development industry forward.

Photo By: Max Pixel / Free Great Picture