Inside Canary’s Stellar Security Product
By Disha Sharma
Here’s the second edition in our AppMagic series. If you’ve read our first piece, you’ll know that in the App Magic series, we take you behind the scenes of the most brilliant mobile apps that redefine app development.
Today, we’re thrilled to feature Canary, a company that keeps your homes and families safe even when you’re away. Canary offers a complete home security system that can be controlled from your smartphone.
Canary’s mobile app is different from most other mobile apps because it is closely integrated with Canary’s (hardware) product. So we’re not talking about just code here, we’re discussing the delivery of an incredible app experience through the perfect symphony of software and hardware.
Canary’s Lead Product Designer, Day Jimenez, got candid with our CEO, Robert Chea, and told us how collaborative work and focusing on customer experience powers the team’s app development efforts.
Keeping up with two disciplines: Software and Hardware integration
Most mobile apps hardly have a hardware dimension. That means all the app development work is focused on the software. But it’s not so in Canary’s case.
While the Canary app resides on your phone, a big part of the app’s function happens in its hardware component. So it’s critical that the team gets both to work together. Canary chose to develop the hardware in-house as it wanted to make the software integration as seamless as possible.
As you can imagine, when you have a team that has some people working on 6-8 week software release schedules and others working on hardware with 9-12 month calendars, keeping them aligned with the company objectives and the product roadmap can be quite a task.
When asked about streamlining the process for a team with people working on two entirely different dimensions, Jimenez says, “One of our main drivers is a quality user experience and collaboration within our company. At Canary, we’re continuously bringing together experts from a range of disciplines to paint the most holistic and informed picture possible. We do this to better understand our challenges and to avoid making decisions that have a waterfall effect 9 months later—even if it’s a quick dive in and out, we make it a priority to share the expertise, reach early alignment, and have clear expectations.”
Indeed when integrating hardware and software planning, it’s crucial that your first steps will be to offer a full picture of how you see the final product — so even with the differences in disciplines, the product development still takes a unified stand.
Canary’s take on testing: An extensive dogfooding exercise followed by thorough beta testing
When you’ve got a product like Canary, involving every employee in the dogfooding process comes easy. Jimenez rehashes, “We’re very lucky to be a company where everyone uses the product—we all use Canary at home with our families and roommates…” The emphasis on employee dogfooding of the app and system helps Canary test with their target demographics outside of the QA team in real homes and family environments.
While the Canary team finds the dogfooding exercise incredibly helpful, they take their testing efforts very seriously. After all, an app that aims to keep people’s homes and families safe has to be thoroughly tested.
Jimenez tells us how they follow up dogfooding with extensive user testing focused on design and goes on to say, “-…dogfooding was good enough to give us a sense of usability and overall experience but was in no way testing at scale so we lacked a sense of confidence when we shipped new features. We’re now expanding our user testing program to engage users during the feature creation process, not just after it, and to include new users with more variable use cases and peculiar edge cases. All this powers design confidence and the criteria by which we evaluate design.”
To reach the level of trust in their product, the Canary team conducts in-depth testing with a customer beta group after the dogfooding exercise. This gives them additional insight into how the system will function in real-world environments, and helps them find and resolve field issues before the majority of their customer base can experience them.
The magic ingredient in Canary’s app: Focus on customer experience
Stepping outside the startup stereotype with a traditional call center, Canary has a great customer experience team that’s reachable by, yes, you guessed it, a simple phone call. Even when there were only 40 employees, Canary made customer service the center of their product. They didn’t want to simply have a FAQ section or outsource help, but invest in a service team that could really support their customers.
Canary also focuses on making help available fast. Its customer support team has easy access to the product development team in instances where users reach out to them for tricky troubleshooting.
Refreshingly, their customer team doesn’t just offer support but is actively involved in the development process. They bring the user’s experience to the product design and development team.
Jimenez tells, “We actively involve members of our customer experience team in our product development process. They provide insight on the user’s perspective and work together with us to create cohesive communications…Many of the features we implement are seeded by the customer experience team sharing the opinions of the user, what they need and want.” This participation en- sures that people’s voice and feedback is translated into meaningful features in the product.
In fact, Jimenez confesses that he has never seen a company take customer experience so seriously and actually bring it to the design table. He tells us, “ It’s definitely the first time I have worked so collaboratively with the user’s voice. As a designer I’m always the one trying to put myself in the customer’s shoes, so having the customer’s experience in mind comes naturally…but it’s much more important to have facts than creative assumptions. It’s also very satisfying when we hear back from customers that they’re pleased with how we improve features they were interested in.”
In addition to helping Canary plan new features and make improvements, their users actively contribute new ideas, Jimenez continues, “We are really lucky to have a vocal community that was engaged very early on in our [IndieGoGo] campaign. They’re expressing their interest, what they like, what they don’t like and they have been shaping the product ever since.” It’s almost like Canary’s new features and functionality are bootstrapped from its user experiences.
Thanks so much to Jimenez for his incredible insights into how Canary shapes and marries fast moving software development with long term hardware development—we hope you take a minute to check out Canary and see their delivery of a delightful experience across their app and hardware.
See Canary in action: