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The Story Of


A Word On The Subject:
"Alcohol isn’t going anywhere, my friend. It is the one that binds professionalism, family life, and culture. Deals are made, stories are told, lovers get acquainted, parties are started and maintained over drinks, celebrations are commenced — even Jesus, for christ sake, is remembered and respected via wine at communion.

The fact is, it has become a pillar of not just American life, but human life on this planet. We may go without many things before we go without a drink. For this reason alone, it is beyond wise to form some kind of business around the industry."

Lin Dai - Co-Founder, Hooch

The Backstory:

How It All Began

From the business idea to the committed partnership, everything about the joining forces between us and Hooch seemed to be a bit coincidental and destined.
Nothing was planned...the stars just aligned.

Two weeks before Remy (our Managing Partner) quit his job and founded this company, he made a list of companies that he felt were in need of a new "scheme". Hooch, a startup he heard about via one of his mentors, was on that list. He later ended up doing a mock redesign of their platform as a side project, and created his first article on medium about the results. Less than 24 hours after posting, The founder, Lin Dai, reached out to him via LinkedIn.

After a couple of email exchanges, they decide to meet for drinks (ironically). Lin explains the new business direction and invites Remy to bring a team on board to lead the architecture and design of the new product. After a few more outside meetings (and a few more drinks), they decide to work together. Only at the project kickoff would they find out that their offices are down the hall from each other in the same co-working space. I was meant to be!


The Beginning Stages

There was much opportunity for growth

The initial design had a bland visual design in comparison to the very well-designed marketing campaigns for the business. We found that this set up a generally negative taste to potential users since they expected the actual app to have equal quality design. When Hooch failed to deliver, this caused people to uninstall–thus making it a priority task for us to change.

In addition, the UX didnt optimally lead the user into the experience (find venue > choose drink > redeem). There were too many other disruptive touch points. Therefore, the UX could be re-worked to be efficient and helpful.

A Word On The Subject:
"It's probably best that we not tell you what we want out of this thing from a design perspective. I'm excited to see what you do with it. We aren't going to be the only ones using this, therefore one opinon doesnt matter. Im not scared to let you be the expert."

David Bella - Chief Technology Officer, Hooch

The New Approach

New design priorities had to be established.

Knowing we were working with a heavily promoted app (changes would be noticed), a small tech team (changes can't be too difficult), and a venture round coming up relatively soon (changes needed to happen quick), we decided to upgrade core interaction points within the app to be highly functional and unique. This way, design made a statement without disrupting any business objectives.

The most noticeable change was the header treatment, opting for a symbolic "H" vs the entire word. Next was removing the entire footer bar & opting for a simple list|map toggle. Another big visual change was the navigation menu, which we designed to be much more interactive.

Gain a deeper understanding by reading the full case study on medium.

Read The Article

Step 3:

Creating a Foundation

We decided to make foundational changes in 3 core areas: theme, image use, and font.

Considering that Hooch is an “After 5” app (meaning its mainly used during the night), I felt it necessary to give it a dark theme. This also makes it more discreet when used in dimly-lit settings. In terms of imagery, we added standard uniformity in size + adding a faded gradient overlay within each row. Since most images would be coming from an outside source, this tactic keeps the

Color balance in check while making sure text within the rows are ledgible. In terms of font, we decided to enforce the sleek and high-class brand persona that Hooch is going for by using a lighter font with more symmetry. Tightening the tracking of the font ever-so-slightly also helped create a cleaner, more classic look that was ledgible and modern.

New Branded Elements

Faded Headers + Stroke Iconography

Faded headers give the feel that the page itself is truly connected and blends from one point to another. It also contributes to the brand of Hooch by adding that extra touch of subtle smoothness. This page style is prevalent throughout most pages within the app and serves as a main theme identifier.

On the opposite end, we incorporated stroke iconography in order to keep the focus on the imagery and information on the screens. Since people generally knwo how to look and interact with icons and buttons, this works well. Stroke iconography also complments the sleek design direction.

Different Movements

Extended Transitions + Drastic Motions

We used a mix of easing, fading, delayed sequencing and minor spring interactions to give the app transitions enough flare to be pleasing, but not too much to be cheesy or overdone. In addition, we strategically made some elements move in and out prior and after others; specifically if it was an element that is considered of importance for a user to pay attention to.

As you may notice, the background picture on the navigation menu slowly moves, thus giving a 3D feel to the screen. Small things as such stands out and adds a premium feel to the final product.

What We Learned:

Brand & function are equally important.

People often toggle which is more essential in product development. process-driven people such as business execs and techies tend to lean much more on the functional side of things while marketers & designers will be brand champions. From a historical standpoint, function has always proven wise to prioritize, but within the startup landscape where the best-designed

and advertised product wins, it's heavily important to emphasize brand. This is where a great UX specialist is essential–both brand and function have to be greatly executed or the entire thing will fall. In Hooch's case, the lack thereof had hurt the numbers, but the increase in both has immensely propelled the company to be one of the hottest startups out of NYC this year.

The app is not the product people stay for.

Too often, founders, designers and tech teams get caught up in thinking that the apps we are building are the core offering of the business–when in reality it is the service being offered, feeling being given, or moment that is being experienced that people come back for. Technology, whether it be apps, websites or software, are jsut tool to facilitate that core product of a service, feeling, or moment. TImes change but humans at the core are emotion-driven. Hooch offers a prime example of missing and gaining this concept.

The original design wasn’t focused around the actual product that the business offers — which is a great drink, and an even better experience at a venue they may or may not have known about. In the new design, we spent a lot of time trying to make everything align and fit around marketing and selling the venues and the drinks exclusively. This set a strong foundation for how we conducted this design project and presented future business and product initiatives to the core team. Everything is surrounded by facilitating the true product offering better and stronger.

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