UX Design and Custom Software Development
Please introduce your company and give a brief about your role within the company?
Mark Rickmeier is the Chief Executive Officer at Table XI, a UX research, design, and software development company based in Chicago. Over the past 18 years, he has created more than 100 mobile apps, custom-built web applications, and intuitive user experiences for clients like Roger Ebert, Pauline Frommer, Maria Pinto, the Field Museum, AccuWeather, Discover Financial, and Tyson Foods.
In 2014, he founded Ops-Conf to bring together a global community of software companies to share insights and swap ideas on how to effectively run a consulting organization.
In 2017, he founded the “Walkshop” – a modern day hiking and design thinking retreat to lead senior executives, entrepreneurs, storytellers, and designers on a 5-day hike to generate new ideas and industry connections.
He is the author of the Sticky Note Game, designed to grow employee engagement and supercharge career development. He is also the creator of the Inclusion Meeting Card game, designed to help change a company’s culture to be more inclusive – where everyone can have a voice in critical meetings and crucial conversations.
He is the President of the Lake Bluff Alliance for Excellence and a board member of the Ravinia Music Festival, an internationally renowned, not-for-profit music festival that presents outstanding performances from John Legend to Yo-Yo Ma.
What was the idea behind starting this organization?
Table XI was founded with the idea of Tech Done Right – helping clients with design thinking methods to uncover new opportunities for their products (build the right thing), and agile discipline and engineering excellence to create a stable digital foundation (build the thing right).
Since 2002, we've partnered with the Fortune 100, start-ups in Singapore and Tokyo, industry leaders in London and LA, and mission-driven non-profits in our hometown of Chicago. These partners trust Table XI to deliver innovative solutions that drive their businesses forward. That trust runs deep - creating partnerships that have lasted over a decade and public reviews awarding us as the #1 custom software developer in Chicago.
Our UX research and product strategy teams help your product owners innovate, rapidly prototype, and validate new ideas for the business. And when you're ready to move quickly, our design and development teams collaborate in an agile fashion to quickly deliver results to production. This trusted process has allowed our partners to focus on their business objectives and move more quickly and flexibly than ever before.
What are your company’s business model–in house team or third party vendors/ outsourcing?
We partner with our clients to fuel growth, engage users, build audiences, sell products, tell stories, and drive results. We blend strategy, design, and software development execution into an interdisciplinary approach that's proven key to our partners' success. We're with you from concept to completion to iteration, making sure at every step that we're building a product that will delight users. And we find the best way to achieve that kind of partnership with our clients is for them to work closely with our team members – our designers, developers, and strategists. We strongly prefer and rely on an in-house team – rather than third-party outsourcing.
How is your business model beneficial from a value addition perspective to the clients compared to other companies' models?
There are a few strong differentiators, compared to other companies’ models:
• Product consultancy – not just development for hire: Don’t get me wrong – we love to build software and execute delivery projects extremely well. But we pride ourselves on being consultants first, helping companies discover new valuable opportunities and rapidly prototyping new concepts before we jump into development. If you are just looking for 2 bodies to add capacity, we’re not a good fit.
• We help after go-live: We provide maintenance services (hosting, monitoring, production support) and support our clients long after they initially go live. For many companies, they just help to create the MVP (minimum viable product) and then hand everything over at launch. We regularly help our clients with ongoing support to handle new enhancements, critical security patches, upgrades, and 24/7 monitoring of their applications.
• Strong track record: We’ve been doing this since 2002 and have over 100 applications in production. In that time, we’ve built a strong reputation for delivering digital products to market – and our first client is still working with us. We feel that kind of track record speaks volumes!
What industries do you generally cater to? Are your customers repetitive?If yes, what ratio of clients has been repetitive to you?
While we have a wide array of clients across the US, Europe, and Asia - we have a few industries that we generally cater to.
• Healthcare: 30%
• E-commerce: 20%
• Manufacturing: 20%
• Non-Profit and socially focused, mission-driven companies: 10%
• Education Technology: 10%
• Fin Tech: 10%
Mention the objectives or the parameters critical in determining the time frame of developing a mobile app.
When looking at a timeframe – first you would consider a native application vs. a responsive design for a web application.
Assuming you’ve made the decision to go toward a native application, there are a few things critical toward the time frame:
• Tech platform: Using a framework like React Native can allow a team to build an app to support both Android and iOS and can save significant time and budget.
• User goals: The successful adoption and deployment of a mobile app depend on solving a real problem for its users. The best way we’ve found to determine the best features and the required timeframe for an application is to discover before we jump into design and development iterations. That means doing some user research, idea generation, and rapid prototyping to explore and validate ideas before starting the build out.
• Scope focus: We prefer to work in short iterations, hyperfocused on building the most valuable things first. Once in development, one of the most critical factors in determining the cost of a project is focusing on the scope that is most valuable (MVP).
• Managed risk: Most project teams focus, track, and measure the typical project constraints (timelines, budget, and progress burndowns). We feel that measuring risk is as important to the success of a project and can be graphed and tracked just as much as the other three constraints. Proactively tracking and mitigating risk in a software project helps to control the budget, focus the team, and protect against timeline overruns.
How much effort in terms of time goes into developing the front end and back end of a mobile app?
As with all things, this depends on the scope of the product being built. I would say most mobile apps can be designed, developed, and deployed between 3-5 months.
What are the key parameters to be considered before selecting the right platform for a mobile application?
Assuming we are looking to build something brand new (and not extending an existing application), here are the things I would consider:
• Existing technology: What frameworks is the company already familiar with? For example, if a company has never done mobile work before, but already has a team familiar with React on the web, using a platform like React Native can help speed up the process of onboarding to a new mobile platform.
• Cost: If a company is looking to launch with both Android and iOS support, using a framework like React Native would help to reduce to cost and time to market. Rather than building two separate code bases, in two different code bases, with two different teams, that have to be separately maintained – the speed to market, development cost, and long term maintenance cost can be reduced by developing with React Native instead.
• Your users: It is hard to say in the abstract what kind of application will be used or targeted without knowing more about the users. Some companies prefer to support Apple only – because that is where their desired market is. Before picking any framework, it is important to study your users and the features of the product.
Which platform do you suggest your clients to begin with when they approach you with an idea (Android or iOS) and why?
It really depends on the idea and the concept. Our recommendations start with the needs of the user and the desired functionality.
Android or iOS, Native or Hybrid — which platform is best to use to build your app? What are your recommendations?
Our mobile practice has really gravitated to React Native in the last few years as a way to build and support applications for both Android and iOS. There is a suite of tools that work well together to help with things like automated deployments, crash reporting, user testing, etc.
What are the key factors that you consider before deciding the cost of a mobile application?
• Design: How will the user interactions behave? How will we deliver a great user experience?
• Scope: What are the critical features that will be used in the product?
• Risk Tolerance: What are the key risks of this product and how might we mitigate them?
• Platform: What is the best technical platform we can use? Anything we’ve already built that we can leverage?
What kind of payment structure do you follow to bill your clients? Is it Pay per Feature, Fixed Cost, Pay per Milestone (could be in phases, months, versions etc.)
We work time and materials, based on a week team rate.
Do you take in projects which meet your basic budget requirement? If yes, what is the minimum requirement? If no, on what minimum budget you have worked for?
We’ve done smaller applications for non-profits, and early-stage start-ups for less than $100k.
What is the price range (min and max) of the projects that you catered to in 2018?
Typical mobile projects range from $200k - $600k.
Which business model do you suggest to your clients enabling them to generate revenue from mobile applications? Why?
It depends! I don’t know that there is a silver bullet. Different products require different monetization strategies.