A Custom App for a Custom Experience

October 22, 2020

When we hosted an open house in our studio, we wanted to create a way for people to enter a prize drawing via our large touchscreen Surface Hub device. Let’s explore the custom app we built to make this happen.

The Prize Drawing

In late 2019 we hosted an open house at our new studio. (Of course, this was prior to the work-from-home world we're now living in).

A key component of the event was a prize drawing for stopping in to visit us. We wanted the experience to feel special – different than any other giveaway one of our guests had entered before. So, we got to work creating a custom application that would allow our visitors to enter the drawing via our large, touchscreen Surface Hub device.

Making it Happen

We knew we wanted our custom app to allow guests to interact with our large Surface Hub device as a way to opt into our prize drawing. Visual Studio was a perfect tool to make this happen because it offered project templates that helped simplify the process.

To begin, I built out the framework using the Visual Studio toolbox. Once I dragged the features we needed over to the UI screen, I had to go in to edit the app’s settings so that the border boxes, margins, color, etc. matched the design we were looking for. 

From here, we needed a way to get back to the data that was being submitted. To solve for this, I connected a separate page with submission form to our SharePoint site. This way, we were able to review the contact information at a later date and select a winner using a random number generator.

Along the way, we had to overcome a couple small challenges to get the app work exactly the way we wanted. Because of the sheer size of the Surface Hub’s screen, previewing had to be done on the device itself (or on another screen with a similar resolution). Otherwise, we risked losing sight of some of the app’s visuals during testing.

The best part of using Visual Studio for a project like this is that the community edition is free with a Microsoft license. If you’re dabbling in app development, this is a great entry point to start exploring from.

Why Build Our Own?

As a tech company, we felt it was important for us to “eat our own dog food”, as the saying goes. Sure, we could have easily done a paper sign-in sheet, but where is the fun in that? 

By developing our own app, we were able to create a memorable experience for our clients. The Surface Hub served a point of interest and helped break the ice as people entered the open house. It also enabled us to give them firsthand experience of Microsoft’s vast capabilities. This custom app was a perfect showcase of the unique solutions that are possible.

Lastly, going custom gave us more flexibility with the overall functionality and experience of the app. If we were to use a third-party provider, we would be stuck within their guidelines and design. Building out our own app meant that we got to control both the user experience and where the data was later stored.

Conclusion

As an intern here at Bulb, this project was really rewarding to work on. Not only was it a good refresher on using Visual Studio, but it was also fun to see people using and finding value in an app that I created.  

A key part of our culture is the fact that we’re always looking to modernize processes and deliver creative solutions. In the end, this project was a perfect example of thinking outside the box to create a positive client experience.

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