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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Alltel Celltop Case Study


As America's largest wireless network, Alltel is known for the strength of its communication services. But the company was looking to do more than simply evolve its existing offerings; it wanted to change the industry itself, moving the mobile device into a position of greater centrality in the lives of its users. It envisioned a world of seamless connectivity between consumers and the information they want most, and tasked frog with generating viable new business concepts that would accomplish this goal.

Photos of Alltel Celltop user interface Photos of Alltel Celltop news and stocks user interface Photos of Alltel Celltop sports user interface


Mobile 2.0

To understand the values, needs, and aspirations of consumers in the mobile space, frog’s analysts pored over Alltel user research and conducted in-store interviews with retail managers and customers alike. They then assessed the broader trends at play within the industry. Newcomers to the mobile space indicated a growing emphasis on customization, user access to personal media and online data, and social networking capabilities. In each case, a trend that had begun in the online, PC ecosystem was making the jump to the mobile handset. frog began looking more closely at digital content trends at large, considering how Web 2.0 concepts might be applied to the mobile space.

Widgetization of the Mobile Space

Just as desktop widgets had provided PC users with simple navigation in the face of expansive content, frog and Alltel set out to create a platform for widgets in the mobile space. The platform, “Celltop,” would provide a shortcut to users’ top content, from personal stocks to the SMS inbox, from local weather to the latest sports scores. Rather than forcing consumers to scroll menus, type search terms, and await connection, Celltop would bring this information to a user’s screen with one touch.

Each Cell offers a half-screen column of graphics, text, and imagery – the color, order, and content of the Cells fully adjustable by the user. In order to provide the simplest possible access to vital information, the application stores a user’s location and preferences, updating relevant Cells upon access.

The Celltop design system was created specifically to communicate the Alltel brand attributes of reliability, simplicity, and service. All screen types, layouts, nomenclature, fonts, and animations were designed and documented to provide high-fidelity graphics and clear, on-brand direction to the user. All controls and interaction patterns were developed to guarantee maximum usability, establishing consistency across Cells, regardless of the individual content. Extensive testing was completed on every detail, in every device, and adjustments made to ensure flawless execution.

frog also worked closely with Alltel to develop the name and identity for Celltop. An application logo was created that incorporates the traditional brand colors and typeface in a new way, the double “l” of Celltop serving as a visual reminder of the Cells themselves.

Partnerships to Production

To ensure that Alltel would be the first major wireless carrier to introduce a widget dashboard to the mobile device, frog and Alltel set an incredibly fast timetable for implementation, moving Celltop from design to delivery in just twelve months.

To do so, frog facilitated close collaboration between key industry players, including the OEMs that manufacture the devices, QUALCOMM, which manages the relevant programming technology, and Motricity, a content provider which aggregates online data for the mobile platform. Each company’s involvement was essential for making the Celltop application possible, each one expanding and tailoring its own unique technology to create a working system. Phone calls, emails, and meetings occurred on a near-daily basis in order to facilitate information exchange, prioritization, and trouble-shooting. In some cases, physical handsets were actually shipped back and forth, with modifications made by each party.

frog also engaged the services of its partner company, communications software leader Aricent. The lasting strategic relationship between the two companies allowed each to make use of the other’s areas of expertise throughout the Celltop project, balancing the front-end and back-end coding necessary for this streamlined development process. Aricent’s existing knowledge of mobile application development allowed frog to validate ideas more quickly – creating a working prototype almost immediately. Together, frog and Aricent were able to undertake design, development, and testing in a fully integrated manner. The result was a high level of production that secured key stakeholder commitment every step of the way and accelerated Celltop’s time to market.

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