Thoroughly test your UX with UXCam
UXCam were one of ten start-ups involved in the second UK-based Microsoft Ventures Accelerator, which concluded earlier this year. We caught up with Kishan Gupta, the CEO of start-up UXCam, to learn about his experiences on the program as well as what has happened since the accelerator concluded.
How did UXCam start?
The founding team worked with University College London in December of 2012, to support their service of providing user-experience (UX) testing to start-ups and large enterprises. We saw the trouble UX designers had trawling around the university to ask students to test the apps - and the poor results this was giving them. We were able to relate to these issues as we had the same problems as app developers. We took up the challenge of developing a tool to improve the UX testing experience and the quality of results. Fast forward a year and we are now able to do UX testing with thousands of users and get insights without having to watch all of the recordings.
How did you all meet?
We met at UCL. Both of us are alumnus of UCL. I studied Smart Card security at UCL and had been supporting Enterprise activities. Richard studied Astronomy and Computer Science and has been teaching iOS development at a UCL CPD course. We bonded pretty quickly by working together on a few freelance projects, some courses at UCL and generally dissecting anything tech related.
What did you do before making apps, and why did you move to something new?
Richard had about 15 years of game development experience before moving into app development - the coding challenge was always his favourite game so app development was just a different genre. UXCam takes it to the next level with a framework that has to support other developers while having the most minimal performance impact on their app.
Where did your relationship with Microsoft start?
We pitched our product and vision to Microsoft Ventures accelerator program. They wanted to support high potential start-ups and unlike other accelerators they did not want any equity but only wanted to help. We appreciate being able to work with Microsoft's wide expertise and the networking opportunities are incredible. This has been one of the best things that has happened to us.
Every day was a highlight at Microsoft Ventures. The team at MSVA were brilliant, helping us in any possible way. Selling our vision and talking to corporates has been lot easier with Microsoft backing.
The most valuable thing during the accelerator has been the concept of customer focused lean development. As tech background co-founders, we were building a lot and adding features without validating whether a customer would like it and pay for it. Andy McCartney (CEO of Microsoft Ventures UK) and Diane Perlman's (COO of Microsoft Ventures UK) expertise, along with talks from Founder Centric and experienced entrepreneurs at MSVA has taught us this concept and changed how we approach product development.
What is your app, and what sets it apart from other apps and tools?
The UXCam platform captures user-experience data and visualizes this data so you can understand how to improve the UX of your app/website. It is an SDK (software development kit) that runs in the background of your app and captures user-experience data, records what's happening on-screen, and optionally, when useful, it captures your user's emotions with a face video - with the consent of both the developer and the user. We have now launched on both iOS and Android. In just a month since launch, we already have over 50 startups and enterprise, using our product daily, uploading 1000s of sessions and improving their user experience. One of the largest universities, UCL, is using our product to do beta testing of app on over 30,000 students/alumnus.
What about Windows?
We met with few game studios during the accelerator program. They really loved what we were doing but we were not building for Unity platform, which they used for development. With the popular demands from big gaming studios, we have started porting our SDK to Unity for Windows now. This will help a lot of game studios and game-developers who are working in Unity to figure out answers to questions such as why users are not making a purchase, where the users are dropping off and give them context to figure out the answers by referencing the videos. This Unity SDK in private beta at the moment.
We have not fully moved our stack to Microsoft Azure yet, but we have tested it out and plan on moving full stack to Azure.
Microsoft has a PaaS service, which we love. The whole environment is managed by Microsoft, so we are able to spend our time and money focused on solving the business problem instead of creating and managing our environments and worrying out security patches.
What are the plans for UXCam in the long-term?
In long-term we want to be the 'Google of User Experience'. We want to be the de-facto tool that a developer uses and iterates with to improve their user's experience. We had a great success in London and to take this mission further we are now in San Francisco, the heart of tech development, as part of the 500 startups family.
What are the steps for you getting to this point? Any hurdles you must overcome?
We will be platform agnostic - with iOS and Android already released and other platforms currently being developed.
We will also be blogging about user experience and involving the community and experts in the field. We will be showcasing apps that have best practices of UX implemented. We are looking to have all the ingredients for user experience testing and make our platform a one-stop to learn about UX, best practices, app show-cases, and how the UXCam tool can help them test and improve the user experience.
The biggest hurdle we have to overcome is making people understand the importance of user experience and guide them through the process of improving it.
What has been the biggest challenge during development, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge was making the tool app-store compatible while creating videos of >20 frames per second that can run on a background thread. We focused hugely on the optimization to solve this issue.
Generating a hi-res video without performance impact was a challenging task. Add to this the fact that some platforms do not have library to do hardware encoding of the video. For a platform that has hardware encoding we are able to take videos of over 40 fps, but for other platforms that do not have encoding library, we had to create software, which is a separate project on its own. This has been the most challenging.
If you had to give one piece of advice to a new start-up, what would it be?
Put your product in front of your customers while you are developing (this could be a prototype, HTML only without functionality). Stay lean and build according to customer needs.