In our latest interview we chat with Ross Tuffee, CEO of Stirling-based DOGFI.SH Mobile.
Can you tell us a bit about DOGFI.SH Mobile?
DOGFI.SH Mobile was established in 2009 and headquartered in Stirling, central-Scotland.
We specialise in developing enterprise-grade mobile solutions, that leverage habit-forming technology to drive greater user engagement and change how people behave. The company has grown rapidly since its founding, currently employing 35 staff who work with some of the world’s leading brands and organisations, including Merlin Entertainments, Stagecoach and TUI Travel, in markets such as leisure & travel, public sector, financial and health services.
One of our most exciting projects to-date was the creation of an award-winning app for Public Health England (PHE), which highlights and visualises the levels of sugar contained in every day products to encourage healthier choices. Since its launch in January 2016 the app has been downloaded over 3 million times and has been proven to deliver real change in terms of people’s behaviour and dietary habits.
What makes DOGFI.SH unique compared to other mobile app developers?
Typically, one of the biggest challenges faced during the app design process is how to ensure engagement amongst users. If you consider the likes of Facebook and Twitter, people use these apps out of impulse. Translating this same level of engagement to an enterprise app, however, is often a more difficult challenge and this is what we’ve looked to address. We do this by leveraging the principles of habit-forming technology in order to understand the psychology behind app usage.
Can you explain the principles of habit forming technology and how it can be applied in mobile app design?
Traditionally, habit-forming technology has been employed amongst consumer brands to deepen customer engagement – the most successful names being the likes of Facebook, SnapChat and Twitter which are used by people out of impulse. At DOGFI.SH we’ve looked to leverage the core principles of these consumer-focused apps and apply them in a business-to-business, organisation-to-community and business-to-employee context.
There is a general recognition that employer apps are not very user-friendly and therefore getting employees to engage with them is incredibly challenging. By understanding the psychology of app usage including the triggers, actions, rewards and the investment an individual makes in an application, it allows us to identify the hooks that keeps people coming back again and again. In doing so it allows us to build more intuitive platforms that can drive greater performance and efficiency amongst users, their employers and the community members that they engage with it.
How do you see the technology evolving in the future?
The capacity and scope for habit-forming technology is huge. We’ve recently come back from a conference in the US and while there we were increasingly see more and more multinational companies plug into conversations as to how the principles of habit-forming technology be employed within their design process.
Ultimately, the proliferation of mobile devices means more and more organisations are leading with a ‘mobile-first’ strategy, designed to deliver richer experiences for their customers and ultimately drive growth. Mobile apps are an effective way of driving engagement and customer loyalty, but they’ve got to earn their place on users’ smartphones. For many apps, the unfortunately reality is they simply aren’t ‘sticky’ enough and don’t do enough to enhance users’ experiences. The result is that engagement often fails to meet the expected demand and from this we start to see app fatigue as users shed their apps. Because of this, many see the solution as needing to redesign an app to make it faster, slicker and what they assume to be ‘user-friendly’ to capture consumer interest. In doing so they fail the biggest test, which is needing to understand why an app is so engaging in the first place and this why habit-forming technology is so important.
Why did you decide to locate to Scotland?
Our location in Stirling serves us perfectly. We’re based at the Innovation Park at Stirling University and because of this we have had fantastic access to the wealth of skilled graduates coming out of the university, which has been integral to our growth.
Location-wise, Stirling is incredibly well connected – we are equal distance between Glasgow and Edinburgh, as well as both the airports, which again are becoming increasingly connected to major cities and business hubs over all over the world. As an area Stirling is increasingly becoming more digitally-focused. The City Deal investment and the creation of a new Digital District in the city, which was announced at the end of last year will stimulate employment and training opportunities and create a better quality of life for those employed, living, studying or visiting in the area – in doing so it represents a fantastic opportunity to solidify Stirling’s position as a progressive tech hub of the future.
What is your view on the current Scottish tech scene and how does it compare against other tech communities?
Much like what is happening in Stirling, Scotland’s tech scene is increasingly becoming a force on the world stage. Innovation has been a critical movement behind this – if you look particularly at the different regions within the country, there is so much going on in the likes of not only Edinburgh and Glasgow, but Dundee, Aberdeen, Inverness and central-Scotland too. The Scottish government and organisations such as ScotlandIS, have been central to this success, making significant investments and championing various campaigns to keep the country at the forefront of digital technology. These factors have been essential in establishing solid foundations and as we look ahead the future looks very bright for Scotland’s digital technology sector.
Why is Scotland a good place for SMEs to base themselves?
Scotland is a great place to innovate. If consider the country’s recent tech history and the fallout from Silicon Glen left a huge number of people unemployed and because of this people were then forced to put their skills learnt into good use and really kick-start the innovative culture we see today.
To support this we have a fantastic support structure in place – access to world-class universities excelling in computing and digital skills, the availability of a rich source of people with the right qualities to drive innovation, and also having the support of a strong startup community that is willing to support one another. All this combined makes it an ideal melting pot for tech innovation.