The University of Exeter
Building a brand new app for a better university experience
When the University of Exeter wanted to build a next-generation app for students to access everything they need in one place, Loomery was perfectly placed to deliver.
The University is Loomery’s longest-standing client. Through our work with them, the LSE, and the Office for Students, we know the increasingly pivotal role the digital experience plays in students’ time at university.
They needed a partner who could mobilise fast, delivering the new app for the first term of the 22/23 academic year; provide a full Agile development team; use a cross-platform framework; build new cloud infrastructure; model and champion Agile ways of working; and transfer knowledge to the in-house team, building their own digital development capabilities.
Loomery provided a cross-functional development team of designers, front- and backend engineers (six Loominaries) who paired with the University’s product managers, content creators, and specialist staff to deliver the new app for the first term of the 22/23 academic year. We released the beta app in December 2022.
Project in numbers
Students involved in the research
Students invited to try our beta app
"The team at Loomery were amazing at jumping in quick and adapting as we navigated change in user needs and execution challenges. They were obsessively hands on, wanted to not just deliver but share the outcomes as well as shape the overall approach. The internet is all about people power and that’s exactly how Loomery work"
Ash Roots - Chief Digital Officer, University of Exeter
Giving students a brilliant university experience
A new student app could only start in one place: with the students. What were their challenges at university? How could technology help? The team spoke to more than 200 students during the conception and development of the app. We knew we could help in dozens of ways, but it was crucial to focus our efforts where they would have the greatest impact. Plus we needed to create habit, so that students would know to turn to the app, and we could broaden its feature-set in future.
Three priority issues emerged as compelling initial candidates to solve with technology:
To solve these challenges, we designed, refined, and validated three concepts to form the core features of our app:
Cross-platform and quick development
We built a bespoke app from scratch, using the cross-platform framework Flutter.
Technical behind-the-scenes wizardry with Flutter helped accelerate progress. For example, its ‘widget framework’ made cross-platform UI development easy and fast. This meant we could ‘build once’ and deploy a progressive web app with a similar look and feel across iOS and Android. One codebase, two apps. We leant heavily on Flutter’s automated test support, which is top-notch, reducing the need for time-consuming manual testing
A scalable, adaptable backend
We created the architecture and services powering the app with cloud-based tools built on top of Amazon’s Web Services – a fresh approach for the University. Our backend architecture provided a microservice-based, event-driven system designed for responsiveness and future adaptability. For those who love the techie detail, check out Ian’s blog post here.
The result is a platform of reusable, adaptable, and scalable services, initially consumed by the app, which can power many more digital products and services in the future.
The app is the first digital service for students under the University’s vibrant new brand. That meant putting new styles, colours, typography, and logos to the test – and we were determined to do it justice in a mobile setting. Our designers brought life and moments of joy to the app with carefully crafted micro-interactions and animations.
We paired with university researchers to run focus groups and design validation sessions with students, who continue to help shape future iterations of the product.
Building digital capability at the University
As part of our commitment to building high-performing teams, who deliver value consistently and repeatedly, we helped the University scale its own capabilities. Our team:
We released the beta app in December 2022 to students in the University’s Penryn Campus, receicing a hugely positive reception. The app is scaling to the entire student and staff base early in 2023.
We’re proud to have given the University a brand-new student app, a public API that can be reused and extended, and a new set of skills to broaden and accelerate future digital product development.