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As covered by Vitamin T, interactive developer Matthew Wallace and partner Driftlab have recently created a mobile app for Walgreens. The app, which is available at, marks Wallace’s transition from his work around the Flash interface into the sphere of mobile development. Here we speak to Wallace and uncover the path he has taken so far in order to find out more about his latest project…

Q1. How did you become an interactive developer?

I started off building HTML web sites around 2002-2003. At the time the really cool stuff to me was things that moved and made sounds on web-pages. It was almost like watching little video game animations. I found out that it was called “Flash”. After that I started down the road of investigating and learning Flash. At the time Flash IDE was at version 6 or 7 I think. For years that’s what I specialized in. Flash microsites, mine games and eventually enterprise level software for the web, desktop and mobile. Then Apple caused the whole “Flash Exodus”. I have my own opinions on that but I will save them for another interview. It made me realize all my eggs were in one basket.

Instead of being a “Developer” I was a “Flash Guy”. I never wanted to be just that guy that does that one thing, so I started looking at how I could diversify my skills. I realized my joy of problem solving and programming was around building really cool, engaging UI for the end user to enjoy and find awesome to use. Realizing it was about using the right tool for the job and building the best user experience possible, my main focus is building engaging interactive experiences trying my best to build it with a multi-platform solution. This could be anything from Actionscript (Flash), HTML / CSS / JavaScript, Haxe or a number of solutions. But, all that said, if a native language is the best solutions then that’s what I use.

Matthew-Wallace-Image1.jpgPhoto credit

Q2. What is it about the world of mobile development that interests you and inspires your work?

I think the simplicity of mobile is where the challenge is. Devices are getting faster and more powerful but at this point they still are just computers. You have to create solutions around that. Even when they do reach a point where we have lots of computing power the form factor and the way the user interacts with these devices is much different than a computer with a mouse and keyboard.

The other thing you have to consider when programming mobile, that you don’t get when creating desktop applications, is the users surroundings and environment is constantly changing. Take Instagram for example. Yes they could make a desktop version but it would be pretty boring. Would be a ton of images of people sitting at their desks working. Mobile allows us to use the users environment to build really interactive and engaging experiences.

Q3. Tell us a little bit more about the design brief for your recent Walgreens mobile app?

The client needed a couple of things to happen. First, the app was only going to be available in select stores so we needed to know if the user was IN the store and the company wanted the user to be able to share their location with friends so we knew we needed to use Geolocation features. Second, it needed to feel like a game and the user wins something. The prize being a discount on an energy drink, Neuro, at that location.

Matthew-Wallace-Image.jpgPhoto credit

Q4. How did the idea for this come about?

The design of the energy drink bottle comes in looks like a bowling pin. We came up with the idea to make a bowling game. When the user gets a strike, they get a coupon on their phone that can be scanned at the in-store checkout for a discount on the drink.

Q5. Finally, once you’ve got a design in mind how long does a project such as the development of this app take and what does the process entail?

Sometimes we get designs from the client and sometimes we do the designs ourselves. After final approval this particular project took about 2 weeks to build. Overall this was a front-end UI development project and there were not a lot of screens to the application. Time to build a project is determined by several factors. 1. How many screens need to be developed. 2. Difficulty of the platform we choose to build (in the case of Neuro Bowl, we went with a simple HTML / JavaScript solution due to timeline.) 3. The amount of people we wanted to be able to use the application. A huge number of mobile phones can run HTML/CSS so we felt we would have the largest reach doing it this way.

Usually I take all the designs and any specs and look through them to determine time frame of development. I usually develop and choose the programing language based on the designs, timeline and target audience. It’s somewhat like a carpenter looking at blueprints. Once you see the blueprint you start to figure out what tools and methods you are going to have to use to build the thing you are tasked to build.

By uncovering the development and design process involved, Wallace allows great insight into the work he does and of course his latest production. The designer’s inspiration allows the Walgreens mobile bowling app to be the innovative creation that it strives to be. Vitamin T agree, referring to a piece that of course isn’t ‘augmented reality’ but which ‘really fit the bill’. Read more over on Vitamin T here.