Frank is a service that gathers all of Finland's student discounts onto one website. The service wanted a simple mobile app that would feature all the discounts presented on the frank.fi site. In partnership with Digia, Frank started thinking about the role of digital in its operations on a broader scale. This resulted in a digital student card that aims to be the world’s best mobile app for students.
The expertise that Digia provided, both in the case of the product manager and developers, was first class over the entire life cycle of the development project. Digia deserves ten points for its performance.
Sauli Böhm, Digital Growth Manager, Frank
Frank originally wanted a simple mobile app that would feature all the discounts available on the frank.fi site. However, Aku-Jaakko Saukkonen from Digia and Sauli Böhm, who was responsible for the development project at Frank, kicked off a far more ambitious plan: This was an excellent opportunity for Frank, as the only commercial provider of student discounts in Finland, to reflect on the role of digital in its operations on a broader scale.
The project was launched with a six-week conceptualisation phase in February 2016. At that time, Saukkonen, who stepped in as product manager from Digia, and Böhm, the Frank project manager, collaborated with end users to define the clear problem areas that the mobile app would have to solve in both the short and long term. In addition, Saukkonen’s role was to ponder the business opportunities opened up by the student card.
The mobile app was developed with the aim of making life easier for students in two ways:
The business objective was to launch Finland’s best student service and app in 2016. The app gained more than 35,000 active users in 2016. Now that there is a large user base, discounts can be targeted more effectively. This also makes the app more valuable to cooperation partners.
After the conceptualisation phase, it was time to find the best possible people to create the app. One front-end dev came from Nord, another from Gofore. The back-end developer was recruited from SC5 and the UI designer from Gofore. Aki-Jaakko Saukkonen from Digia was responsible for the product.
The schedule was tight and the resources were limited. However, from day one, the intention was to ensure that the app would work on different platforms and phone models. The team decided to exclude Windows Phone. The only rational solution was hybrid development that would kill two birds with one stone: that is, ensure functionality on both iOS and Android. The app was made with React Native.
As no strict requirements had been specified, the development work was even more agile than usual and bolder decisions were made. Features that would not yield real added value were scrapped without regrets. The team members all the while kept their eyes on the big picture: why are we doing this? The team was highly committed to creating a good end product instead of counting hours.
“The expertise that Digia provided, both in the case of the product manager and developers, was first class over the entire life cycle of the development project. Without Aku-Jaakko, the conceptualisation phase would’ve been extremely challenging to carry out. His contributions as product manager over the weeks raised the team to the next level. It was a pleasure and honour to witness the expertise, speed, ownership and initiative of Ville Touronen, Digia’s front-end developer, and Christoffer Lindqvist, the back-end developer who came on board in August, especially in such an agile and rapidly changing development environment,” said Sauli Böhm, who was responsible for the development project at Frank.
“On its very first day of release, the Frank app claimed the number one spot on the App Store in the applications category. During the first week, the number of users rose to more than 20,000. This shows that the development was user-focused and the quality of the released product was top-notch. Digia deserves ten points for its performance,” says Böhm.
“The client took a big risk in embarking on a project whose outcome was uncertain. On the other hand, motivated and skilled developers beat any requirements specification. It also became clear that you shouldn’t fall in love with your ideas and solutions. Sometimes, you must kill your darlings. We can’t know what feature an individual student will consider important. In addition, the publication of a mobile app can be tricky. We learned a lot about that, too,” says Aku-Jaakko Saukkonen.
“React Native is such a young technology that it currently can’t be used for everything. The team didn’t have prior experience of the technology. We learned much about how it works on different platforms. In spite of the loose specs, the project went really well. For that, we can thank the fact that we could rely on a designer during the entire project. Aku also played a very significant role. He was always available when choices had to be made about functionalities. We developers created technical solutions, while Aku defined what we would do,” says Ville Touronen, front-end developer at Digia.
The app was launched on 22 August 2016 and new features have been developed continuously. A team consisting of Frank and Digia employees is responsible for the development work. The goal is simple: to create the world’s best mobile app for students, no more, no less.
For instance, the app integrates the student card and mobile payments. This means that student status can be verified when a payment is made. This has been made possible by Frank’s cooperation with Danske Bank and their MobilePay solution. Thanks to MobilePay, Frank is the first in the world to enable automatic student discounts without separate verification.
In addition, Frank provides transport companies with a simple API terminal that they can use to automatically check the student status of a travel card holder, with their consent.
In the near future, students can start using all student life-related basic services directly through Frank’s digital student service. The first of these will be for electricity and mobile phone subscriptions. By bundling these services, Frank clearly improves the user experience by significantly reducing the number of logins and redirects.
Furthermore, Frank only selects the best and cheapest services. Students thus don’t have to worry about making bad and expensive purchase decisions. Our aim is to offer all basic services through Frank in 2020 - it will be the best student service in the world.
To make it as easy as possible to receive student discounts and pay in outlets that cannot handle mobile payments, we will also introduce an international student payment card, which serves as both an ordinary MasterCard and a plastic student card. It will also provide student discounts in more than 190 countries with our partner ISIC. Frank will be truly international!