Femtasy is a streaming platform for erotic audio stories for women (and everybody else!). Launched in 2018, the project has been voted a digital startup of the year 2020 and received an award from the German Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie (The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy).
They've already built a solid user base on their web platform. However, as we all know, the future is mobile, so they've decided to explore what this platform could bring to their business.
We were hired to build a prototype (or MVP, depending on how you call it) of a player app for Femtasy's content in the summer of 2020. The scope was intentionally small, because apart from the obvious outcome of releasing an app for their audience, they wanted to get answers to the following questions:
- How many users would be interested in accessing content over mobile rather than web? Is it going to bring in new users in numbers that would justify the effort spent maintaining the two platforms?
- Would Apple and Google even allow a Femtasy's application in their stores? App reviews are subjective and guidelines around erotic content are very vague and open to different interpretations. It's best to validate that as soon as possible.
- How would a new platform fit into the current team's development process? Femtasy already have a productive in-house team of experienced developers handling backend and web. The web frontend is in React, so the idea was to build the app in React Native hoping that would allow the current team to take over the ownership of the code easily.
Finally, as with all startups, there's always an important question of time. On one hand we want to have high code quality with good documentation to allow for easy project handover at the end, but on the other hand we want the app done fast, so we can get answers to out questions as soon as possible. In a true agile way.
As mentioned previously, it's been decided upfront to build the app in React Native to take advantage of the React skills that the in-house team's beed honing on their web frontend. However, as the app's main purpose is playback of audio content, we knew we'll have to pull in some heavy native dependencies. Managing audio playback (especially when the app is in the background) is very platform-specific functionality, but we managed to isolate it in a single component and keep native configuration manageable.
Of course, making sure such a device-specific functionality works well requires rigorous testing. Fortunately, we already had access to the most common user devices due to traffic information on the mobile website and we knew how to prioritise devices for user testing. Especially those which usually reveal problems (yes, I mean Samsung Galaxy…).
The app was built using the typical React Native stack. Redux for state management, redux-saga for side-effects (in particular, data fetching over a REST API), TypeScript and eslint as the first safety net against typos and simple errors.
In order to prepare the app for a smooth handover to the in-house team, we've also created a detox E2E test suite that handles the user happy paths, a unit test suite (using Jest) that tests implementation details, and also covered more complicated components with hand-crafted unit tests (no snapshot testing here). We've also automated the process of building the app and releasing it for user testing. These steps should give the new team more confidence when taking over and limit the amount of native mobile knowledge they'll need.
The result was even better than expected. Not only we managed to release a working version of the app on time, but even this first prototype version gathered great feedback from the users. We got a straight 5,0 score on App Store on the first 20 app reviews 🎉
Overwhelmingly positive app reviews since Day 1
Users also reached out directly and we were able to use their feedback to prioritise what features should be built next and iteratively improved the app. It was clear from the engagement the users showed that they care a lot about the mobile platform and it'll stay an important part of the Femtasy product.
Of course, such a success was only possible due to intuitive designs, efficient product planning and great community management and outreach on the Femtasy side. This, combined with great communication with us on the implementation side, resulted in smooth delivery of a great product.
We're still sticking around, assisting with an API transition to GraphQL and React Native specific knowledge transfer to help with onboarding of the in-house team. However, it's just a matter of time before they'll able to take full ownership of the codebase.
PS. If this project sounds interesting to you, you should definitely check open positions in Femtasy. They're hiring!