The Hotels 4D team talks about challenges and good vibrations

By | May 31, 2013

It’s not every day that a person gets to work on an application used by thousands of people around the world. But this is exactly what a small group of people have been doing at Melon for several months. And it is not every day that you get to hear from the usually anonymous creators of any of  the apps on your phone.

Today we speak with five members of the Hotels 4D team about their work. We invite you to sit with us and read about some of the best and worst we’ve gone through so far.

Windows Phone

Luchi  Lachi (Latchezara Petkova) is the ‘brain’ behind Hotels 4D. She developed the original Windows Phone application and is currently working on the website and the backend. Lachi is known for her strict approach and a huge sense of responsibility for every task she takes up, which makes her a real pleasure to work with.

What were some of the difficult decisions you had to make while developing Hotels 4D?

L: Each decision was hard in its own way. As we wanted to make the ultimate hotel app, every detail counted. So there were a lot of moments when we had to pause our work for a week or two, assess the process and head into a new direction.

From a developer perspective, maybe the most difficult decisions were when we had to remove an already implemented functionality and start over as we weren’t satisfied with the code’s performance.

How did you make them?

L: Every decision was discussed and reviewed at least a couple of times. For the core functionality, we made alternative implementations and the winner was the best performing one.

What part of working on this project is most pleasant for you?

L: Most pleasant for me are the challenges I have faced and keep facing every day.

 

iOS

GabiGaby (Galabitsa Chelebieva) has been with the iOS team for almost three years. She is a highly responsible lady with a great sense of humor and a sharp mind. In her spare time, Gaby loves watching football. To her we owe much of Hotels 4D for iPhone and, soon, the iPad version on which she is working at the moment.

What was the main challenge in porting Hotels 4D for iOS?

G: With Hotels 4D we had the opportunity to learn many new things, which we consider a big advantage for the future projects we will be working on. One of the biggest challenges we faced was the clusterization algorithm (Author’s note: clusterization is the feature which displays the number of hotels in the searched area). We were trying to resolve this issue for over a week

How did you overcome it?

G: It was definitely a hard moment, but with many team discussions and decisions we were able to find the right fix and kill the problem. The QA (quality assurance) team was of great help too, so I’m very thankful to them!

How did you ensure that an app originally developed for Windows Phone would feel native for an iOS user?

G: What helps a lot is that we are not only iOS developers but also iOS users and as such we know the platform pretty well. We are familiar with what a user expects and we know how (or at least try our best) to create a useful product, using native controls especially in the interface development.

Adjusting a Windows Phone app to an iOS environment was a bit uncomfortable at first, but in the end we succeeded in creating a product native to the iOS users. Now when you are using the app either on Android, iOS, Windows Phone or the website, it will be as easy as one-two-three for you to navigate.

What part of working on this project is most pleasant for you?

G: The communication with the team and the feeling of creating something which will be of help to many people are the best parts of this project. Love the team!

Android

DoraDora (Dora Dimitrova) is a ‘freshman’ in Melon’s Android team, having worked there a little over a year; however, she is one of the team’s fastest-learning, hardest-working members. Besides working on her Master’s degree in Artificial Intelligence, Dora loves to travel and enjoys the books of Terry Pratchett.

What was the main challenge in porting Hotels 4D for Android?

D: Well, the clusterization of the hotels was one of the biggest tasks we had and as such it was a big challenge. What we wanted to do was show as many hotels as possible without overwhelming the user with numerous pins on the map.

How did you overcome it?

D: We are still working on enhancing it and several changes have been introduced since version 1.00. In the next release, you will see some modifications, too.

What part of working on this project is most pleasant for you?

D: Knowing that somebody would enjoy using this app and could use it for planning the best time of her/his year. Working with the team and getting to know one another was a great pleasure, too.

Design

Ivo_finalIvo (Ivaylo Filipov) has been part of Melon’s design team for more than seven years and has taken part in some of the most remarkable projects we have produced . He is responsible for almost everything you see of Hotels 4D – the design of the apps and the website, as well as all related artwork.

 What goals does the app & website design achieve?

I: The project aimed at easy and fast hotel search and the interface was designed to aide this process. What works is the combination of useful navigation and clean and simple arrangement of all elements on one screen. That was also the biggest challenge for me – to fit all details on the home page. The good thing is that we now have a user- friendly and successful new product on the market and we hope for the best!

What are the future plans for the Hotels 4D interface?

I: I would like to develop the future Hotels 4D design in accordance with the so called flat design, meaning a very simple navigation with as few buttons as possible, easy to navigate and relying mostly on visuals rather than text.

Quality Assurance

TsankaTsanka (Tsanka Strelkova) has been with Melon for over 10 years. Dedicated to her work, Tsanka is a real jewel to her colleagues because of her pleasant character and the level of professionalism she puts into her work. After work, Tsanka loves spending time in her garden and tries to be a good beekeeper.

What is special about testing Hotels 4D?

T: Testing a ‘live app’ where the data is dynamic is a challenge in itself. Sometimes in an environment like that, it is pretty hard to catch a bug.

 What are some of the challenges of testing an app on three different platforms?

T: This is the first time I myself am experiencing such a process. The same functionality implemented in various ways on different platforms suggests numerous issues, which were sometimes hard to predict. Test scenarios were often different for each platform. Sometimes a problem that occurred under one OS served as a hint for similar bugs on the others, which made it easier for me.

On the positive side – the multi-platform development is a valuable exchange of ideas and sharing of resources. It’s like raising children – it’s nice when you have one and it is a challenge to deal with twins.

What part of working on this project is most pleasant for you?

T: Adjusting to the different characters in the team and the good results of the whole work process makes me happy to be part of this project.

Management

Vasko_finalVasko (Vasil Dimov) is the project manager of Hotels 4D – the person behind the idea for the application and most of its features and presentation. He is the one who keeps it all together and powers the entire project. Vasil is one of the Melon founders and has been in charge of many successful projects.

What were the challenges in managing a project which involves so many different teams?

V: The biggest challenge was to make the team and believe that what they are doing is significant and will be of great help to many people worldwide. A big challenge was also to adjust some of the working habits people had developed from previous projects or clients.

Which is the most pleasant part of working on this project?

V: Of course, the best part is when we have something going on – either an app goes live, a news website posts a review about Hotels 4D, another Facebook fan joins our page, etc. All these are real results that can be measured as success.

What are your future plans for Hotels 4D?

V: In the short term (meaning by the end of the year), the goal is to meet our targets and gather a decent base of returning and loyal users.

As for the next few years – we are aiming at making Hotels 4D the ultimate booking app with its own database and a service offering that users won’t replace for all the tea in China!

–Milena

 

 

 

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