Babbel Bytes

Insights from the Babbel engineering team

Developing the Babbel Android App

Julian

Babbel’s mobile apps continue to be a huge success. After we shipped our new iOS7 apps, it was time to give the Babbel Android App a treat and turn it into a full-feature app. Babbel is striving to provide the same user experience across all devices. No user should ever be hindered in her/his learning activities by having to adapt to different user experiences on Android, iOS or the web.

Babbel Android App

Device images licensed by the Android Open Source Project under CC-BY 2.5. The aforesaid does not apply to the screenshots of the Babbel Android App.


Cross-Platform

A common attempt for solving this challenge is using a cross platform development framework – code the app once – be done. For the Babbel Mobile team this was not an option. We heavily rely on many special functions to make the learning experience as great as it is. A cross platform framework would have forced us to sacrifice too much of the good stuff. As the Babbel Mobile team is a diverse group of talented people, we found ourselves in the very comfortable situation of being able to develop all mobile apps as native apps.

All-About Languages

Babbel is a language company – not only from the perspective of our product, but also from inside the company. Babbel employs people from 22 nations that speak 20 natural languages, but Babbel also employs many polyglot developers. Within the Mobile team, we speak 6 natural languages, but easily „speak“ about 17 different coding languages. This actually allowed us the luxury to develop native apps without much hassle. We did not have to tiptoe around cross-platform frameworks and their bad moods nor their support-intensive quirks.

The Juggle

The team’s ability to really juggle with technology, design and languages allowed us to create prototypes extremely fast. These prototypes drove the design and decision-making process. We went on at an extremely fast pace without encountering too many mysteries on the way. Throughout the entire project, the team spirit and motivation was very high. Nobody was ever left alone with difficult problems and we were always able to count on our team mates.

Process

In the process of developing the Babbel Android App, we experimented with SCRUM and Kanban elements to organize our process. This was done to isolate and put pressure on external dependencies as early as possible to avoid any unnecessary delays.

We also decided to abandon our usual digital collaboration tool to some extend and track the implementation progress on a whiteboard instead. Reaching the beta-phase, we picked up the digital tracking of issues again in order to organize external feedback. This process helped us to focus while developing and to ensure a high quality product. In the end, we delivered the Babbel Android App within 3 months time.

A Fun Ride

Rolling out an Android product for an existing user base of 20 million people can be a daunting task. In the end, the combined efforts of Design, Development, Quality Assurance and Management made it a fast, successful and a fun ride – all without overtime hours. Babbel is fortunate and happy to have very intelligent and witty women and men on the Mobile team that boldly make things work.

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