App Makers in Lansing

The phrase “there’s an app for that” has permeated our culture in recent years, thanks to the rise of smart phones and other smart devices, such as the iPad. Apps can be easily purchased for an iPhone or an Android phone, and the number of apps available grows daily. Lansing is not without its own app designers: Traction, formed in 1995, Web Ascender formed in 2005, and Gravity Works, formed in 2009, all design apps for clients.
Why Are Apps Popular?
“The iPhone pushed the entire industry ahead, offering a completely new perspective on how a mobile device can be used and what it can do,” Ryan Doom of Web Ascender said of the popularity of the app, “there are new things you can do on mobile phones which has allowed programmers to innovate, thinking of new ways of entertaining and connecting people.”
“If anybody else is like me, which I'm sure most are, we don't want to wait to sit down at a desk and look something up,” said Camron Gnass of Traction “and if I can do it while in the car (passenger seat of course) or walking down the street--I'd love that information now.”
Amelia Marschall of Gravity Works cited larger phone screens, touch interfaces, and the increased availability of wi-fi and 3G networks as a reason why phones have become more versatile. “People want to be constantly entertained, and get the information they need whenever they want, so mobile apps fit the bill.”
Why Have An App?
Yes, apps are popular, but are they right for every client? There are advantages an app has when it comes to tasks, promotion, and consumer interaction.
“The clients that have been taking the most advantage of the mobile platform are our clients who have thought of completely new products or service offerings based around a mobile product idea,” said Doom, “we worked with a medical company to build a mobile app to work as a remote control for some of their medical equipment.” He added, “it runs a robot that kills infection causing bacteria in hospitals and has cut down infections after surgery dramatically. Indirectly, we are helping to save lives, and that feels good.”
Gnass picked connecting with consumers as an advantage of an app, “It allows [the client] to really connect with their customer, the way they want to talk with them and the way the customer wants to be talked to. I think people are sick of being numbers, and the mobile app technologies allow companies to get more intimate with their interactions, really allow the customers to become part of the family and be a part of sharing their brand.”
Gravity Works designed a sign-up and survey tool app for the ONE organization, which is currently being used during U2 concerts to sign up supporters, and uses the mobility and speed of an app to its advantage, “The ONE iPad application provided the advantage of a paperless survey, in which data was entered quickly and accurately. Within minutes the data is updated to an online database,” said Marschall. She added, “over 750,000 people have used the application in dozens of countries.”
More Than Just Angry Birds
Apps can take many different forms and serve different functions, allowing them to be tailor made to a client’s needs. “The first app we delivered was an application for a client who wanted to use their iPad for their entire sales force,” said Doom, “they wanted an app that allowed them to show video, PDFs, Word Documents, PowerPoint slides and more within a single application that they could also hook to a projector--it's an interactive sales tool.”
Traction created a more playful, tastier app with the Go Mongo! iPhone app for bd's Mongolian Grill. “[It] allows the user to build their desired bowl and see nutritionally what is in it, as well as share it with a friend or social media. This way, somebody else can go right to the restaurant and put the ingredients that are your most favorite and experience bd's the way you do,” said Gnass. Now, customers can experiment with ingredients ahead of time before getting in line—and the fun does not stop there, “you can take photos and add some Mongo elements to share as well,” added Gnass “it's fun for the kid, or the kid in all of us.”
“Our most recent application that has been deployed to both the iTunes market and the Android Market, is Signing Savvy,” said Marschall “this mobile application allows members to search for phrases and view [American Sign Language] signing videos, as well as create flash cards to help study.”
To Live and Code in Lansing
As a virtual job, creating apps and designing websites can be done anywhere, so what keeps theses businesses in our city? “Lansing is big enough where there is plenty to do, but small enough that it provides ways for you to get involved and make a difference in the community,” said Doom. And on Lansing’s tech community he said, “it continues to get better and better, and I feel it is very different then it was five years ago. I think social media has brought that community to life and started to connect the techies together.”
Gnass, who helped with promotion for the Capital City Film Festival, savors working in Lansing as well, “The people in this big town are great. There's a good group of creatives that are really interested in making Lansing a better place for themselves and others, and I think the energy and effort of many is starting to pay off.”
“Lansing provides many unique opportunities for business owners. With a diverse economy that is not just centered on automotive, it gives Gravity Works a unique opportunity to work with a wide range of different businesses,” said Marschall, “we also love having our office in Old Town, its a great community that is growing and helping to make Lansing a more fun and interesting place.”

Daniel J. Hogan is the Geek half of Ginger and the Geek. You can follow him on Twitter, @danieljhogan.

Dave Trumpie is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.


Traction's bd's Mongolian Grill App screen shot

Ryan Doom

Camron Gnass

Amelia Marschall

Photos © Dave Trumpie
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