How LAYOUTIndex Built A Company with Good UX

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“We want to convert likes into real figures on the balance sheet,” says Ruchira Pathirana – CEO & Cofounder of LAYOUTIndex. He describes the company as being a digital media service provider. That means they’ll do everything digital ranging from building software solutions to digital marketing for their clients. And chances are you’ve already seen their work first hand. You just didn’t know it.

You’ve likely used their apps before

Most of you reading this would have probably used the 444 or “Triple 4” service put forth by Dialog. And while it was originally conceptualized as a call center, it was transformed into a full cloud solution mobile app by LAYOUTIndex. This solution includes everything from web and mobile apps to kiosks, POS machines, and 3rd party reselling solutions. Why? Simply because running a call center is a costly venture. It’s didn’t make any business sense to keep it running.

The 444 app was built by LAYOUTIndex (Image credits: Dialog Axiata)
The 444 app was built by LAYOUTIndex (Image credits: Dialog Axiata)

This is where LAYOUTIndex came into the picture. They developed a wide range of digital solutions, which includes event management, movie management. app and host of other features before it was handed over to Dialog. Even to date, the 444 Platform is managed by a separate team within LAYOUTIndex. This team is responsible for software maintenance and digital marketing of the platform. Similarly, another popular app that LAYOUTIndex is behind is the Scope Cinemas app.

Ruchia explained that most cinema ticket booking platforms in Sri Lanka are content with their current method of booking tickets. In the past, people would physically visit theaters to book tickets. Then came services such as TicketsLK that allowed users to book tickets online.

Another example of the work by LAYOUTIndex is the Scope Cinemas app (Image credits: Scope Cinemas)
Another example of the work by LAYOUTIndex is the Scope Cinemas app (Image credits: Scope Cinemas)

But none of these platforms looked at developing a mobile application. Yet, when people were presented with a mobile app, they adopted it as it offered more convenience. As such, 444 and Scope Cinemas were the first mobile applications to deal with booking tickets in Sri Lanka. This is why Ruchira claims many other online services aren’t so prominent anymore.

The origins of LAYOUTIndex: It all began 10 years ago

Believe it or not, LAYOUTIndex is not a new company. In fact, they’ve been in the business for over 10 years. Ruchira began the company with a few freelance developers and designers. During this time, he also secured some contracts with a few foreign clients. The projects themselves were quite small.

Ruchira Pathirana – CEO & Cofounder of LAYOUTIndex.
Ruchira Pathirana – CEO & Cofounder of LAYOUTIndex.

As time went on, Ruchira realized that having freelance developers was not a viable solution. Furthermore, their projects became increasingly complex. So he began hiring full-time developers. Eventually, the team grew to the point that developers had their own dedicated office space.

As time passed, LAYOUTIndex collected many awards. Most of these they had given to the clients they had worked with to win these awards. Yet, despite this, they had never bragged about it. In fact, Ruchira proudly stated that for 10 years, the entire was built purely on referrals. The clients they got recommended LAYOUTIndex for others looking for similar services.

Sampath Ranathunge - CTO of LAYOUTIndex was one of its first employees who has seen everything

Sampath Ranathunge – CTO of LAYOUTIndex was one of its first employees who has seen everything

Yet referrals merely mean you walk into a meeting. How did Ruchira walk out of a meeting with a new client? He credits the secret sauce of LAYOUTIndex being its focus on User Experience. He explains that it’s one thing for an app to look nice. How easy it is to actually use is an entirely different thing.

So what’s the secret to a good user experience?

“Buying a laptop 10 years ago was a big thing,” says Ruchira. In the past, people did everything on either desktops or laptops with large screens. Smartphones were popular but still gaining traction. Thus, companies began making their websites responsive on mobile screen. This was the concept of being mobile friendly.

However, today things have changed. Smartphones have become significantly more powerful. As such, people have moved towards consuming content on their phones. Now companies have to start by prioritizing how their apps and websites will look on mobiles. This is the concept of being mobile first

The LAYOUTIndex team at work 
The LAYOUTIndex team at work

The LAYOUTIndex team at work This is why the LAYOUTIndex team constantly look at the top apps and ask questions. Why was this particular button placed here? Why was this color used for the menu? Why is this textbox here and not there? By asking such questions, they try to learn and offer a better experience for their own clients on mobile.

Ruchira shared that this was the secret to creating a great user experience. Simply focus on creating a great experience for your users on the devices they use. To anyone in the field of UX, this could be considered as an obvious answer. Yet, Ruchira based on his experience, is inclined to disagree.

Are companies late to the mobile party?

Ruchira went onto state that getting corporates to understand the importance of going digital in general can be a difficult challenge. This was especially true of companies with leaders over the age of 45. Such leaders hardly interacted with new technologies.

And as such, slowly begin to forget what their customers want. For proof, Ruchira points at the banks. He jokingly explained that his bank charges him a convenience fee for using online bank. Whereas, it’s really the bank the conveniently saves money when the need for a branch and it’s many costs are eliminated.

Ruchira believes that education will make reluctant corporates open to digitization. He adds that people are now waking up to a world of mobile apps. As such, there’s no choice in the matter. And now it’s not simply websites or mobile apps. With the rise of wearables, smart speakers, and other devices, there are so many different ways to communicate with customers.

We are walking to a world of apps & companies need to adapt or perish (Image credits: MacStories)
We are walking to a world of apps & companies need to adapt or perish (Image credits: MacStories)

This is why Ruchira repeatedly emphasizes, “Engagement is very important.” Yet, he’s seen many companies ignore trends and opportunities for engagement. By the time they see these trends, companies end up spending vast amounts of money only to play catch up. This is why Ruchira grimly states, “Companies need to stay up to date or perish.”

Yet, he admits that delivering a good user experience while staying within a budget tends to be tricky. But according to Ruchira, it’s manageable for LAYOUTIndex. “We’re facilitating and aiding a client get from where they are to where they should be, while also managing the client’s customer’s expectations,” he states.

The road ahead for LAYOUTIndex

Today, the LAYOUTIndex team has approximately 40 people and as such have moved into a new larger space. These range from developers, to consultants to everything in-between. For the immediate future, this team will be focusing on their core products.

One of these is a Cinema Management System. It’s currently in use by cinemas in Sri Lanka and abroad as well. The second is a Restaurant Management System, which comes with its own set of modules.

A glimpse of what LAYOUTIndex is working on today
A glimpse of what LAYOUTIndex is working on today

But the end vision of LAYOUTIndex is to be at the forefront of mobile apps and set standards for user experiences. To that end, the company is simply focusing on building solutions that solve present challenges and prepare their clients for the future.

That means going beyond simply building apps. That means staying ahead of the digital curve. Keeping a sharp eye and quickly adapting to digital trends. Ultimately, what LAYOUTIndex aims to create with their apps is engagement. More importantly, they want those engagements with customers to end in actual sales.

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