Materiall is an app that simplifies the process of discovering and shopping for furniture. Founder Christopher Sandman was in a bind when he tried to find special pieces of furniture for his new home. He struggled with the time-consuming process of driving from shop to shop, leaving empty handed most of the time because he couldn’t find pieces that matched his taste. He believed there must be a better way to shop for furniture to find pieces that fit a consumer’s inspiration, style and budget. Sandman tasked stable|kernel with creating an app that allows users to scroll through different furniture options, swiping right to save favorites and left to discard. The app provides the user with endless options while tailoring suggestions to their taste and response.
iOS SDK, Forge, Dart, Aqueduct, RESTful web services, cloud-to-cloud messaging, R, AWS’ S3, EC2 instances, PostgreSQL
in the media
- Built an app that provides users with a library of furniture from more than 40 retailers
- Created a system of swiping that fed data to a machine-learning algorithm, which then personalized recommendations based on learned preference
- Designed a beautiful user experience that grows increasingly more personalized with more use
- Developed a solid backend using Aqueduct for Dart to manage user accounts, projects and storing data
- Created additional filtering options to include categories of color, style and size, price material and type of furniture
- Created an all-in-one furniture shopping and discovery app
- Simplified the interior decorating process
- Designed a personalized shopping experience
- Connected buyers to furniture resources while generating new suggestions tailored to user’s tastes
Simplifying Furniture Shopping with a Swipe
We’ve all been there. You’re in the process of renovating or moving and you find yourself in that familiar position of decorating your new home. You close your eyes and try to imagine what you’d like the end result to be. You spend countless hours researching ideas or pinning everything possible on Pinterest boards, desperately hoping an interior designer will show up at your door and take over. You fail, undoubtedly, as many of us do. Managing a home decor project without the guidance of an interior decorator, can be overwhelming due to the array of choices for color, furniture style and pieces.
Christopher Sandman suffered from this same problem when he and his wife began to furnish their newly-constructed home. After doing some research, he discovered that 10 million people search for furniture stores on Google every month, but have no idea where to go to find the perfect piece of furniture. He wanted a way to make this process easier for the millions of people that encounter the same obstacle. His solution? A mobile app called Materiall.
After Sandman devised the idea and raised seed funds, he sought out development advice and was referred to stable|kernel. He had a clear idea of what he wanted to accomplish with the iOS app, making it easy for stable|kernel to plan phases of development.
“I found stable|kernel to be the most collaborative out of all the companies that I originally considered for this project,” said Sandman. “They had a creative way of thinking about how we should build our solution.”
We designed a beautiful user experience that facilitates user discovery and curation of furniture style preferences through a recommendation engine that learns user preferences based on swipes made by the user to save or discard furniture items. The app creates a personalized account of the user’s likes and dislikes, providing recommendations based on their tastes. The more the user interacts with the app, the more personalized the experience becomes.
Users create different ‘projects’ or rooms and then add items to it by swiping left or right through an inventory of furniture from more than 40 online retailers, creating a more expansive library of the user’s taste. If the user wants to purchase a piece of furniture, the app takes them directly to the brand’s eCommerce site for on-the-spot purchase. With continued use, the app garners a more refined idea of the user’s likes and dislikes. An additional feature we built in the first round of development was a well-established system of categories and subcategories to help the customer to sift through the many furniture options. Some of these categories include color, style and size.
During the second round of development, we created more filtering options that further categorize interests. For example, a user can now filter selections by price, material and piece of furniture. Additionally, we created an extensive guide on how to use the iOS app that shows various navigation options, giving users a clear understanding of how to optimize their experience.
Sandman tasked stable|kernel with the design and development of Materiall’s frontend as well as the creation of a backend to manage user accounts, projects and storing data, while the machine algorithm was created by Digital Alchemy, another partner of Materiall.
We developed Materiall’s backend using stable|kernel’s Aqueduct for Dart, a server-side framework for Google’s Dart. Using our open source framework ensures the app has the ability to scale and can handle added future functionality. We then integrated our backend with the machine algorithm.
While Materiall classified and curated online retailers’ products, we built the data and classification and curated the images for each piece of furniture. One of the primary challenges our team faced involved building the image bank for the different pieces of furniture. Due to a variety of picture sizes and image quality (eg., pictures of couches would be wide and pictures of lamps would be narrow), we approached the solution by determining where each image would be shown. Depending on where the image would be viewed, we elected to show either the full image or edited the image to fit the size.
Over the life of the project, we met with the Materiall team weekly to discuss previous sprints and plan for the team’s next week’s activity. Sandman and his team were active and openly communicative, continually providing a positive feedback loop.
“We had a clear statement of work for the first 10 weeks of development,” Sandman said. “stable|kernel delivered on everything that was promised so far, and we’ve even included extra features in the application. That kind of flexibility is almost unheard of when it comes to development. They’ve done everything that was expected of them and even more.”
stable|kernel software engineer Jesse Black transitioned the project to Materiall’s internal iOS developer for ongoing support and maintenance. Black meets with him weekly to help to provide the training and support necessary to keep the app running smoothly and to help the new developer understand the inner workings of the software. Now that this version of the app is complete and has users, Materiall will pursue an additional round of funding in order to begin work on the Android version of the app.
“Working on Materiall was a truly enjoyable experience,” said Black. “Building this app came with a set of fun challenges because of its problem domain. I am looking forward to continue to work with such great clients and help plan them plan out future phases of Materiall.”