Design

Introducing: Rando

By ustwo 14 March 2013

For those of you old enough to remember the days of film, did you ever get someone else’s photos after a mix-up in the lab?

That completely unexpected peephole view into someone else’s lives became the basis of what was to become our newest “anti-social” photosharing app.

Introducing Rando—an app where serendipity rules the day and users send and receive  random photos to and from random people all over the world.

Three iPhone 5s with screens from the Rando app displayed.

Introducing… Rando

At first, it sounds like just another fun thing to do, another gimmick. But giving it some more thought reveals other opportunities that we thought would be interesting to explore.

For instance, what happens when you cannot communicate between users in this social-media world that we’re living in today? Are users still going to be incentivised if they have no way of patting each other on the back with likes? Are you going to be engaged if you can’t follow specific users? And what happens when you are producing something but have no control over who will see it?

A like button with a heart with a cross through it.

A photosharing app without likes?

The premise of Rando raises these questions and more, but most importantly we wanted to make a photo app that was unique and that gave the user something special.

Thus, we made it so that any photo posted with Rando can only be sent to one other user. Think of a Rando as a gift. By uploading a photo with Rando you are essentially giving a piece of your world for someone else, and only them, to keep.

This way every single user gets their own private collection of pieces from other peoples lives. Every user gets their own little peep holes into parts of the world they may never experience.

So with the concept down, we wanted to explore some aspects of our process as well, so we drew up some guidelines to work to.

Process

With this project we wanted to ‘just fucking do it’. None of us are strangers to long winded development cycles which are fraught with umms and ahhs and we wanted to prove to ourselves that we were capable of “JFDI”.

This meant we had to work with really small iterations, lots of face to face time and personal communication, but most of all—getting it out there even if it wasn’t perfect.

A scattering of post-it notes with sketches on them

Obligatory post-it note picture

This would give us a way to have a really quick feedback loop with the users and allow us to tweak and add functionality as needed, rather than letting months of guesswork define the feature scope before a first release.

Thus, “JFDI” had implications for both tech and design.

Tech

One big decision when working with tiny deadlines is what to compromise. Obviously we want to stick with what we know best, but in the case of Rando we needed both a server application and the client application for the phone.

We chose Ruby on Rails for the server side as it is very quick to develop simple JSON web services with and because we have had experience with it. We also chose to host it on Heroku as it means minimal server setup and maintenance time for us.

However, this means that we have no file system to store uploads on, but Amazon S3 suits that purpose perfectly, and is a gem for that!

For the iOS client, the biggest decision probably has been what versions and devices to support. We took the quick and easy road of starting with support only for iOS6 and indirectly the devices that can run iOS6. The reasoning behind this is that newer operating systems usually offer updated APIs which lead to the APIs being easier to use, thus saving us time. And really, with the update rate of iOS devices we still have plenty to users to grab a hold of even with only iOS 6 support.

Then of course, we chose established and easy to work with frameworks to help us along the way, for example AFNetworking for communication with the server. On top of that, handling dependencies with Cocoapods makes life so much easier for an iOS developer—which we highly recommend.

Pen drawings from a designer's sketchbook showing early concepts for icons

Sketches for Rando iconography


Design

So whilst the concept behind Rando threw up some problems for development, it also presented an interesting design challenge.

Rando needed to be different, feel like an experiment and stay true to the concept through its visual design.

Initial visual directions were varied. We looked into alternative image viewing options, branding, visual style and interaction but we felt these had too much personality. The intent of Rando was to keep user generated imagery the focal point.

As a wild card a super minimal UI was quickly constructed and collectively voted in as the best option.

To further highlight the importance on user generated content, we challenged ourselves to not use any words in the app.

Labelling was communicated via simple iconography and universally recognised gestures.

Three circular icons in traffic light colours red, amber and green showing the three phases of RANDO

The Rando flow illustrated with icons

However, due to the unconventional nature of Rando, we had to give a slight prompt in written form, although but this was completely hidden from view, and only displayed after a simple swipe gesture.

Communicating a brand when your emphasis is on content which users generate was another interesting problem to solve.

We wanted a rando to “look like a rando”—a distinctive and ownable branding element.

Thinking back to the meaning behind Rando gave us the concept of a voyeuristic view into another persons world and the peephole concept surfaced.

A crop on an iPhone screen showing an image of the ustwo™ design studio through a RANDO viewport which is a circle.

A “Rando”

The circle felt right. It tied in with the ‘o’ in Rando, is a malleable shape in which to use to drive a constant visual language, and most importantly supported the concept.

Keeping in mind that like the development, the design was done with “JFDI” .

It took some sweat, and probably some tears as well, but after two weeks we delivered our first submission to the Apple App Store.

It feels great, that sense of having a working application ready to go out to users, even if it could do with some more polish or some extra feature. That doesn’t matter when you can hold it in your hand and play with it. All the extras can and will come later at a steady pace. It’s all going to be fine.

Download Rando from the App Store now.

Weather Apps: Ignoring Form and Function 2013: The Year of Mobile Video?

73 Comments

  • andrea ciccone

    hey if anyone could help that would be great. i have a galaxy and it says on both my pics ive sent and received that either recipient or sender is not allowing location access. i noticed there are no settings on the app to mess with gps location at all. my gps locator on my phone is on btw. so idk how it could still never show a location. does anyone else have this problem?

    2013-10-22 07:22:00
  • lime

    Seeing as others use this spot to shout out feature requests and the devs seem to listen, I'll give it a shot: It would be great if I could download my own randos, right now that seems to be possible just for the ones I recieve. It's frustrating to get a perfect shot in an app and not be able to store it in your own photo library. Fantastic app, and thanks for sharing the story!

    2013-09-03 11:14:00
  • minty

    love the concept love the app just one thing though all the pictures I send don't show up in the sent images list Why's that? till now 2/5 images missing

    2013-08-11 18:22:00
  • Efrann

    Please develop a sent page and an download option for the Windows Phone app!! A sent page is really essential to the app experience and I don't understand how it can make it to the other platforms but not to WP.

    2013-07-22 11:48:00
  • andrea.rds

    Simple yet great Android app but: - seems that camera performance is lowered, inside this app: difficult focus, macro... - I'd like to have more info about the sending location: I received a rando from somewhere in Russia but the only thing I can see is a green circle with a small red dot in the center (no city, no river, no ... anything else) - I'd like the "reply" button too. I know that this can sound as a bit of socialization but ... It 'd be nice to start a flow of randos with an "unknown someone" who sent you something interesting.

    2013-07-11 22:45:00
  • CalebCrayleb

    I think the waiting game is one of the best features of this app.

    2013-06-18 20:14:00
  • citizenontherun

    Will there be an upload option? I dont have a data plan, so the ability to upload when I latch onto a free hotspot would be great.

    2013-06-17 22:52:00
  • somerichs

    (previously posted to the WPCentral comments section about the Rando app). I re-installed after seeing the post on WP Central that said (on 6/12) the fix would go live in 5 hours... Tried using it again, and now I can get anywhere from 6-10 pics before I get the green screen, where previously it was after every two pics. It was doing some other funky things to my phone, too, so I uninstalled it. Just went out to the WP Store (on6/13) to see about re-installing a third time, but under "last updated" it still says 6/10/13, so I'm thinking your latest changes haven't rolled out. It also says version 1.0.0.0. Any idea when it'll go in? I'll check back and once it's been updated try re-installing it again, cos it's a really cool app, just can't have my camera going mental and having to reboot all the time...

    2013-06-13 22:16:00
  • MelMel

    I like the anti-social aspect. I adore the two intro videos. Ha hilarious. Good job!

    2013-06-04 04:32:00
  • Fred Banionis

    My sent pictures are going to Android Library. But received images cannot be saved, i think.

    2013-06-04 04:14:00
  • Fred Banionis

    Why have I some "blank randos" in my library?

    2013-06-04 04:10:00
  • finite_love

    How does one go about seeing where the rando they sent landed? Using a Samsung Galaxy Note 2.

    2013-06-04 02:02:00
  • Vanessa Monte

    Hi, i'm from Brail and i loved this app but my smartphone system is windows phone. Do you have forecast to provide this app to windows phone?

    2013-06-03 02:20:00
  • Scott

    Are you guys moderating out anything with a face? All I get are hands and inanimate objects.

    2013-06-01 08:37:00
  • GopiGrrrl

    I love Rando! But I have only been able to send 1 pic and receive 1 pic successfully... every other attempt I have made freezes my ipod, and I have to restart it! After several attempts, I have given up trying until there is an update. Please tell me there is an update coming soon!!

    2013-05-31 21:40:00
  • Donghyeok Kang

    I like Rando. But sometimes it's boring to wait to receive a new rando. Try Contemplr. I can immediately receive a new random photo, toss it to another user, and reply to its owner. http://contemplr.com

    2013-05-29 02:55:00
  • ahsan

    One suggestion: instead of saving into the Camera Roll, create a Rando album first and save there, like what the app French Girls is doing

    2013-05-25 17:49:00
  • latekelem

    I second that

    2013-05-22 07:52:00
  • Juan

    I like the app and the concept, started using it yesterday. I noticed I can´t see my sent Randos and where it landed. I know Rando sent me that information via notification center, but I can´t see which picture landed where?

    2013-05-16 17:15:00
  • Andrea Giocondi

    it's really brilliant, nothing to say :) just one thing: please introduce a save option for received images. i don't think it's a good idea reply to some user with other photos, it's not in the rando's philosophy. there're many social network in which you can have follower, but rando is a different way to shot and share.

    2013-05-16 16:50:00
  • Fabio

    Oooohhhh......., you are so beautiful.

    2013-05-10 17:59:00
  • amanda

    hands and feet (and tv's...) are the same all around the world. unless you have 6 fingers, so this will be interesting to send. otherwise, it would be much more fun to receive objects, places, things that we think is very common in our place, but in the other side of the planet can be amazing.

    2013-05-08 22:27:00
  • Dave Offerman

    The app doesn't seem to my full function of the camera on my iphone 4 ios6. No option to choose a saved photo either. why no access to the flash for low lighting pictures? Plus, it seems even in daylight, the pictures taken using Rando are very poor quality compared to taking a picture with the built-in camera app. Very cool and fun idea though.

    2013-05-07 17:01:00
  • Alice

    It would be really nice if there was a timeline of photos sent and the ability to check the location that they've been sent to! A simple notification is kinda useless especially when I've sent more than one photo in a row.. Oh and if it was mandatory that everyone share their location I would have loved Rando more! But maybe you are not allowed to do that.

    2013-05-07 05:56:00
  • jason jason

    no shit!!!! i realize that we're all unique and amazing but how incredibly lazy

    2013-05-02 20:59:00
  • amanda

    I love Rando, but... stop sending hands and feet!

    2013-04-30 21:31:00
  • amanda

    you really helped with restart thing. tanks a lot :)

    2013-04-30 21:28:00
  • weeeee

    1. how to turn enable location access? 2. can you change the file type of the rando saved to the gallery to .png ? i'd be grateful if you colud do that oh right sorry for the bad english im not from us/uk :)

    2013-04-27 12:58:00
  • jason jason

    yes, but how do you save the photos that you receive? iphone.

    2013-04-26 14:12:00
  • jason jason

    ok, i apologize for spamming this thread with my thoughts. i am seriously requesting a queue setting. if i'm out and about i don't need to be sending tons of data through my data plan. give me the option to set up a queue and send images off when i'm at a wifi location.

    2013-04-25 14:06:00
  • Natty

    I LOVE this app, but sometimes when I tap the recieved Rando to view the location it came from, it's just a dot in a sea of green. Is there a way to make the map better? To be able to zoom in and out on it or something like that? It bums me out to get a beautiful picture and not be able to tell where it's from. (There's so much 'guessing-by-the-shape-of-that-lake' that one can do.) On Android, by the way.

    2013-04-25 11:10:00
  • David Jørgensen

    Problem solved by restarting my iPhone. This is apparently a good rule to remember for any apps that appear not to work. Looking forward to getting my first Rando back now...

    2013-04-24 10:51:00
  • David Jørgensen

    Have cleared out a load of space on my phone in case that was the problem, but nope.

    2013-04-24 10:41:00
  • David Jørgensen

    I really want this to work, but it crashes whenever I try to upload a picture. Such a shame.

    2013-04-24 08:32:00
  • jason jason

    i would also like to be able to see specifically where received randos come from like the information does when i get a notification instead of a generic placement on a map afterward.

    2013-04-22 16:21:00
  • jason jason

    do something about preventing people from sending blank images. they should immediately be banned/blocked.

    2013-04-22 13:52:00
  • Jill Tiedeman

    Help! Why can I only take two Randos and then no more till the next day?

    2013-04-21 23:57:00
  • jason jason

    you have to go into your settings>privacy>photos then turn on rando. after i did that then rando started saving to my camera roll. i don't know how to save the photos i receive though. if anyone figures it out post it here. if these guys can do then it's obviously possible: http://sorando.tumblr.com/archive

    2013-04-19 14:59:00
  • jason jason

    ok, i figured out how to save the pictures i take by going into my settings. now my issue is how do i save the pictures i receive into a separate album on my camera roll (or save them at all)? also, is the location service being on draining my battery!!! i charged it the night before and when i got home that day my battery was dead!!! (iphone4).

    2013-04-19 14:55:00
  • Peter Emery

    Be good if the confirmation email would be sent out.

    2013-04-18 21:43:00
  • jason jason

    how do i save the images i receive without having to screen cap (iphone)?

    2013-04-18 16:39:00
  • jason jason

    i love this app! one thing i would like to see though is an option to keep my photos (iphone). and also how do i save the ones i receive without having to screen cap them? needs more documentation on how to use it for sure.

    2013-04-18 15:28:00
  • t3d

    Your photos are in your Camera Roll in Albums.

    2013-04-16 03:57:00
  • Sharon Aron Baron

    I love Rando! I wish there was a way I could see where my photos go on my Iphone. My husband sees this on his Android. BUT....he doesn't get to store his that he sends on his Galaxy Note and I do so I like that. Also his Android, so many come up with no locations. It's sort of a rip-off when a photo has no location as half the fun is seeing where they come from. I prefer the photos from the Europeans and find that I enjoy taking mine in the morning so I get one in return from someone in Europe. Just my preference as I'm an American and find they put more thought in some of theirs! Or maybe some of them or just more interesting to me lately.

    2013-04-16 02:38:00
  • Dustin Tavenctytek

    I was so happy to see that there already is the Rando app on WP7. Sadly it's a random numbers app... :-/ Hope you'll finish it, thanks!

    2013-04-16 00:38:00
  • xuso

    Me neither.

    2013-04-15 19:50:00
  • MarcOlle

    Just waiting for the Windows Phone version. With a app simple as that, it won't take long to reach WP, right? Do you plan to release on this plataform soon?

    2013-04-14 14:30:00
  • Richard Hall

    Love the app. Just over the weekend, there's been a huge increase in the speed at which you get a rando back. When I open the app, there always seems to be network activity when I'm scrolling through saved images in Rando. Are you caching the images on the device? If not, and you're already using CocoaPods, why not add JMImageCache or something similar? https://github.com/jakemarsh/JMImageCache

    2013-04-14 10:14:00
  • Solange Hai

    i'm using the android version and can'f find my sent images.

    2013-04-13 22:29:00
  • mandello

    would love to have a queue to send a rando - sometimes you are in a spot where it's costly to send over cell network - a queue would send as soon as wifi is available. Or to be able to select from camera roll? Also a map of locations sent to, or received from would be awesome. Also support the idea posted about chat via reply with pic

    2013-04-06 18:56:00
  • t3d

    Love the new update, thanks!!! Double-tapping to delete is perfect. Instead of grey dots on the side that change to red dots in the middle, what about grey dots in the middle that turn red when you've got a new Rando?

    2013-04-01 14:41:00
  • boing boom tschak

    if not possibility to answer, you should at least make 'thank you' button. I think many users would love to thank senders of really beautiful randos, not legs, noses, lamps :)

    2013-04-01 13:21:00
  • JIMSY

    Serendipity rules. An app that values social sharing rather than spamming it. Love it. Awesome stuff guys!

    2013-03-28 16:32:00
  • millsustwo

    we are fixing this in future updates.. thanks for being patient.

    2013-03-26 17:23:00
  • millsustwo

    does it work better now? we optimised the server

    2013-03-26 17:23:00
  • millsustwo

    sadly we cannot control when people choose to not share location :( - new update dropping this week.

    2013-03-26 17:23:00
  • millsustwo

    - seems some people have started their own galleries ! http://sorando.tumblr.com/archive - your rando's are kept in the library but in the new update they will save circular.

    2013-03-26 17:22:00
  • millsustwo

    1. we have a new version in the next update 2. Legally we cannot demand :( 3. it's a bug that is fixed in the new update. 4. they save to your library. (in the new update they will be circular) 5. good point. will backlog that

    2013-03-26 17:21:00
  • millsustwo

    we are on it :)

    2013-03-26 13:47:00
  • will10

    please please develop for Windows Phone as well, we already are waiting for instagram

    2013-03-25 04:02:00
  • t3d

    Love it, Love it, Love it !!! Five suggestions: 1. What about swipe from the right to delete? Swipe from the left mostly brings up the help screen which then you have to dismiss to get the delete button. Ugh!!! 2. I think geo-location should be mandatory. I want to know what part of the world the image came from. Not the specific city, just the general area. Or those that block their location should only get Randos from others that have also blocked their location. 3. People that send black images should get those images sent right back to them, instead of polluting the Randoshere. They take without giving. 4. Wish there was a way to save my sent images 5. Wish there was an easy way to delete multiple photos.

    2013-03-25 03:33:00
  • Jake

    Loving the app, and it's a fun insight into other lives. I think the app itself is just right - simply a few bugs that need ironing out - frquent crashes and a filter to eliminate 100% black photos: You feel a bit cheated when that's all you get after sending a carefully composed picture out. I would like to see one additional feature: The ability to keep you own Randos. PS Any plans to create a massive gallery? Or perhaps you don;t keep the images at all!

    2013-03-24 18:13:00
  • Jessica Ferron

    I'm actually loving this app! The "peephole" view is a fantastic aesthetic. Unfortunately, about 25% of the photos I receive do not respond to a double tap so I never get to know where they came from. Other than that, I think this is a great start!

    2013-03-23 18:28:00
  • Nicolás

    I love the concept, but i've been having problems with the app. I've sent "successfully" three pics, but i have not received any. Just me or is a common problem? :(

    2013-03-21 05:09:00
  • Eloi

    we want this app in Android!!

    2013-03-19 21:46:00
  • Sam

    Really fun concept guys... I think your blocking is a bit strict though... I've been blocked already, for uploading a very appropriate piece of childish phallic graffiti? When does it stop being art and start being offensive?

    2013-03-19 16:24:00
  • Davide Mariani

    love the idea but please fix the many connection problems, or at least give users the chance to resend (a nice retry button would be great) unsent randos. i've already lost so many potentially beautiful randos!

    2013-03-19 10:42:00
  • millsustwo

    interesting post here.. http://www.cowgirlapp.com/anonymously-send-and-receive-photos-and-see-how-long-the-boys-can-play-nice-rando/

    2013-03-18 13:43:00
  • millsustwo

    That’s a different app really.. this was about freeing ourselves from the social part.. but still getting a glimpse into another humans life...

    2013-03-17 13:01:00
  • deniszarubin

    I know you want to make this app "anti-social"... but it won't be so much fun. Especially when you wait a lot to get new pics. Please let me know, if you going to add this function...

    2013-03-16 19:42:00
  • deniszarubin

    I have a question - why do u always need to wait like 15 minutes to get pics? And I think you need to add this - ability to reply to a photo to the same user. It will be more like chatroullette, but without penis stuff ) I think it will be much more fun, when someone from the other side of the planet sends u a pic^ and then u send him a reply, a then he can do the same. It will be like a chat, but only buy photos!

    2013-03-16 19:38:00
  • ianbytchek

    +1

    2013-03-15 22:40:00
  • Axel Olsson

    Officially the weirdest app demo video I've seen.

    2013-03-14 22:08:00

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