How can you build an online marketplace for services sharing
John and his wife Mary are the happy parents of two hyperactive 4-year-old twin boys. The couple is happy spending all their free time with their kids. But they’ve received a gift – two tickets to the local theater for a spectacular performance this weekend. The pair is excited about the evening, but there’s one tiny problem. They urgently need to find someone to take care of the boys.
John starts calling friends and Mary dials her parents. But unfortunately, nobody can help them out. Then John finds an ad for a babysitter who lives on the next street on the community jobs board. This seems like a good option, but suddenly there are so many questions. Is she reliable? Does she have experience with children of such age? Can she cook for the kids? All in all, can we trust our biggest treasure to a stranger?
In the end, Mary’s sister comes to look after the boys and the husbands spend a marvelous evening in the theater.
John and Mary were lucky to find a trusted person to take care of their children. But thousands of families face this problem every day and would appreciate a service that helps them find a reliable babysitter who has trustworthy reviews and is recommended by acquaintances.
Who can create the best babysitting solution? Someone who knows what parents face from his or her own experience, of course. And as a matter of fact, one such parent contacted Clockwise Software with an idea to develop an online marketplace for parents and babysitters for the Australian market. The name of this marketplace is Toddy.
If you’re new to the concept of marketplaces, this article on the rise of the sharing economy will answer all your questions.
What is Toddy?
Toddy follows the classic marketplace model, connecting service providers (babysitters) with clients (parents). But there’s one feature that makes Toddy different – the circle of trust.
The Toddy app displays all the connections that parents share with potential babysitters. These connections can be on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter, in phone contacts, or through referrals. Parents can then ask people they know personally to give feedback so they can choose a trustworthy babysitter for their children.
Clockwise Software joined Toddy’s development team and took over frontend development and testing. The backend team and project manager were part of Toddy’s existing team, and worked remotely.
The frontend development required a complex approach. Our team’s primary task was to build a high-performance application that would work well on different devices and different platforms. During development, we faced several challenges. Our solutions to these challenges reduced the development time and cost and resulted in some interesting features.
- Hybrid approach to cut the time and cost of multi-platform app development
Our client planned to release Toddy for various platforms. Native app development is very time-consuming, so we suggested a hybrid approach with a focus on the iOS app first. We developed the application on the Cordova platform using Angular 2 and Ionic 2, which was in beta at the time. Hybrid app development allowed us to reduce the cost of the product as well as the time to market.
Our detailed comparison of native, hybrid, and web app development will give you an overview of this topic.
- Native plugins to extend the limited functionality of the hybrid mobile appOne of the major drawbacks of hybrid applications is their limited access to a phone’s native features. As some of Toddy’s features were designed to access the phone’s hardware, we had to implement several native plugins:
- Phonegap Push Plugin to enable push notifications
- Cordova Geolocation Plugin to provide information about a user’s location
- Cordova Contacts Plugin, which provides access to the phone’s contacts
- Cordova Camera Plugin, which lets users take pictures or upload images from the phone’s library
- PhoneGap Calendar Plugin, which allows users to add events to the phone’s calendar
- PhoneGap Social Sharing Plugin to connect the app with a user’s social media accounts and enable instant social sharing
With these plugins, the application got access to the phone’s native features. This allowed us to significantly improve the user experience and extend the app’s functionality.
- Access to contacts and friend lists for the Circle of Trust
One problem with similar babysitting apps is that most parents aren’t ready to trust their children to people they’ve never met. This is why Toddy decided to add the Circle of Trust – an interesting feature that displays all the connections that parents share with their potential babysitters. Using the Circle, Toddy users can ask their friends, colleagues, and neighbours for feedback about people who might take care of their children. To implement the Circle of Trust, we had to let the app access a user’s contacts via the Cordova Contacts Plugin. Additionally, we added synchronization with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The app uses these social accounts to find common connections between parents and babysitters and display them. The Circle of Trust helps parents ensure that their children are in good hands.
- Payment gateway to fit the online marketplace model
The central feature of any marketplace is the ability to receive payments from customers and make payments to contractors. Choosing the right payment gateway isn’t easy. After a deep comparison of the available payment gateway solutions, we chose the Australian service provider Pin Payments. Besides offering a marketplace solution, Pin Payments was easy to integrate with Toddy and offered low rates, which was important for the beginner business.
- Analytics to track app performance
Among the many different solutions for analyzing user behavior, we chose Flurry Analytics. This Yahoo service is free and can adjust to the business needs even as your business grows. Flurry allows Toddy’s owners to analyze users’ in-app actions, which can help them plan improvements.
- Suggestion page to gather user feedback
Analytics services gather only factual information about such things as the number of users who launch an app daily, the duration of their sessions, and the percentage of paying customers. But especially important is the reason why users perform these actions. We created a suggestions page to let users tell us things such as why they launch the app, why do or don’t they do or don’t pay for services, what features would make them trust the app more, or where they would place the “Book” button to make it more convenient. Real user feedback can show how the app should develop to attract more customers and therefore earn more revenue.
In addition to the functionality we’ve described, we added some additional features to make the app more user-friendly.
- Registration and login via social media to make signing in quicker and more convenient
- Postcode input to display the approximate area in which the customer lives and find babysitters who work in that area
- Synchronization with Google Calendar and the phone calendar to help users keep track of appointments
- Obligatory feedback for both parents and babysitters to increase trust within the app
These minor features make the application more convenient. More features will soon be developed based on analysis of user feedback from the suggestions page. Toddy’s objective is to deliver a seamless experience to users, which is precisely what Clockwise Software is working to provide.
The development team for the Toddy application consisted of two backend developers, one frontend developer, one tester, one designer, and one project manager.
Clockwise Software provided the Toddy team with a strong frontend developer and a tester. Thanks to our extensive experience working with remote teams, our cooperation with Toddy’s project manager and backend developer went smoothly.
We released the minimum viable product in just six months. Then the application went to alpha testing, and we started improving the existing features and adding new ones.
Before releasing the product to market, we had to implement in-app analytics and a payment system. Each of these features took around two weeks to add, so the total development time for the market-ready application was seven months.
We’re currently supporting the Toddy team part-time, making minor improvements to the frontend and providing software testing services.
Any idea that can potentially solve real-world problems is worth being implemented. Toddy is already making its first steps on the Australian market and seems to have great prospects.
If you have an idea for an online marketplace that will make a real difference, don’t hesitate to contact us for a free consultation. Bringing ambitious ideas to life – ideas that promise to make the world better – is our main focus!