As smartphones become more a necessity and less a luxury in our day-to-day lives, it’s important to take a step back and consider how we got there. Is it the simplicity of navigating the world thanks to Google Maps? Is it the convenience of having email right at our fingertips? Is it the ease with which we can communicate with family and friends through calling, texting, and various social networks?
The answer is, has been, and will always be, apps. Even the most basic of functions on your smartphone—phone, messaging, calendar—are apps, though you might not think of them that way. We at Quixey like to define apps broadly—as simple tools that add functionality to a platform.
With that definition in mind, consider the way you call people on a smartphone. The call feature appears as an icon on every home screen, but you don’t think twice about its similarity to other apps because it’s the most fundamental aspect of your phone. However, just because you have a default calling app, doesn’t mean that it’s the only, or even the best one available.
So what you think of as the “phone” in your smartphone isn’t glued to your home screen. You can download a number of calling apps, like Viper, to replace it. Similarly, you can select from a number of alternative messaging apps, like biteSMS, to swap for your default texting app. What your device offers is a clean slate for you to customize. It’s up to you to pick apps that maximize functionality.
The different apps you download, from games to organization tools, in some sense serve the same purpose—they’re add-ons that breathe life into your smartphone. So taking a good hard look at the way your apps are arranged is valuable—which ones do you let just sit there, because they came with the phone? How can you swap out certain apps to make your phone better? The app ecosystem has exploded over the past few years following the success of Apple’s App Store (which hit 25 billion downloads earlier in 2012), proving that there won’t be a shortage of unique apps to choose from anytime soon.
In some ways, a home screen is the ultimate form of expression. When you use a device all day, every day, you project everything about yourself onto its interface. Some smartphones are littered with games and gimmick apps. Some have all apps neatly organized into folders. Everyone’s home screen is unique, and that’s because we all value certain apps differently depending on the way we access them on a daily basis.
A smartphone without apps isn’t a smartphone at all. Take away the nearly-limitless potential of added functionality on each of our iOS, Android, or Windows devices, and we might as well be carrying around dusty old rotary phones. That’s why we at Quixey care so much about enabling the user to find apps that do exactly what they want. If they’re the key to transforming your smartphone from a brick into an invaluable do-it-all device, then we want to make sure you can do just that with as little effort as possible. So take a good look at your smartphone’s home screen and imagine how it would look if it was just blank.
In conjunction with the launch of our new logo earlier this month, we’re happy to announce that our mobile site has also undergone a major upgrade! To make your life easier, the site now defaults to searching whichever platform you’re on — Android users will only see Android apps, iOS users will only see iOS apps, and so on. If you want to see apps available on all platforms, you can easily do so by reverting to the classic, non-mobile view at the bottom of the page.
To get a better sense of the new features, let’s walk through the updated site on an iPhone phone step by step:
As with our last mobile site, the focus of the home page remains on our search bar, prompting the user to answer the question, “What do you want to do?”
Step 2: Enter your search query
On the new site, when you start typing, Quixey offers options similar to what you might be looking for. This autocomplete function is meant to speed up the process of finding exactly what you want. It’s currently in beta and will get better as our system improves.
Step 3: Select an app
On the results, you’ll see the app name, star rating, and snippets about the app that will tell you how the app relates to your query. As you’ll notice, the results can easily be filtered between All, Free, and Paid.
If you’re looking for more options, scroll down to the bottom of the page to find our signature Q, loading more results for you. We implemented infinite scroll so you only have to navigate between a few pages. Select the app you want to move forward.
Step 4: Learn about the app
Once you’ve picked an app, a screen shows up with sidescrolling screenshots of the app in action. We learned from user feedback that screenshots were the most important tool in deciding which app to download. So we felt it necessary to showcase screenshots directly on the app page so you could make a quick, informed decision. Tap any picture to view it in full size.
The navigation bar at the bottom of the page allows you to move from screenshots to an info page, which has a detailed description of the app.
Above the photos and description are buttons noting the number of editions if there are more than one, and the price of the app. One of the things that sets Quixey apart from other app search technologies is our concept of editions. For example, we view Bright Puzzles as one app with three editions: Wild Animals, Toys, and Puppies. For the first time, you can easily view multiple iterations of an app and pick the best one for them. When you’re ready to download, click on the price button to be taken to that app’s purchase page in your phone’s app store.
Step 5: Enjoy your app!
In designing the new mobile site, we took into account all of your comments and suggestions. The finished product is one that we feel is clean, quick, and efficient.
Thanks for your input and we’ll continue to improve the site as we find ways to better your experience on the go!
This post was written by Liron Shapira, co-founder and CTO.
Thursday, August 9, 2012 was a big day at Quixey – our first company hackathon. At 10am, we dropped everything, split into teams of 4-5 Quixiers, and spent the next 24 hours hacking together prototypes of crazy new ideas.
The hackathon was data-themed, and there were three prize categories: Best Data Collection, Best Data Analysis, and Best Data Visualization. The prize for each winning team was a $100 Github credit for each team member, and naming rights to one of the conference rooms in the new office we just moved into. Thanks to Github for generously donating these prizes in support of the Hackathon!
The winners were decided by our hackathon judge, Dan Appleman. Dan is a serial entrepreneur and programming expert with over a dozen published books (mostly about programming). We asked Dan to judge the projects based on how much value they could potentially add to Quixey.
Hackathons are everywhere in Silicon Valley (it’s a real hackathon-athon here). We wanted the Quixey hackathon to be special, and we wanted everyone to be productive and have a great time. So we did some things differently:
We did it on company time
If we had done a weekend hackathon, we wouldn’t have had to reschedule our meetings and deadlines. Weekday hackathons are harder and more expensive. So why did we do it on a weekday? Because we wanted to run a hackathon like a serious company effort, not a gimmick. Taking the hackathon seriously meant trading it off against the other priorities in our week.
We all participated
Most hackathons attract a certain demographic – the single and junior engineer. We thought every Quixier – single or married, intern or VP, engineer or non-engineer – would have something valuable to contribute. So we assigned everyone in the company to a hackathon team.
Sure enough, every employee found something to contribute. Quixiers in Marketing worked on PowerPoint slides for their team’s presentation. Quixiers in Business Development worked on exporting Salesforce data for their team’s project to analyze. And of course, Quixiers in Engineering and Design built prototypes.
Some people went home to their families after their day of hacking; others kept hacking late into the night. I gave my teammates a ride home at 4:30am and picked them up four hours later. When we got back to the office, we saw a few Quixiers who were still there after pulling all-nighters.
We mixed the teams
After Quixey’s two years of nonstop hiring and exponential growth, things can’t help feeling a little bigger and less personal. Normally, each of us only gets the opportunity to work with a few other Quixiers. So for the hackathon, we assigned everyone to teams that had almost zero overlap with normal working teams.
We were surprised how great it felt to work intensely with talented and passionate new teammates on Thursday. And on Friday, it was amazing to see all nine teams deliver a great presentation. After seeing how well randomly-mixed groups work together at Quixey, we really feel like the whole company is one unified team.
We reversed leadership roles
A lot of our summer engineering interns were going back to school soon after the hackathon, and we wanted to make their last Quixey experience great. So we declared that the most junior engineer on each team was the captain. That rule left us with a lot of ambiguous captain assignments, and we had to use a nondeterministic algorithm from game theory to break the ties: rock-paper-scissors.
If we hadn’t assigned team captains, we think interns and junior employees would naturally have looked to senior employees for leadership. We were happy to see how reversing the leadership roles successfully created a balanced team dynamic during the hackathon.
We had a cooperative spirit
The Quixey hackathon was really about exploring potentially great ideas for Quixey. We still wanted it to be a competition, but we also wanted to encourage cooperation among teams. One thing we did was purposely avoid giving extravagant prizes. We wanted people to feel good about taking time to help other teams, not feel like they were missing out on a new Macbook Pro if they didn’t win first place.
A lot of teams ended up needing help. Some people actually finished their own projects and stayed late to help other teams. That spirit of cooperation was one of the main things that made our hackathon a success.
We encouraged teams to think big
Most hackathons encourage thinking small. It’s tempting to just build a prototype of a simple product because you know you can have a polished demo ready in 24 hours.
We wanted to encourage teams to hack on ideas that mattered, ideas that could have a big impact on the company five years from now. So we announced that we would be judging projects according to their expected value to Quixey – not just how cool or polished the demo looked. In fact, the team that won the prize for Best Data Collection didn’t present a working demo. They presented research, statistics and graphs that made a compelling argument for implementing their idea.
We connected the hackathon to Quixey’s product road map
When we encouraged the hackathon teams to take risks, we knew a lot of the projects wouldn’t work out. But if they did work out, we wanted them to have a real impact on the direction of the company. So after our day of creative thinking and exploration, we shifted gears and took a hard look at our product road map.
The hackathon projects blew away our expectations. One of the projects was such a success that we incorporated it wholesale as a major upcoming search feature. A few of the others are planned as product features and internal tools. And most of the projects have some value for our research and patenting efforts.
We have to keep all the projects classified, but here’s an overview of our three hackathon winners:
Best Data Collection: Team Juggernaut
Juggernaut’s project focused on a new kind of signal we could use to parameterize our machine-learned search. It was a great first effort to take our search development in a direction we hadn’t had time to explore before.
Best Data Analysis: Team Tomato Jedi
Tomato Jedi’s project analyzed how we could relate apps to a web user’s intent. Judge Dan awarded them the prize because their project was interesting from both a technical and business perspective.
Best Data Visualization: Team Entropy
Entropy’s project dealt with visualizing the “functional web” – the web of apps and their interrelations. They took a risk by experimenting with some clever graph algorithms, and produced a demo that was both beautiful and productizable. Their presentation shocked us all.
When you have a world-class team, pushing everyone to the limit for 24 hours is a thrill. It feels like driving a new sports car and stepping on the gas. After the hackathon, the most common response I heard was how amazing it was that all the teams pulled off their projects. And it was nice to give our interns something special to remember from their summer at Quixey.
We’re so happy with how Hackathon #1 turned out that we’ve decided to continue with regular hackathons. Stay tuned for Quixey Hackathon #2!
This post was written by Jeff Fan, Lead Designer at Quixey. He graduated from UC Berkeley last year and joined the Quixey team in December. He was the architect of the new logo design, which launched September 1st.
When we first sat down to discuss the possibility of redesigning our logo, we recognized that the project would present a number of challenges. We had already built strong brand recognition with the original logo, and we knew implementing a revamped design would require a lot of time and effort. Still, we wanted to move forward with a redesign that would not only fit comfortably with the evolving company culture we’re developing at Quixey, but also with our partners’ and developers’ products. Furthermore, we felt that the time was right for a new logo, anticipating our move into a bigger office in Mountain View. Now as the new workspace changes with each day, we’re channeling the simple, clean design of the logo into every aspect of its growth.
Although we love the original Quixey logo, and it will always hold a special place in our hearts, we all agreed that a new design was necessary to capture the bold, forward-thinking feel of our company. We wanted to maintain the impact of the “Q” in Quixey, but do it in a way that wasn’t overpowering. Although distinct, the large Q limited our flexibility from a UI standpoint. As we inserted “Powered By Quixey” below more and more search bars, we needed the whole Quixey logo to be legible to consumers, not just the Q.
Basically, we wanted consumers to associate the powerful search they used with a logo that embodied its strength. So in the early stages of the project, we tried a variety of approaches. Some designs implemented multiple colors, some toyed with different icons. Eventually, all signs pointed toward a design that kept things simple.
We settled on the design you see today because it’s the perfect balance of all our needs. It’s fun and friendly, yet very strong. It has character, but isn’t too loud. And most importantly, it’s easy to read while still maintaining the personality of our beloved Q. A little known fact about Quixey’s logo is that the uppercase Q is meant to double as a magnifying glass, highlighting the most fundamental aspect of our company—search. The new Q, bold and sharp, holds onto that image without throwing the full design off balance.
In developing a new logo, and in turn, a new image for Quixey, we made sure to carefully analyze the dynamics of our industry and where we see ourselves within it. We’re confident that the end result is a fresh, yet timeless design that can easily evolve with our rapidly growing company. In other words, we think it’s going to help take us to some pretty awesome heights. We hope you agree!
Welcome Home to Windows Phone Helps You Seamlessly Transfer the Following Data to Windows Phone:
Wait. Did you say transfer apps?
Yes. Yes we did.
Doesn’t matter if it’s iOS, Android, or Blackberry–Quixey makes it possible to transfer apps to Windows Phone from all platforms. For as long as smartphones have been around, users have consistently shied away from switching platforms even years after settling on their first device. OS competitors innovate, new phones entice users to switch, and yet…transferring their personal information has always been frustratingly difficult. Jetting over contacts and media are one thing, but the main issue holding people back stems from a lack of support in transferring apps. Understandably, users want to know they’ll retain the same functionality if they’re making a big switch. Quixey’s app recommendations in Welcome Home to Windows Phone are the first solution to give them that peace of mind.
For the first time, users can transfer the most important aspect of their smartphones – apps. Whether it’s apps that keep you organized (Evernote), apps that keep you unorganized (Doodle Jump), or any app in between, each one plays a role in customizing the smartphone experience. Quixey’s recommendations help users maintain that functionality in the switch to Windows Phone.
With about 100,000 apps available, Windows provides an expansive ecosystem made immediately accessible through Quixey’s app recommendations. Once Welcome Home to Windows Phone is installed onto the computer, users plug in their smartphone through a USB port and follow the simple steps to transfer their data. The software will recognize apps currently installed on the phone, and then find the exact match or a recommendation for a similar app on Windows Phone. After following the software’s quick prompts, users are ready to transfer all their personal preferences onto their new Windows Phone! The software is now available for immediate download at http://welcomehome.to/nokia.
Think about E.T. for a second. “E.T. phone home” right? Well, E.T. is the apps, “phone” is Quixey, and home is your new phone. Welcome Home to Windows Phone.
Quixey is the search engine for apps: we help you find apps that do what you want. But what are apps? It turns out to be a tough but important question.
The term “app” became popular with the development of mobile platforms like iOS and Android. As more and more people began to use smartphones, our understanding of apps became focused on mobile apps. This shift makes sense, but it doesn’t give us a complete picture of what apps really are.
At Quixey, we define apps as simple tools that do what you want. Above all, apps are useful and apps are everywhere. Let’s talk about what that means.
Apps are useful All apps help you do something you want to do. Some inform, some entertain, and some connect. Whatever their purpose, apps add value by providingthe specific functionality you need, when you need it. This is why our search engine asks you the question, “What do you want to do?” At Quixey, we believe that apps are defined first and foremost by how they’re used, by what they can do for you.
Apps are everywhere Apps live wherever you are. Whether on a desktop or a tablet, on an iOS or an Android smartphone, you can access apps that help do what you want. Let’s look at Dropbox to see how the same app exists on many platforms.
Dropbox is an app. It lets you store your files in the cloud and access them across all of your devices. Whether you access Dropbox from your computer, your iPad, or your Android smartphone, the underlying app remains the same. You are accessing the same app and the same data regardless of what platform you access it from.
Why is this important? By thinking of apps broadly, as simple tools that add value across platforms, we are challenged to build the most comprehensive app search engine possible. Quixey can help you find apps on platforms as diverse as iOS, Salesforce, and Chrome. Wherever you go, no matter what device you use, Quixey can help you find the right app for what you want to do. We focus on finding the app that you need, then we tell you where to find it.
This post was written by Alex Popp, Business Development, at Quixey. He recently graduated from Harvard University, where he was a four-year varsity athlete on the water polo team. In college he worked at the Massachusetts State House and interned for different tech start-ups and Fortune 500 companies. You can find him at monsieurpopp.wordpress.com and follow him at @monsieurpopp on Twitter.
Four years ago I left California to go to college on the East Coast. For the first eighteen years of my life, Menlo Park was my playground–one that seemed ever so boring. When I finally graduated, I was excited to pack my bags to attend school on the other side of the country. I wanted to do something new, experience the East Coast, and brave the cold. Trading in my flip-flops for snow boots, turning in my Ray Bans for a beanie, I was moving straight ahead, not thinking of looking back.
Funny how the moment I began my new life on the East Coast, I started looking back more frequently than not.
Silicon Valley is an incredible place, and leaving it only put that more in perspective. Throughout my undergrad years, I would chuckle under my breath as my peers gushed about this hub of innovation and talent, this epicenter of technology and entrepreneurship, where people dared to find optimism at every turn. I realized that if you live outside of the Valley, you mostly hear of the Facebooks, Twitters, and Googles of Palo Alto and Mountain View. But, you don’t always hear about the smaller start-ups, bootstrapped by two or three founders hunkered down in the attic of their mother’s home, living off hot pockets and Mountain Dew.
In Silicon Valley these stories are the stuff of lore; failure is a badge that every successful CEO or VC proudly emblazons on their credentials. It is that attitude that was put more so in perspective some three thousand miles away. I missed that defiance, this willingness to stop at nothing, the intellectual creativity of the Valley. The more time I spent away, the more I realized how much I missed it and had taken it for granted. After my freshman year, I decided to come back to California to soak up some much needed sunlight and to see if I could forge a connection to the start-up world. At the end of every summer after that, I kept telling myself I had to come back.
So I did for the next three years, working for a couple of established Fortune 500 companies’ corporate strategy groups, helping start-ups launch by getting involved in their product management and business development efforts. I remembered why Silicon Valley has no equivalent in the world (sorry NYC tech scene). The intellectual creativity was pragmatic in the Valley. You had to solve problems that were neither academic nor black and white. I realized that while strategizing was rewarding, it more often than not resulted in recommendations rather than results; after a while someone had to have the guts to take the reins and directly involve themselves in pushing the needle forward. That was the biggest lesson I learned in my time reconnecting to the Valley: you have to get down in the trenches if you actually want to build something.
I know I was very lucky to find a start-up that was doing exactly that, and wanted to take a chance on me in helping them pursue their vision of the world. When Quixey approached me in March, I was desperate to add value, but I didn’t know where I would fit in best. Through my interviews with the BD team, conversations with our Director of BD Jake Orrin, CEO Tomer Kagan, and Chief Strategy Officer David Hytha, I realized that Quixey–in the corniest of terms–was trying to build a product that would make people’s lives easier. I’ve always wanted to build something of value, and to distribute a product in the hands of many. Quixey was taking a chance on me and allowing me to do exactly that.
Quixey is very product oriented; we’re building a functional and platform-agnostic search engine that allows people to find apps by searching for what they need at the moment without knowing the name or description of an app. In a world where there are millions upon millions of apps, Quixey aggregates and organizes unstructured and structured data, analyzes all that information through a complex array of advanced machine-learning algorithms, and then services result queries based on the relative weights placed on the collected data. Search, by nature, is technologically fascinating, but Quixey takes it an extra step by tweaking it to fit the more specific case of app search.
I guess I am glad that for the last four years I kept glancing over my shoulder from time to time. Had I not done so, I probably would not have ended up at Quixey. Alan Kay once said, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” I won’t go as far as to say that I’m doing exactly what he suggests, but I am humbled to take part in a company that is attempting to help mold the future. I am thankful for this one chance, because my decision to join the Quixey team makes me confident that the future is only going to get that much better.
Remember when finding what you were looking for on the web was like winning the lottery, those not-so-long-ago days before “Google” became a verb? Today, finding an app can be frustrating just like web search used to be. At Quixey, we think we’ve built a solution. What Google did for the web, Quixey is doing for app search.
In the early days of the web, the curious web surfer had the choice between using a keyword-based search engine that delivered low quality results and browsing a directory where links were curated and organized by topic; one was inaccurate, the other tedious. Keywords were far too simple a measure of search relevancy to be effective and directories couldn’t possibly keep up with the explosion of content on the web.
Today, the app ecosystem is organized much like the directories of old. App stores categorize apps by topic and offer basic keyword search. Finding apps like this is tedious and inaccurate. What can we learn from the development of information discovery on the web that might be applicable to app discovery?
The directory model fit the web in the early 1990s when the number of reputable sites on a given topic was still reasonable. When Yahoo! was founded in 1994 and built one of the best directories of its day, there were only about 10,000 websites total. The world wide web was small. But directories maintained by real people don’t scale well and as the web continued to expand, the model collapsed under its own weight.
By 1998, the web had surpassed one million sites. The directory model couldn’t keep up. Enter Google. Larry Page and Sergey Brin recognized that the web had an underlying structure that could be leveraged to provide accurate search results. By mapping the way web pages were linked together and quantifying the relative value of those links, they created an entirely new way to find information on the web, one that was accurate and scalable. This was revolutionary. The potential of the web to provide useful information on just about any topic, whenever you need it, had finally been unlocked.
What Google did for web search, Quixey is doing for app search. In 2011, the total number of mobile apps surpassed one million. This was the tipping point. Just as the directory model for the web collapsed when it reached one million sites, app directories are collapsing under their own weight. There are simply too many apps to be organized in a directory.
At Quixey, we believe we’ve found the answer. Our approach moves beyond the directory model of app discovery and towards an approach that finds apps based on the simple question, “What do you want to do?” To answer this question, we’ve identified and leveraged the underlying structure to the app ecosystem, what we call the Functional Web. Every time an app is talked about on the web, in blog posts, reviews, comments, etc, a contextual relationship is created between the app and some type of description. These relationships can be mapped to provide an accurate picture of what that app actually does. We’ve also mapped how these apps relate across platforms, so you can find what you’re looking for wherever you need it.
Apps are designed to help you get things done. Looking for a gas station in a new part of town? An app can help you find it. Want to stay up to date on your favorite sports team? An app has the scores you need. With this in mind, we designed our search to answer a simple question: “What do you want to do?” No more browsing lists in an app store or guessing at the most effective keyword to search. Quixey can help you find the app to do what you want, when you need it. This is revolutionary.
Imagine a river of information streaming from connected devices everywhere: your fridge monitors the items placed within, letting you know what’s about to expire; traffic sensors provide real-time notification of a slowdown on your route to work; the lights in your apartment signal whether they’ve been left on…the possibilities are limitless. This type of information exists already and the reach of this Internet of Things grows exponentially each year. However, the information layer that’s spreading all over the world is often just data, unstructured and messy, that needs to be processed into something useful and functional. The key to leveraging this data is apps.
Apps leverage the information layer and process the data into convenient solutions for particular problems. They provide the useful information and functionality you need, when you need it. Take the example of the lights in your apartment. In some sort of digital home environment, your lights are connected to the internet. Your lights send intermittent signals about their status, are they on or off? That’s great, but the data itself isn’t enough. That’s where apps come in. If you’ve left home and can’t remember if you left the lights on, you can pull up an app on your phone and see that, yes, the lights in your kitchen are still on. From there, just hit the off button on your phone, and your kitchen lights turn off, miles away.
The app I just described is a smart, efficient solution to a particular problem. It turns all the data created by connected devices in your apartment into actionable information, that the kitchen lights are on, and offers the functionality to turn them off. All this takes place wherever you have an internet connection.
As the information layer continues to spread, as connected devices become more and more ubiquitous, we will rely on apps to make that information useful and actionable. The future belongs to those who can best leverage the information layer. Thankfully, no matter what you want to do, apps can help–and Quixey can help you find the right one.
This post was written by Jason Prosnitz, Director of Strategic Initiatives. He wrote an impromptu piece on why he loves working at Quixey and we decided to share it here.
I love my job.
Can you say that too? Most people in the working world feel a constant pressure to get their work done faster. Whether it is due to sales quotas, bugs in the code, customer service complaints, or a different issue, there is always pressure top down (from management) to get more done by the end of the each day, week, month, or quarter.
Quixey is different. There is a very different type of pressure for us to succeed and it is not imposed from the top down; it comes from within. We are already moving fast; the challenges that we face every day are so interesting, engaging and fun that there is no need to apply pressure from above. From the minute I roll out of bed in the morning, I am so amped up and excited about what the day is to bring, I just GO. I completely forget about the expectations of others because my own usually surpass them. Make no mistake, I’m not a unique Quixier in this way, which is another great reason to love working at Quixey: the people. At Quixey, we’re all excited about what we are doing. I get to collaborate with the smartest people that I know, and to solve the most interesting challenges that I’ve ever come across – what other motivation is necessary?
Another aspect that I love about Quixey is our vision for the future. Nowadays, people agree that with the number of apps out there and the rate at which that number is increasing, finding the right one presents a serious problem. Not that long ago, we had to work harder to explain the need for app search. There were only a few platforms, and people seemed satisfied with the results they were getting by using categories and top-ten lists. Quixey has always known that the app ecosystem was growing too quickly for categories, top-ten lists and directories to last, and it’s rewarding to see users jump on board with our vision. It’s a great feeling to know that we are helping to shape the app ecosystem of the future and that Quixey enables us to have such a significant impact.
Most people in the working world dread Mondays – the restart button of a miserable workweek. At Quixey, Mondays don’t exist – every day is as fun and as exciting as the last. Every day is a Friday.