App design at Grayscale: A chat with Jarijn Nijkamp | The Giles Agency


Here at The Giles Agency, a partner we’ve worked with on quite a few projects is Grayscale, a Hong Kong-based web design and development agency. We always love learning about our partners’ experiences, and this month spoke to Jarijn Nijkamp, Grayscale’s account director and managing partner, about some of the company’s recent app development projects.

A common issue faced by creative agencies – and certainly one we face here – is balancing the needs of the end user with the needs of the client. “We try to be the advocate of the end user,” says Jarijn. “Often we have to negotiate with the client’s marketing department. They may want to upsell extra services, or show what cool, new campaigns they have – which for the user, is not a primary concern.

“In cases where the goal of the end client is slightly different than the goal of the client, we try, through user testing, to find the best possible compromise.”

Jarijn introduced two recent projects of Grayscale’s – one, a web-based app; the other, a mobile app. The first is available on Zung Fu – the Hong Kong Mercedes-Benz website – and provides car owners with a quick, easy way to book appointments for automobile maintenance and communicate with the company. Jarijn says that while there are customers who still prefer to pick up the phone, “There’s also a growing group of people who say: ‘If I can use it 24/7, and immediately see what time slots are available, that’s just much nicer.’” As someone who now finds it off-putting when a restaurant doesn’t accept reservations online, I couldn’t agree more.


The second project – the mobile app – is an unusual concept, but one with so much utility in the Hong Kong market, it’s almost certain to succeed. This one hasn’t been released yet, so we’re not at liberty to disclose the company name. But the app is designed to serve residents of upscale apartment buildings, many of which have multiple towers and levels of security. As many of us are aware, the way the ‘system’ works now is that you know someone is showing up to your apartment, but your concierge has no idea. And so you receive an enquiry – if not multiple ones (there comes the real pain) – as to whether or not this person should be let inside.

The new app lets you provide your friend, contractor or delivery person with a door pass – in the form of a QR code – with a specific degree of access: long-term, recurring or one-off. Goodbye, concierge attempting to wave away your legitimate visitor. Hello, concierge helpfully providing said visitor with directions to your apartment. The multifunctional app goes further than this, though, also letting residents report specific issues to the concierge, for example.


For Jarijn, it’s one of those projects he most enjoys working on. “The client was quite open-minded as to what the user experience would be,” he says. Being an architect, the client had even done some sketches of his own. “He had a very clear idea of the minimum required functionality. But how it would work – as well as the steps the user would go through – he was flexible about.

“It’s one of those projects where one plus one truly equals three.”

Do you have a mobile or web-based app you’re looking to design and develop? Or even just an idea you’d like to bounce off people in the biz? If so, get in touchwe’d love to hear from you. If you missed it, please also check out last week’s blog post, which offers expert advice and insight on how to make your app a real success in both content and design – and highlights common pitfalls to avoid.