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Published: 7/12/2013 - Updated: 9 months ago

Maumee firm crafts winner in HGTV iPad app

Application has network look, feel

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Hanson Inc., a digital media firm in Maumee, spent nearly a year developing the  HGTV Folio iPad app.  Launched by Apple on June 12, it was downloaded more than 40,000 times the first two weeks. Hanson Inc., a digital media firm in Maumee, spent nearly a year developing the HGTV Folio iPad app. Launched by Apple on June 12, it was downloaded more than 40,000 times the first two weeks.
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If you’re a fan of cable’s HGTV network and you’d like to interact with its home and gardening shows through your iPad, there’s now an app for that.

But more significantly, the app was created by a Toledo-area digital media firm, Hanson Inc. of Maumee.

Apple Inc. launched Hanson’s new HGTV Folio iPad app on June 12, and it immediately became one of Apple’s Top 5 lifestyle apps with more than 40,000 downloads in the first two weeks.

“We’re very proud of our work on it. We think it’s a great example of the work we do,” said Mindy Withrow, a content strategist and Web site manager for Hanson.

Scripps Networks, the parent firm of HGTV, a popular cable network that features numerous trendy home and lifestyle shows, such as Design on a Dime, House Hunters, and Love It or List It, solicited bids for its app project in March, 2012. Scripps already had iPad apps for its other properties, including the Food Network and the Travel Channel, but it had yet to create one for HGTV.

After submitting its proposal and holding preliminary talks, Scripps chose Hanson to design and create the app in June, 2012. The Maumee firm spent nearly a year developing the app, which is computerspeak for “application” or a computer program with a specific purpose, such as a game or word processor, that runs on a computer, tablet, or smart phone.

Hanson previously designed apps for other companies, including Eaton Corp., but this was the first time it worked with a client that is so prominently in the public eye.

“One of the things we talked about initially was creating a connected experience, so what we do, whether it’s with a Web site or an app or [online] kiosks, the user is interacting with the brand,” Ms. Withrow said.

When it came to creating an app for HGTV, the goal was “it had to look and feel like it’s HGTV while also giving the customer the experience that they want,” she said.

“They had these databases of photos. They wanted to be able to bring all these photos into one app so that the consumer could have access to them,” Ms. Withrow added.

Specifically, HGTV officials had archived thousands of photos from the network’s various TV shows and were seeking an app that could let users see the photos but also put their personal imprint on them.

The app lets users browse HGTV’s photo files, add notes to the photos, save their favorites, or forward them to friends.

Ms. Withrow said the photos also contain “hot spots,” or special areas whereby users can get additional information about specific products contained within the image. The feature was a way for HGTV to help promote its retail partners.

“We believe that users should have a seamless experience, whether they’re encountering the brand on their television screen or their mobile device. So our developers worked closely with Scripps designers and brand managers to ensure the final app lived up to their brand,” said Erik Porter, Hanson’s creative director.

For the project, Hanson used Amazon Web Services, which provides a set of applications that actually connect an iPad to HGTV, where the image library is stored. The arrangement lets HGTV employees easily manage their database of images without needing a lot of technical skills, Ms. Withrow said.

John Ewing, Hanson’s managing director of engineering, said “high availability,” or the ability of customers to access HGTV’s content at all times, and “dynamic scalability,” or having HGTV’s system function smoothly even as the number of customers using it grows or shrinks rapidly, were two of Hanson's development goals.

“We chose to implement on Amazon Web Services because it allowed us to easily accomplish both goals. We achieved high availability by placing the [HGTV content] in a geographically distributed configuration, and dynamic scalability by allowing each geographic region to grow in response to [customer] load,” Mr. Ewing said.

“This allows the [HGTV content] to respond to events that increase traffic, such as television campaigns, sizing up as needed, and then shrinking when demand lowers,” he said.

Contact Jon Chavez at: jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.



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