The Breakroom

Cultivating a New Willow App for iOS

October 20, 2015

By Ged Maheux


Evolving a popular app from version 1 to version 2 is always a challenge, and so it was with the recent update of the Willow app for iOS. Willow connects users around the world via meaningful conversations, posed by simple questions.

The Iconfactory was charged with updating the popular 1.0 version of Willow, modernizing both its look and performance. It was a development effort that took over 3 months to complete and made use of our team’s full range of expertise, from design and coding, to back-end engineering and testing. Building on the groundwork we laid in V1, the second major release included developing all-new interactions, adding rich visual details, and implementing features like group conversations and a re-designed home timeline.

The new timeline presents questions from Willow users in a new and engaging way and features rich media thumbnails, parallax scrolling, swipe to answer or dismiss, as well as the new up-voting feature that surfaces popular questions quickly. When composing new questions, users can customize the question’s appearance with over 450,000 custom images from Pixabay, a fun new way to make questions come to life in Willow.


At the heart of improvements in Willow 2.0 was the inclusion of group questions. Previously, users could only pose single questions which were answered on a one-on-one basis by individual Willow users. The new Group tab allows users to ask questions and receive answers across the entire Willow user base. People can up-vote questions they like and respond to questions on either a local or global level. All of this happens in real time. It is a wonderful way for people to connect and have meaningful conversations about topics that span a huge range of interests with others around the world.

Another key goal with Willow 2.0 was to simplify and improve the Branches user interface. Branches is the communications hub within the application where users can keep track of who’s responded to their questions, see and manage new group questions, and initiate personal chats with users. As the depth and scope of Willow’s feature set expanded, Wilow’s Branches UI grew tangled and badly needed pruning.


The resulting re-design is a concise, tab-based interface that clearly lays out the three types of content that can be navigated in Willow – Questions, Groups, and Chats. New content is constantly updated and can be favorited or searched at will. Questions and chats are now clearly organized and can be answered directly from within Branches or quickly removed using familiar iOS swipe gestures.

Taken all together, Willow 2.0 represents a complete overhaul from the original app, one that helps bring it to the forefront of modern iOS user interface design and development. The new feature set and rich visual appearance have already helped Willow gain new users and connect more people than ever before. For more information about Willow’s redesign, visit our portfolio of work. Willow is available from the App Store today for free, be sure to check it out!