The end-of-year holidays can be very busy for organizations as everyone tries to wrap up their tasks and leave on time. The last thing anyone wants is a complicated leave management system adding to the stress. It’s essential to have a user-friendly tool in place, especially with less than two months left until the holidays.
That’s where FreeQuest comes in. It’s our in-house mobile app development project, which has been used by thousands of people worldwide. Our team developed this app in 2015 when we couldn’t find any leave tracking tools on the market that met our needs, particularly one with a mobile version. We focused on creating a sleek design and intuitive user experience from the beginning.
At our core, we believe that real people should be the primary focus of any app design. Over the years, we’ve analyzed app analytics and listened to feedback, making changes to improve FreeQuest. In this article, we’ll discuss how we started the project and the steps we took to develop this app internally.
Around seven years ago, our leave tracking process was quite burdensome. As our company, Applandeo, continued to grow, tracking the leave of each employee became even more complicated. This was made worse by the intricacies of Polish labor law, which meant that we not only had an organizational obligation to streamline our system but also a legal one.
In Poland, employees are entitled to different types of leave, such as public holidays, sick days, paid time off, maternity leave, and paternity leave, among others. As our team expanded, it became increasingly challenging to keep track of all these different categories of leave manually.
Initially, we tried to find existing tools that could help us simplify our HR systems, but none of them were a good fit. Some were web apps only, while others were overly complex and created more problems than they solved. Additionally, many of the available apps were unattractive and didn’t inspire the positive feelings that we believe are necessary when planning a vacation.
That’s when we had a realization — as a company that develops mobile apps, we had the expertise to create an effective leave management system ourselves.
Mission and brand voice
The primary objective from the outset was to create a mobile app that prioritizes handling leave requests in a straightforward manner. The app had to be both robust enough to scale and maintain a friendly tone, rather than feeling like a dismal corporate task.
Consistent with Applandeo’s brand voice, FreeQuest needed to reflect our friendly, yet knowledgeable approach. Since it was initially an internal project, it also played a role in maintaining team morale in a rapidly growing organization. This meant avoiding an overly corporate tone.
Regarding the user experience (UX), incorporating bright colors, animations, and micro-interactions into the app’s components was key to maintaining a non-corporate feel. The process of selecting days off and viewing time off allowances had to be intuitive for employees. Furthermore, notifications and approvals needed to be clear and easy to navigate.
Establishing goals and creating a backlog of tasks was the easy part. The development phase required considerable effort.
UX/UI design in mobile app development
As the design was the top priority for FreeQuest, the initial stage involved prototyping user flows. To conceptualize a user story, we developed the following UX user flows. Since leave tracking requests had to be approved by a manager, there were two primary user roles — an employee and a manager.
Each role has a distinct navigation path. For employees, the navigation process is simple. There is a dashboard where they can add a time-off request, and a counter that shows their category of leave. Once they add the required dates and submit the request, it is sent to a manager for approval or denial.
On the other hand, managers have a broader perspective of the teams they supervise. They have access to additional options and screens to view who has requested time off. All of these features are flexible, allowing you to customize and manage user permissions by adding, removing, or updating them.
FreeQuest has undergone multiple updates over the years, each time taking into account user feedback and observing user interactions. Presently, the app is available in two versions for both iOS and Android devices. Additionally, an admin panel has been developed using React on the front-end and Node.js on the back-end.
One of the earliest suggestions we received was to add a feature for remote working. This feature was useful for our organization as it allowed coworkers and managers to see who was working remotely or was out of office and unavailable. In the current climate, with organizations considering hybrid work models where employees may not be in the office every day, this feature has become both useful and trendy.
Later versions of the app included reporting features that enable HR departments to print an annual report on days worked versus days off to ensure compliance with labor laws.
The first iteration of FreeQuest, way back in 2015, featured a clean interface that was easy to navigate and included descriptive, intuitive icons for selecting the type of leave.
In 2019, we underwent a significant update to FreeQuest, focusing on improving the user experience (UX) in response to the release of Google’s Material Design. Along with a much-needed visual refresh, the updated version integrated design principles such as micro-interactions, shadows, and padding around elements. To give the elements a more gentle appearance, most of the sharp angular corners were smoothed out.
In 2020, due to the remote work situation, we took advantage of the opportunity to introduce another update to FreeQuest. This version focused on making the elements even softer and more approachable, and also made the process of requesting home office days more user-friendly.
After our team created mockups, we moved on to the testing phase. The initial feedback was positive, with users particularly enjoying the bright colors and intuitive UX, which made requesting time off an exciting process. Furthermore, using a sleek app, especially one developed in-house, was a huge morale boost for our developers.
As with any mobile app development project, there was plenty of feedback and suggestions for improvement. We knew it was important to test the app with a diverse set of users and elicit feedback to make it the best it could be. What started as a simple time-off request app quickly evolved into a complete leave management system.
Early suggestions included adding an option to track remote work, which became even more important during the pandemic. Organizations wanted to know where their employees were working and when they were out of the office. We also implemented the ability to carry over any unused leave days to the next year, which is particularly useful in countries where paid time off is required as part of an employee’s salary.
Users can personalize the app by choosing a calendar that includes their country’s public holidays and adding any other days off observed by their organization. Additionally, HR professionals can generate reports detailing employees’ days worked and days off for both legal and organizational purposes.
New versions and plans for the future
The development of an app involves several stages, each one building upon the previous version. Currently, our team is working on a web version of FreeQuest to provide administrators with greater accessibility. This new version offers more customizable leave types, such as “leave on demand,” which deducts PTO days without carrying over to the next year.
Additionally, we continuously gather analytics data from a growing user pool to drive improvements. Although direct feedback and feature requests are valuable, it’s equally important to consider actual user behavior when making changes to the UX.
Overall, we’re thrilled to continue developing FreeQuest and enhancing it for organizations to manage their leave more efficiently.
When we started building FreeQuest, our mobile app for tracking leave, we realized that as organizations grow, leave tracking becomes more complex. Our goal was to create an app with a simple UI design and an inviting UX. Today, FreeQuest is a fully launched app that not only provides an intuitive user experience but also motivates users to take time off to recharge. It gives managers and HR professionals powerful insight into who is off and when they will be back, ensuring that people are taking the leave days required by law.
If you are interested in trying out FreeQuest for your organization’s leave management, we encourage you to do so. Additionally, if you have an idea for a different app, we are open to discussing it with you. Don’t hesitate to contact us!