Abubaker Omer, Qatar Movies App Creator
From the very first version of my app, I used Mixpanel.
Its creator, Abubaker Omer, is a student at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar. He’s also a movie buff and goes to the cinema whenever he can. He especially looks forward to seeing a flick when one particular friend returns home from abroad. “We go to the movies quite frequently,” said Omer. “But I always get annoyed when we’re outdoors and I have to turn on my data plan to be able to see showtimes.” So Omer did what any computer science student would do: he created an app to simplify his movie excursions.
Omer finished building out the app before the start of Spring semester in January 2019. He uploaded Qatar Movies to the app store so his friend could download it. What happened next stunned Omer. “Qatar Movies took off at the university,” he said. “I was expecting that the number of downloads or weekly active users would go down quickly, but it never did.”
Qatar Movies is a booking app that’s unlike other popular movie-ticketing websites. It’s a full-service app that lets users pick a movie, watch trailers and read reviews, see showtimes, buy tickets, and navigate to the cinema or book an Uber, all without leaving the app.
Before the university student came up with the idea for Qatar Movies, he was a hard-working intern at one of the top startups in Qatar and the Middle East. That’s also where he was introduced to Mixpanel and the value data brings to growth. “From the very first version of my app, I used Mixpanel,” said Omer. Knowing that Mixpanel provides valuable product insights, Omer set out to use the product from the get-go, giving him the deep user analytics he needed to succeed.
Omer spends a lot of time analyzing user behavior with Mixpanel’s Live View feed. He categorizes metrics in typical ways, like what days users tend to log into the app. But Omer is more interested in deeper dives, such as honing in on power users and capturing their habits. This process helped Omer improve his UX strategy by creating a clearer entry point to features that users weren’t aware of. For example, in an earlier iteration of the app, after purchasing tickets, users would have to click “Done,” which would take them to a screen where moviegoers could access a navigation app or book an Uber.
In existing movie-booking apps, the last step for users is the ticket purchase. So in Qatar Movies, users didn’t realize that waiting behind the “Done” button on the booking page were more features that help simplify their movie-going experience even more. Once Omer replaced the previously ignored “Done” button with icons for Uber, Google Maps, and Waze, “after-booking” activity jumped about 50%. A car icon placed on other pages in the app took users straight to an Uber-booking or a navigation app. These tweaks were especially advantageous for users who wanted to see movie times but didn’t want to purchase tickets through Qatar Movies. Replacing the “Done” button was a huge improvement and led to “40% of people that purchased tickets also clicked buttons that took them to after-booking screens,” said Omer.
Omer’s process for upgrading Qatar Movies is pretty straightforward. He analyzes his Mixpanel data, adds new features, then tracks how user behaviors in the app change. He’s never locked into any one decision. “Sometimes I actually add something that I previously deleted. Or I put it somewhere else,” said Omer. Adding movie recommendations to the home screen is an example of how Omer relies on data when testing new features. After analyzing Insights reports, for example, he believed cinephiles using Qatar Movies wanted a movie recommendations feature. But instead, “people were very annoyed by it,” said Omer. So he removed it.
Each time he adds a new feature or takes one away, Omer learns more about what his users want. The most important thing is using data to validate keeping or discarding features. Sometimes Omer finds that his best move is to leave well enough alone.
By using Mixpanel in his product from day one, Omer has increased engagement among moviegoers and app users. “Usage of the after-booking transportation screen skyrocketed. Now it’s a common behavior after purchasing tickets. “ said Omer.
With the success of testing new features, Omer wants to try out more additions. “There’s a huge potential for socialization that isn’t being used by other cinema apps,” said Omer. So he plans to capitalize on that. He’s considering letting users socialize in a way that is similar to Twitter, or let users post memes or GIFs.
Finally, Qatar Movies wants to develop a more dynamic way to display movie reviews. Omer’s not exactly sure what this feature will end up looking like. “Hopefully testing these new features will lead to the kinds of interactions people want,” he says.