Clay Tercek

case study

building watchlist

Watchlist is an iOS app allowing users to keep track of the movies and tv shows that they are interested in watching, with a sleek and intuitive UI.

The goal with this project was first and foremost to learn the Xcode programming environment and swift language. Because of that, I pursued the idea of Watchlist. I felt like a movie/tv watchlist app would allow me to learn a lot of the important techniques and functionality that is required for developing for iOS without getting too complicated for a ten week course, such as page segues, persistent data storage, and external API integration.

Now while not an entirely unique idea, I felt that the way similar apps on the app store had been executed always lacked something. Some lacked an intuitive interface, some didn't have up to date search, some were far too overcomplicated, and some just didn't look good. My goal was to create a simple interface that was easy to understand and operate, while still having the important functionality one would expect from an app like this.

Visual Design

The first phase of creating this app was imagining the interface. With one of my main design goals being simplicity, I wanted to minimize the amount of different views and pages that were possible within the app. Therefor I designed the search page to be almost identical to the home page, though with the addition of a search bar at the top.

First iteration

My original idea was to have items in a standard list, with the poster image on the left, and title and description on the right. All interactions, both on the home page and the search page, would be accessible simply through swiping the items to the left or right, similar to how the mail app on iOS operates.

I took this 'prototype' and showed it to a couple people to gather some input. The general feedback said that I might have made it a little too simple. People wanted more information than just a description and title. With that I went back to the drawing board.

v1 screens

Second iteration

Because my quick user testing showed that users would like a bit more info, I figured it might be better to have a detail screen instead of all the movie info being visible from the list view. I decided to strip most of the information from the list view, so that its just a poster image (or a title if no poster can be found). This also allowed for a lot more items to visible at first glance, because now instead of one item stretching the full width of the container, we can fit three on a line.

The detail view is pretty simple, just showing the title, description, and poster image along with a few extra details like runtime, genres and original air date.

One of the advantages of developing within the apple ecosystem is that it is really easy to create beautiful designs that look like they came straight from HQ. I decided to capitalize on this, shifting from my original design to something a lot cleaner and sleeker. This meant no more colorful gradient backgrounds, rounded corners, and Helvetica everywhere.

v2 screens


Getting used to developing within the Xcode environment was pretty tough, because I'm used to having full control over the product I'm creating programmatically, and I like having the option to work in any editor or from the command line. That said, after a couple weeks working with it I started to understand some of the benefits.

Constraint Gripes

The one thing that I still am not a fan of after ten weeks of using it is the constraint and positioning system. Dropping items in from the library and dragging them around just reminds me too much of the dreaded wysiwyg editor. Coming from web development, I'me used to breaking my objects down into smaller and smaller boxes for positioning. I feel like the constraints system is more hassle than its worth, and there are too many opportunities for something to display incorrectly.

API Integration

Obviously I didn't have the time or resources to create my own database of all movies and tv shows, so the next best thing was accessing a third party API. I looked around for a while to find an API that had all of the information I wanted, and I landed on themoviedb. Their API gives me access to all of the search functionality and information for movies and tv shows that I wanted, all for a total cost of $0. I originally wanted to also include where the user could stream/buy a given item, but no free APIs offered such functionality.

For implementing the API, I used AlamoFire, a third party framework. I decided to use it because Swift's suggested way for making api calls with just native code seemed a lot more complicated, and AlamoFire seemed to be industry standard.

Final Product

v3 screens

All of this design and development resulted in Watchlist, the native app for iOS! It has a very simple and intuitive structure, with three pages:

  • Home – where the user can view their current watchlist
  • Detail – where a user can view details about the selected item
  • Search – where the user can find new items to add to their list

You can search for tv shows and movies to add to their watchlist, and click on them to learn more info. Once you finish an item or decide you don't want to watch it anymore, you just have to press the delete button on the details page.

Next Steps

There are a handful of features that I am hoping to add to the app in the future:

  • Reordering items on the home screen
  • Finding data for where to watch a given item
  • More interesting segues and animations
  • Search filtering by genre or type