Ulta’s Day of Code, a  Everyone Can Code event for Chicago public school kids

Hello World.

In partnership with Apple and CPS, Ulta hosted a Day of Code at our downtown Chicago office. Students from LakeView High School and Michele Clark were walked through the development lifecycle of a feature, from requirements to development, to getting the app on the app store. We also spent some time introducing the students to the Ulta Beauty brand and high level stats about our company.

Joe Rago, Director of Digital Innovation starts the day off.

We also built an app just for this day so the students could have something tangible to correlate some of our coding topics as we provide the students with the GitHub repo for the app. We did our best to represent all common iOS app view patterns, as well as latest Swift syntax.

Another cool feature in the app is we did a little of  the school branding and let students choose their school – doing so updates the app icon and provides with school specific details.

Sasha Smith and Jenni Urban talk about CX while having the students work together on prototypes.

US Technology patents and commemorative wooden cubes

Updated 10/01/19

Oct. 1, 2019
Location Triggering for Prescriptions Ready Notifications

Feb. 12, 2019
Systems and methods for facilitating enhanced device functionalities within a retail store

Dec. 25, 2018
Seamless user retail experience based on location

Sep. 4, 2018
Using a mobile computing device camera to trigger state-based actions

Feb. 27, 2018
Drive-thru system implementing location tracking

Nov. 21, 2017
Gathering in-store employee ratings using triggered feedback solicitations

4.0.1 to 5.2: Reflecting on my first 2 years with Ulta Beauty

In our latest release we added support for iOS11 and the iPhone X, a major milestone for our development team. With that release I thought it was important to take a look back and see just how much the app [and team] has changed in my time at Ulta.

Key Initiatives:

  • Cleaned up, simplified, and modernized the codebase. Established a cadence for structuring code aimed for readability and understanding with emphasis on in-line comments explaining business logic. In most cases I tell my developers to structure their code linearly so that it mirrors what’s being displayed.
  • Identified redundancy in models/views and consolidated
  • Removed all non-essential third party code (that isn’t mandated by business partners)
  • Banned the use of cocoa pods and dependency managers.
  • Removed all unused and old assets / converted new assets to PDF (vector)
  • Created a “Core” which handles all our application/session/configuration management, as well as contains our own web services client
  • Established rules on native first UI/UX patterns with creative partners and an understanding of maintaining code over time e.g. I don’t want to be fixing custom controls with each OS release.
  • Compartmentalized storyboards based on features [performance/readability]

*It’s important to note that the above initiatives reflect my viewpoint on how a large enterprise project with multiple [sometimes fluid] team members should be treated. When creating my own apps I have similar from different goals and I can take certain liberties knowing only I will be maintaining the code.

The screenshots below are a few examples of said changes. On the left is version 4.0.1, the app I inherited when I started, and on the right, 5.2, our latest release.

iPhone X, iOS11, and P3 Colors

Some callouts:

  • Search bar changing height is iOS11 revealed some skeletons in our closet, primarily around trying to maintain opaque navigation and tab bars which led to layout issues. I also explored moving the search bar to the new searchController property on navigation controller, but the business ultimately wanted to maintain the title view approach/look. Search controller is nice though because it has support for large title, hiding when scrolling, etc.
  • Supporting iPhone X wasn’t too much effort because of my previous enforcement of using native views/controls and auto layout.
  • For P3 colors we changed obvious things at first: launch screen, app icon and primary brand colors. We also made a conscious choice to not make every brand color P3, like the typography saying “If everything is bold, nothing is bold” – and we wanted certain color to stand out. P3 conversion from a code perspective is simple, but from a conversion standpoint I still am not sure the proper method.

Converting Brand colors to P3 (view image below on P3 screen for accurate reproduction)

CCR Cont.: Checkout and Order Confirmation


As with Cart, my team and I re-wrote checkout from the ground up. We set out to create a user-friendly, ada compliant, and reliable single-page checkout.

Features of note:

  • Skelton loading
  • Single page design
  • Smart address suggestions with usps recommendations
  • Section level messaging
  • Quickly access saved gift cards

Order Confirmation

CCR: A brand new cart & checkout experience

In the summer of 2017 we had just wrapped up a huge 5.0 release, which featured our brand new homepage redesign. With the momentum from that release we set out on an even larger challenge; to rebuild our cart & checkout experience from the ground up (or in this case from the backend services to the frontend UI).

We knew this was no easy feat, like the homepage, cart & checkout is an intricate part in the customer journey, and the core of our commerce business.

Features of note:

  • Global messaging (bag updates: removed, updated, etc) and Item level in-line messaging.
  • Enriched product cells with promotional and discount information.
  • Check out quickly with Apple Pay or PayPal.
  • Free gifts section with simple options to select variants.

Homepage redesign

When it was finally time to retire the existing homepage, we made sure to set the foundation for a rich future. To prepare for this future we set out on building a modular framework that could be customized and controlled completely by our business team members.

Features of note:

  • Modular design
  • Featured in the App Store for redesign!
  • Modules can be customized to give business more flexibility
  • Business controlled via CMS
  • Modules scale to device width (variable height and width)
  • Weekly ad animated video