Editor’s note: Today’s Q&A is with Otro App’s Ana Fonda. In a space rich with options for communicators, Otro is setting itself apart from other messaging apps early. A key part of the experience is your unique character (hint: read the interview to learn how the significance of the name ties in with the characters). It’s been so fun working with this European team: they’re quick to develop and thoughtful in their approach to design and UX. We’re seeing lots of messaging apps emerge from the Layer platform and hope other dev teams are inspired by this app and the features they’re building with Layer. They’ll be ready to release soon. Definitely one to keep an eye on.


Layer: Tell us a bit about Otro. What it is and what does it do?
Otro is a messaging app with a unique character that expresses emotions. You can create your own character, chat with your friends and send photos, videos, voice, location info, and custom animated stickers. Creating an Otro self is easy. There are a variety of colors, patterns, and add-ons to choose from. There are also ephemeral message options.

Layer: There are already lots of messaging apps. Why did you create Otro?
AF: When we set out to create Otro, we felt existing apps on the messaging market didn’t focus enough on the design and user personification. We made this the foundation of Otro. We thought about what users might love and what design would appeal to them without compromising the user experience. We realized we can create wonderful feelings and connections with Otro characters, which is amazing and what keeps us motivated.

Layer: Why did you choose to make unique characters such a fundamental part of the Otro experience?
AF: The messaging app market is crazy with so many apps competing. We knew we had to offer something different. This is where our unique characters come in. We wanted them to evoke emotions like fondness, warmth, and affection. In a way the character should be a part of the user. That’s also how the name came around. Otro in spanish means “other,” and it’s exactly what we wanted to convey – the character in Otro is the other you.

Layer: Otro is a beautifully-designed app. Can you speak a bit about that?
AF: Design is definitely a big part of Otro. We wanted to create an app that would be highly useable while still allowing each user to give it their personal touch. The possibility of customization defined the workflow, the tools we used, and to some extent even the look of Otro. What we came up with is an app that’s designed with constraint where usability is important, but then there is this big part of it where it’s up to you to decide on how you want it to be and to have fun.

Layer: What’s your hope for Otro? What do you hope it enables?
AF: When you create something, you have an urge to share and show it to someone. This is what we hope to achieve. If Otro helps people connect more, and motivates them to communicate, that would be incredible.

Layer: Can you talk about the specific features you’ve built with Layer?
AF: We use Layer for sending and receiving messages, stickers, photos, videos and voice messages. Every single one of those features is important. Layer means messages can be sent in Otro instantly, and the conversation — regardless of the content being sent — flows.

Layer: How did building on Layer impact your development process?
AF: Using Layer helped us to develop faster and focus more on the usability and design. We have a small team, and limited resources combined with fast development can be scary. Having Layer gives us confidence the app will work great. Sending and receiving messages needs to be secure, and we love that Layer takes care of that. Layer is the best platform for sharing messages, stickers, photos, videos, location info, etc. It’s fast, reliable and scalable. We’re really thankful for the collaboration and can’t wait to see what Layer enables in the future.

Layer: Where do you see the messaging space headed?
AF: People need more ways to convey what they want to say and in this fast paced world they need options. There’s also room for technology improvements, faster sending, better availability, etc. It’s interesting to see how some messaging apps are becoming all-in-one by adding features like online banking, mobile payments and social networking.The trend seems to be the augmentation of messenger apps. As for us, Otro has already shown it can produce a spark in people’s attention span, but evolving this spark into a continental fire is something we have to focus on. Right now, making that spark as bright and shiny as possible is our mantra.