Tag Archives: user interface

Five tips to make your app idea a reality

apps-image

If you didn’t know, I’m the go-to guy when it comes to web, mobile web, social media and apps, in my network.

Cats who know me, know that I’m all tech’d out, so my advice is solicited fairly frequently.

Last night was no exception.

You see, I got a call from a friend who was interested in building an app.

They actually sent me a text and then followed it up with a call – as if the distinction makes a different.

What do you care?

Just recount the story already fool!

Anywho, my friend is a member of the PTA where our kids attend school, and had (what she thought) was a great idea for an app that could be used as a fundraiser.

I listened patiently, as she rattled off her pie-in-the-sky idea.

I say ‘pie-in-the-sky’ because most ideas are just that: ideas.

Very few folks take the necessary steps to turn an idea into reality.

And since I didn’t want my friend wasting her time (and mine) pursuing a pipe dream, I got to the nitties.

Do you have your idea written down?

What are the basic features and functions of your app?

Will it be a native app, pull in mobile web pages or is it a hybrid?

Do you have a mock-up, wireframes or drawing which models your app?

How is the data being managed?

What’s your back end?

iOS, Android or both?

Is this something you’re planning on putting into the App Store, or will it be distributed privately?

Is it going to be a free or premium app?

What’s your timeline?

And the coup de grace…

Do you have a budget?

Now a lesser man (or woman) would have been flummoxed by my barrage of questions.

But old girl hung in like a trooper.

Although she didn’t have a written plan, wireframes or a mock (it came to her as she was driving through Colonial Williamsburg with her kids) she did have many of the answers I needed to vet her idea.

And as I walked her through the various things she need to do to get her app off the ground, it dawned on me that most people don’t know what it really takes to create an app.

So rather than allow you folks to live in ignorance, I’ve decided to outline the top five things you need to do to build an app.

1. Write your idea down.

I don’t know why people think that writing their ideas down isn’t important.

There’s nothing worse than listening to someone blabber about their unformed idea for an app. If you’re serious about building an app, and you want serious advice about it’s feasibility, then take the time to outline exactly what it is you want to build.

While it’s good to be able to articulate your idea orally, this isn’t Shark Tank. Folks are going to want to be able to work from a document and not from your oral pitch.

More importantly, by writing it down, you can see whether you’ve covered all your bases. By listing out what the app does, how it works, etc., you can determine whether your idea is fully formed (or not) and what you’ve still got to work on to make it complete.

2. Sketch it out.

I can’t stress the importance of visualization when it comes to building your app. Sure, you’re no Picasso. But you’re also not going to be showing your sketches at the MOMA, so get over yourself.

Sketching out our app is a simple way for you to render your app in a way that lets you map out landing pages, button placement, navigation elements, even ad space.

When you sketch out your idea, you form an appreciation for the spacial considerations you’ve got to take into account when you’re developing anything for mobile. It will help you focus on the absolutely essential elements of your app, which need the real estate, versus the wants, which will invariably  make your app look messy or cluttered.

3. Understand your data.

When you’re developing an app, you’ve got to figure out what information you need from your users or what information you’re planning on sharing with your users.

Where is it going to be stored? How is it going to be accessed? Do I need an API? What about web services? What information exists natively (versus information sitting on the web)?

Regardless of the answer to these question, having a complete (or at least well-formed) understanding of what’s happening with your data is crucial to getting it built.

4. Define the user experience.

What your app is going to do, how it’s going to function and the set of features available, are all parts of defining the user experience.

Focusing on features, flow and function, will help you understand your app and move it from concept to reality.

5. Set a budget.

Regardless of how outlandish or reasonable your app idea is, it’s going to require some moolah to get it developed. If you’re a developer and know how to code for iOS and Android devices – well bully for you. Everyone else, you’re going to have to pay someone to develop your app for you. And it’s going to cost you something.

Now you can go the offshore route and build your app on the cheap. This invariably translates into many sleepless nights working with your foreign (=basic mastery of the English language) development team, potential delays and cost overruns. But when you’re paying in rubles or rupees can you really complain? No.

Or you can go the domestic route and pay market rates. This means lighter pockets, but the ability to work directly with your development team and give/get feedback in real time.  Whichever way you go, you’ve got to plan on setting money aside (or raising money) to get your app built. Starting the process off with money in the bank or a clear idea of what you’re prepared to spend, helps move things from idea to reality.

So the next time you think you’ve got an idea for the next killer app, don’t just talk about it, be about it!

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Facebook changes (again). But this time it’s not horrible.

facebook_newsfeed_courtesy of Techcrunch

Here we go again.

Facebook is (once again) changing it’s homescreen.

Over the past few days, you might have heard chatter on the interweb about Facebook’s new UI (user interface).

One day soon, the Facebook you know will be no more.

Soon billions of Facebook users will be forced to (once again) re-learn how to use it.

To be fair, Facebook let us use decipher Timeline for a hot minute now.

So I guess we shouldn’t complain.

Or be surprised that (once again) the look, feel and navigation of the Facebook homepage is entirely different from what it was yesterday.

Or the day before that.

Or the day before that.

If you haven’t seen if yet, here’s a snapshot with a hyperlink to the Facebook newsfeed page, where you can see it in living color (before the switch).

The new and improved Facebook?

The new and improved Facebook?

To their credit…

Am I actually giving someone credit?

Facebook isn’t just ramming this change down it’s users’ butts throats desktops.

You’ve actually got to sign up to be added to their waiting list.

Perhaps they’ve learned that angry hoards of users with pitchforks and flaming torches isn’t a good thing.

Whatever the case, there is something more fundamental to Facebook’s latest planned switcharoo.

Money.

Sure, they’re pitching it as a way to see your friends’ stories presented in a cleaner more streamlined fashion.

Whatev!

It’s more about giving advertisers more real estate to hawk their wares.

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I’m sure you’ve already noticed the sponsored stories from Classmates or Knitting Fever (or whomever) pop up in your news feed.

classmates

Knitting Fever

You know you didn’t like Romney for President, so WTF is this crap doing in your feed?

Romney for President

Facebook’s big fat greedy corporate money grubbing, that’s what.

This redesign is going to allow Facebook to leverage it’s billion plus membership all the way to the bank.

Zuckerberg’s momma didn’t raise no fool.

Again, to their credit…

There I go again! I must be getting soft in my old age.

Facebook put in some work on this redesign.

With the nice dock, cleverly tucked away on the side, the desktop version seems to have adopted the clean look and feel of the app.

I’ve been using the new Facebook app for a minute.

And it’s a pleasure.

It’s UI is clean and unobtrusive.

Unlike the desktop site.

But this redesign seems to have brought the efficiency of the app to the desktop.

I wonder if they’ve got the whole swiping thing down too?

Ya know what I’m talking about right?

If you swipe the screen of the Facebook app on the iPhone, left or right, you reveal the menu or your friends?

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Pardon the digression.

Some surmise that Facebook will offer users the choice between switching to the new homepage design or sticking with Timeline.

But I doubt it.

Anywho, if you didn’t know this change was coming, now you know.

So don’t be actin’ all indignant when you log in one day, and the Facebook you once knew is no more.

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Enough with the Acronyms! Plain English please.

Enough with the jargon. Plain English please!

The other day while giving a presentation, the client asked, “what does RAID mean?

We had been talking about servers, storage and protocols for preserving and backing up data – not roach spray.

And RAID had been introduced because it would continue to function even if one of the drives were damaged or inoperable.

Eventually, we explained that RAID was an acronym, which stood for “redundant array of independent disks.”

It’s a form of storage technology that combines several drives into a single unit, making it robust and reliable (and relatively inexpensive as servers go).

Reflecting on that meeting, I was struck by the frequency with which we tech types use acronyms as if they were common parlance.

The reality is that there is so much alphabet soup out there, that it’s difficult for techies to keep up, much less lay folk.

So today’s class will focus on defining some of these acronyms, and building your technical lexicon.

I’m sure you’re familiar with SMS (short messaging service), MMS (multimedia messaging service), DRM (digital rights management), CPM (cost per thousand impressions), yada yada.

Here are four terms you may not know, but should.

LBSlocation based services.

Tech speak: LBS is an information or entertainment service, accessible with mobile devices through a mobile network which uses information on the geographical position of the device. We are the Borg. You will be assimilated.

The Borg can use LBS to find you.

Plain English: LBS is a system which lets you send and receive information from your mobile phone, based on where you happen to be at the moment. Common uses of LBS include finding the nearest ATM machine (BoA), tracking a package (Fedex) or locating a specific destination (Google Maps).

NFCnear field communication.

Tech speak: NFC is a set of standards for smartphones and similar devices to establish radio communication with each other by touching them together or bringing them into close proximity.

Plain English: NFC is technology that makes life easier and more convenient for people by allow them to make transactions, exchange digital content, and connect to electronic devices with a touch. Common uses of NFC include opening a car with your phone (ZipCar) or exchanging contact information (Bump).

APIapplication programming interface.

Tech speak: API is a source code-based specification intended to be used as an interface by software components to communicate with each other.

Plain English: An API is a way of putting data into and getting data out of a system, without having to manually type that data in yourself. APIs are simple tools developers create to help other developers make the most effective and efficient use of their code. Many mobile apps out today employ APIs which let you register or log in using your Facebook or Twitter credentials.

GUIgraphical user interface.

Tech speak: GUI is a type of user interface that allows users to interact with electronic devices with images rather than text commands.

Plain English: A GUI makes it easier for people to learn, use and implement, through the use of icons, graphics, and menus. Think Apple.

So the next time you hear a techie waxing eloquently in technical jargon, you no longer have to nod your head knowingly (while totally ignorant to what’s actually being said).

You can jump in that convo and throw a few around your damn self!

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