Tag Archives: apps

Mobile is dead. Long live mobile. 5 tips for brands in an untethered world

mobile is dead

I recently heard a director of digital and e-commerce of a retail brand say, “we don’t really care about mobile” and nearly shat myself.

I’d recently had Mexican, and it wasn’t agreeing with me.

I’m kidding…their statement did almost cause an involuntary bowel movement.

Luckily I have a strong sphincter (read: I do kegels) and the crisis was avoided.

I was, however, momentarily stunned by the statement of someone I assumed knew that mobile commerce was one of the largest contributors to retail revenues in 2015 – to the tune of a projected $104 billion according to Internet Retailer.

With mobile accounting for more than 30% of all US e-commerce traffic, I chalked the executive’s statement to early morning alcohol consumption, clandestine drug use or undiagnosed Turrets.

But as I thought on it further, I realized that perhaps the functional addict of an exec was actually on to something.

A decade ago websites were the holy grail for e-commerce.

Five years ago SMS was an absolutely essential component of brands’ marketing strategies.

A few years ago having a mobile site or app was critical to a brand’s success.

And now brands are weighing the importance of having a wearable strategy.

All this to drive traffic, increase engagement and conversions on websites, mobile sites, and apps.

With the advent of IoT, wearables, ‘smart’ devices, and thin clients are going to enable incomprehensible levels of engagement – making the actual platform used to connect virtually irrelevant.

This shift is changing the way we interact with the world around us and the brands that want to reach us.

So in honor of the wayward exec I maligned, here is my top 5 list for preparing for an IoT world.

1. Accept that people are always on.

We are always reaching for our devices. Sleep seems to be the only time we’re not literally on our devices. But with devices like the Apple Watch doubling as a nightstand clock/alarm clock, we’re closer than ever to achieving actual ‘always-on’ status. At a glance, we can get weather updates, stock tips, heath status, schedule and virtually any random piece of information one desires. No longer are we required to ‘boot up’ a computer or suffer some cumbersome process in order to get information. Today, we can just ask Siri, Cortana or any of a dizzing number of virtual assistant (even on our damn tvs!) and activate/initiate some desired action. With IoT, there’s no going back.

2. Be diffuse but don’t dilute.

water down

Once upon a time, mobile sites we trimmed down versions of full desktop sites. The thought process was that with the smaller real estate, users wouldn’t be able to process the same amount of information, and that information overload was the equivalent of a poor user experience. So many brands opted for ‘brochure’ mobile sites, stripped of the functionality available of desktop sites save a few basic options. Today we know better. With smart phones housing increasingly powerful processors, greater real estate for presenting content from larger screens, and loads of data about mobile user behavior, having a mobile site that functions like a full desktop site or offers the same utility, and is adapted to mobile user behavior ensures that you’re enabling your users rather than hampering them. In the age of IoT, brands will become adept at applying the lessons learned in mobile to wearables to avoid watering down utility.

3. Meet your audience where they are.

meet people where they are

I’m sure you’ve heard of brands adopting a multi-channel or omni-channel strategy as it relates to targeting their users. Basically, these terms refer to the evolving mindset that you can no longer build it and expect them to come. Today, you’ve got to meet them where they are, which increasingly requires that you first understand where they are, and second how to engage them in those spaces. You cannot simply say, “I’m going to make my website available on mobile and tablet devices and wearables” (unless you want to fail miserably). Yes, you should have an approach or strategy for intelligently being present in the spaces your users are, but don’t blunt the efficacy of your presence with a one-size-fits-all mindset.

4. Build bridges back to you.

hyperlink

I once received an email offer in my inbox with no hyperlink to a landing page or the website for the offer itself. There was no specific call to action or clear indication of how to take advantage of the promotion. Outside of communicating that there was a sale, the brand didn’t make it particularly easy to take advantage of it. Major miss. If you’re a brand with a compelling offer, make sure that you make it super simple for recipients of that offer to take advantage of it. For example, if you’re offering 20% off at checkout and that ad is my entry point, make sure there’s a cookie that auto fills the promo code box at checkout and the user doesn’t have to backtrack to find the code.

5. Think like a user.

personas

I recently read an article about a shopping app, in which the app’s creator was the first user/shopper. The article went on to explain how the app’s creator continued to use the app to shop, even though he had thousands of shoppers and a staff of thousands. Why? Because knowing the user experience from a first person perspective was critical to ensuring that the app contained to meet the needs of shoppers. As a brand, it’s one thing to have an idea and quite another to see how you idea manifests in the real world. Make sure you’re putting down your marker, stepping away from the white board, and walking in the shoes of your users to know exactly what their experience is in the real world. As a corollary to this point, make sure you build personas which speak to the different types of people who will engage your brand, so you’re thinking through not one user journey, but the many possible user journeys of the various users.

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Back to School – the digital version. Another top five list.

back-to-school-digital

Back to school can be a daunting time for busy parents trying to eke out those last days of summer.

What can be especially trying is the planning and shopping for back to school items.

What to get, where to get them, and at what price are issues that cause many a sleepless night.

It’s no wonder that retailers start advertising early in an effort to drive traffic towards their physical and digital stores.

But as shoppers become more discerning about products and price conscious, retailer have to do more to appeal to shoppers.

So here are my top five tips for winning over your online shopper.

1. Make it mobile. I say this so much, I sound like a broken record – or Max Headroom. But I’ll say it again. Make it mobile. There is nothing more frustrating that trying to navigate a full desktop site from a mobile device. Sure, I can pinch and squeeze, but why do I have to? There are plenty of other sites out there that are catering to the mobile shopper. And if you’re trying to win dollars from other retailers, do yourself a favor and make your user’s shopping experience as simple as possible. And it starts with making your site mobile.

2. Offer mobile only promotions. Everybody likes a bargain. More importantly, folks, especially moms, don’t want to feel like they’ve missed an opportunity. When you have a mobile only promotion. That is either offered only if a user sees it when they’re browsing your site from their mobile device, or which can only be redeemed while shopping on your mobile site, you’re giving shoppers a reason to take advantage of that offer – because they don’t want to miss it. Mobile only promotions is a great way to drive traffic to your mobile site and increase mobile conversions.

3. Apps. Apps. Apps. Dialing up a mobile app on your device is far easier than trying to access a mobile site from your browser. And although it may not seem like much, for a busy back-to-school shopper, time is often of the essence. Making sure that you’ve got a mobile app that shoppers can easily access from their mobile phones or tablets, means that they don’t have to worry about accessing the internet or being on a strong wifi signal to browse and shop. The mobile app is also great for sending push notifications alerting your users about new offers and promotions.

4. Wish lists are a must. As kids get older, shopping with parents just isn’t…how do I say this delicately…cool. After a certain age, your kids would much rather hang out in the mall with their friends, then be seen in public with you. Life’s cruel like that. They don’t want you picking things out for them (your tastes as so blase). And they certainly don’t want to try things on with you lurking outside of the dressing room like Quasimodo. But when it comes to back to school shopping, that can be a good thing. Especially if the stores you patronize offer wish lists. With a wish list, your petulant teen (or pre-teen) can go online, find the things that they like, and shoot you a link to that wish list for you to purchase from the convenience of your computer or mobile device. No muss. No fuss.

5. Shop with your phone. If you just enjoy the act of shopping and would much rather see, feel and touch items before you buy them, then shopping with your mobile device as your companion. Retailers have come to expect that shopper will be comparison shopping, looking up product details and reviews, taking pictures and generally vetting them with mobile phones on the ready. In fact, many retailers are using beacons to identify which shoppers are really paying attention to their phones and using this as an opportunity to communicate special offers, savings or promotions while the shopper is on or near the store. So make sure that you’ve got a full charge before you head out, you could be in for extra savings.

6. Coupons! I know I said this was a “Top 5 List” but I realized that there was one more tip for busy shoppers. There is a whole industry around helping shoppers ‘clip’ digital coupons that can be used either online or at checkout in-store. RetailMeNot, for example allows you to search for a retailer and offers up a results page replete with coupons that could potentially save you dough when you’re shopping. So if you follow Tip No. 5 and have your phone on you when you shop (at home or in store), mobile (and online) coupons could really impact your bottom line.

Take that competition!

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Bitmoji makes texting fun. And slightly annoying.

bitmoji

Do you remember those cartoons that starting appearing in folks’ feeds a while ago?

They featured custom avatars that looked eerily like your friends?

Well that was Bitstrips.

Bitstrips is a web and mobile application that lets users create cartoons of themselves and their friends, which can be shared over social media

They were created by a Canadian company, which also created Bitmoji, which brings your customized avatar to the world of emojis.

Technically, Bitmoji is a keyboard with customized emoji, and it’s available for both iOS and Android devices.

When you download the app, it walks you through the process of building a custom avatar, letting you select everything from hair style, skin color and eyebrow shape, to facial hair and clothing.

avatar Stephen

Once you’ve created your avatar, it builds your emoji library, setting you up for some pure hilarity.

If you’re inside the app, you can select an emoji and share it with your friends or social network with a simple click.

Bitmoji’s keyboard lets you spice up texts to your friends by placing their emojis right into your messages.

Instead of a simple lol, you can use your Bitmoji lol emoji complete with your cross-eyed avatar.

I don't know why they had to make my eyes all googley.

I don’t know why they had to make my eyes all googley.

Find something particularly funny and want to ROFL? Bitmoji’s got an emoji of your avatar literally rolling on the floor laughing.

ROFL

There’s a Bitmoji emoji for virtually every common texting emotion you want to express – and then some.

But this is where things get a little inconvenient.

Ordinarily, when you’re texting, you just enter text, select the emoji keyboard, pick your emoji, switch back to the text keyboard and keep typing.

Unfortunately, unlike other keyboard-based emoji, where you can simply select the emoji and it appears in-line, Bitmoji’s emoji’s are “copied and pasted.”

Yes. You read that right: copied and pasted.

Although Bitmoji has it’s own qwerty keyboard, the buttons are small, and it’s not particularly user-friendly.

If that wasn’t bad enough, it’s a little difficult to find the emoji you want to use.

There are seven different selections arranged in some non-intuitive and seemingly random order.

Making matters worse, there are a bunch of what I’d call “useless” emoji.

G’Day Mate, for example, is one. The emoji is your avatar in a kangaroo’s pouch.

Why am I in a kangaroo's pouch? Anyone?

Why am I in a kangaroo’s pouch? Anyone?

Now, if I were in the Australian outback, or had recently watched Crocodile Dundee, then maybe.

And that’s not the only one.

There’s another called “Hey, hey, hey,” and a third which can only be described as disturbing.

This is something straight out of a cartoon nightmare.

This is something straight out of a cartoon nightmare.

It features your emoji in greyscale, arms akimbo, in what appears to be a bikini.

Both male and female emojis appear in this fashion – why? I have no idea.

Why do I have boobs?

Why do I have boobs?

IMG_2584

In fact, there are a number of polymorphic emoji, bearing female bits, which is a problem if you didn’t intend to create a transgender avatar of yourself.

Problems aside, Bitmoji’s app is great if you spend a lot of time texting and want to spice up your virtual communications a tad.

It is a massive time waster, though, so exercise discretion.

 

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I just wanted a coffee but the Dunkin’ app stole my money. Update – Problem solved!

Fix your damn app - and site!

Fix your damn app – and site!

If you know me, you know that I’m mobile obsessed.

Yes. Obsessed.

For the past nine or ten years, I’ve been immersed in mobile.

Mobile marketing, mobile websites, mobile apps, mobile devices.

Mobile. Mobile. Mobile.

As a self-professed advocate, I’m constantly extolling the virtues of mobile.

Especially apps.

Apps, to me, are the greatest thing since sliced bread.

They’ve got all the utility of a mobile site, without the need (for the most part) for an internet connection.

Utility apps are my favorite.

If I can get something done faster, in fewer steps, or using my phone in lieu of pulling out my wallet, or keys or ID, then it’s worth it.

So when Dunkin’ Donuts came out with their Dunkin’ app, I was ecstatic.

I’m always going to Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks.

I blame the wife – a coffee whore (and I mean that in the kindest possible way) and the kids.

I’m constantly making runs for egg and cheese croissants, donuts and coffee.

I was parting with my cash regularly with no other perk than a free donut if I filled out their survey online – very analog.

Dunkin’ Donuts perks were a big donut hole.

Unlike Starbucks, whose loyalty program gave me free coffee, iTunes music and app downloads, discounts, coupons, the works.

Starbucks treated me like they cared.

Dunkin’ not so much.

But then one day I discovered the Dunkin’ app, and immediately set out to add it to my collection.

Having previously used the Starbucks app, I figured the Dunkin’ app would be along the same lines.

Download the app. Charge it up. Present it at the point of sale. Earn rewards. Get perks.

Simple, right?

Wrong!

For one, there are like three or four different apps in the app store (albeit by different developers – but you get my drift).

So many choices!

So many choices!

Once you figure out which one you’re supposed to be using, it required an advanced degree in game theory to figure out exactly how to use it.

All I wanted to do was put some money on the damn thing!

Is that so hard?!!

Eventually, I was able to figure it all out, put money on my account and complete a transaction using their app.

The sense of accomplishment was short lived, though.

A few days after I got the app working, I upgraded my 64GB iPhone 6 Plus to the 128 GB version, and had to restore by new device from my iTunes backup, which essentially wiped all my stored passwords and forced me to log in to each one anew.

By itself, that wasn’t so bad, since all my passwords are stored in 1Password and I simply had to cut and paste to get back up and running.

That is, except for the Dunkin’ app.

For some reason, it wouldn’t take my password.

So I did what anyone faced with a similar scenario would do, I clicked “Forgot Password” fully expecting to walk through the fairly routine process of recovering or resetting my password.

But that would have been too much like right.

Instead of getting a confirmation screen telling me that my password (or instructions for resetting my password) had been sent to my email, I got a “We are currently experiencing technical difficulty and are unable to process your request” message.

Dunkin' app technical difficulties

Wait. What?

Confused by this seemingly ill-timed error message, I tried again – and got the same message.

Technical difficulties processing a “forgot password” request?

A horrible user experience at a critical moment.

Oh, did I mention that I was standing at the register of Dunkin’ Donuts, with several frustrated customers behind me watching me fumble with the app?

My frustration was all the more palpable because (prior to swapping devices) I had loaded my account with $25, which I could not use.

Flustered, I pulled out my bank card and swiped – angrily – snatched my order from the counter (which I no longer wanted) and stomped away in a huff.

For the next few days, I repeatedly tried to log in – unsuccessfully, before relenting and visiting the Dunkin’ Donuts website.

And you know what happened when I got there?

The same damn thing that happened on the app!

We are currently experiencing technical difficulty and are unable to process your request.

Really? So you're planning on fixing this when?

Really? So you’re planning on fixing this when?

Sonofabitch!

On your site? Technical difficulties on your site?

Is sending an email with password recovery instructions a technically challenging activity?

This borders on lunacy.

So what am I left with?

What am I to make of this?

Well that’s easy.

Dunkin’ Donuts is stealing my money by preventing me from accessing my account and make purchases using the funds I’ve uploaded to the Dunkin’ app.

Their “technical difficulties” are subterfuge allowing them to hold my monies hostage and force me to use my bank card depriving me of precious points, perks or rewards.

Dunkin’ Donuts, get your act together.

Fix your technical difficulties.

Or give me back my money.

The Starbucks app still works and I need to reload.

Note: Prior to penning this post, I sent Dunkin’ Donuts an email on their site, an email from the app, and tweet asking for assistance. As of this posting they have been radio silent.

Update 2/12/15: Dunkin’ Donuts’ customer service send me a response giving me the steps to recover my password, which I had already done – and was still broken.

Update 2/27/15: Problem solved! After waiting on hold for an hour to speak to a customer service representative, we determined that I had registered with “.con” at the end of my email address, instead of “.com.” I told the rep who helped me that the more appropriate error message to keying in an incorrect email address should have been something like “The email address you have provided is not in our records. Please check the address and try again.” and not “Sorry, we are currently experiencing technical difficulty and are unable to process your request.” With the error message DD provided, one would never realize that they may have made an error keying in their email address, as I did.

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Sales tips from a guy who hates to sell. You gotta believe.

Believe-logo

I used to see a career coach who told me that in order to get to where I wanted to be, I had to start from the bottom.

While I waited for folks to get on board and agree that I was the greatest thing since sliced bread – and pay me handsomely for my opinions and presence – I had to get a job.

And since I was transitioning from law to tech, I should use my gift of gab in an area that he thought would be a natural fit: sales.

The thing about his advice, while 100% accurate – I can sell – was the fact that I hate selling.

Well hate may be a bit strong.

I dislike it greatly.

And it’s not the act of selling that I dislike. I am a hunter.

It’s the things I have to sell that I generally dislike.

It wasn’t always this way.

When I was in high school I worked at Macy’s in the ladies shoe department as a shoe salesman.

Selling was a cinch.

To be clear, shoes sell themselves to women.

All I did was shuttle different sizes back and forth from the stock room until my client decided which pair (or pairs as was often the case) she wanted.

I’d ring her up, bag her goodies and she was off to shop some more, or to her car with the balance of her shopping spree.

Sure, I was masterful at upselling.

Transitioning a patron from a low priced item, say some 9 West black slingback pumps, to a higher prices one, like an elegant pair of Via Spiga heels that just arrived, was my forte.

But for the most part, I didn’t have to hard sell (or upsell) anyone.

Fast forward to 2008, the heyday of mobile marketing and SMS, when I worked for one of the three largest mobile aggregators selling mobile marketing to brands eager to get into texting.

The services sold themselves, and I simply guided green content creators through the short code acquisition mobile marketing campaign activation wireless carrier gauntlet.

In the process of demonstrating my expertise, I also upsold premium services and our platform, which allowed brands to publish their own compliant mobile ready campaigns.

As a captive audience, who had already taken the plunge to embrace the brave new world of mobile, selling (and upselling) was like shooting fish in a barrel.

But here is where my love affair with selling abruptly turned for the worse.

You see, my third sales or “business development” role was with an app development firm.

It was here that I understood that sales was not for me.

While I fully believed in the future of mobile, and was prepared to assail anyone who would listen with the wonders of developing mobile applications with us, my heart wasn’t in it.

I didn’t believe what I was selling.

Or rather, the thing that I was selling didn’t sell itself.

As a salesman, you can sell anything.

If you’ve got a silver tongue (as I did) a freezing man will buy ice from you.

And if you’ve got something that sells itself (or you believe that you do), the world is your oyster.

You can flit in and out of offices, meetings, conferences and presentations with a self assuredness that allows you to throw caution to the wind.

I’ve got it, you want it. Now, what will you pay me for it?

Selling was simple.

As was prospecting.

Lead generation was never an issue as we were on the leading edge of new technology.

Apps were everything.

Simply say the word “apps” and folks were rapt with attention.

And I sold lots of apps.

But then the company didn’t deliver.

Project after project became trapped in a bottleneck.

Features that were sold as standard became “premium” or required “custom development,” and I started to see the wizard’s cape showing behind the screen.

And that was it. I learned that I wasn’t built to sell just anything.

Actually, what I really learned was that I excelled at selling what I believed in.

Before the veil was pulled back, I would have sold anything to anyone.

After I saw the wizard, I became increasingly selective about what I’d co-sign, pitch or promote.

This isn’t really a “proper” tips post, but to stay true to it’s title, here are a few tips for being better at sales.

  1. If you need a script, don’t sell it. If you need a guide to sell, it’s not for you.
  2. If you wouldn’t buy it, don’t sell it. It’s hard pushing something you wouldn’t take/use yourself.
  3. If you agree with buyers’ objections, don’t sell it. When you find yourself agreeing with all the objections a potential buyer has for not buying in, you shouldn’t be selling it in the first place.

In the final analysis that’s the key: sell only what you believe in.

Because then selling comes naturally.

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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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Size matters. Three tips for building a better app.

app under constructionAnyone who knows me, knows I’m in the app space.

I’ve been developing apps, managing the development of apps and critiquing apps for years.

As such, I’ve seen my fair share, both on the development side and as a consumer.

There have been absolute standouts – apps that I swear by, for their sheer utility and execution.

And there have been the sheer fails – apps that deserve to be put out to pasture and their developers shot (acts of mercy, let me assure you).

And everything in between.

What separates a brilliant app from a crap app?

I thought you’d never ask.

There are a number of things that makes one app a star and another a dud.

Anything from great (or poor) UI, to UX, to competitors apps (doing it better or worse).

But today you’re going to learn the three tips for building a better app.

Drumroll please…..

1. Size matters.

size-matters

If you’re going to build an app, remember that you’ve got extremely limited real estate to work with.

As my handy dandy graphic illustrates, with a mobile phone, you’ve only got so much space to work with.

You’re only going to able to place so many buttons before it’s a crammed, jumbled mess.

Not only does it look bad (to have a bunch of buttons) it also reduces the utility and functionality of your app.

And there is nothing, NOTHING, more frustrating than being unable to access a function from your mobile device because the button or icon is too small.

Many an iPhone screen has been shattered from sheer frustration that it’s owner felt being incapable of accessing an item on an app.

With space at a premium, the smaller the screen size, being judicious about how much you place on the screen is essential.

The more stuff you put, the smaller each item becomes, the more difficult it will be to access those items.

People complain of “fat fingers” as the reason for mistyping or shooting out emails before they’re actually done.

But the truth of the matter is that buttons are often so close together that you’ve got to use surgical precision to not make mistakes.

It’s not just button size that’s an issue, text size is just as important.

Tiny text is stupid.

Who wants to use a monocle just to read their screen?

Tip: Make your text big enough to see and  buttons big enough to press.

2. Not there. Put it here.

wireframe-ui-ios

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating.

There is limited space on a mobile device.

As such, the placement of buttons and actionable portions of the screen, is as important, if not more than, the size of the button.

I hate apps that place buttons along the screen edge.

Think about how many times you’ve found yourself pressing an “inoperative” button over and over again – seemingly right on the icon.

But never able to actuate.

If you’ve got a protective case like the Otterbox, which has a wide beveled edge along the screen, trying to access any button or navigation element is virtually impossible.

If you’re not conscious about the placement of your buttons and navigation elements, you’ll definitely frustrate your users.

Tip: Space your buttons and navigation elements far enough apart to avoid “fat finger” syndrome.

3. Show me what you’ve got.

menu-alt-512

I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage, “less is more.”

I’m not sure if that’s an actual ‘adage’ versus a mere ‘saying’, but you catch my drift.

The point is, when it comes to apps, keeping your interface clean, and focused on your primary functions and navigation, is best practice.

What to do with all those secondary functions?

Stick ’em in a menu, that’s what!

Users have come to expect that there’s more to your app than meets the eye.

Updating your profile, accessing settings, providing feedback: these are all elements that, while important, don’t need to be front and center.

More importantly, things that are essential shouldn’t compete with the primary functions of your app.

Tuck them away in a discrete, easy to locate and intuitive location – a la the menu.

 Tip: Place non-essential items in a well designated menu.

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When you’re amazing it shows. Ode to a professional gangsta.

You're packin' a mean piece o' steel, Mister.

You’re packin’ a mean piece o’ steel, Mister.

I know when you read the title of this post, you thought, “Oh here he goes again!”

And on a normal day you’d be right.

I would absolutely be talking about me.

Heaping mounds upon mounds of praise on myself, crowing about how great I am at everything I do, and how the world hangs on my every word.

But today, not so much.

You see, today I’m going to heap praise on someone whom I consider a professional gangsta.

Who, I might add, bullied me into even writing this post.

Listen to me when I talk, y’all.

G.A.N.G.S.T.A.

Her name is Dianne Ramlochan.

And she’s not to be trifled with.

In the almost two years that I’ve known her, she has impressed me as one singularly bent on getting her way.

It’s her way or the highway.

Perhaps it’s the only child thing.

Who knows.

But whatever Dianne wants, Dianne gets.

Case in point, I don’t usually “friend” co-workers and professional colleagues on Facebook.

I like to keep my virtual personal world separated from my real professional one. Ya’ dig?

We can be LinkedIn, and you may get a trickle of the virtual real me from the incomprehensibly-difficult-to-disconnect Facebook/LinkedIn nexus.

Can someone pleeeeaaassssseee tell me how to decouple this bullshit?

But by and large, you’re not peepin’ my personal shit online unless you’re digging.

Somehow, though, Ms. Ramlochan managed to Jedi mind trick me into waiving that work-professional life separation.

Don’t you know I friended this heifer?

And she’s following me on Twitter.

She famously quips about how if ever she can’t reach me at my desk via landline, email, mobile phone or text, she’ll “tweet” me.

Tweet me?

How are you going to be tweeting your project manager?

Have you ever heard of anything so ludicrous?

But that’s this chick.

To her credit, when I met her, she had just been hired to the team of one of the illest executive dudes I’ve come across to date.

No nonsense Anthony McLoughlin.

This dude was like Miles Finch from Elf – except a lil’ taller.

Point was, you didn’t eff with Anthony.

If you did, it was your ass.

And D worked for this dude.

Trial by fire is all I can say.

But then Anthony left for the West Coast, and Ms. Ramlochan inherited his fiefdom of projects, vendors and responsibilities.

And turned us all into her vassals.

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What it felt like to work for Dianne.

Overnight, we went from watching Dianne do all Anthony’s dirty work, to having to do Dianne’s dirty work.

I still get cold chills thinking about the day Dianne took over…

Homegirl is relentless.

RELENTLESS.

She had one word you never wanted to see come across your email.

“Unacceptable.”

That’s all she’d say.

Unacceptable this.

Unacceptable that.

Unacceptable the other.

Unacceptable, and cats would gets to steppin’!

Chills.

But we worked it out.

And in the process, she pushed through a few apps, next gen mobile web, iPad kiosk update, a couple of mobile web and app-specific pilots, and a tablet web project.

She had help, of course (=your’s truly), but it all went down under her watchful eye.

And now, she’s leaving the nest – where she truly learned to abuse fly – to new shores.

Those of Saks Fifth Avenue – heaven protect you (said in a whisper).

To leave a wake of psychologically traumatized victims forge new trails.

Anywho, on the last day of our professional lives together, I bid her adieu in the best way I know how.

Memorialized in my blog.

There, D. I’ve made you famous.

PS Congratulations on your new job!

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Watching TV on the toilet. Simulcasting to apps is the future (of broadcasting)

You must master the four screens.

You must master the four screens.

This weekend, I was watching The Alien, 48 year old Bernard Hopkins defend his title against Karo Murat, the 30 year old challenger from Germany.

The fight was fairly spirited and I was thoroughly engaged.

But as my salsa and cheese dip decided they wanted out, I had a difficult choice to make.

Do I suffer through the next six rounds and try to suppress my bowels or make a b-line for the commode and miss the fight?

My trips to the latrine are rarely brief.

My intestines got the better of me, and as round six ended, I reluctantly broke for the bathroom.

Back in the day, this story would have ended with me Googling the results or checking The Bleacher Report or ESPN.

But something told me to check out the App Store to see if there was an app that would let me watch the fight live from the toilet.

The fight was on Showtime, so I decided I’d start there.

What was there to lose?

As I plopped down upon my throne to handle the affairs of state, I whipped out my iPhone and quickly located the Showtime Anytime app.

showtime anytime

I downloaded and launched the app, and true to form, there was a Live TV tab in the footer.

When it pulled up the program choices, there was a ‘Watch Now’ button next to the Hopkins/Murat listing of the fight.

Before I knew it, I had taken in six rounds of boxing on the crapper, and I realized that broadcasting had come a long way.

The future of broadcasting was in my hands.

No. Not the toilet paper. I had already flushed that.

Although toilet paper is a wonderful invention.

I’m talking about apps which allow you to consume live media.

I think HBO was the first content provider to drop an app which let their subscribers access content from their mobile devices.

Others quickly followed suit and there were similar offerings from the likes of ESPN, A&E and Cartoon Network.

Soon regular broadcast players joined, including ABC, PBS, CBS and TBS.

Not to be left out, cable providers made sure they had skin in the game with their apps, including Time Warner, Cablevision, Verizon Fios and Xfinity.

The battle for eyeballs has gotten so fierce that if you’re not present on all platforms, you’re giving up valuable ground to the competition.

It used to be enough to have a broadcast channel with good content.

Back in the day, all you had were the broadcast television networks, like ABC, CBS, and NBC.

The networks had a virtual monopoly.

Then came cable, which changed the game.

No longer were you restricted to ‘tame’ television.

You had options. And no commercials.

And then the internet decided to change things up a little more, offering tons of video content that you couldn’t find on television or cable.

And for the most part, it was free.

YouTube was the genesis of this, but other players like Hulu and Vimeo kept things interesting (and ever expanding with user generated videos and internet only shows).

When Netflix brought their DVDs by mail into the home, first streaming over the internet and then through set top boxes, the broadcast ecosystem fractured even further.

And now there’s mobile.

It’s not enough that you’re proficient on one platform at the expense of the others.

To meet the needs of an increasingly mobile and demanding audience, you’ve got to master them all.

And as a content creator, you’re going to want to leverage distribution methods that ensure you’re meeting your audience, wherever they are.

If you’re not simulcasting (or offering your content simultaneously across multiple platforms), best believe the next guy is.

As technology evolves, users are going to expect faster, more streamlined access to all forms of media.

I predict that in the future, we’re going to see more players offering content that is traditionally delivered to televisions being delivered to set top boxes, online, and through apps simultaneously.

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