Archive for the ‘Sourcebits’ tag
Currently, one tenth of tablets sold worldwide are being used by corporations. More and more, mobile devices are finding their way into the workplace in a movement commonly referred to as BYOD (bring your own device).
While this has provided IT departments with a host of new security challenges, companies are now finding ways to work with the flow by creating and releasing proprietary, internal apps for smartphones and tablets; some even using their own app stores to do so. A recent survey of IT pros at 6,275 organizations found 66 percent were considering developing a corporate app store.
The influx of mobile devices into the workforce has created ample mobility, an increase in shared content, and instant access to presentations and conferencing capabilities. The apps on those devices need to target the specific needs of the enterprise in order to increase productivity and streamline workflow. Consider, for example, General Electric which launched its own corporate app store, GE AppCentral, in 2009. So far, employees have downloaded applications more than 350,000 times, including apps for productivity and service-oriented software. GE has made mobilization a strategy to enhance business, as well as showing an ability to work with the growing popularity of BYOD.
While most consumer apps are distributed through systems like Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play, it can often be difficult to obtain approval for proprietary enterprise applications, because of the terms and policies of the store, as well as the concerns the company has about intellectual property and security. Stores such as App47, Apperian and AppCentral (not connected to the GE system) all contain a simple and familiar user interface, but are designed to distribute and share applications needed in the workplace.
Industries such as health care, pharmaceuticals, truck design, and architecture have begun developing their own applications. The Economist, Barclay’s, and PepsiCo are all setting up internal app stores for employees; Pfizer has an app that makes it easy for employees to track down and contact coworkers who are traveling; Aflac has several apps that allow the sales team members to access customer data and claims records, and IBM and Medtronic are both creating internal app stores to provide employees, contractors, and authorized users with apps that will enhance their abilities to complete job tasks. Even the military is looking into apps that can remotely control the camera on a drone from a tablet, as well as smartphone apps that give soldiers digital markers of unit members, receive images from drones or satellites, and an augmented-reality app which overlays an image from the camera with additional sources.
The possibilities are just beginning to be explored; Volate, a start-up, modifies smartphones for doctors and nurses and has developed several proprietary apps that allow employees to look up different medications and their side effects, or identify pills brought in by patients. Staff now only has to carry one device, and the noisy overhead paging system is used much less frequently. Some companies are even incorporating apps for an internal social-network such as Chatter, the social-network for Salesforce.com employees, or Blue Pages, IBM’s internal social network.
iPad at work image via Jenica26/Flickr
Although today the words “tablet computer” instantly conjure images of the ubiquitous iPad, the tablet itself goes back much, much farther than that; the first patent for an electronic tablet used for handwriting was granted in 1888. Fast forward to 2002, when tablets running a modified version of Windows XP debuted — and immediately flopped.
Early tablets never really quite caught on. They were heavy, there were issues getting desktop software to run smoothly on the hardware, and, perhaps most importantly, there were very few applications available. When Apple overhauled the concept by releasing the iPad, it had already had an App Store up and running for almost two years. Easily downloadable applications to run games, handle productivity tasks, display maps and more had already been built, tested, released, adopted, reviewed and talked about.
However, tablet computing didn’t truly hit its stride until the widespread adoption of cloud computing.
Tablets and apps go together like peanut butter and jelly, but cloud computing is the bread they’re built on. While tablets are an ideal platform for a variety of functions, the small form factor severely limits the amount of on-board storage and processing power that can be packed in. However, that deficit is precisely what makes tablets, and the apps on them, the perfect launching pad for the cloud.
Because vital data can be stored in the cloud, nothing disastrous has occurred if the hardware it runs on is say, mistakenly left behind in an airport terminal or knocked off a kitchen counter. Not only that, but because the cloud is device-agnostic (that is to say, it will run on any platform), it can be accessed anywhere, anytime, by any device, making tablets themselves just the window we use to access the cloud. These days’ business and home users alike expect to be able to access their email accounts from any device, be it a friend’s PC, a smart phone, or a tablet.
The use of cloud computing to provide services to mobile devices also has an impact on a business’s bottom line: cloud computing saves money that would have been allocated to paying a service provider to store the data, maintaining it, providing a backup, and the power bills to run it all. Cloud computing has nearly single-handedly pushed tablet adoption to the enterprise, as workers can now tap into the cloud to increase their productivity. Employees can edit spreadsheets and deliver presentations from anywhere. Instead of being required to work from where their computers are, their computers can now work from where they are. The information we need, and demand, is always on and always available at our touchscreens.
Cloud computing essentially turns any mobile device into a hand-held supercomputer, providing a flexibility that has never been so easily available. Not only can cloud computing shoulder the load of data storage, it’s also being used to off-set processor power, helping conserve battery life. Think of the apps you have installed on your mobile device. Few, if any of them, would be possible without the cloud. The partnership of cloud computing with mobile applications is already a key factor is the movement towards mobile devices, and away from the traditional PC format. The global market for cloud-based mobile apps is projected to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 87 percent between 2010 and 2014.
You need look no farther than Gmail, a cloud-based email service, to understand that the cloud is now a vital cornerstone of our technology — particularly the advancements in our mobile tech. Amazon, Google, Apple, and Microsoft all spent a good portion of 2010 tripping over each other to see who could offer the most complete cloud music service fastest to the millions of data hungry smartphone and tablet users. Mobile use is growing faster than traditional PC use, particularly in countries like India where there are few landlines.
If the question is how has cloud computing changed technology, then the answer is: how hasn’t it?
Congratulations, you’ve built a tablet app! As you send your baby out into the world, know that there are millions of other apps competing for the attention of mobile consumers. The way to make sure your creation doesn’t fall through the cracks is smart marketing. Marketing your tablet app doesn’t take a public relations genius, but there are some basic steps you’ll need to follow.
Your app should work
Forget the old cliché that all publicity is good publicity. There are some simple mistakes that you can make that the best marketing cannot undo.
It should go without saying, but many apps are released that still have bugs. Not only will bugs prompt negative App Store reviews (which live forever), they will also tarnish your company’s image and make it even harder for future apps you roll-out to be considered.
A good plan is to build into your apps a way for users to easily report problems they find. When people do report problems, don’t ignore them, promptly answer the criticisms.
Learn to spell
Just ask the Mitt Romney campaign; it only takes one spelling error to undo all the hard work you’ve put into an app. Along with user feedback, your app description is the most-read part of an App Store entry. A great app can be sabotaged by descriptions as clear as a cloudy day or text rife with misspellings. The same goes for the text in the app itself. Give your tablet app a good start by ensuring punchy text and error-free wording.
Your first step in marketing a tablet app is to understand the importance of social-networking in creating a positive “buzz” around your product. Word of mouth can be more vital to the success of your app than advertising. Developing a social media marketing strategy is a multi-layer process. If you haven’t already, you should build into your app the ability for users to tell their friends just how great is your product. This means tweeting, Facebooking and emailing.
Take a lesson from nature and learn how to cross-pollinate. In the marketing world, this means cross-promotion. If you haven’t already, build a website which talks about just how great your app is and explains how to increase a user’s experience. Along with including plenty of links to your app on the app store selling it, your site should also offer back stories on the characters (if you have a game), or secrets to increase a service’s usefulness.
Get your developers and other employees to post blogs which speak to users, creating a community and a giving them a feeling of being an insider.
Next, allow users of your app to jump to your website to pick up tips on how to solve levels or learn more about features. The developers of Angry Birds, for instance, give app users links to videos showing how to overcome difficult situations.
Make friends with bloggers
Bloggers are an integral part of your marketing strategy. Along with generating buzz and hype through Twitter, blogs can magnify the megaphone of social media. However, there are some steps to take to increase your chance your tablet app will appear on a top-rated blog.
Blogs are looking for a good story. Learn how to pitch your tablet app to match a trending news theme. A blog that focuses on global warming would be more receptive to your energy efficiency app than a gamer’s blog, for instance. Blog editors receive hundreds of mismatched story pitches and you do not want your app announcement landing in the ignore folder.
Create a press package which includes a description, details, and high-resolution screenshots of your app. Make it easily available to bloggers with a promo code. Writers for blogs are on a deadline and often are trying to turn out as many posts per day as possible. If you can shave off a few seconds required to learn about your app, you’ve increased the probability of it being featured.
Don’t use a shotgun approach to getting blogs to cover your tablet app. Blogs often operate like a pack. Sites will look at what the top blogs are covering and use that as their cue. While it is hard to get noticed by the very top blogs in your category, aim for the second-level. Once there, your product will also be covered by the third-level and others, gathering steam and social notices along the way.
In the end, marketing tablet apps requires old-fashion people skills just modernized to accommodate the social media world. Understand that basic concept and you’ll have a head start on your competition.
In Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy wrote that “happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Oddly, the same could be said of mobile apps.
The best mobile apps share a set of common characteristics: they are elegant, effortless to use, pleasant to look at, and accomplish something needed or wanted. The worst apps face-palm hilariously in a wide variety of ways.
There are some common pitfalls to avoid when designing your own mobile app. Here are the seven deadly sins of mobile design:
One: Kitchen sink
You are in love with the power of your app, but no-one else will be if you try to cram too much into it, or too much into your design.
Think of Bump, the app for sharing data between phones easily. At first, the app allowed you to transfer music and app recommendations along with contact information, photos, and other things. Users didn’t know what to think, so the developers stripped functionality out of the app, only enabling the transfer of contact information and photos. And that’s when they took off.
Simple is easy. Simple is understandable. And simple is marketable.
Set a design language and keep to it. Design, of course, is about how it works, not just how it looks. So set standards for how users move from page to page, how you use menus, tabs, or buttons, and other user interface elements. Think about the small user interface details such as what uses a pop-up and what doesn’t.
Stick to the standard look and feel of your chosen platform(s) as much as possible, and ensure that internally at least, you are consistent. That makes learning how to use your app much more intuitive for users and will keep them coming back.
Three: Over designing
Think like Steve Jobs: You’re finished when it’s as simple as it could possibly be. Or like Michelangelo, who sculpted by removing the marble that surrounded his chosen shape.
When designing your app, you should be ruthless: kill extra visual flourishes, meaningless elements, and the shouldn’t-we-have-something-there images. Design is as much about what you don’t include as what you do include, so start parring down your interface.
Four: Speed (the lack thereof)
Think like Steve McQueen in the Cars movie. Speed, speed, I am speed.
Your users don’t care that you’re loading data over a barely-3G connection. Or that your outrageously cool animation is suffering from puny mobile CPU syndrome.
Execute the long loading animation, and be careful about large images and backgrounds that have to be loaded and stored. Allow users to cancel operations that are taking too long, and load the minimum of data needed for the next interaction.
Better yet, pre-load information that users might be requesting next.
There is almost no clearer sign of an immature app that has not been exhaustively edited, re-thought, re-imagined, and tested to destruction that labels, text, and menus that are unnecessarily long and wordy.
If you need such extensively detailed labels and directions, it’s a clue that your app is not as obvious, easy, and straightforward as it ought to be. Re-think. Get second opinions. Ensure you have a bona fide writer on your team who can slice and dice verbiage for breakfast. Then second and third-guess yourself until you know you have it right.
Six: Non-standard interaction
Platforms are platforms in part because they embody a set of characteristics so that users develop familiarity and comfort in the ecosystem: they know what to expect, they get what they expect, and they can use what they get. This has been on of the Mac platforms biggest advantages over the Windows platform: more standard human interface guidelines.
Know your platform. Consider the standard actions that users can be expected to know. And don’t do amazing wonderful things when four fingers are swiped from left to right, or two fingers drag on the diagonal.
Keep it simple, stupid.
No, you cannot save a confusing and poorly designed app with a Help feature or FAQs. Look at the best apps you use, the ones you love. Do they have help sections? FAQs? Built in customer support for using the app?
Adding a Help is a white flag in the usability war: you’ve surrendered, you can’t win, and you give up.
And a *free* bonus: Background images
If you want to send a massive signal that your app has been created by amateurs or a app-builder platform, use background images and put text and UI elements over top of them.
The best way to avoid making stupid app development mistakes? Download and use a lot of good apps. Notice how they work, and how they make you feel. Then ask: do I feel the same way when I use my app? If not, you’ve got some work to do.
If a tree falls in the forest, does anyone hear it? And if your app joins the 50 bajillion other apps already on the market, will anyone notice?
I’ve had the privilege of building apps with hundreds of thousands of downloads, but sadly, the default answer is a big, bold no. In fact, a recent study revealed that 60 percent of apps don’t make money. You, however, want to be in the 40 percent. Don’t leave it up to luck, take action.
In a roughly descending order of importance, here are some ways to beat the odds:
Build a great app
I know it’s shocking, but great apps are going to sell better than crappy apps. So make sure you’re working on something great!
That could be a totally new type of app, or it could be a completely re-imagined approach to a common app type. What it cannot be is yet another boring matching-jewels game: there are 5000 of them already.
Having a great app isn’t just about a great idea, it’s also great execution: design, user experience, even details like a great icon. Perhaps shockingly, having a stunning icon is hugely important. It’s often the first thing users see, and they will base their impressions of your professionalism, design, and hipness on that tiny little square of pixels.
Get great reviews
Users are going to decide whether or not to risk the time cost and dollar cost of downloading your app based on the reviews they see. It can be cruel and brutal, but your app’s life is dependent on users who may not see important features, sometimes make stupendously stupid assumptions about what a $0.99 app should offer, and can even in a few cases be malicious.
So do whatever it takes to get good reviews. Test, re-test, and re-re-test. Make sure your app is solid. Send promo codes to friends and family, people who are likely to give you a bit of a break and maybe rate your product just a little bit higher. Make sure everyone in your company, if you work for a company, downloads the app, rates it, and reviews it.
Do what you need to do to get 4+ stars and great comments, because the next two marketing methods are 100 percent dependent on this step.
Build in social
If there’s anything that the explosion of social has taught us, it’s that people like to share. And, that the best way for your company to grow is to crowdsource marketing by giving your passionate users a bigger voice.
If your app is a game, do a leaderboard. Use Game Center on iOS, and equivalent functionality on Android when it arrives. Let people tweet and share, boasting about their high scores.
If it’s a utility, find social equivalents: sharing notes with colleagues, tweeting app activity, publishing accomplishments, highlighting insights.
The best social, of course, is baked right in. Think Draw Something — it has the network effects of a fax machine: one is useless, each one added to the network makes all the others more valuable.
A final note: an app with one star and withering reviews is not going to become successful through social channels. It may very well be highlighted in social networks, but not for the reasons you want, and not with the results you’re looking for.
Pitch, pitch, pitch (and then pitch some more)
Get comfortable with selling. To make your app move, you need to sell yourself, your vision, your angle, and most importantly, your app. You want to get noticed by the app blogs and the top tech blogs, and you need reviews.
To get them, you’re going to need to pitch. It helps when you have a good story (rinse and repeat, see the first tip) but that is not going to be enough. You need to confidently and competently pitch editors, journalists, bloggers, and ordinary people on the shining merits and sheer awesomeness of your wonderful app.
If you can’t get excited about it, why should anyone else?
SEO your app description
Discovery in the crowded app store or Google Play is a function of popularity (which you don’t have on day one) and placement (if you happen to get lucky enough to know the second cousin twice removed of an app store editor, who places you in the featured apps category) and search (yeah, that’s where you sit).
Search on the app store is just like search on the web: more and better data equals higher ranking. So write your description with care. Look at what your competitors are saying … especially those who are ranking well. Craft it with appropriate keyword density for the search terms that you think your potential customers will use. And tweak from time to time to shake it up.
Unfortunately, multivariate testing is not really a viable option here.
Be free, freemium, cheap…
Unless you’re Disney or Zynga, no-one knows you and no-one cares. Taking a risk on your app is just that: a risk. And most people don’t like risks.
So reduce the riskiness by being free or cheap. Use a freemium monetization model to drive initial downloads, if that works for your app. Do a lite version that rocks, but leaves user wanting just a bit more. Give away lots of promo codes initially. Have sales. Try different price points.
If all else fails, advertise
It was Jon Bond, an ad exec, who said that “in the future, marketing will be like sex. Only the losers will have to pay for it.” Well guess what, sometimes we’re losers and yes, we have to pay for it.
Advertise for downloads on AdMob and other networks, but note that costs per download can be in excess of $1, and just like in the Google AdWords world, there are scammers looking to suck up your cash and leave you with no real users.
If *really* all else fails, buy users to get in the top app lists
If you are really desperate you are going to enter gray-hat or even black-hat territory, and simply buy downloads so that you rise in the top app lists, from which you hope to generate real customers and real revenues. (Just to be clear, I don’t recommend this … but it does happen.)
To do so, pay a company like GTekna $10,000 or so and let the magic happen. You’ll get on the leaderboard and have a shot at hundreds of thousands of downloads, just from the visibility. Whether you can stay there or not depends on how good your app is, and how well you’ve done all the other steps.
Marketing your app is just as hard, if not harder, as building your app. It’s a long tough slog, and not everyone can do it. Have you successfully marketed your apps? Let us know how in the comments!
Apps image courtesy of ShutterStock
You’re building a tablet app, and you need to make decisions on what platforms to support. Here’s how to pick the tablet platform that’s right for you … and will result in the most sales of your app.
The choices are well-known:
The acknowledged market leader for scale and monetization
The strong contender for second place, but with fragmentation concerns
- Kindle Fire
Android under the skin, but walled off by Amazon, with its own app store
- Windows 8
The dark horse: an intriguing option, but scale and penetration are open questions
The dead horse?
The one ring to rule them all … but perhaps a little lost in a deep cave in the Misty Mountains
For some people, the choice might be obvious. But sometimes there can be market advantages to targeting a less-obvious platform. Let’s look at the alternatives.
Apple’s iOS is the acknowledged leader in tablet sales. According to Gartner, the iPad will destroy the competition with 61 percent of sales in 2012. So it’s pretty obvious why you’d develop for iPad: that’s where the users are. Not only are the most people on iPad right now, but the types of people are attractive to app developers. Simply put: they have money and they’re not afraid to spend it. That’s an attractive user base.
Also, there’s very good infrastructure in the iOS ecosystem: coding tools, developer ecosystem, publishing and distribution paths, and monetization options.
On the downside, there is a lot of noise in the iOS world. With more than 500,000 apps for iPhone and 200,000 for iPad, your app faces some major challenges getting noticed. That said, if you are a major brand or have deep pockets, you can likely break free from the pack.
If iPad is the leader, Android is the very strong contender … and there’s recent history to suggest that Android may not always trail iOS in the tablet market. After all, Android leads in the smartphone market, after initially trailing the iPhone. According to the same Gartner study cited above, Android will make up about 32 percent of tablet sales in 2012, growing to 37 percent in 2016.
So Android has a very significant number of users. A third of a large market is still a pretty large potential audience, and Android is expected to account for about 35 million tablets this year. (For a caveat about these numbers, see Kindle Fire below.)
There are other reasons to choose Android for your tablet app. There’s less noise in the market — fewer dedicated tablet apps — which means that yours has a better chance to be seen. In addition, if your app is well-designed and user-friendly, it will stand out in stark contrast to other Android apps, which, unfortunately, largely suck.
But also, if you want more control of what you’re developing and how to market it, the fact that there are multiple Android markets and fewer ecosystem constraints mean that you have more freedom in how to build and market your app.
In the Android section above, I listed a caveat, and for a good reason: the Kindle Fire accounts for easily 50 percent of all Android tablet sales. That’s one reason for breaking it out from the larger Android pack, but the more important reason is that Amazon pre-loads a Kindle-fire-specific app store on all devices it ships. The Amazon app store makes Kindle Fire a cross between Google and Apple: Android inside, but with an an Apple style, curated, send-us-your-apps-for-approval market.
That said, it’s hard to ignore two things: the sheer number of Fires being sold, and Amazon’s amazing ability to move product. With Kindle Fire users making up large percentages of overall tablet web traffic, it’s clear the devices are in use.
Pick Kindle if you’re an Android developer and you want another sales opportunity for your app, or if you think that your app will monetize better in Amazon’s garden. Content apps would seem to be a good bet with Amazon’s core user base, and some developers see opportunity in the platform.
One caveat for Kindle Fire: be aware that Amazon does implement some questionable marketing tactics which could affect your app’s sales … such as offering it for free.
Windows 8 Tablet is a true dark horse: Currently, there are almost no sales. However, HP is restarting its tablet adventure with Window 8, and Gartner says that Microsoft will move about five million units in 2012.
That number won’t make any developers jump for joy, but Microsoft has a history of being persistent, and it’s got the largest installed base of them all with the Windows PC market. As those customers upgrade to the latest version of Windows, there’s a good chance many of them will move to Windows 8 on tablets, and you might want to be there, waiting for them, when the market takes off. On top of that, the Windows 8 platform, whether on phone or tablet, is definitely an interesting and different take on interfaces of the future.
The best reason to develop for Window 8 right now, however, might be this: Microsoft may be willing to pay you. Or guarantee a certain level of revenue.
Just don’t expect huge download numbers.
This is a tough one. Projected sales for BlackBerry tablets are even lower than Windows 8 tablets, at under three million. And while the underlying operating system, QNX, is geekishly interesting, those numbers will not make your finance department happy.
The one reason to pick BlackBerry: similar to Microsoft, RIM may finance your development as it struggles desperately to remain relevant in the tablet space. But don’t be shocked if the platform disappears under your feet before the end of 2012.
I wasn’t sure I would include HTML5 in this list, as it’s not a platform in the same sense as the above ecosystems. However, it deserves a mention.
Theoretically, all the tablet platforms listed above support HTML5 applications. But while in theory there is no difference between theory and reality … in reality there is. Be aware that there are differing levels of support for HTML5.
Perhaps worse, there’s no defined distribution, marketing, or monetization model. But if you can solve those problems, you can sell your services to just about anyone: tablet users, web users, even smartphone users.
Making your selection
Ultimately, the platform you choose will determine how you build your app, and how you market it. Most importantly, it will determine who you can sell it to. Almost certainly you will choose, either initially or later in your app’s life cycle, a multi-platform strategy.
Picking the first platform well is your key to success.
Imagine a website that looks horrible on a tablet. Or worse, doesn’t even actually function.
Oh wait, you don’t have to … because today, two whole years after the iPad picked up the dead tablet industry and whipped it into roaring, raging life, many websites are not optimized for tablets. Even new ones. Shocking? Sure. Unthinkable? Maybe. Unfortunately, however, it’s reality. And it’s not just the obscure little sites, either — try using Google Docs on your iPad for anything other than viewing.
What’s the problem?
Sometimes it’s the simple stuff: a site with links and clickable images that are just a little bit too small. Usability guru Jakob Nielsen has skewered this fat-fingered problem, particularly on midsize tables like the Kindle Fire. Not so surprisingly , a design built for a 15″ laptop screen or a 22″ monitor doesn’t always translate well to a 10″ iPad screen, and users have to make liberal use of the standard double-tap protocol to “big-ify” text and navigation. Make this a frequent necessity on your site, and they’ll want to double tap you, too.
Five key differences …
In general, there are at least five key differences between designing websites for tablets, and designing for desktops and laptops:
Tablets are generally smaller (who knew?).
- Screen resolution
Tablets have widely varying screen resolutions (from the Kindle Fire’s 600×1,024 to the new iPad’s 2,048-by-1,536 pixels). Orientation is flexible as well, so user could be viewing your site in landscape or portrait, widescreen or tall.
- Touch interfaces
This is the big one. The touch interface is fundamentally different from a traditional desktop/laptop experience. It requires bigger clickable elements and fewer hidden navigation elements.
- Memory and CPU limitations
The limitation is often overlooked, but tablets have less RAM (working memory) and punier CPUs, so media-intensive experiences can be challenging for tablet users.
So how do you design websites for tablet users?
Shawn Neumann, founder of the web agency Domain7, says the most important thing is to understand the user experience and strategize from there. “The desktop is the research or get-something-done place, and the phone is the on-the-run and killing-time device. The tablet is the living room, fireside device, but it’s also a catchall, a bridge between diving deep and getting quick info,” Neumann says.
“Sometimes a responsive approach works best,” Neumann suggests. A responsive website is fluid, adjusting to different screen sizes and display resolutions, so that theoretically the same site can be viewed on both large and small screens. Realistically, the results are not always optimal: “There are challenges around resolution thresholds,” he acknowledges. A design intended for large monitors won’t always look great on a 7″ screen. In that case, Neumann says, you cannot assume that you can deliver one design for all mediums. “The one-site experience doesn’t work anymore – you can’t assume that people will be able to zoom and pinch and see everything.”
That opens up a number of different possibilities, from building a mobile-friendly site, to sending users customized versions of your site based on the device they’re using. The mobile-friendly site can be challenging, particularly if it’s running off a different content management system (or none at all). Maintaining both sites can be challenging and expensive, and you risk annoying users who cannot access the full version of your site on their tablet. And in either case, you’re incurring extra development effort, extra cost.
In some cases you can use shortcuts: software like Pressly or OnSwipe. They’ll take your standard website and, with a little magic pixie dust, seamlessly output a version that is optimized for tablet viewing.
That’s the route that Jason Baptiste, chief executive and co-founder of OnSwipe, prefers. “The world is shifting from on-click to on-swipe, from a three-foot user experience to a one-foot,” he says. It’s a more focused, concentrated user interface, according to Baptiste, and it requires a different design approach. “Some camps say you should design once and publish everywhere. I think that’s a real cop-out. On a tablet you should be designing for touch.”
The implications are obvious
What works better on tablets? Simple, clean user interfaces with large, obvious, and well-spaced navigation and controls. Go easy on the interactivity and the heavy-duty plugins. Create a flexible framework that works well on multiple screen sizes. You may not be able to master every use case, but you’ll be close. And, decide if you’re willing to use a service to automatically reformat your site for tablets and other mobile viewers.
There’s a reason personalized content aggregators Flipboard and Pulse are so popular: they make the web beautiful on small devices. Watch what they’re doing and take notes on how your website might need to change.
The tablet market is exploding
More tablets are being sold every week. Research firm Gartner estimates that there will be 665 million tablets in use worldwide by 2016. And it’s not just volume: it’s quality. Adobe’s Digital Marketing Insights report shows that tablet visitors spend 20 percent more per purchase than regular website visitors, making them the exact kind of visitors you want.
The implication is clear: make your site tablet-friendly, or risk losing traffic … and revenue.
Filed under: VentureBeat
There are a lot of ways mobile apps are changing how we view our world and consume media. And while some are revolutionizing productivity or remodeling business presentations, others are pushing the boundaries of art, nature, and storytelling.
The following six jaw-dropping apps have turned our tablets on their ears by re-imagining what the form is capable of producing, striving beyond the usual boundaries to become something both impressive and exciting. Anyone making a tablet app these days needs to up their design game to be truly competitive, and these apps set the bar very high indeed.
Astronomy Picture of the Day by Concentric Sky
Developed in partnership with NASA, the Astronomy Picture of the Day (also called APOD) features decades of high-resolution photos of space hand-selected by NASA astronomers, who also write the included descriptions. There are new photos added every day, and the app allows you to find photos by date or shake the phone for a random image, save photos and share them with friends. And that’s all well and good, but the stars of the show here are the astounding images themselves, showing the vast skies above, from interstellar dust clouds and nebulas to volcanoes and telescopes.
Al Gore — Our Choice
This app, which was designed to accompany Gore’s book of the same name, examines the causes of global warming and the solutions being enacted to combat its effects. The app itself changes the way you read and experience a book by melding seamlessly with the photography, interactive graphics, animations, maps, and documentary footage contained within the app’s many functions. A narrative from Gore turns it into a portal to experience the book through videos, photos and infographics that turn your tablet into a powerful learning aid. Charts and data are entirely reimagined; sliding your finger along the screen allows you to see the world’s population grow, and blowing into the microphone turns the blades of a wind turbine. The exquisite photos can be enlarged and pinpointed on a map, making anything you see in the book, explorable in the app.
National Geographic & Fotopedia
National Geographic and Fotopedia teamed up for two incredible journeys — one is through Burma, the other is a bird’s-eye view of France. Both feature the stunning images of the planet and its people that fans have come to expect from National Geographic; the Burma tour features over a thousand photos, while the France app touts over two thousand professional aerial shot. Both also have interactive maps, slideshows, wallpapers, options to share, and a trip builder feature, which, after taking these virtual tours, you may very well be tempted to use. The magnificent photos coupled with stories, history, and geography make for an engrossing experience.
Android fans get a slightly different options in the National Geographic app which acts as more of a companion to the magazine with photos and categories such as news, pace and photo of the day.
Dreams of Burma: iTunes (Free)
Above France: iTunes (Free)
National Geographic; Google Play (Free)
Living Earth World Clock
Hands down the most strikingly beautiful world-clock app available, the Living Earth World Clock provides clock, weather, and alarm features with a live 3D simulation of the planet at the current moment in time. It also has global weather and forecasts around the world, and will display sunrise and sunset borders as they are happening in real-time. Clouds will streak across your tablet as they are moving across the sky outside your window; tropical storms appear on your screen as they are happening. The alarm clock can be synched with your music playlist, waking you to the song of your choice.
Here’s the thing… technically deviantART Muro isn’t an a tablet app. What it is, is an incredibly versatile treat for the eyes crafted out of glorious HTML5. Muro is a drawing app that works right within the web browser on any tablet (or computer), as long as that tablet’s browser runs HTML5 (which at this point is pretty much all of them — including the iPad’s Safari). Muro doesn’t require Flash or a special plug-in and it works with both touchscreens and Wacom’s pressure-sensitive drawing tablets. Muro users create some astoundingly beautiful 2D digital artwork, which can be easily shared using a solid set of drawing tools and a variety of filters to blur, sharpen, and emboss. Perhaps the best part of this web app is browsing the works of all the other phenomenally talented Deviant-artists.
This gem from Moonbot Studios is a story-in-an-app celebration that’s half Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, half Pixar-style genius animation (that’s no coincidence as Moonbot Studios was co-founded by a former Pixar employee. Read the full story of the Academy Award winners at Moonbot). Part story, part adventure, part mystery, and part game, the Numberlys follows five little friends who live in a black and white world where only numbers exist until they create the alphabet by jumping, spinning, smashing, and pulling apart numbers with tools. The video is instantly charming, intriguing, and astoundingly lovely all at once. The very cool companion website is equally fun and imaginative. Visually beautiful, unique, and highly enjoyable, It’s an app worth buying a tablet for.
Although Apple is fond of showing iPad users playing games, watching movies, and listening to music on its ubiquitous tablet, more and more industry professionals are finding ways to incorporate the iPad into genuinely productive enterprise-level work. No longer just for Angry Birds, iPads can now be found in schools and universities, doctor’s offices, stockrooms, and boardrooms. There is an ever-expanding menu of specialized enterprise apps that are making the iPad a must-have office supply.
PlanGrid: Blueprints on the iPad
A prime example is the PlanGrid app, which allows users to store, view, and manage blueprints on the iPad. PlanGrid also allows note taking and sharing from the field, and uses the cloud to store project drawings and receive updates. All of the features of the app were designed specifically to save contractors time and money by making it easy to access blueprints and to share notes and changes. The availability of blueprints in a digital format not only saves time — no more waiting for the blueprints to be physically printed, no mistakes made by building off of old blueprints — but also takes a significant amount off the bottom line; PlanGrid claims that for every million dollars in building costs, there are typically printing costs of $3,500. The app is free to download in the App Store and for the first 50 sheets. Larger plans cost $20 or $50 a month.
Mobile MIM: X-rays in your doctor’s pocket
The new iPad touts the quality of its new retina display, and what better way to put it to the test than to use it for extremely vital visual information — like an X-ray or an MRI? MIM Software has done just that with its Mobile MIM app, which is used by medical professionals to view images from CT, MRI, X-ray, ultrasounds, PET, and SPECT scans. The app can also review images, contours, DVH, and isodose curves from radiation treatment plans. Doctors, nurses, lab techs, and other medical professionals can download data using an encrypted transfer to protect patient privacy, and set a passcode to encrypt non-image information and prevent unauthorized access. Patients can also access their information from the cloud, making it easy to communicate across long distances. The Mobile MIM app is free to download from the App Store, but the companion cloud service does charge.
Kitchen IQ: Food safety and more for restaurants
While the iPad is used by culinary aficionados and amateur chefs to find and store recipes, take photos of food, organize and plan meals, and keep track of grocery lists, it’s also increasingly being used in the restaurant industry by managers to train staff, acquire customer feedback, plan and record events, keep track of expenses, and manage reservations. One example is the free Kitchen IQ app, designed to help restaurant professionals maintain operations according to health standards and guidelines by providing tips on avoiding foodborne illnesses. It also explains labeling options, finds common pitfalls, and even has a virtual Food Safety Audit for kitchen inspections.
EasyBib: Assistant for academics
Many see the iPad as a threat to traditionally paper products like newspapers, magazines, books, and libraries — however, many of these industries are adapting the tablet to their own purposes. Case in point is the free EasyBib app, which scans a book by bar code (or by entering in the title) to provide you with MLA, APA and Chicago style citations, or you can write your own citations. Citations can then be emailed or exported to EasyBib’s bibliography management service for easy organization.
Stock Room: Track inventory
Similarly, stockroom managers will be assisted by the simply named Stock Room app, which tracks inventory of items in a stock room or storage area. Users can snap photos of the items they need to track, perform a receipt of items into a stock room, keep a detailed log of receipts and items leaving the stock room as well as email a list of received items, of items being used, of item history and of current stock of the item. The personalization and detailed entries can help managers keep track of office supplies, spare equipment, mail supplies, tools or vehicle inventory. Stock Room costs $1.99.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and with the help of more than 30 device manufacturers, carriers, and developers, Facebook is willing the creation of more applications built expressly for the mobile web.
The social network announced two mobile web initiatives Monday with the intent of fixing mobile browser fragmentation and allowing device owners to more easily purchase mobile web apps by way of operator billing.
Samsung, HTC, AT&T, Verizon, Mozilla, Netflix, and Zynga are just a handful of companies and carriers joining forces with Facebook to push new standards for mobile browsers as part of the W3C Mobile Web Platform Core Community Group. Operators, including, AT&T, Orange, T-Mobile USA, Verizon, and Vodafone have also signed on to streamline the billing process for purchasing mobile web apps and in-app upgrades.
With the initiatives, Facebook’s stated goal it to help application makers, especially Facebook app makers, reach a massive mobile audience through the mobile browser, a far more accessible entity than any single native app store.
But the company is not hiding its own less-than-altruistic motivations from plain sight. Facebook’s 425 million monthly active mobile users are collectively accessing the social network via mobile web browser more than from the company’s top four native applications combined, director of developer relations Douglas Purdy said.
The takeaway here, especially considering Facebook’s stated mobile risk, is that the social network has a vested interest in getting Facebook app makers in front of as many people as possible while still helping them profit from its audience.
Photo credit: johanl/Flickr