The Rise of the Mobile-Only User

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harvard business review

The Harvard Business Review blog summarizes the rise of mobile versus desktop in the article, The Rise of the Mobile-Only User.

Their conclusions and stats are no great surprise. I think we have all seen our own personal usage of mobile become more and more important in the last few years.

One of the most persistent misconceptions about mobile devices is that it’s okay if they offer only a paltry subset of the content available on the desktop. Decision-makers argue that users only need quick, task-focused tools on their mobile devices, because the desktop will always be the preferred choice for more in-depth, information-seeking research.

This was the consensus in the early days, perhaps, but now the importance of mobile is no longer overlooked. Any Website that wants to remain accessible is ‘responsive’. People are becoming more and more dependent on mobile devices.

I would guess that, for most, there is now a clear division of tasks between the mobile devices and the desktop. Social media interaction is very, very easily managed on mobile, as is email, and organization and planning. Information gathering is also quickly accomplished on a smartphone or tablet.

I think we’ll see a rise in online shopping, reservations, banking, etc via mobile as well. Amazon and a number of large chains have made this really easy. The smaller retailers are bound to follow.

The rise of smartphones means that more and more people are going online from a mobile device.According to Pew Internet, 55 percent of Americans said they’d used a mobile device to access the internet in 2012. A surprisingly large number — 31 percent — of these mobile internet users say that’s the primary way they access the web. This is a large and growing audience whose needs aren’t being met by traditional desktop experiences.

I would have guessed that more than 31% use mobile as their primary access to the web. The primary users are definitely younger, while older people may still favor desktop.

The big tasks will likely remain desktop driven. And those whose work relies on desktop will never abandon it. Writing long documents is just not possible or comfortable on mobile. But, I would not be surprised to see a marked decrease in desktop sales to parallel the rise in mobile sales in the coming years.

I Love Clever Software

This is icon for social networking website. Th...

This is icon for social networking website. This is part of Open Icon Library’s webpage icon package. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You start using it and think, wow, that was a great idea! Evernote, Dropbox, scores of other fantastic ideas. Then there is that class of applications that start out as great ideas but never really reach their full potential. They leave you wondering what’s coming – then wondering if anything is coming at all.

Getsocialize is a great idea. An out of the box social plugin that is super well-documented and pretty obviously necessary. Why didn’t everyone think of this? Why should every mobile or web designer have to reinvent the wheel? Social sharing is now an essential part of mobile and web development.  ShareThis is a great software that truly covers web-designer’s needs for social sharing. Getsocialize has not quite reached it’s full potential.

I think part of the problem is that now that they are one company, one might expect for Getsocialize to do the same for mobile as ShareThis does for websites – but they are not the same beast.

My first impression is that GetSocialize is a great software for app publishers, not for end users. Thumbs up for the metrics. If it manages to measure what you really want to measure, then this tool is worth it just for that alone.

However, incorporating Getsocialize into my app leaves me scratching my head and wondering if the designers understand the basics of social sharing.

Or, is it just that Getsocialize is appropriate only for certain types of apps and useless for others? Word in the forums suggest that it is really for gaming and maybe not much else. This might be true because there is a fundamental conceptual difference between ShareThis and Getsocialize.

If an app user wants to share content with a friend via Twitter, Facebook, email or whatever else they’ve got going. Do they want to share the information directly? Of course. Do they want an interesting piece of software in the middle that let’s them see how many other people have shared the same bit of information? Hmmm . . . not so much. Emphatically not!

Sharing with friends is direct, and Getsocialize seems to be more about community building. We can all gather around and see if others experience the app as we do. This may be a great thing if community building will enhance the user experience. If it get in the way, it can set your teeth on edge.

My main beef is that everything centers around the Socialize landing page, which makes me wonder how widely this software is used. Who really wants all roads to lead to Getsocialize? If you want to share the content, whoever you’re sharing with will be forced to take a look at the Getsocialize landing page, see what other people think and then, maybe if they are still interested, move onto the content you wanted to share. You have the potential to lose people at the middle man.

That’s a showstopper for me.

Thumbs down: Things that should be totally customized by the app publisher seem to be hard-coded – like the text that appears in email, believe it or not. I posted something to Twitter with my own comment and my comment was not seen because all the Getsocialize hard-coded text got in the way – Geez . All formatting of the sharing should be in our hands. All of it!

While I’m hot into this little rant, I’ll say that I question the company’s commitment also. Looking at questions in the forums, (the same questions I have) it seems that they could do a lot better to close open issues. Same questions open for over a year? Important ones at that. Hmmm. I can see by their replies that they are understaffed (“gee, I’ll ask our iOS guy”). Take a deep breath and wait a year.

Nuff said. I’m finding a way around the shortcomings, but it is not really easy to customize locally, and it should be.

If I manage to iron out the kinks, I’ll stick with this. Otherwise, back to reinventing the wheel.

AppMakr – a great tool for bloggers going mobile

appmakr

So I’ve been checking out AppMakr recently  since I’m investigating quick ways for website owners and bloggers to publish their content on mobile. I looked at AppMakr several years ago when I was writing the eBook and thought it had serious potential. Last year AppMakr launched GetSocialize, a drop-in social media plugin for apps, and that makes it super interesting to me. (GetSocialize was bought by ShareThis in March of this year)

Since I’m using GetSocialize for sharing in my current development, and I find it pretty powerful, AppMakr is now back on my radar and I thought I should test it out.

I’ve looked at similar software before. A while ago I signed up for Seattle Clouds thinking this might be the solution for really simple app developments, and while it probably is a good solution for some, I found it too expensive and complicated for the average, non-technical person.

AppMakr claims that you can build your app for free, no coding required. Now, I’ve long thought this kind of claim meant that someone behind the scenes was building the app for you in a bucket shop somewhere. Of course, I’ve no proof of that, just my thought because at the time this was a pretty impossible feat.

But it was obvious a few years ago that DIY is the goal and I think AppMakr has pulled it off. They seem to have really covered the basics and then some. They claim you can build your app in minutes – so I did just that. I took the RSS feed from this blog and started building. The tool allows you to make some basic color choices, upload icons and splash screens, plug in your RSS and you’re good to go. You don’t even have to do any more than that.

appmakz2

I haven’t yet investigated all the features like social sharing, monetization, push notifications, images galleries, etc. But so far, this looks like a super easy solution for bloggers. I haven’t published what I build so can’t determine how easy the publish process is.

The AppMakr monetization model is my favorite. There is nothing like getting something you really want for free and then looking at what you’ll get if you pay a little. This is a real winner for those who want proof of concept before opening their wallet.

AppMakr is a DIY tool that makes publishing an app super easy for an amateur. I think many bloggers would be seriously interested in this.

How to build an app: 30 great tutorials

Design an iPad app user interface

Design an iPad app user interface

Great article in the creativebloq. There is really so much information on the web about the process of creating apps. It is becoming much easier for non-developers to jump into this market. I remember a few years ago when I was just starting this process, I scoured the internet for tutorials, articles, books – anything I could find. I came across my fair share of discouraging posts. Programmers who insisted that this is an arena for techies only and scoffed at the idea that just anyone with a dream could actually succeed. There were already signs that the need to open this up was creating a market of app-builders, how-to and others ready to provide this help.

Well, How to build an app: 30 great tutorials proves how far we’ve come and I was glad to see Phonegap and Sencha mentioned. I will be checking all of them out.

Focus is key

Photo 16-10-2011 11 48 58 I’ve tried to decide how useful social media really is and whether I want to bother with it at all. After fooling around with Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for a year, I thought that social media would not yield much as a marketing vehicle, and would end up to be a colossal waste of time. So I read a LOT and watched lynda.com social media tutorials. Then, I listed the social media elements and decided to state what my expectations were from each of them. I suddenly found they were not useful as the usual marketing tools. The effort involved in maintaining them would not be justified. But, what I did find was that certain social media would be extremely valuable in unexpected ways.

The expectation changed, and the plan formed. I’m still not a fan of Facebook business pages and don’t see what that will yield except occasional exposure to the massive Facebook world. I’ve concluded that social media as a marketing tool is not entirely a write off. It would be a big mistake to spend all of your marketing energy too freely. Focus is key.

 

Advertising from a user perspective

The only way I, as a user, want advertisers interrupting my experience, is if –

  • I am in “consumer mode” and am looking for something.
  • If the Ad is so well-targeted that I can’t resist clicking on it.
  • It is so visually appealing that it piques my curiosity and makes me want to grab at it like a shiny new toy.

I have created Ads that are very clickable, but I have never seen an Ad that I couldn’t resist clicking on. I think web Ads, in general, are pretty week. Being one of those visual people who compulsively looks at anything that ‘pops’, the fact that I don’t click on Ads actually says a lot for the visual appeal of Google Ads. Maybe that’s not entirely fair, but the Ads that appear in my apps are generally the same ones over and over, and they are dull as dishwater.

One annoying little trick I’ve noticed in apps is that the programmer puts other essential buttons right above or below the banner so that you accidentally click. I’ve done this so many time in my Solitaire app. I think it’s sneaky, but ultimately I can’t fault them too much for wanting revenue after all of their effort to build the app.

Solitaire app

Consumer mode

This is really tricky. Normally when someone is in the middle of a session in an app, they aren’t looking to buy shampoo or anything else. I would venture to say that the only thing they could possible by looking for is something related to the app or something that compliments what they are doing. So, there is the possibility a particular app can actually bring out the ‘consumer’ in the app user. Advertising other similar apps is an obvious example. If an ad for some great organizational tool popped up while using Evernote there is a strong likelihood that the person using Evernote would be interested.

Ads that hit the bulls eye

Ads should be as contextual as possible. Serving up Ads that relate to the current activity is optimal for the banner Ad at the bottom because, with the correct Ad comes the likelihood that the user will click. An example of this is with travel apps. If I’m using Viator, Hotels.com, Kayak or something similar, chances are that travel-related advertising will definitely catch my eye. What often happens, however, is that I’m in a travel app and see ads for the very same site. What a waste! What should happen is that I’m looking for hotels in Belize and see Ads for hiking boots, luggage, mosquito repellant, etc. When we reach this point in Ad filtering, Ads will bring in some serious revenue. If there is a way to do this, I haven’t seen it in action yet. Ads in the apps I buy remain unclicked.

The beauty of it

You don’t have to have an artistic eye to have a positive visual response to something. I wrote a long post about app icons being visually appealing. Ads should be visually appealing as well. I’m amazed at how many large advertisers are still in text mode. There can be a lot of movement and rotating, which is more annoying than effective. But, the Ads themselves are overwelmingly text-based. The choice of colors is uninspiring. A lot of the big advertisers are really state-of-the-art and they get all of the attention, but I doubt they get many clicks. That doesn’t matter, actually.

So what is the purpose of the Ad? I think it is either to prompt and immediate action (buy this now!) or the purpose this serves for the advertiser is to keep the brand exposure up. The large advertisers don’t really need your click. They just need to stay on the radar. So if you see their Ad and don’t bother to click the Ad has fulfilled its purpose and they haven’t spent a dime.

The small app developer is looking at clicks, however. No clicks means no revenue, so these big guns are kind of taking up space. I want to see a way to filter out the larger brands and then better Ads from smaller companies; more color, catchier phrases. This, unfortunately, is in their hands.

The advertising dilemma

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advertising

In my next app, advertising will figure heavily since the app will be free. I think by now app users have resigned themselves to the fact that if they are getting something wonderful for nothing they can’t complain about Ads. I like the idea of Ad-free version but I’m not sure why anyone would find Ads so disruptive that they simply can’t bear to have them appear at all. So I wouldn’t offer an Ad-free version.

Now I’m debating all of the monetization possibilities and actually trying to come up with something new and very app-appropriate. This comes from the thought that, yes, advertising is really considered something negative in the user experience, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

So, these are the questions:

What if Ads aren’t the necessary evil? When are they an asset? What if an Ad actually enhances user experience? How can this happen?

And on the advertisers side of things, instead of them paying you to access your customer base, can an advertiser’s participation in your advertising model give you access to their existing customer base?

Any thought on this?

Eureka moments

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patent

It’s awesome when you have those Eureka moments. I love documenting, organising, making lists, categorizing, explaining in writing what the goals are, what the vehicles are, how they should work, what is expected of each. It is a great process for me because after all of that the sudden moment of clarity comes. And the concept really takes shape.

Angry Birds – What not to do

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OK, I’ll admit it, I play Angry Birds once in a while and study it a bit because it really is a fine example of a formula that works. Or rather, it was a fine example. There is nothing more annoying than paying for an app and then having ads shoved in your face. For a brief while, the marketing would pop-up in the middle of a gaming session. That was a huge mistake, and the backlash prompted a quick fix. Now, there are these annoying sidebars tempting you to buy something else from them. 
I get that if a product is not shoved under your nose you won’t find it, download it and give them more revenue than they could even dream of . . oh, wait, they’re at that point already, aren’t they? Never mind. I just wish you could turn it off, or see it only while the app loads.
 If I am really happy with an app, I do look at what else the developer has on offer. I don’t need constant ads to remind me. And what’s with the in-app purchases? Maybe instead of trying to squeeze another dime out of you they could just enhance the game with bonus features. I think they are trying to do too much. It’s like they are covering all the monetization models possible. Seriously, this is not necessary. They’ve got a good thing going.
Anyhow, they don’t need my advice. And I still look at them as a successful, if not a good model – of what to do and what NOT to do. 

Boston we stand with you

My thoughts today are with those injured in Boston and with their loved ones. Its horrifying that the need to perpetuate these senseless acts of violence seems to be a basic part of human nature. It has always been with us and always will be.

Though we will never be rid of it, we have to remind ourselves that for all the evil acts we witness daily, there are many, many acts of kindness and love. The goodness in humanity is what keeps us alive and moving forward.

Patton Oswalt expressed it so eloquently on Facebook. “The good outnumber you, and we always will.”