August 21, 2011

Consumerism vs. Classics

Ever popular, cute cats that sing, zombie booths, mindless attention grabbers, full of glitter -- there is a constant flow of products designed to amuse you, to make you want to get them now, instant gratification candies. They don't serve any particular need, more or less like glass beads in colonization era, they offer a cheap thrill for few minutes, maybe weeks if you are a rare person on inflicted with ADD, than they are left unused for what they really are, rubbish.

Whole industries work hard to create a products that are meant to be replaced as soon as the next wave of fad arrives.

On the other side of the spectrum are the products that are beautifully designed, fulfilling their purpose for a need that is long lasting and deeply entrenched in our psychology. These are like classic cars with are as pleasing today as they were in their heyday, there are like beautiful houses, scuptures and master crasftsmen furniture, or small items like a pocket knife, or a fountain pen. Things you cherish and use, and keep on using for generations.

Sometimes, it is important for us, designers of modern products to go back and think - do I provide a lasting value?
 

August 20, 2011

Tablet developer: allow full Website access, or do your homework.

There is nothing more frustraiting to people spending $500 to $800 on a new shiny tablet to find out that your app tries to "enhance" your user experience by providing 3 inch phone functionality.
The full-size, mobile safe, site would work quite nice on the tablet, especially with ability to pinch and pan to get to the particular section.
Going a step further, which is actually not that much extra work, is to provide the comfortable experience taking advantage of the vaste real estate of the tablet.
The other day I was comparing Android Gmail applications between 4, 7, and 10 inch screens. The 10 inch was done in nice 2 column layout with small fonts which made easy to view my email content. The 7 inch was nothing, but blown up small phone app, with huge fonts as if Google was assuming all Galaxy Tab 7 users were vision impaired.
The small screen Gmail app wasted a lot of screen with big buttons in editing mode, buttons that should have been in menu with better, more beautiful iconography, I am sure users would learn to press menu really quickly.
Even the Blogger app I am using now has several buttons that take screen space. I assume that Blogger app is used very frequently, so it should be designed for frequent users, too.

August 19, 2011

Search button & Voice Commands

The search button is gone, so much for idea of everyone using "voice commands".

I tried voice commands for a while but honestly I never liked the idea --  it annoys people around you, and it is as difficult as selecting by hand while driving - which of course I never do.

 More and more manufactures are not including the physical SEARCH button, and it looks like Google gave up on the idea in apps like Market where the search magnifying-glass icon is prominently on top. Also, the Android 3+ tablets are missing all the physical buttons, which I personally miss a lot. Samsung Galaxy 7 tablet has all 4 buttons, but Galaxy 10.1 already does not have any.

I think as the voice recognition improves the button may come back, but for now only simple commands work and Google Voice mailbox is sometimes comical, everyone call me and says "Hello Auntie!"


August 17, 2011

Factors that can influence downloads of the mobile apps

Taking as a fact that you have a great app, a "shouting", cutting-edge presence on the app markets, good rating and good promotion, what else could influence the number of your app downloads?

Having over a dozen apps out on the market, we noticed that every time we release an update, we have a spike in downloads. The reason is that, when publishing an update, the app market gives you a bust of ranking so you get more often in the search results and may be listed on the first page of rating within the category in which your app belongs to. In addition, surprising users with improvements (hopefully), either its some new features or a holiday re-skining of the UI, works as a gentle reminder and can increase the number of active users which is very important..

Another observation, more obvious this time, is that people tend to download and explore new apps on weekends.

Here is an example of the downloads statistics on ChildrenTV, on the right side you see the number of downloads on the left I showed the weekend days.




Another advise would be - Know your users.

Try to analyze and put yourself in your user's shoes. Imagine his life cycle and try to understand at what point you (your app) can be useful. When is your user more willing to use your product.

Here is an example from the same app, Children TV. Take a guess which is the reason of a massive increase in downloads on this statistics.




If you pay attention to the dates you will see that on vacation the downloads are considerably higher, parents are happy to get their kids busy, kids are happy to watch their favorite cartoons. Boom, mission accomplished.

I will keep updating this article as I notice new external factors influencing downloads, full moon for example :).


August 15, 2011

AT&T Android system update pleasantly surprises with a lot of improvements

When I got my Motorolla Atrix, I loved the phone and hated the Operating System. Today I was pleasantly surprised by the 4.5.91 system update from AT&T by the quantity of improvements on different levels.

First of all UI is much more sharp and pleasant. In the old version we had 2 buttons doubling themselves like call and contacts which were opening the same functionality,  just different tabs:



The last OS update has a much better UX, where the "Apps" is mandatory, and you can add another 3 apps on your choice, either its a call button or your favorite mobile games.

Another nice touch is that  you can set and choose profiles, so for the week days you set all you need for work like calendars, TODO apps, sticky notes etc., whereas on weekends you can set home profile or create a Sunday one and choose your sailing, hiking restaurants apps on the home screen.

On the Application screen, the new system displays the market icon and provides a wide range of options on the long press like: add to home, add to group, share, uninstall. Another big improvement concerning app management is that now you can check to allow installation of non-market applications, a restriction that created a lot of trouble for mobile developers before, for me as well.

As minor minuses I would list for now a less recognizable and less attractive icons for browser, camera, voice commands and the worse one - text messaging

I keep discovering my new phone OS and I love it. Now I really feel that I am the OWNER of this phone and not the carrier.





August 12, 2011

Collaboration Website

Over the years we have learned that keeping a private, project collaboration site is essential. I have used several solutions from SharePoint, through Wikis and BaseCamp, but one of the simplest to use and most practical is Google sites.


On the collaboration site you post screenshots of the newest versions and graphical assets for the next iterations of the product. Also, you include the documentation, use cases and problem descriptions.

The site, when well organized is an excellent tool to update customer on work in progress: "Can you look at page 3.a - product details?"

We try to create a page for each piece of functionality.

It is important to put most recent screenshots on top of the page, and it is easy to see pervious versions as you scroll down. Other, non visual files can be attached.

Another trick is to set page layout in two columns, which Google sites allow you to do easily. Left column is for developers to post the current state and the right column for artists to show the vision of what it should be.

A great site saves a ton of confusion and delays. We literally prohibit our people from sending Word Docs, images, Spreadsheets, etc. via email, or Skype. All useful documentation should be posted for sharing with update alerts and revision history available.


Google Java Technology: Still comparing iPhone to Android?

Google Java Technology: Still comparing iPhone to Android?: "Disclaimer: I ALWAYS have BOTH iPhone and Android on me, I use both. I had 3 iPhones and several Android models including tablets of both OS..."

August 11, 2011

eBook Reader vs Paper Book

eBook readers like Nook from Barnes&Nobles and Kindle from Amazon are becoming more and more popular. I was bought on the idea of tablet readers from the first experience.

Here are some major advantages:
  • you can store hundreds of books. You can read more books at a time and don't have to carry a back-pack for this
  • you can make notes, selections and share the best quotes with friends.
  • you can look up for unknown words in the dictionary or internet if available. 
  • you can read as well as write book reviews
  • you can load and read *.pdf files.
  • you can adjust the reader to different light conditions
  • you can become your own author, as publishing yours thought, poetry or even recipe book is relatively simple
  • by choosing eBook reader over paper book you contribute improving or at least sparing our ecology as publishing industry is very polluting. 
Disadvantages:
  • considering that this technology is relatively new, not all the books have been converted to eBooks yet, especially old editions.
  • even if you can read for weeks on a battery charge you still have to take care to charge your eBook reader (an often issue for me).
After reading over ten books on the Nook, I had to come back to a paper book only because the edition was not republished since 1967. The reading experience is not very pleasant, though the book is worth it.
First of all, because of the yellowish aged paper the contrast is bad and the font size pretty small and plenty of crooked letters.
Secondly, if you take your sight away or get distracted, because of the small font, it takes quite a while to get back to the place where you stopped reading.
And third, while reading on the train its very difficult to take notes and put your thoughts down.
I am very happy to see that the eBook readers become very affordable. Barnes&Noble Nook with touchscreen is only $99.


Importance of pair-programming.

The idea of pair-programming makes sense for several reasons, first of all almost always when the developer "bounces" ideas against someone else, they end up thinking through the problem more carefully than a single person who would implement the first idea that comes to mind.
Secondly, the pair, when indoctrinated well cuts much less corners and the product quality increases.
Thirdly, when you loose a developer, and it is not always by "got hit by a bus" but sometimes a happy "got married and went for a honeymoon", then the other developer understands nuances of the project and can continue.
Finally, when you have a nice team, it is simply more fun to get together and solve the problems.
I have build very smart and effective teams in the past composed of senior and very junior members that did great work, enjoyed coming to work and did tours on local microbreweries together -- now, that is priceless.
Not all people like to work in pairs, my answer to that is, try to build teams composed of people who do. You will not regret loosing one loner mad scientist whose work might worked brilliantly, but whose code had to be re-writen anyway once he left.
Talking from experience. Good programers like to share and have fun while doing an awesome job.

August 10, 2011

Do Events Influence App Success?

Not really, sponsoring of the events does not affect the app success.
We have organized over 40 events and at most we could see a daily spike in downloads, but a couple of days after the event metrics were coming back to normal growth.




Break the Organizational Walls

When you hire different people to do a project for you, make sure they literally work together. Throwing the work over-the-fence always results in a mediocre product. Let me exlain.

You hire the best design team and they indeed do a stellar work. You are happy so you give the designs to some brilliant development team. They start working with the design and realize that you are missing the crucial data to fillout parts of the design, now the product is not as good. To make things worse you start testing the app and learn that the customer interaction flows are slightly different then envisioned which is always the case as customers are not able to tell you what the like and dislike before they see and touch it. Your development team is pressed by the timeline, no desinger around, so they photo-chop the original desing to fit the new needs. The monster is born with the intention of fixing it later. Fixing it later never happens.

Get design and technology people in the same room from beginning to the end of the development, or fail.  

August 9, 2011

Shame Alarm

Never Sleep Through Your Alarm Again!
Have trouble getting out of bed? What better way to motivate you than knowledge that if you fail to get up, everyone from your parents to your co workers to your Twitter followers in Indonesia will know that you lack the ability to perform one of the most basic of bodily functions?


Trust us, when this little alarm clock goes off, you'll move quickly to get to the dresser, because if you don't, someone will know about it.



Shame Alarm is guaranteed to increase your morning productivity! Simply log in to Facebook and/or Twitter, and you'll never fail to wake up again!

Features:
  • 8 classic wake up ringtones
  • Add vibrate for some extra buzz
  • Set alarm to repeat on select days
  • Dark interface for perfect night time usage
  • Remember, like all third party alarm clock apps, you must leave the app running overnight. Make sure it's plugged in!
Download on iTunes.


eBook


The application starts with a cover-page splash screen and the option to purchase the paper book. Table of Contents (TOC) lists all chapters and appendixes.



When user opens the page the chapter name shows briefly on top. The reader is able to select text by long-press on the page, share selected text using various popular Social Media applications and highlight selections of text. The application remembers the list of Highlights and Bookmarks.


Status: coming soon on the Android market.





Plant Me Trees

PlantMeTrees is a trivia social game app developed to make people pay attention to the ecological issues. The echo-green design
was suggested by the app’s name. The sticky note is animated and flips after user taps on the answer. High score, Totals, FAQ
can be accessed from the tab bar. 


Status: submitted for approval in the apple app store.


Yachts and Tall Ships



Tall ships, super yachts, catamarans, sailboats, cruise boats and events.
Detailed information for 700+ detailed sailing vessels, all major ports around the world, points of interests and more.
Find out about sailing events around the world, share them with friends and see its twitter feed.



August 8, 2011

Children Story

"Useful Recipe" - a beautifully illustrated, 16-page, folk story in 4 languages. You select the language by pressing the country flag.

English 
Russian 
French 
Romanian

Swipe side-to-side to go to the next page of the story.
Tap on the screen to view the text and change language.
Send us your own language translations and we may include it!
Download from market: http://bit.ly/hgZiYv



August 7, 2011

Budgetary estimates

It is important to create a rough budgetary estimate early and present it to the potential client. This can save you a lot of time in the future as they will know what kind of compensation you are expecting.
We have seen many times over idealists who somewhere got the notion that to develop their application can be done for a thousand bucks, probably from the movies where a "hacker" solves a problem in couple of keystrokes.
Another type of people that we are trying to avoid are more savvy businessmen who take advantage of the fact that most developers are not good at monetizing their skillset and can make them rich for very little. There is of course the third type, the "horse traiders" how get the kick from trying to get the best deal, even if that means a ruin to the developer.
The budgetary estimate sets the correct expectations, shows that your pricing is reasonable and thoughtful and that you are not here to take advantage of the customer, but at the same time you are planning to charge a fair amount for your service.

Updates to This eBook

The field of Mobile software changes rapidly, sometimes from month-to-month, therefore as soon as you download this eBook it will start showing signs of being outdated. We would encourage you to delete this book from your eReader library and download it again, something which most book sellers will allow you to do for free.


We will attempt our best to keep this book up to date on CyberWalkAbout.com and expend it based on our experiences and with regard to the comments from you. The best way to let us know what you think is to post on Twitter with a hashtag #MobileRoadmap

Download and post review at Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/op71Qj



Tools for Writing This Book

After trying several writing software tools, we found it frustrating that only Google Docs allowed online real-time sharing between multiple reviewers and various devices. Even with Google Docs, editing on the tablet is far from satisfactory.

When we are "on the go", the Twitter, Facebook and recently Google+ to be useful repository of our thoughts, Uki joked once:

“I’m writing an eBook on Mobile Business - 140 characters at a time.”
Finally, we decided to write our thoughts down as blog posts.



Download and post review at Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/op71Qj

Roadmap for Mobile Business - The Need for This Book

It has been said many times that the best way to create something of value is to address your own pressing needs. It is also true for this book. 

Developing mobile applications with people from around the world creates a need to share not only tasks to be accomplished, but also the governing principles and the reasons of how we came to make the decisions that we made, in other words the organizational culture. 

Writing a book in addition to Blog, would force us to have a concise, living knowledge repository held up to a higher standards, because scrutinized by public reviews. We should also make it no secret that books are more prestigious, and hopefully add to profitability.

You should read this book if you are an entrepreneur trying to build a mobile product, an executive outlying the mobile road-map for your corporation, a developer or software project manager improving user experience in your mobile product, or a marketing person working for the mobile industry. 

Download and post review at Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/op71Qj


August 5, 2011

Tech.li Thursday One


On August 5, Edward Domain, the organizer of "Tech.li Thursday One" set the beginning to a new type of event series, a meet-up of young entrepreneurs discussing next steps on their road to success.

The event was co-sponsored by Dan Fedor, the co-founder of Taxi Share which CyberWalkAbout designed and developed. Taxi Share other co-founders were Uki D. Lucas and Ryan Bahrke.
I had an honor to represent Taxi Share Chicago and speak about the application and about Apps for Metro Chicago competition. Please support our app by mentioning us on twitter (@TaxiShareChi) and vote for us on public voting starting 08/18/201.

Heading towards the event, I was expecting a start-up pitch type and media people. Though, I was pleasantly surprised by the turn around. The main goal is to invite start-ups to talk about what kind of challenges they face at the moment, instead of showing charts and prognosis of millions in revenues for VCs.

Most of the attendees were part of one or the other attending start-up I see a great value in it, as some of them are looking for designers and developers another build their business on offering this type of services.
Some of them need users without whom their great idea does not make too much sense, another offer analytic and user feedback service.

Here are the ones that were the first to start at "Thursday One".











August 4, 2011

new website look

Cyber Walk About has a new Website look. We decided to use a blog website to be able to provide you with constant updates (press releases) of the work we are doing. Please note the app links on the left and the page listing on the right.

Let us know if you like it and help spread the word.

http://cyberwalkabout.com/




August 3, 2011

Art by Sydney

Totally original wallpapers for "Art by Sydney".
Are you bored with the wallpapers in the marketplace; do they all look the same? Well, here's some totally original wallpaper. I photographed all the images and used Photoshop to turn them into digital collages.
Great Features:
- It's FREE
- No pesky ads
- Frequent additions
- Intuitive navigation
- Save to your camera roll
- Email images
- You won't find these images in any other wallpaper app.
Please visit the "Art by Sydney" Facebook page for information, to leave a comment and to like the app.

Download for free on Android Market.

Tech.li writes about Taxi Share Chicago

Tech.li reporter, Jennifer Beese, wrote an article about Chicago Taxi Share Android application in the interview with our partner Daniel Fedor.



Children TV for Android

This application is designed for children to enjoy and adults who want to learn foreign languages.

It was inspired by seeing my daughter search and watch YouTube cartoons. We wanted to create a SAFE and convenient app for our children to enjoy during the long car rides, etc.



You can enjoy videos in 10 languages and filter only the once of you interest:
  • english
  • french
  • italian
  • spanish
  • german
  • russian
  • romanian
  • ukrainian
  • korean
  • polish
Filter by age category is also available.




Please note - all videos are hosted and played by YouTube.com player. Our service is limited to finding child-appropriate videos and rating them by language, fun and age.
Enjoy!




Taxi Share

Find people traveling the the same direction as you, share the ride. Call Taxi.
Save Time, Save Money & Share Your Taxi!

Taxi Share Chicago allows you to easily and quickly share a taxi with someone else going to the same popular destination (Wrigley Field, U.S. Cellular, Downtown, O'Hare, Midway, etc.).

How it works:
Select your destination, look for others on the map going to the same place (each traveler is represented by a color coded dot corresponding to their destination). Tap their dot/icon and a chat window will appear. Exchange a quick text to confirm your desire to share the ride and that's it! Whoever hails a cab first picks up the other person! The first time you use the app, you will be asked to enter a first name or alias that you can change anytime using the menu function.
Extras:
The menu function will allow you to call a cab company directly, turn your phone into a flashing beacon (signaling your color coded destination) and allow you to input your favorite destinations.



 
 
Download form Android Market: http://bit.ly/g1naeR


GrassHopper Meadow

Your child will enjoy the sunny and colorful meadow, childhood game of catching ladybugs and butterflies to trade them with friend for favorite toys. Develop the skill to hop and catch butterflies and flying lady bugs, not to step on grasshoppers and to avoid the boy who will sneak up and try to release them. Six levels are available to challenge your skills!










Chicago Local Guide Android App

All you need in Chicago to find:
  • interesting places: points-of-interest around you
  • cultural, social, sports and technology events around Chicago
  • Chicago photography and art
  • food trucks twitter feed and map (coming soon)
  • beautiful Chicago wallpapers





We would like to extend an invitation to artists and galleries of Chicago for free promotion in our application.
Below are just a few benefits we could provide:
  • Calendar would cover dates of your event
  • Link from the calendar would open your Website or Map
  • Vernissage - art galleries of the exhibiting artists with art description
  • QR scanner - scans would take attendees to online galleries of the artists
  • "What's around" would show attendees restaurants, etc. around
  • Sharing would enable attendees to post Facebook/Twitter comments
Post your art to our Facebook page

Download the app: 




If you cannot find this app on Android Market download it here: http://bit.ly/n7iMSU

Uki's Google Java Technology blog