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What’s new in iOS7 (beta 3) – see screenshots here

Apple launched beta 3 of the highly anticipated iOS7 today. Geeky developers (like us) have been spending the day learning about the latest release and sharing screenshots and opinions on what’s new. Here are a few highlights from today.

iTunes Radio

Combine the innovative technology of spotify or rdio with the reach and userbase of iTunes and you have iTunes Radio. Create a radio station then let iTunes Radio “learn” your preferences and tailor music to you through the new “Tune This Station” slider that was spotted today:

BUT – currently only available in the USA (boo!).

iTunes shows download sizes

You can now see how large an app download is in iTunes before you download it. Great for those on limited data plans who may want to wait until they’re on wifi before updating an app.

New loading animation

Icons no longer use the blue progress bar to show how much has been downloaded, you’ll see a new ‘circular’ animation now instead as shown here:

New calendar

A few improvements to the calendar since beta 2 including those small dot indicators under days to show when you have events on certain days. The latest version looks like this:

Those are just a few highlights from today. What else have you spotted that you like in beta 3?

Twitter highlights websites that embed tweets

Twitter is rolling out a new display feature that highlights websites that have embedded tweets.

Quick revision here, if you’ve never embedded a tweet before it’s really simple. Just head to Twitter.com, find the tweet you want to embed, click “…more” at the end there and select “Embed Tweet” to get the code:

Now once you’ve done that, whenever people view the Tweet that you’ve embedded in their Twitter feed they’re going to start seeing this:

Why do I like this? Firstly because I hope this will encourage people to actually start using the proper “Embed Tweet” feature rather than screengrabbing a Tweet to appear in their articles. This is better for download speeds, rendering on mobile and is just the right way to do it. Then secondly, and more importantly, it’s going to help give kudos to certain Tweets as the more trusted and relevant sites are that have embedded it, the more likely you will be to read it.

This is rolling out now, so you may not see it right away but start thinking about how you can use this feature to you and your customer’s benefit.

Oh and as a test, here’s an embedded Tweet about this article about embedding Tweets that links to this article about embedding Tweets (makes me want to watch ‘Inception’…).

What’s a Hamburger Button? It’s the Hamburger that’s good for you.

There’s a hamburger you should try. It’s becoming really popular, people who try it seem to like it, it doesn’t make you (or your app) feel bloated…

Ok, enough of the poor wordplay, of course I’m talking about a Hamburger Button – that little three line icon you would have seen on apps that hides the primary navigation system until you tap on it.

Why talk about it? We build a lot of mobile sites and apps here at Fly Digital and have started seeing a real trend in clients moving away from tab bar navigation to the Hamburger way of navigating. It’s becoming a more widely accepted way to manage navigation on smaller screens.

Is it going to replace the tab bar? I think it will. The traditional tab bar that runs across the footer of many apps takes up a fair percentage of the screen real estate and usually only allows for 5 options at any one time. The Hamburger method takes up a tiny amount of screen space and can reveal a menu system that theoretically can be endless. These two reasons alone are going to move more app developers across to this method.

How does it work? In most cases, tapping the Hamburger icon slides the main content across to the right revealing a vertically scrolling view of menu items. Some apps also replicate this behaviour by allowing you to swipe across the main content.

The screenshots above show how the Facebook app on iOS does this. Below is a closeup of the Hamburger icon and expanded menu from the Teambox app also on iOS:

Why ‘Hamburger’? Well the icon itself has been around for a while but was originally designed to represent a set of drawers that when opened reveal additional content. However as it’s been used more widely in the mobile world (and probably in a bar somewhere on a Friday during lunch) developers have recently decided that the three layers looked more like a stylised burger instead, hence the name.

5 things we can learn from Game Of Thrones

1) The King is not always right, nor is the client

Joffrey has made some bad decisions in his short reign and if you’re really honest I’m sure the same could be said about your clients. But when this happens it’s rarely a good idea to simply nod and obey for fear of losing your head (or the contract). Always remember that you’ve been put in the position you’re in by a client or customer because you’re the specialist. So be a bit more like Tyrion Lannister and stand up for what you believe in. Because ultimately the King will be better off as a result.

2) Don’t judge too early, find the best in people and jobs

At first glance it’s easy to discount Hodor as a man of simple thoughts, few words and unable to offer a lot else. But without him Bran Stark would literally be in a very different place to where he is today. The same can be said about that job that looks a bit dodgy from the initial brief, or the potential employee who you didn’t get a good vibe from. Don’t give up too early, you can rarely get an accurate idea of how a project or person will turn out from first glance. I’ve had projects that sounded pretty uninteresting from the initial brief, but after taking the time to talk to the client and hear how passionate they were about it they’ve actually ended up being really interesting and profitable exercises all round.

3) Adapt or die

Wildlings don’t adapt very well. Generation after generation have attacked the Wall and each time the result has been the same – failure. If you don’t adapt as a small business and stubbornly adopt the same strategy over and over, you will fail too. It doesn’t matter if people want you or your products now, in time they won’t. Guaranteed. So if you want to succeed and don’t want to end up cold and alone beyond the wall make sure you are prepared to adapt to the market and to your enemies. It’s the only way to survive.

4) Expect the unexpected

(Season One spoiler alert) After Ned confessed to treason everybody thought Joffrey would show compassion and things would go back to normal. But a sudden change of heart and slash of the sword and things changed forever. When you run a small business I truly believe you have to expect and plan for the worst. Ask yourself, if you lost your biggest client could you still survive? If sales started declining rather than growing how long until the business started dying? What percentage of current income could you lose before you had to start slashing overheads? Always have a plan B for what you’d do if your current income stream was severed. It’s not a nice thing to think about but the more you do the more quickly you’ll be able to adapt if it ever happened.

5) Where Are My Developers?

And finally, don’t be like Daenerys Targaryen and turn your back on your Dragons (Developers) because when people find out how valuable they are they’ll try and steal them from you. Right now in the Australian market I believe that finding and keeping a good developer is one of the hardest parts of the job. So when you find one, be good to them and hang on to them. Because as a Technology Company you will lose the battle without them.

App Search Optimisation (ASO) for beginners

Hooray, there’s a new Technology acronym that I need to learn … said no one ever.

ASO or App Search Optimisation is the fancy way of describing the process of trying to make your app stand out above others when customers are browsing app stores like iTunes or Google Play.

Personally I think, as with SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), there’s an awful lot of common sense that can be applied here to cover 80% of the ‘recommendations’ that the ‘experts’ are telling us.

But as a self confessed ‘expert’ who is here to give you some ‘recommendations’ here are the key things that I’d suggest you focus on when submitting your app.

App Name

Most importantly. Does your app have a descriptive name that contains keywords customers may be searching for? Remember, you have two ‘names’ for your app: 1) the short name that appears under the app icon on the smartphone and 2) the longer app name that features in the App Store. As an example your new flying game might have a short name of ‘Fly High’ but can have an App Store name of ‘Fly High – the Aeroplane Simulator Flying Game’. So choose both names wisely, the idea is to maximise the number of downloads by being descriptive.

App Keywords

Keywords are of little relevance to website SEO nowadays but they can help with ASO. So make sure you use as many of the 100 characters you’re given as you can. A good starting point is to research what your competitor apps are using to get ideas. And don’t forget there’s no need to repeat your App Name in your keywords.

App Description

Most importantly with the App Description is the fact that it’s going to get truncated. So make sure your key sell message is concisely written in the first two sentences. A punchy couple of sentences which neatly describe what you’ll get in the app is a way better strategy than paragraphs of text on how you came up with the idea or who the sponsors are or why you think it’s the next Angry Birds. Give the customer the facts, sell them the concept, then let them decide. Here’s a good example from Fox Sports’ NRL app:

App Icon

There are two schools of thought for including text in the icon or not. My opinion is that if the icon text is readable and better defines the purpose/brand of the app than a graphic only icon then go for it. But there’s no need to repeat the name of the App in your icon, that’s what the short name is for.

Updates

If you are making updates to your app make sure you don’t only describe the updates you’ve made but list them too. People love lists. Writing a sentence or two on why you’ve released this new version (eg: “You asked for changes to our booking system so we’ve added new ways to pay and made booking even easier”) and following that up with a list of exactly what you have done is generally the best approach.

Other tactics

A couple of final tips:

  1. Encourage customers to review and rate/review your app. You can do this via push notification prompts or via your company Social Media channels. An app that has 0 reviews and 0 ratings doesn’t look appealing to customers at all, especially if you’re asking them to pay for it.
  2. Encourage your friends and family to rate/review your app. As per point #1, it doesn’t hurt to ask people you know to rate your new app to get some initial runs on the board.
  3. Have relevant screenshots. You may love your fancy loading screen but there’s no point making that the number one screenshot, it’s not going to sell your app. Choose screenshots that tell the story of what you get when you download the app. Pick the key areas of content or functionality, and make sure the first screenshot is the best one.

If you have any other tips that you’ve found work when Optimising your App content, let us know below.

Xbox One – A non-gamers guide to what Microsoft just launched

We’re not gamers at Fly Digital but we don’t mind a new technology launch, so it was still a big deal when Microsoft presented their new Xbox One earlier today.

To help like-minded non-gaming tech fans, here’s a quick cheat sheet on the Xbox One.

What is the XBox One?

It’s the latest version of the Microsoft Xbox released 8 years after the Xbox 360. Rumours had it that this version would be called Xbox Infinity, but it seems Microsoft went the other end of the scale and started from step one again trying to create a completely new gaming experience rather than an upgrade to Xbox 360.

What cool things can it do?

Lots of voice control. You can turn it on by saying “XBox On” for a start which will wake up the device and return you to where you last left off. Or say “Xbox watch TV” to swap to a live TV feed. Plus you can even jump into a Skype call whilst playing a game (useful for taunting opponents).

Also using Windows 8′s snap feature you can ‘snap’ an app to one side of the screen whilst using the other side for something else. This has plenty of cool uses like snapping a twitter feed next to a live TV show, or playing a game with the walkthrough snapped to the other side.

What about Kinect?

The motion control add-on is still there but for Xbox One it’s been completely redeveloped. According to the demo earlier today, Microsoft claim Kinect “picks up motion at 13 billionths of a second, the time it takes light photons to bounce off of you and make it back for the sensors.” Now I’m no particle physicist but that sounds pretty darn responsive, am I right? This thing can apparently detect your heartbeat when exercising and Microsoft even claim it can register movements even in complete darkness (not sure if that’s important though, perhaps useful for the adult games market?)

Any demos I can watch?

Yep, check out the Call Of Duty : Ghosts video here: http://kotaku.com/call-of-duty-ghosts-gives-you-a-dog-customizable-mult-509058934 Check out the detail in the way the plants move when the helicopter flies past, or the reality of the German Shepherd (you get a dog in this new version, nice). Impressive stuff.

When can I get one?

Patience… Microsoft said the Xbox One will be available later in the year. I’d say based on previous releases assume around 4-6 months. But no doubt this is going to be a very popular Christmas gift for 2013.

Job: Digital Project Manager (midweight)

Digital Project Manager (midweight)

Fly Digital has a great opportunity for an ambitious, well-disciplined and creative Project Manager with excellent communication skills to join our growing team. You will be responsible for managing websites, mobile apps, eCommerce sites and other projects from concept to delivery across our varied client base working with our in-house and remotely located developers and designers. Reporting to the Company Director you’ll bring a flexible work ethic, an organized and methodical approach to your work and a genuine desire to be a key part of a small but fast growing company.

Download the job description here (PDF)

What you’ll need:

  • 3+ years client facing Project Management experience in the Digital Industry
  • A strong understanding of web/mobile development and design techniques
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Knowledge of HTML, Photoshop and Coding Languages would be very advantageous

 What you’ll be doing:

  • Managing concurrent projects from concept, through to execution, testing, delivery and support
  • Managing client requests and translating these into briefs & tasks for developers and designers
  • Writing and presenting project documentation
  • Assisting the team with the company’s Social Media channels, blogs and websites
  • Assisting the Company Director on new business proposals and presentations

To apply:

Please submit your cover letter and resume to support@flydigital.com.au. Applicants chosen for an interview will be contacted in due course.

Three things to do before you leave on a Friday afternoon

It’s nearly time to packup and leave for another weekend, but here are three things to do before you power down the laptop and head off tonight.

1) Write down 3 things to do on Monday before lunch

Write a list of the three key things you want to achieve on Monday morning so you can arrive at work and get stuck into it. Try and include at least one job you’ve been avoiding (like returning that phone call you’ve been putting off) and one fun one like updating your Twitter profile. Then when Monday comes focus on finishing that list and head out on your lunchbreak feeling like you’re already ahead.

2) Give yourself one weekend task

Weekends are a great time to knock off a few items on your todo list as well. Except try choosing  those tasks you can do on the floor in front of the TV or at the table with a cold beer eg: sorting out your receipts, installing updates on your laptop, clearing out your work bag or watching that TED video that you never had time for all week.

3) Reflect on the week

Thirdly, take a second to think back on the week and try and remember one thing you did really well and one thing you did really badly. Recounting these sorts of experiences really helps train yourself to improve when you have made mistakes and leverage of good experiences when you have done something great.

But most of all, weekends are for making the most of the time with friends and family, so you can come back on Monday morning refreshed and re-energised.

Have a great one!

Our top 5 web design tips for new websites

We’re going to assume you’ve got your branding and look & feel sorted – we’re not here to tell you how to come up with the actual design of your site. But from a technology point of view if you’re embarking on a new web design project either yourself or through an agency here are our top 5 tips to help get the most from your new layout:

Web Design Tip 1: Think like a search engine

Page titles, meta descriptions and content are key when it comes to Search Engine Optimisation but so is layout. Looking at your design from a search engine perspective is often a good way to pickup issues before you head into the development phase.

Is your navigation easy to find, text based and not reliant on any scripts like Javascript? Will all images have accompanying text that a search engine can read? Do article pages have clear headers at the top of the content? Have you, on every page you’re building (including the homepage) at some point described what the page is about? Think relevance. The more relevant a search engine sees your page to the content you’re trying to optimise for, the better you will fare.

Web Design Tip 2: Try it on a tablet (and a phone)

Once you’ve got a layout save it as a JPG and load it on your tablet. See how it looks, is it easy to read the text at that size? Are navigation elements going to be easy to tap on? Now do the same on a smartphone. How does it look?

This is the time to confirm if you are going to commission a responsive design template or optimised views for mobile users. And if not, why not? It’s not too late to change your mind at this stage of the process before development has started.

This is also the time that you can have a final sanity check to make sure you’re not loading any components like Flash or applets that might not run on tablet devices at all. If your web dev agency is recommending them make sure they have a very very good reason for doing so.

Ideally, do this step right at the beginning of the project. We often take wireframe sketches and load them on an iPad to make sure we’ve got things like image spacing, line lengths, navigation options and general layout correct before opening up Photoshop. It’s very quick to do and can save you a lot of time in the future.

Web Design Tip 3: Show your kids

Show your website to your kids (unless you’re developing the next version of Playboy.com) and ask them what they think it’s about. I believe that if you can’t explain an idea to a 6-year old then you don’t have a proper grasp on the idea at all. The same goes for design. If kids don’t get what you’re trying to sell or do through a quick glance at the design, might your customers have the same problem?

Web Design Tip 4: Faster is better

Take a look at your design and start counting out all of the items that you think will take longer to load, that’s things like pictures or videos or promo panels or animations, etc. If you get to 5 or more then stop and consider how this might affect how website will load. Page loading speeds aren’t just important for a good user experience they’re also considered by Search Engines when ranking your site. So make sure your pages will load as quickly as they can.

Web Design Tip 5: Do you really need all those social media icons?

Finally, does your layout have Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube (and so on…) icons on it? If yes, do you really need them on there. Yes you want to grow your likes and followers, but are there better ways to do this? Could you put your icons in the footer rather than up in your header? (That’s the first place I look, and it doesn’t affect the design nearly as much). Could you add them to your “contact us” page instead? Do you really need that big Facebook like box on there or are there better uses of that space on your site? For bigger brands, do you actually need to tell customers you are on Facebook or could they work that out for themselves?

What are your top tips in the Design phase of a project? Let us know your thoughts below.

Android spiking in the UK with new releases from HTC and Samsung

According to Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, Android is further strengthening its number one place in the UK representing 58.4% of the total smartphone OS market for Jan-March 2013.

iOS has just over one-quarter market share at 28.9%.

A fair way behind, but growing at a fast rate is Windows mobile now accounting for 7% of the market, up from 2.9% a year ago.

As more sales of the new HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 devices flow through this will most probably tip market share even further in Android’s favour.

See the full report here.