mobile apps

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?

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.

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.

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.

Google Glass – will we all be wearing Google’s Glasses in a year?

When I was studying Digital Media at University I came up with the idea of a pair of “smart glasses” that overlayed directions on your surroundings as you walked around an unfamiliar city. It was all done through triangulation from mobile phone towers and a microprocessor within the glasses frame. It was a fun project to conceptualise, but never made it off the page.

It’s no surprise therefore that I was really excited to hear about Google’s “Project Glass” – a prototype pair of glasses that can record still and moving images from the wearer’s perspective  currently being tested by select users.

As Google define it, Project Glass is there to “share the world through your eyes. To get answers and updates, instantly. To be there when you need it, and out of your way when you don’t.”

It’s really cool.

In addition to the image recording capabilities the unit features a heads-up display (HUD) similar to that worn by military pilots, most recognisably those flying the Apache AH-64 Gunship helicopter.

Google have been testing the product in a rather flamboyant way including sky-divers streaming real time footage of their freefall to a Google Hangout and loaning units to fashion icon Diane Von Furstenburg to capture footage during New York fashion week.

It’s the HUD component of this product that particularly interests me though. A device like this with the backing of Google has the potential to make a huge impact. The possibilities for applications are endless. What about GPS based direction services that overlay maps via augmented reality, apps to provide guidance to people caught in emergency situations, real-time translations apps that give you live ‘subtitles’ when listening to foreign languages, ‘black box’ style real time recording for commercial drivers or apps to improve situational awareness for cyclists that overlay alerts when traffic is getting too close.

In the same way in which Apple & Samsung saturated the market with smartphones over a very short period of time, could we be seeing people wearing ‘Google Glasses’ on the high street within a year?

I hope so, because the potential for developing applications for this sort of device are incredibly exciting.

Passbook on iOS6 stores all your tickets & confirmations in one place

Apple’s new ‘Passbook’ app launched at the WWDC today stores tickets, confirmations, boarding passes and cards in one place within the new iOS6 operating system.

Apple are using Passbook as a way to change how users approach digital wallets and as with most of their other iOS6 apps the UI is incredibly simple to navigate and operate.

The app uses GeoLocation to bring up relevant Passbook ‘tickets’ when you are near outlets that you have confirmations for.

Passbook also appears to be able to handle stored value cards as demonstrated by Scott Forstall with a Starbucks card.

Plus cards are ‘live’ – ie: if your flight details change so will the boarding pass stored in your passbook app and an Apple notification will appear with the update.

Passbook is one of over 200 new features being launched with iOS6 this week.

Images via @verge.

 

ASOS Scan To Shop on iOS and Android

Fashion etailer ASOS were promoting their ‘Scan to Shop’ app at a recent Vogue event in Sydney.

‘Vogue’s Fashion Night Out’ in Sydney on September 6th showcased fashion retailers and brands in the CBD through a vast array of live events, outdoor stalls, activities and  parties.

ASOS provided a large 4-sided wall of product images which allowed owners of the app to scan via iOS/Android and purchase direct.

The app is similar in principle to Woolworths’ smartphone app which allows you to scan grocery items in train stations to virtually shop without visiting an actual store. ASOS have taken this principle and adapted it for the tech savvy online fashion market.

Pictured on the left is the fashion wall of products being scanned on an iPhone 4S.

Download via: iTunes or GooglePlay

More info on ASOS here.

‘How To Lose Weight Fast’ makes Woman’s Day top apps list

Thanks to the team at Woman’s Day magazine for listing the ‘How To Lose Weight Fast’ app we created for Susie Burrell as one of their top apps in the latest edition of the magazine.

To be featured alongside the likes of the brilliant ‘Map My Run’ app is a compliment indeed.

Thanks also to everyone who has downloaded the app and provided feedback on what you’d like to see in future versions.

How To Lose Weight Fast now listed in ‘Top Free apps’ in iTunes Store

This post is admittedly a plug for one of our clients’ products but also a chance to say thanks to the many thousands of people who have already downloaded our ‘How To Lose Weight Fast‘ app for TV Dietitian Susie Burrell.

The app is currently featured in iTunes in the list of ‘Top Free’ apps in the Health & Fitness category and we’ve already had some great feedback from customers asking for calorific content, more information on meal quantities and more recipes.

We’re taking all of this feedback on board and are working with Susie Burrell on making this content available to you as soon as possible.

Thank you again if you’ve already downloaded ‘How To Lose Weight Fast’ and if you have any more feedback please let us know in the comments below or on the main Fly Digital website.

Download the app here: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/susie-burrells-how-to-lose/id513773562