Category: Mobile App Design

John Clancy has a great article on AppDeveloperMagazine.com that goes into the requirements of maximizing lifetime value of your product.  We’ve got through quite a few of these points, here, too – suffice that each component of app development and marketing needs continuous reinforcement.   As relates to product planning, there are some points worthy of adding.

Product upgrades, modules and expansions.   The inherent goal of business is to maximize your return for everything you do.  This makes some business models superior to others.  Compare web site design to mobile app or software development.  With web site development, it’s 1 product = 1 sale.  With mobile apps and software it’s 1 product = potentially 1000’s of sales, or copies distributed considering indirect revenue models.

What could possibly be better than the software or mobile app market for a business model — given that a physical storefront, physical inventory, packaging, shipping or product returns are virtually irrelevant?

Let’s take a look at what Angry Birds has done.  First, there was Angry Birds.  Then came Angry Birds HD, Angry Birds Seasons, Angry Birds Magic, Angry Birds Rio, Angry Birds Chrome, Angry Birds Space, and well… Angry Birds just keeps going and going, kind of like the Energizer Bunny.

What’s happening there?  Well, they found something that worked very well, and applied the same model to multiple products.  That is, we can guess that a substantial amount of the design and coding from each version was recycled and reused to produce another product.

This is something to consider when developing your next project, as well as if your last product showed any signs of really catching on.   Leastwise, you can look at just about every reasonably successful product and find its sequel.  World of Warcraft could have stopped with its Level 40 Cap…  Windows could have stopped around version 3.1.   Restaurants could have stopped with the double cheeseburger, but some went on to make the triple cheeseburger, and at least one found the sky the limit and decided to make the “heart attack burger.”

In my own case, I design “very large scenarios” for wargames.   It was my initial goal to produce a scenario spanning all of World War II at a division level, 15 km per hex, scale.   The game platform I use was not able to handle it at the time.   My first project ended up being just the War in Europe from 1942 – 1945 because that was the absolute maximum the system could handle.  With recent upgrades of the game platform, however, it appears that my original idea is now viable.   The question then became whether I could complete the scenario by the time of the game platform’s next release?  No, but a full 1939 – 1945 covering somewhat more than the War in Europe is feasible.

This sets the stage for three different products, all developed incrementally.

This is par for the course in all popular gaming systems.   If you look at different roleplaying games back in Pen and Paper days, each had a rulebook for a gamemaster, books for players, more books for gamemasters, miniatures for everyone, dice, game screens, you name it.  Much the same goes into today’s MMORPG’s.   As mentioned in previous articles, the market for “virtual vanity items” within a large network of people is considerable.  Some games make more money from vanity products than they do on any other aspect of their game.  It can also work for business and utility related apps, too.

The intention here is to prompt consideration of different directions you can go with your existing mobile app.   By recycling and reusing existing code, you simplify a portion of your testing and quality control, accelerate development of your product line, supply your existing customers with more content and increase your ability to more rapidly reach new customers with similar interests.


Market reach counts – advertising on Opera Mobile Store can get your app in front of millions of end-users you are not likely to reach otherwise. Contact our sales team today!

If you are looking for different ways to monetize your app, you may find the following articles of interest to you:

Happy Holidays to Everyone!  And Happy Festivus to the Rest of Us…   On behalf of the entire OMS Team, I wish you and your family all the best over this holiday season and the year ahead!

The long-term.  Most of the successful app developers have been designing apps for five or more years.  The point is obvious and applies to everything, the longer you work at something – the better you get at it.   While all of the world seems to be in a rush, and there is something to be said about being “first to market”, ultimately those who apply to the long-haul benefit the most.  Lots of tech companies from the 1990’s and 2000’s went bankrupt despite enormous investments.

The point of everything that you do now should be directed to “building the future” – a future that you never stop building:

1.  You develop mobile apps because YOU CAN and you keep developing them, your design skills, your marketing skills as a means and an end.

2.  You establish a web site and you keep it going with periodic updates, at least once per month even when you are too busy with other things to be working on an app.

3.  You keep building your social and professional network – friends and colleagues, industry contacts, tech minded people in other fields and in other countries, media contacts, bloggers, journalists, etc.

4.  You have something like a newsletter, even if you only send something out once a year.  But you keep building your mailing list for the day you will need it.

5.  Every time you complete an app, you get it into venue you can — especially when it is free to do so.  Make sure to add links to your web site of all the actual URL’s of the sites and specific pages your app is available.

6.  Develop a focal point and niche – get to know as many businesses and community leaders in that niche as you can – discover their needs and develop for them.  In time you will be THE Specialist for that niche, the one who people turn to when they need something done — the one who businesses turn to when they want to share in the market you have developed.

7.  Make a financial commitment.  Many small businesses remain small because they consume their profits as “wages”.  Some treat all of their profits (if they have any) as wages.   Sometimes, you have to.  Do your best to either reinvest your profits or set them aside as your future marketing fund.

8.  If you have apps that are sitting dormant, consider leasing them out or selling rights to them outright to others.  Similarly, if you see other apps out there that show promise and that you know you can improve upon, relatively quickly – consider acquiring the license to them.  The same goes for seeking opportunities to localize other people’s apps in cooperative efforts and joint ventures.

9.  When you don’t have enough time to do it yourself, find help – consider a partnership, or if you have a name already, consider getting a college student or intern to do some work for you in exchange for providing them training, instruction and hands-on opportunity.  By being a mentor for others, you open up opportunities to collaborate on their future projects.

10.  Understand that opportunities are almost always created – they rarely happen by themselves.  Everything you do can be an opportunity for something more.  Above and beyond your apps, a web site is a 24 hour/365 day a year public representative of what you do, the apps you make.

If you introduce yourself to one new person a week, over a year you will have 52 new, relevant – likely professional contacts.  In five years, that’360 – and they will likely help introduce you to more along the way.  Leverage all of these things – starting NOW, so that next year this time, you will look back and say… “Things are going pretty good… it’s a Festivus Miracle!”

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Numerous estimates place the number of mobile-friendly web sites at less than 35%, and between 10-15% for mobile-optimized web sites.   Mobile use keeps growing and growing, and is itself estimated at up to one-third of all Internet traffic.   This article takes a quick look at the Opera Mobile Emulator, a handy tool for savvy web site developers to see what any given web site looks like across a wide range of devices – with different size screens.

(And we thought we had it tough back in the 1990’s)

emulatorFirst, you can download your free copy of the Opera Mobile Emulator.  It’s fast and easy to install.  When you open it, you get to select to emulate different versions of Amazon’s Kindle,  and various devices from Asus, HTC, LG, Lenovo, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba.   You also get to modify the resolution, pixel density, type of interface, windows scale, and other things that programmers use for debugging.

Here’s a screenshot of how a Motorola Photon 4G looks (right).

As an old website designer, this makes for a great tool to see how any given web site looks across a wide range of platforms.   One of Opera Mobile Store’s own designers (Ryks!) made sure our blog looks good on mobile.   Not every web site will be nearly so easy to read or navigate — and that includes your typical WordPress installs.   In some cases, custom WordPress templates designed to present a catalog or magazine-style look-n-feel will be rendered completely differently than what you would expect.   One magazine style WordPress site, for example, is rendered as an old-style, basic blog.

It’s even more important for online store owners to have (at least) a mobile-friendly site given the propensity for mobile users to buy online.

Do you need to redesign your existing web site or should you set up a second site?

The answer, as always, depends.  My inclination is to believe that wherever possible you should optimize your existing site to be as mobile-friendly as you can get it.  Taking the route of having two different web sites – one for PC’s and one for mobile – adds too much overhead and won’t leverage your existing SEO or backlink efforts.  Every time you make an update, you’ll have to make it on both sites.  Plus, other costs can creep in.  So, do your best to work with what you already have.

If you have a site where know a mobile friendly version is going to be difficult, then consider offering a streamlined version that branches off from your main index.  In this case you will want the link to your mobile version available in the uppermost, top left corner so mobile users will see straight away that they have a mobile friendly option.

Elements to consider:

1.  Streamline your graphics.

2.  Condense the amount of content on one page to roughly what you would see on a regular PC screen – without scrolling down further.   Use your best judgement, some sites are so retro that you may never reach the bottom… heh…

3.  Reduce the number of desired outcomes you might normally place on a page.  Many people tend to <right click – open new window> for each link they want to explore further.  In many cases, that is not available or not convenient for many mobile users.  So, funneling becomes even more important in mobile design.

4.  Experiment and don’t trust your WYSIWYG’s…  These are days when everything you thought you knew has changed.  With the latest stealth technology, “Picture or it didn’t happen” no longer applies — just because you can’t see it does not mean it is not there.  With special effects becoming increasingly life-like, just because you did see it, doesn’t mean what you saw was real.  Thus, with WYSIWYG’s (What You See IS What You Get editors) – just because you see it, have a picture of it and can prove it is there does not mean that everyone else will see it the same way as you do or see it at all.

This last point… should serve as general inspiration that regardless what time of day it is, it’s probably time for another cup of coffee and to make sure you’ve got your copy of the Opera Mobile Emulator.

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File this under “Lessons Learned.”  I’m not a programmer and don’t personally develop mobile apps, however I have completed design of one “game” and am nearing completion of a second for a “game platform”.

Each platform has its strengths and weaknesses, some things it can do more easily than others, some things that it may not do as well as others, and so on – whether it is iOS or Android, HTML5, Java or otherwise.   Some are better suited for new developers, others require more experience to get full performance.

Regardless of whether you are a novice developer or an experienced developer, the key factor for developing a commercial product is to stick to what you know works.  Keep it simple.  Everything you are not 100% confident about requires testing.  Testing A vs. B is a simple matter, but if your routine generates multiple possible outcomes and branches out further – the more difficult that testing becomes.

For a programmer, some of this may sound ridiculously basic if not truly BASIC.   In the game platform I work with, the most important components are handled by a wide range of IF/THEN statements.   When trying to express a series of related events tied to one outcome, it takes on the form of something like:

If A and If B, Then C, but not If D or E. 

That would require between 10 and 16 lines to implement.  That’s a fairly simple example.  Consequently, it is worth looking at what you are trying to do by finding something that it is common to A and B, but mutually exclusive to D and E.  For my purposes, that would require only 4 to 6 lines to implement.  It reduces program size and potential for error.  This approach might look something like:

If A Then C but not If F. 

Continuously expanding what you know will work comes from examining how other programs work that do things that close to what you have in mind coupled with continuous testing – preferably outside the commercial product you are working on now.

For as basic as all of this is, it stands amply evident in a wide range of product releases with broken features and functions.  Whether operating systems, games or utilities, untested complexity frequently and severely impacts performance and popularity.   Reducing the number of things you have to test for equally applies to being more confident about everything else actually working as intended.

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The rush to market is common and apps reach the market not completely developed, untested or without much in the way of marketing support.  On the other end of the spectrum are the perfectionists – developers who won’t release anything until it really is perfect.   This post is for you.  The hard core perfectionists out there.

The number one thing about perfection is that it is quite nearly impossible to achieve.   By the time you actually achieve what you thought would be perfection, your standards for it will have changed.   You work a little more to make your app perfect and realize that well, for it to be truly perfect you need to add this or that.   In consequence, one of three things happens:

One, you get discouraged and give up.

Two, you keep working at it for years but someone else with the same idea beats you to market.

Three, you resolve that your high standards are better than what is out there now, and you release it.

Perfection does not go hand in hand with productivity or profits.   It does not mean to drop your high standards – keep your high standards, but base the release of your product more upon realistic and attainable measurements.   Your goals should tie somewhat more into your original vision of the app and somewhat less upon all of the the “add-ons” that you think of during the process of finishing it.  Weigh each item according to whether it is critical, essential and logically part of its basic functions or whether the additional feature is simply nice to have.   Special features that may take a few hours or days to add and test are one thing, items requiring weeks should be set aside for upgrades and follow-on apps.

As a developer, it is important to accept that there will be some devices and special circumstances in which your app will not perform as intended.   Realistically, you might expect to resolve about 80-90% of these issues, with consideration about the severity of the problem.  In games, especially MMO’s you will be held to a higher standard – some players will go through fits if a skill or gear is even a few points off.  In those cases, it may be easier to simply change descriptions of how things work than change how they do work.

One other note on perfectionism with mobile app development that goes for everything.  Six months down the road, you may come back and look at your code and say, “OMG!  the code is awful… and look at that, that’s just terrible… I can’t believe that I actually produced it.”   That’s part of the process, it shows you’ve developed – improved your knowledge, skill and expectations.

So… if you are a perfectionist and you know it, if you are happy with your app now – see what other people think, don’t be afraid to get feedback from others.  If they like it as is – go with it.   Use your high standards to your advantage.

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