Blog Post: The Internet of Cities

The last five years of technological innovation have now resulted in more mobile devices in existence than people to use them. It has allowed users to interact with the world around them and redefine the meaning of the word “connected”. It has also created a culture where we can’t stay focused at work without checking our Twitter feed every so often.

As devices change and further integrate into our lives, there will be more innovation. I’m afraid, however, that we are reaching our saturation level of people being connected. So what’s next?

Connecting our cities to devices.

The article details how a company named Libelium is using sensors in Santander, Spain to help drivers find a parking spot sooner and reduce air pollution by cars. Waste water overflows are being reduced by 23 percent in South Bend, Indiana thanks to sensors installed by IBM. South Korea is installing sensors in the road to not only help funnel drivers during high-traffic times, but sense seismic activity as an early warning.

These are just a few of the many opportunities municipalities are using connectivity to their advantage. The article also states that in many cases, the upgrades pay for themselves.

While I don’t doubt that the new watch, glasses or other wearable technology will change mobile just as mobile changed the Internet, it’s the companies that can gather data effectively and use it to help improve our lives. These sensors must be cheap, easy to install and accessible to city networks.

Once we do that, we will worry less about finding our keys with mobile devices and more on saving time and the environment.

Blog Post: The Internet of Cities

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Blog Post: #Apps of All Kinds

Sometimes I am jealous of all the mobile conferences that happen globally. If I had a choice, there would be a designated amount of time where my company allowed employees time for exchange of ideas and networking. Unfortunately, there’s work that needs to be done. So I’m left with reading great recaps like this piece from Venture Beat.

As usual, companies are a little reluctant to throw all their eggs into one basket. With the mobile industry still so new, it can be difficult to make product decisions based on what could be considered a “fad”.

The senior VP of Salesforce concluded that in the future, more and more work will be done on mobile devices. For now, though, it’s impossible to employ a mobile-first strategy. Reading the tea leaves, many decision makers (even at my company) believe too much work is done on traditional computing devices to warrant a change in product road maps.

Problem being, it’s not going to be that way for much longer. Companies that want to innovate should be making the changes to their planning now if they want to beat the rush.

I have tried something the last couple of months at work, with some degree of success. Instead of carting my bulky laptop everywhere to monitor email and instant message queues I have been taking my iPhone. Strangely enough, I get just as much done and my interactions are limited just because I don’t want to be on my phone too much during meetings.

Of course, documentation still has to be written. For that, I need my bigger screens and a keyboard. That, of course, could be remedied with an iPad and Bluetooth keyboard.

Mobile devices are not just for consuming content. These powerful devices are just as capable of creating the content, and I need apps to help me do so.

Blog Post: #Apps of All Kinds

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Blog Post: More RWD Stats Mean More Questions

This is a fantastic read by a company that decided to take a responsive redesign project and throw some tracking numbers with it (more companies should be doing this by the way). The results were an e-commerce site made significant gains in conversions and sales transactions after converting the site to a mobile-friendly design.

Seems like a case to be made for all sites to make this change, right? How can you argue when the return on investment is so high?

The simple answer is: maybe.

Electric Pulp’s customer for sure made a significant return on their decision to become more mobile friendly. According to this blog post, there was a relatively small amount of work done:

“The [mobile updates] were typical mobile patterns. We made the site fluid. We collapsed the primary navigation menu, allowing visitors to expand it by tapping a Menu link. We increased the size of the font, the tap areas and detail photos. We reduced the number of columns.”

That’s not to say the changes were significant. Making the site more fluid is some serious UX work. The rest of the items were not too bad by themselves. Regardless, even if the effort is considered minuscule compared to all the work possible, this probably took a few months by the team.

Which brings me to the results. Testing the site after adding responsive elements brought increases to not only mobile usage, but desktop as well. It could mean people enjoyed the mobile UI so much they wanted to check it out on their desktop machines. It could also mean, however, that the numbers would have gone up regardless. The writer admits it’s hard to tell for sure.

Re-branding efforts by consulting companies are big business, regardless of the media and industry. Sometimes, a fresh coat of paint and new landscaping is all you needed to help your house. One could argue that these numbers were the result of that. 

Improving the user’s experience could also be a contributing factor. I know I tend to buy from companies that make shopping easier. One look at Amazon’s mobile site is support that a well designed site is better than a beautifully designed site. Oh, great prices help too.

Changing how conversion information is collected helps, and better navigation for sure helps. Bigger pictures and faster checkout are part of the picture too.

I think that’s why I have more questions than answers from this post. Being a huge fan of the responsive site movement, I want nothing more than these stats to be the real deal. Unfortunately  I have to make this argument internally and externally every day. These questions are the same I field.

While it is almost impossible to compare apples to apples for every aspect of this redesign, I think we must continue to try in every way or we won’t quantify a new industry standard of web design.

Blog Post: More RWD Stats Mean More Questions

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Blog Post: Lazy Users Are Actually Efficient

Having orchestrated many user testing exercises, I have lots of experience with user laziness. It is a term in the product world that refers to users skipping all of the precious copy and walk-throughs engineered with love. With such well-written copy and care given to every interaction users have with our products it’s understandable to get upset watching someone skip over all of that and just get to the meat of a design.

I can’t tell you how valuable that kind of information is.

Often, we get so concerned with designing a product “right” that we overlook the obvious. This blog post from UX consultant Harry Brignull perfectly illustrates just how unnecessary some product decisions are:

If you tell it to work out 200 factorial minus 200 factorial, it will do a lot of unnecessary computation, and perhaps produce an overflow error. The intelligent solution is a far more lazy one.

That means the many screens describing what your app does may be a waste of time to users. They can figure it out on their own. Instead of utilizing an account creation module with four or five screens, just add a Facebook login button. The data you get will be the same and users will be happy they didn’t waste a few minutes for an app they might not like in a few weeks.

Examples span every industry and product alike. Instead of seeing users as lazy, we must take the data they give us and streamline the experience of our products. When we have an efficient method of giving users what they want, they appreciate it and come back for more.

Blog Post: Lazy Users Are Actually Efficient

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Blog Post: Why iTunes Radio Might Rule Streaming Music Soon

Today’s link brings some very interesting points in regards to how valuable iTunes Radio might be when iOS7 hits devices this fall. The Guardian’s Charles Arthur argues that the rate Apple is going to pay could potentially make the service very attractive to record labels.

It’s no secret record labels love and hate the team in Cupertino because of how iTunes affected music sales, but the viability of free streaming music gets harder to make money off of every year. That’s where the cash Apple has on hand comes in handy:

What the other streaming services have discovered repeatedly is that it’s hard to make such a service profitable, because the music costs don’t fall as they grow – in web terms, it doesn’t “scale”. Thus Spotify has put a 10-hours-per-month ceiling on free listening, and Pandora blocks people outside the US from listening.

So, while labels have been publicly supporting Spotify for some time, it will be difficult for labels to not throw their good stuff to Apple when they pay 10 times more.

Add to it the easy integration with iTunes to purchase what you are buying, and this looks to be an easy win for iOS. It’s crazy to think that the announcement was merely a footnote in the WWDC keynote presentation.

Blog Post: Why iTunes Radio Might Rule Streaming Music Soon

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