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Posts Tagged ‘apps’

  • On native apps versus the mobile web

    5th September 13

    Posted by Mel Exon

    Posted in design, mobile

    This is the third cross-post this week from a few articles we’ve written this year for a tech column in Marketing magazine. This one from the June issue looks at designing for mobile web versus native apps: as mobile moves to centre stage, should marketers design for every operating system and every device, or opt instead for the mobile web?

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    Last month’s column covered how wearable tech is likely to succeed for no other reason than it makes intuitive sense once you try it. Just as mankind ditched pocket watches en masse in the first half of the 20th century (albeit reluctantly at first: apparently your average British male stated they’d “rather wear a skirt than a wrist watch” until after WW1), it follows that we won’t carry around a smartphone when we can wear one instead and stay handsfree.

    When it comes to designing for mobile however, wearable tech throws up additional demands in an already quite complex space. Designing for different operating systems on a bunch of different handsets and tablets is going to look like child’s play when wearable tech fully enters the arena. It’s going to get harder before it gets easier.

    Enter the mobile web. I usually subscribe to the view that the more complex a task, the simpler the solution needs to be. Native apps increasingly dominate mobile traffic, currently delivering four times the volume of the mobile web and yet… why design separate solutions for different OS when you can have the broader applicability and lower costs of designing for the mobile web instead?

    In truth, there is no one mobile solution to rule them all. So how best to navigate development choices now, with one eye on the future?

    Here’s a dead simple guide to ‘what to choose, when’:

    1. Native apps

    If you’re designing a service or utility (task-based) app that requires real speed and you want to use the native features of the OS running on a given device, then for now your best bet is to code a native app, think Instagram.

    2. Web apps  

    In other words, apps that live entirely online and run in a web browser tab. If you don’t need the native features associated with iOS or Android, say, and the purpose of your app is primarily information-based – to the extent it needs constant communication with the server – then you’re better off building a web app. An example of this would be Forecast http://forecast.io/, the weather app built using HTML5. No need to go to the app store, just search, download to your home screen and you’re good to go. Forecast also puts to bed any assumptions that a native app interface is de facto better. As Forecast themselves say, it’s more a question of users getting familiar with the progress that’s been made:

    “It’s 2013, and mobile browser technology has advanced tremendously in the past few years: hardware accelerated transforms and animations have made it easy to create perfectly smooth, jitter-free, interfaces..”

    3. Hybrid apps

    As the name suggests: a native app, but built using HTML, CSS and Javascript. This speeds up the development process and makes it easier to publish across platforms, but there can be compromises in styling and performance. Netflix is a good example of one that works: using the same code base for its user interface on all devices allows Netflix to change the interface or conduct testing at will (whilst video streaming is done within the native layer, meaning it feels fast and ‘native-like’ to the user).

    In short, each of the approaches here have a role, it depends on what we’re trying to achieve. For marketers, I’d wager we default to a native app too quickly. The question to ask is “will this app provide genuine utility or entertainment that users will want to return to of their own accord in future?” If the answer is closer to “no, this is a short term campaign to promote a product launch” then let’s do everyone, including our CFOs, a favour and build a light, responsively designed web page instead.

    Further reading:

    Love this related post on cards as a design approach that solves many of the perennial issues around mobile – it’s must-read: Why Cards Are The Future of The Web, by Paul Adams @ Intercom.

  • On virtual packaging: where’s the Coke bottle of the online world?

    19th November 10

    Posted by Mel Exon

    Posted in Brands, design

    Author: Matthew Gladstone (@gladstonematt), Partner, BBH London

    So it’s official, “Applications are the white goods of the 21st century” and sales of virtual goods have crossed the $2bn threshold in the US and iTunes has over a billion downloads.

    But, as we all know, not everyone is enjoying the party – Thom Yorke has told young bands not to tie themselves to the sinking ship of music companies, Murdoch is trying out pay walls for his newspapers, and a US court has caused outcry by ruling that people who have bought discs of software don’t actually “own” them – they cannot sell them second hand on eBay.

    I think the difference is a lot to do with packaging and branding.  Or, to be precise, virtual packaging and branding. People who are getting it right are getting paid more than those who aren’t.

    What packaging and branding do is to create a sense of property and ownership.  And property and ownership are norms that tell us to value and pay for things.  Which are big problems in the virtual economy.

    So my provocation is this: “Virtual packaging” is one way to create that sense of ownership and property. Just as the pioneers of branding created commercial value when they put trade-marks onto commodities in the tangible world – branded them as “theirs” – we have to reinvent packaging and branding for the virtual world.

    The most obvious examples of this are Apps (packaged, single-purpose, branded on the button, tangible with a finger, made unique to you through use) and, at the other extreme, music (downloaded via anonymous browser, no presence other than a line of text in a database, totally generic).  And who is persuading people to pay more successfully?

    I think that one day we will look back at the App v.2010 and laugh at its crudity.  One day we will have virtual packaging as iconic as this:

    But let’s go back to the beginning.

    My first wake up call was overhearing the oft-debated morality of downloading music.  Free file sharing?  Fine.  Normal.  That’s how you get music.  Why the question?  But walking out of a store with a cd without paying for it?  Shoplifting.  Stealing.  Wrong.  Equally obvious.

    So what’s the difference between download and CD?  To the artist, none.  But to the user, one was packaged – physical, shiny, found in a shop – the other, just a piece of anonymous data accessed through a browser.

    Look at Murdoch vs. the App.  No detailed data are available yet, but anecdotal reports say that iPad apps are performing disproportionately well vs. subscriptions accessed via browser.  And Ben Hughes, global commercial director and deputy CEO of the Financial Times, says the iPad is a “game-changer” for the newspaper industry.  It’s the app vs the generic packaging of the browser.
    roket tube porno And then the success of iTunes or Amazon?  These are also “packaged” environments – clearly understood as “shops” where you pay for stuff.  Unlike Limewire or Piratebay.

    Which leaves our last example – the action against someone selling software discs on eBay.  The Software and Information Industry Association (USA) is breaking our norms of ownership and property when it says “I own that physical thing you bought”.  We all feel that physical things belong to the person who buys them.

    So the App is really just a virtual box.  iTunes or Amazon just a virtual shop (no shit).  Things that have cleverly used the norms of ownership and property in the virtual space, to make us more likely to pay for them.  Right now the virtual retailers seem to be way more sophisticated than the products they sell – but hopefully that will change.

    So here are some starters on creating virtual packaging (some of these may seem uncannily obvious or familiar to the real world, but maybe that’s the point):

    -       visual identity which differentiates the object
    -       tangible, touchable
    -       a differentiated experience (sounds, colours, even haptic “textures”)
    -       adaptive to the owner – evolving into something distinctively personal to the owner
    -       hard to copy and transfer; the sense of a physical transfer, not a lossless virtual one

    Perhaps it’s time music came in Apps. As we said earlier: branded on the button, tangible, with a memory of what I did last time, with an experience unique to each app or band.  Perhaps it would even be like a gatefold of old, but on steroids.  Now that’s something I’d pay for.

    We’d like to know what you think.  Who’s doing this well? Do you know anyone who works in the world of packaging who’d want to comment?