Archive for the creativity Category

Platform, simplicity and involvement: Keys to developing the perfect app

Posted in creativity, marketing strategy, social media with tags , on March 8, 2011 by wisdomlondon

Image: M Bartosch

If you want to get closer to your customers, you can’t get closer than their ever-present mobile phones.

Packaging up your brand, service or product in a mobile or tablet-friendly app ensures that customers stay close, no matter where they are, and can enjoy a enhanced and personalised version of the brand experience. If you get it right. And when you do, greater loyalty and increased spend are just some of the benefits.

But developing an app which delights – and not to mention justifies the investment – is not straightforward. There is a whole host of considerations to take into account, and this will only expand as mobile technologies and operating systems continue to evolve.

I asked two experts in app development about what it takes to build a brilliant app.

Mark Rock is founder of audio-sharing platform Audioboo, where sound is social. Launched in 2009, Audioboo sees around 100 000 individual audio plays per day – and mobile has played a huge part in establishing this reach.  It’s available via iPhone, Android and now Nokia apps.  Gilbert Hill is business development director at Governor Technology, a web development agency with a specialism in app development.

iPhone, Blackberry, Android, WP7…. How do you decide where to place your bets?

For Mark Rock, it was a fairly easy choice: “iPhone has by far the most integrated development environment and because iPad and iPhone share the same OS, then your app will work on both, he explained. “In terms of market size, Android is the king but it’s harder to maintain (as a platform). Blackberry is a pain, simply because of the sheer number and different shapes handsets come in. WP7 looks good but has only a very small market share at present”. Gilbert Hill sees opportunity in WP7 for this exact reason. “We’re getting more and more enquiries about WP7 development as clients update their mobile app strategies to include more than just one platform.  There are now about 350,000 apps available in the Apple ecosystem – that is a huge pond in which to command attention.  By contrast, other platforms like WP7 are less populated which means each app has a real chance of making a splash”.

So, once you’ve figured that out, do you go for in-house development or with a dev shop?

Our experts represent either sides of the development fence, and both offer compelling arguments.  Hill argues that “compared with straight web dev, mobile development now means dealing with multiple platforms, each with own quirks and capabilities.  Add to that the fact that each handset also has its own challenges”. Not only that, he explains, but there’s a talent issue too – agency devs are up on a broad spectrum of technologies and can represent cost savings too. On the other hand, Rock explains that in-house has been perfect for Audioboo. “Our development process has been quite iterative, so it’s given us flexibility to have a developer in-house.” But sometimes a blend of the two is needed. “We build Audioboo’s iPhone app in house and then show that to our Android developer as a design to emulate”.

So far, so good. Now for the crux of it – user experience (UX). What matters most?

Both Rock and Hill agree that simplicity is the number one attribute to which to aspire. As Hill points out, “Familiarity of experience can trump novelty”. Mark Rock also cites user journey (is it intuitive? will the user get lost?) and useful error messages as critical UX considerations.

Launch time!  But how can you ensure great uptake?

Well, it seems it’s all about the app selling itself – so, getting the technology and experience right in the first place.  High profile users help, of course. Mark Rock explains: “We were lucky to have been taken up by some big media players in the first 3 months – Guardian, BBC, FT. We also engage with users on Twitter and our user forums a lot, which leads to a network effort, particularly as we allow autoposting to Facebook and Twitter – so it becomes part of that mainstream”.

For Hill, it’s about engaging users early on – in some cases before you even start development. “It always depresses me when someone proudly informs us of an App they have already commissioned based on an idea brewed up in an internal ‘team-think’ session, and the end user has been left out of the process”.  Understanding what users want first, engaging them in the development process (consultation, Beta test groups etc) and keeping close to those users is key.

And it doesn’t end there.  All apps need to be updated, to keep them fresh, fast and functionality-rich. But when?

It’s clearly a balance.  On one hand, updates prolong the shelf life of an app, but too much turns users off.  “We update maybe twice a year and only when we have significant new features to add or a major bug that many users have complained about, says Rock. “But you do see companies using updates to push their app up in the download charts. We just don’t think that’s a compelling user experience”.

As with concept and development, Hill suggests that updates can provide an opportunity for loyalty-building: “If you start the process by polling users for what they want they will love you for it, and become advocates rather than just consumers.”

Kate Spiers is founder of Wisdom London, a communications consultancy with a focus on new and emerging technologies and their application for outstanding communications.

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Ever wondered about….SXSW?

Posted in creativity, Ever Wondered About..., social media with tags on January 6, 2011 by wisdomlondon

What is it?

SXWS (South by South West) annually marks two weeks in March when Austin, Texas is officially the coolest place in the universe to be.  What originally started as a music festival in 1987 now encompasses film alongside music but importantly – and fairly logically – interactive media, which gets a 4 day gig as part of the festival as SXSW Interactive.

Needless to say, it’s become a natural place to be if you’re interested in tech, social, comms and start-ups.  And not surprisingly, plenty of start-ups are launched – or if already launched, come of age – at SXSW.  It’s been a springboard for Twitter, Foursquare, Gowalla and Bump in previous years.  What will 2011 hold?

Why should I care?

If you’re using Twitter, reading blogs and generally have any interest in tech (and what marketer doesn’t?) you’ll be hearing a LOT about it.

2011 looks set to be hot. Big names are speaking, so expect announcements, product launches and plenty of online chatter, alongside news of some of the most dynamic tech start-ups we might see this year.

Quite apart from the fact that big industry events often signal industry change and progress, SXSW also points clearly to what we should be understanding loud and clear by now: It’s no longer about social vs marketing vs technology vs content.

This is a further wave of digital convergence and demonstrates that social and interactive media is implicit in business, content is implicit in digital, and technology underpins the whole shooting match. Sit up and take notice.  Look out for:

Keynote speakers and panels

Expect predictions, killer stats and controversy from Valeria Maltoni (@conversationagent), Dennis Crowley (Foursquare), Beth Kanter (@kanter), Eric Qualman (Socialnomics), Thomas Knoll (Zappos) and Guy Kawasaki.

Start-ups

With Twitter and Foursquare launching (or at least gaining real traction through a world stage) at SXSW, you can expect to hear about some start-ups that are sure to become ubiquitous fairly quickly.  Again, take note.

Cool

Bands including Bombay Bicycle Club, Frankie and The Heartstrings, Erykah Badu and Klaxons.  Films are guaranteed to be on the quirky side, but whatever gets screened there will be bathed in kudos, believe me.

Kate Spiers is director at Wisdom London, an integrated communications agency with a passion for technology. If you’d like to talk about social media and content strategy as part of your integrated communications approach, get in touch!

Ever wondered about…Usability Testing?

Posted in creativity, Ever Wondered About..., social media with tags on January 5, 2011 by wisdomlondon

Lucy PayneA guest post by Lucy Payne

What is it?

It’s basically the testing of digital objects like websites, widgets or apps to help designers bring their products to life. This kind of testing focuses on the relationship between the object and the end user, to make sure that the object is:

  • Learnable, meaning it’s easy to use or learn to use.
  • Efficient, once the user has “learned” the product they are able to achieve a high level of productivity.
  • Memorable, how easy the system is to remember. If a user takes a long break from using the product, they should be able to remember how to use it easily – there should be no need to re-learn how to use it.
  • Low in errors, a user should only make a small number of errors, and if errors are made, recovering from these errors should be simple.
  • And finally satisfying – a positive experience while using the system.

Usability testing is about test, repair, re-test.

Why should I care?

Jakob Nielsen the father of web based usability testing says “designers are not users” therefore usability testing with a sample of end users is crucial in creating a successful product for your target audience. In 2009 a study in the International Journal of Electronic Commerce announced that the average conversion rate for an E-Commerce site was 3.43%. Having a site which is hard to use would only work to lower this figure.

Every digital object which your client or company owns or creates should be included in the Marketing and Communications plan. Marketers should care about usability testing because promoting a product which is hard to use is like running the wrong way up an escalator – not impossible, but bloomin’ hard work!

Anything else I should know?

Yes: Usability testing doesn’t have to be costly or time consuming. Hooray!

All you need is: an office or conference room with two chairs, a computer (which is connected to the internet if a live site is being tested), a handy cam, a long video cable and a tripod. Some usability experts fiercely believe that anyone can facilitate a test, but its best to use someone who is patient, calm, empathetic, a good listener and inherently fair. There are plenty of books about which can teach you how to do it so get reading.

Lucy is an Account Manager at Pass It On, a Social Media Marketing Agency. She is currently studying for an MSc in Multimedia at Swansea Metropolitan University. Follow Lucy on Twitter here.

Ever Wondered About….Pummelvision?

Posted in creativity, Ever Wondered About..., social media with tags , on January 4, 2011 by wisdomlondon

What is it? Really simple: Pummelvision lets you grab photos from Flickr, Facebook, Dropbox and Tumblr, put them all together and create a slideshow video.

Or as Pummelvision puts it, “make your life flash before your eyes”.

Once you’ve made your slideshow video, you can share it to YouTube and Vimeo.

Why should I care?

From a user point of view, it’s fun, shareable, and super simple.

For marketers and communicators, it could provide a tool with which to create and share a really quick and slicker-than-average asset, for free. Plenty of scope for brands in terms of WOM and virality (by asking consumers to create Pummelvision shows based on their product, for example).

I quite fancy using it as a collaborative moodboard for creative projects – put in a bunch of relevant images and share, then see what you get as a result.

What else do I need to know?

  • It’s free to use.
  • Pummelvision was created by Vimeo co-founder Jake Lodwick.  So he knows what he’s doing.
  • There’s a limit of 2500 photos per video.  That’s quite a lot.
  • According to the @pummelvision Twitter feed when I asked, it will eventually be able to pull pictures from other applications and platforms like Instagram, Twitter and WordPress, but next up is DailyBooth.

There are also a few complaints about speed of transition, and a general desire from users to be able to change music etc., but presumably this is in hand.

Here’s my effort.  It took about 10 minutes, from start to rendering to upload.  Nice!

Kate Spiers is director of Wisdom London, an integrated communications agency with a pragmatic approach to social technologies.  If you’d like to find out more about how to embrace technologies such as Pummelvision, Twitter and Facebook as part of your integrated communications approach, get in touch: kate@wisdomlondon.com

Follow Kate on Twitter here

Where To Be Inspired In London

Posted in creativity, wisdom on December 19, 2010 by wisdomlondon

A little Christmassy gift for you here, cooked up by Wisdom London and turned into a thing of beauty by Ellie Gibson.

Download and enjoy!

 

Experiments in Social Media Number 3, Part 2: Rationing Twitter

Posted in creativity, social media with tags , , , , on October 7, 2010 by wisdomlondon

By Jill Ruthenberg

Finally, I’m back to my normal twittering (with some improvements hopefully) but I thought I should share how I got on with my latest Experiment in Social Media which attempted to address some frequently asked questions about Twittering.

Recent stats suggest that more than 70 per cent of all tweets fall on deaf ears, while 96.9 per cent of replies and 92.4 per cent of retweets happen within the first hour of existence. Reactions nearly never occur once a tweet ages beyond 60 minutes. So we asked the questions, how much tweeting is too much? And if we think it could be too much, if we pare it down will anyone even notice?How do we make content more meaningful? Will it help?

The challenge

The challenge was put to you and me: to ration our tweets to make them count.

The method

We had decided that limiting tweets to 1 per day would be too extreme. Mostly because Twitter can and should be used for loads of stuff: listening, trendspotting, broadcasting, sharing, conversing… and a little because, well, 1 just isn’t enough.

So, with extra thought and attention to make sure we’re saying something meaningful we were to tweet only 5 times a day for 1 working week. But not just any 5 tweets willy-nilly, we had to use the tools available to us:

  • 1 original content
  • 1 RT
  • 1 direct message
  • 1 reply
  • 1 link share

(I decided hashtags could be used liberally… or else I don’t think anyone would’ve been willing to take part.)

The Process

To make my tweets count I thought about how I could use each of my 5 a day quota and worked at refining what I really want to share with you and where I could be of most use.

Here are snippets from my experiments journal:

Day 1:

I have to say the today was a little distressing; I wasn’t quite sure how to prioritise things.

I avoided my routine of logging in first thing and instead logged in at 12pm. Not 30 minutes in and I was so tempted to share how full I was after my curry lunch, or how that Malteaser on Kate’s desk was teasing me (get it?). Fortunately for everyone else, I had reached the limit. And I couldn’t completely fail on the first day… So I started thinking about what I was going to tweet tomorrow.

Day 2:

Was actually not so bad. I still had urges to tweet nonsense and have realised that RTs and link shares are the easiest (laziest) types of tweets to do, but I don’t use DMs nearly as much as I could/should.

I felt kind of proud of how I used my 5. I also felt liberated after my five were up so that I could focus on my work…

Day 3:

I’m not so sure this experiment was a good idea. I can’t join into conversations – they’re just happening around me and I’m failing miserably at taking things off of Twitter into other channels…

I wonder if people still remember me.

Day 4:

So I cheated a little. I got Follow Friday fever and went a little overboard with the @s!

Day 5:

Monday… remorseful after my slip on Friday. I thought I should take a break. Didn’t even log on. Went slightly insane from the isolation.

The result

It was great to see that several people took me up on the challenge and got involved. They were kind enough to give me some feedback along the way.

So the results in the words of some of the tweeties that got involved:

“Moderation and discipline can do a great deal of good from time to time.”

– @ZofiaMS

“I think that I couldn’t get by, by minimising contact… We should remember its the quality not the quantity.”

– @Charliesaidthat

“It has made me realise how much I depend on it – not just for business, but as a release…”

– @CloudNineRec

“It [was] difficult!”

– @IamSilverFox

About halfway through the experiment, I started regretting starting and I’m not sure if the experiment overall was a success. There were some surprises though.

On one hand, the benefits I saw from doing this ration:

  • I did get more work done
  • I was often shocked at how much of what I wanted to share was actually nonsense, so have determined to take it down a notch now that the experiment has ended
  • I’m definitely going to rethink the many RTs and link shares I do (although I might’ve slipped into my old habits already today)
  • I’m going to utilise DMs a little more (maybe for all those things I want to share but directed towards someone who will get it)
  • I thought my self-discipline was quite outstanding really; I didn’t break the ration once… if you don’t count Friday… I made up for it…

On the other-hand, why I’m never doing this experiment again is:

  • By the end of the first day I was already missing the human interaction!
  • I couldn’t join into conversation and I’m still feeling out of it… just 5 days did really affect my relationships.
  • I still think in 140 characters or less!

Massive thank you for those tweethearts who got involved, even if you broke the ration (it was probably a good thing)! If you have anything you want to add, what you found, what you missed most, what you’ll do differently now – please share!

Jill Ruthenberg is Communications Specialist at Wisdom London and promises to only tweet those things which she believes will actually add value to your day.

Follow Jill on Twitter

Oh Boy! Our October Series is Here!

Posted in brand, creativity with tags , on October 1, 2010 by wisdomlondon

Oh boy, are we bursting at the seams with excitement! It’s October and what a glorious month it’s going to be!

You may have heard the rumours.

We’ve got a very special series for you this month! Yes we do…

For the month of October, we’re putting the concept of branding under the microscope; putting it on the intense wash cycle and wringing it out; putting it the pressure cooker and boiling it down until only the absolute essentials are left. And we’ve brought in legends – practically demi-gods – in their field to help us out.

Some things we’ll be exploring:

  • What is a brand, anyway?
  • What makes a mega-brand?
  • The evolution of a start-up brand
  • Re-branding
  • Brand emotion (a personal favourite)
  • Brand communications
  • The importance of getting your messages right

Too good to be true? Stick around…

Coming up Monday: What is a brand, anyway?