Archive for Audioboo

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.

My Innovation Confession

Posted in brand, creativity, marketing strategy, wisdom with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 2, 2010 by wisdomlondon

I presented this morning to about 50 business directors at who are members of London’s Partnership.  Usually, I’d be talking about social media or engagement at this kind of thing, but today’s topic was business innovation. Out of the comfort zone I went.  But it felt good.  Here’s my take:

I have a confession about the term ‘innovation’: It conflicts me.  In so many cases it feels like a label. I’m not crazy about it. To me, It’s a simple enough concept: Doing something differently, to effect positive change. But that’s not everyone’s view.

Over-doing it

What bothers me is that the very word has been over-used, over-processed, intellectualised.  Made complicated, made abstract and conceptual, made elitist….

I probably owe you an explanation.  In a previous life I worked for a consulting firm. They had an innovation practice, a VP of innovation, they ran innovation events. To me, it wasn’t real enough.  Not to me as an employee, or the clients and projects I engaged with.  There, it remained a concept. I still couldn’t see it, or experience it.

But I know and understand that innovation is important. Move beyond concept, make it tangible and it’s a tool for business.  It can help us keep up, overtake, break new ground and make the most of new technology and developments.

It’s a vital mindset in the quest for continual improvement.  That’s my definition.

Reality bites

But we have to make it mean something ‘real’ to our business.  We all need a workable definition of innovation in the context of your business, my business, the world that we all operate in – our reality.

Reality-based innovation, if you will, could pay dividends and make the difference between a good marketing approach and an outstanding one, a strong brand and an emotive one, a content, functioning workforce and a highly-motivated, dynamic team of ambassadors.

So where do we begin? Take a look around – innovation exists in myriad areas of business and often not through planning, just through mindset.

Brewed Boy: Rob uses the core of what he does to add value in terms of community and like minds: book swap, coaching sessions, informal meet ups.  I suspect he doesn’t actively seek to innovate.  He just does.

Etsy: Using the power of community / shared passions / a major trend to open up a new market

Groupon: Game changer for consumers and retailers alike – win-win

Shutl: Quest to change the way we shop – responding to a consumer frustration

Innocent: people at the heart of everything / massive community focus

Audioboo: Harnessing technology to help us do things more smartly

What’s the common denominator?  Passion.  Wanting to make things better. Not wanting to stand still.  These businesses change and evolve rapidly, they’re geared up to be flexible.  They can (and will) try something new tomorrow

Clue: think about where pockets exist for your organisation to innovate

The big/small rule

Don’t let a big concept put you off.  Define first of all what innovation can mean to you and your business.

Innovation can be a baby step, just a small thing you do differently that can change the course of something, make it better, to encourage people to act differently.

That’s the big rule:  Innovation doesn’t have to be big

Doesn’t have to be a cumbersome process.  For example, for Wisdom London, it’s a case of wrapping value around our brand – moving slightly beyond our core offer to add something useful, desirable and thoughtful (resources, tips, thoughts, tools, even cake).  Human.  Personal.

For your reality, some considerations….

  • Actively observe.  Be a tourist.  In your own organization. Throw out your preconceptions. Get your head up and look around.
  • Reality check: Check out everyone’s reality: yours, your teams’ your clients, stakeholders, target market.  You need to understand this REALLY well. Innovation can happen anywhere. It’s just a question of identifying where it’s most ripe.
  • Question the status quo. Innovation is not about doing things the same way they’ve always been done.  Ask why, why not, ask again
  • Dare to dream: Hypothesise.  What if x, y or z was used differently?  Repackaged? What if the concept was expanded?  Extra value wrapped around it? What’s the risk attached to that?
  • Try it, review and try again – don’t let it remain a concept
  • Don’t stand still

What it all boils down to:

I don’t see innovation as a process that should be overlaid on a business, or a stand-alone activity.  I am deeply sceptical about the need to assign responsibility for innovation to one person or team.

Here’s my view.  Innovation is simply an opportunity. Either in or you’re out. Thinking innovatively or not.

It’s a mindset that should be engaged when you think about your business in the context of marketing, productivity and improvement.  It’s an opportunity to do things differently.  To move away from conventional wisdom, to be bold, to differentiate.

This is not everyone’s view.  The academic view is more along the lines of “creativity is a mindset, innovation is a process”.  In an academic scenario, I accept that I may be wrong or at least off beam.

But we’re not academics.  We’re business people in the real world.  I don’t think we should get caught up in semantics.

We should simply aspire to create, do things differently, better, responsively and in a way that genuinely meets the needs of people and business – and innovation or not – we can call it what we want.

Kate Spiers is director and founder of Wisdom London. She believes in action, not semantic debate.

Slides here: Business Innovation Wisdom London

Follow Kate on Twitter

Ever Wondered About….Audioboo?

Posted in creativity, social media with tags , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2010 by wisdomlondon

What is it?

Where sound gets social. Why should video and written content have all the fun? Record, upload and share audio for free via mobile and fixed internet.

Tag and post your boo for all to see or only certain peeps.  Pay to create and customise streams with an impressive array of options: assign privileges to one person or a whole community.

As you would expect, photos, tags and location feature.  Check out the BooMap, a kind of heat map of boos.  This is an exciting place to be.

Why should I care?

Another game-changer?  Well, it could be.  The fortunes of voice data have not been exactly glittering over the past few years in the mobile sphere, but Audioboo plays to our current obsession with reporting and curating content rather brilliantly, and brings sound back to…well if not the forefront of social engagement, then a prominent position.

So beyond some interesting audio snippets, what’s the big deal?  Well, imagine this (with a little help from the Audioboo folks):

“A radio station can create a ‘phone in’ stream, whereby anyone can upload audio to a stream, which the admin can moderate, publish the best ones on their social networks and download the mp3′s directly for use on their show.

A family can share audio only between themselves…

A corporation can publish audio direct to their staff or named individuals…

Two people can have a private chat. Maybe about steam trains or noodles…”

There are some definite possibilities out there.  Our view? Internal communications for corporations, instruction guides for consumer products, as a social inclusion tool (where language and literacy is a barrier)…and it could be a genius and game-shifting move in entertainment too (snacksized soundbites).

Also one to watch due to the sheer passion of the Audioboo team.  This is a labour of love and is growing before our eyes, organically, technologically and exponentially.  Used mainly by the very tech- and social-savvy, it still feels like early days…but influential early adopters will surely change all that.

There are around 200 000 registered users right now, and over 30 000 listens a day. Equivalent to a successful medium-sized radio station.

Anything else I should know?

Audioboo is British born-and-bred. Used around the world. UK, Germany and US use is high, with Ireland also catching on fast. Even British forces in Kabul have been known to use it.

Loved by Stephen Fry, Robert Scoble and the mighty @documentally, among others. Stephen Fry’s boos get around 60 listens per second in the first hour of posting.

David Miliband is currently using Audioboo as a feedback and discussion tool in his Labour leadership quest.

More on the 2 types of paid accounts:

Plus is a basic subscription service similiar to Flicker Pro, costing £50/year. Unlimited recording length, queuing of uploads if you haven’t got 3G (upload later), ability to have 3 concurrent Streams, private messages and probably more once it’s invented.

Pro is a media solutions offering, starting at £3k/year for server-side stuff like moderation of boos from an audience (see enclosed pic), pre & post roll audio (stings/ads), loads of Streams and ‘stuff’.  Already used by British Library, Open University and Royal Opera House.

Use Audioboo?  What do you think?  Tell us….

Ever Wondered About is a new series on the Wisdom London blog, where Kate Spiers and Jill Ruthenberg aim to demystify and explore what’s shaping our social interactions.  Coming up: Ning, Klout and PPC.  Wondering about anything else?  Tell us and we’ll investigate!

Have you Ever Wondered About….Groupon? Click to wonder no more.