Price, level of expertise and estimated time! These are the 3 main criteria that any organization planning to have a mobile app built use to evaluate potential mobile app development services providers, right? And yet, the cost of development sure isn't just about the money. Take time factor and commitment, for instance! They, too, get reflected in your bill. A suspiciously short time estimate might be a signal for you that they'll be skipping a crucial step or two from your app's development process. Also, a “large” team might be a numerous team of enthusiastic and hard-working... junior developers only. So, how do you properly evaluate your potential mobile app development partner? How do you know for sure whether their services and level of expertise are enough to help them deliver you a mobile app that meets your requirements entirely? Gaining in-depth knowledge about their team members and collecting reviews from former clients are just some of the key steps to take during your “investigation”. And since no other “evaluation method” could beat an open face-to-face talk, here are 9 essential questions to ask your potential provider: 1. "What's Your Specific Workflow?" In other words: how do they usually approach their mobile app projects? What's their work strategy? What key phases does it include (or exclude)? Everyone's “boasting” with their adoption of the agile development these days, right? Make sure you go beyond the standard talk about the agile approach and ask them to name the specific phases included in their process flow. A good workflow would need to include at least these 5 crucial steps: preliminary research on the type of app to be built, along with all its particularities and specific functionalities to be implemented (analyzing the target audience here included) a feasibility study the prototyping phase the UI optimization phase the MVP building phase Do dare raise an eyebrow if your potential “partner in crime” strives to convince you to go straight to MVP. It's an alarming sign that they're not the professionals that you might want to handle your brilliant app idea. 2. "What Technologies Does Your Team Have a Deep Expertise In?" Another crucial question to dare asking your potential app development services provider whether: you've already started working on your app and you're now just outsourcing some aspects of your project; it's vital that this team should be proficient in that particular technology that you're currently using in your project you haven't yet started your project and you haven't yet chosen the mobile app development technology(s) that will be powering it either; it's crucial to know then how easily this team of mobile app developers can adapt to a new technology along the way 3. "How Many “X Technology” Developers Are On Your Team? Juniors or Seniors?" Expertise, hard to quantify, but crucial for ensuring that the resulting app will live up to your standards! Therefore, once you've dug through their never-ending list of technologies that they have a hands-on experience of, go deeper with your “investigations”. Identify just how many developers are familiar with your required technology. Are they mostly junior or experienced developers? And, most of all, do dare to ask for some sort of proof of their seniority levels. Some “blind” CVs or even samples of older code would be perfect. 4. "What Would Be Your Time Estimation on My Project?" And time sure is money! Do keep in mind that the average time invested in a mobile app development process is of 4-6 months. Compare the time estimate that this potential mobile app development services provider gives you with this “average time” for developing an... average mobile app. Next, ponder on their estimate a bit: if they commit themselves to delivering you your app faster than their competition, then you might want to put their offer on top of your list if their shorter development time is counterbalanced by a higher price, don't rush to take them off your list! A higher price might as well be a proof of the seniority level in their team. As well as of an efficiency-boosting workflow that they may be leveraging within the company. 5. "Does Your Portfolio Include Any App Development Projects Similar to Mine?" And by “similar” I definitely do not mean “identical”. Are they familiar with your industry? Have they implemented the same functionalities in some of their previous app development projects? Such as integrating a particular payment gateway, for instance? Have they been working mostly with start-ups or enterprises? 6. "Any Former Clients' References for Your Mobile App Development Services?" Why should your “research” be any different than that of a potential customer? Someone looking to make a purchase, who usually conducts a multi-leveled research: forums, customer reviews etc. Therefore, one of the key criteria when evaluating your mobile app development services provider is their former clients' references. Dare to ask for such recommendations and read client reviews on research company sites, such as Clutch.co, for instance. They do a wonderful job combining multiple evaluative metrics for identifying the leading companies in various industries (interviewing former clients being their no.1 research technique) Ask questions about some of their past projects: the challenges they faced, solutions that they've come up with, time invested in those projects etc. 7. "How Much Will My Project Cost? And What Does The Price Tag Cover?" For putting a price tag on is equally important as knowing from the very beginning precisely what services your “bill” would include. Speaking of which, here are some of the fixed aspects that you should make sure that will get included in that price estimate: research & preliminary consultancy UX prototypes, mockups design mobile app development project management all infrastructure costs guarantee licenses Also, a key parameter to use when you're “weighting” their cost estimate is the seniority level of the developers that will be assigned to your project. Since their proven experience and expertise would automatically influence the price. If the given price is suspiciously low, you might want to question those developers' overall level of expertise. Which, in the end, might lead to longer development times. So “cheaper” might turn out to be... more expensive actually. 8. "What Files Will I Be Given Access to During the Project?" Transparency is a strong indicator that this might just be the mobile app development company that you want to partner with. Don't hesitate to ask about the files that you can access during the project. Wanting to know what's going on, at every stage of your future app's development process, is only legitimate. And speaking of the files that you should be entitled to have easy access to, let me mention just a few: time reports weekly updated staging and production environment source code test environments/demos the project management's dashboard itself (whether it's Jira, Taiga or maybe Trello that they're using) The more involved you'll be in the process, the quicker you'll detect issues that you dislike or simply specifications that you'd like to create. And the more chances will be for the final product to meet your requirements entirely! 9. "How Do You Communicate With Your Clients Throughout The Projects?" And probably this is precisely the question that you should be starting your “interview” with. Knowing what: communication tools they'll be using (Slack, Rocket) what project management boards what time you can contact them at, their overall availability and response times the calls' frequency' how often you'll be getting in touch with the team working on your project … is vital. Zero or poor communication and timeliness risks to turn all expertise, efficiency-enhancing workflow, conveniently low price and short development times into... nothing but “details”. What if you want to make some recommendations? Or to inform the team about some late scope changes? What if the team itself needs further clarifications from you? Now it's the perfect time to express your expectations when it comes to this part of your future collaboration: communication. And also, to have your doubts if the potential app development services provider doesn't seem too open to implementing your suggestions. To committing itself to frequent calls and so on. The END! These are the 9 crucial questions to ask or the 9 things to look for in a new mobile app developers company that you consider collaborating with. Would you have added a few more? If so, what other questions? What is your own criteria when you're evaluating potential development teams in order to assess if they're the right fit for your app project?
Adriana Cacoveanu / Mar 10'2018
Oops!...We did it again! We've got awarded 4 spots in Clutch's latest research highlighting the top-performing development companies in New York. It's in 4 of the industries included there that OPTASY's got recognized as one of the top developers in New York: Drupal development, PHP development, e-commerce, Shopify and web development. Moreover — as if just being listed there, among all those leading development firms in New York, hadn't been enough — we got ranked #2 as Drupal developers, respectively #3 as PHP developers. And, ranked top 15 in three other industries, as well! Now with the risk of showing lack of modesty, we have to admit that we had been starting to feel quite “at home” on Clutch's matrices. Those highlighting the leading web development companies in Canada, in various industries. But to be recognized as one of the top developers in New York is simply an... overwhelming surprise! And it's almost an organic process if we come to think of it: it's our clients' encouraging feedback that made us open an office in New York, too (besides the one in Oakville, Canada). And it's their feedback, again, that reassures us now that we've made the best decision. We help our clients grow — powering their own ideas with our expertise and experience — and, in return, they fuel our own growth plans. As natural as that. And this is precisely why we're particularly honored not just to be recognized as one of the top developers in New York, but to get ranked as a leader by Clutch itself.To get listed as a leader on any of their researches is already an honor for us. This because the Clutch team doesn't apply “just” the conventional evaluative metrics when analyzing the “candidates”. Metrics such as industry experience or market presence. And it's not just data-driven content that they support their selections and hierarchies on, either. Instead, they actually interview both past and current clients of the given companies in order to identify both their strengths and weaknesses. In other words: First it was our clients that named us one of the top leaders in New York, then the Clutch team came to pinpoint their recognition. See why we're overly honored whenever we get listed on Clutch? Why we can't thank our clients enough for sparing some of their time to answer Clutch's questions; to put their experience with our team and their opinion on our work into words? Having our passion for what we do reflected in our clients' feedback is such a confidence-booster for us! And receiving, once again, a Clutch recognition can only confirm to us that: our client-centered approach and commitment to excellence make the best long-term strategy. And that we should stick to it. A big “Thank you!” to all our clients for their recognition and a big “Thank you!” to the CLUTCH team for the dedicated efforts put into each one of their famous researches.
Adriana Cacoveanu / Mar 07'2018
I am a woman of my word and so, as promised to you in yesterday's post, I'm back now with a handful of Drupal SEO best practices to follow this year. Best practices, valuable tips & tricks and key Drupal SEO modules waiting for you to unlock their optimization power and “inject” it into your website... All which, once put together, will give you a significant boost in (Google) ranking. So, shall we? 5. Build Your Keyword List, One of the Drupal SEO Best Practices to Stick to So, you've given your links a “deep clean” (as seen in Part 1), turned on your Google Analytics “tracking” power and your Drupal SEO Checklist's engines, too. What next? Putting together your targeted keyword list! And this is one of those Drupal SEO best practices that can either “turbocharge” or turn your entire site optimization strategy into worthless effort. That if you underestimate its “superpower”. And here are the tools to rely on when you go “keyword hunting”: Google Keyword Planner: it shows the no. of searches for each potential keyword that you could rank for so you'll know whether it's worth adding it to your list or not, depending on the traffic that it can generate Google Trends: it gives you an insight into how a specific keyword has “performed” over the years Moz: a whole SEO toolkit put at your disposal, including tools for keyword research, link building, site auditing, reporting, you name it... WordTracker: it puts a whole “ecosystem” of keyword-identifying tools at your disposal 6. From Lifeless Keywords to "Living", Keyword-Optimized Content Now it's time to sprinkle your keywords across your website. And not just anyhow, but... strategically! Your “battle plan” should include the following content optimization steps: create (if there isn't one already) one page for each target keyword consider removing certain keywords from your list before designing new keyword-optimized pages; some keywords may just not be suitable for your particular business write custom page descriptions, page-focused titles, add page-relevant keywords … and make sure to optimize the content on each one of these targeted pages, pulling off a proper keyword density 7. Add 2 More Essential Modules to your Drupal SEO Toolbox 2 Drupal 8 SEO modules, to be more specific: the RDF UI module and the Linkit module (available in Drupal 7, as well). RDF (Resource Description Framework) UI: it's built, from the ground up, with the idea of empowering you to (seamlessly) integrate Schema.org with your Drupal site (whether during or after the development process) … another one of those Drupal SEO best practices with a clear impact on your Google ranking with this on-page markup “on”, it will be fairly easier for search engines to “understand” what each page on your site is about … and thus deliver richer search results Linkit: it “spoils” you (or I'd better say your content team), with a convenient UI for easily setting up links right in the WYSIWYG, using the autocomplete field it sees that they're properly formatted, that they use the right path and that they're up to date, as well 8. "Fast" Is Just Another Word for "Optimized" As fast as your budget allows! Fast-loading pages will: have a huge impact on the overall user experience “please” the search engines and signal them that your site's optimized for speed and thus for enhancing UX and implicitly give you the boost in rankings (the reason why you've put together this whole Drupal SEO strategy in the first place, right?) From the dozens of techniques, tools & modules at your disposal, that you can leverage for optimizing your website for high speed, I outline just one: the Google AMP module. Integrating it with your Drupal site you'll be killing two birds with one stone: you'll give your site a massive performance boost you'll make it mobile-responsive A Note of Caution as a Conclusion Focusing on your links and forgetting all about the right keyword density across your site's content. Or injecting high speed into your website and forgetting to setup Google Analytics for your website. Or undermining the meta tags' critical role and focusing exclusively on building your target keyword list, won't give you that boost in ranking that you're aiming at. Make them ALL work together! Take these 8 Drupal SEO best practices as a clock mechanism: in vain do 7 parts get all your attention. If you neglect just the 8th component, the whole mechanism/SEO strategy won't work /won't give your site that boost in ranking that you're expecting.
Adriana Cacoveanu / Feb 14'2018
Aiming high? Do you have big plans for your Drupal site? Maybe even propel it right to the front page of Google? Well, you're already one big step closer to your goal: you've chosen Drupal, a content management system geared at granting you unparalleled functionality and flexibility to optimize its every node, snippet of code and view. But which are the essential Drupal SEO best practices to adopt in order to harness this SEO machine's full potential? Which are the right Drupal modules for SEO, the updated tips & tricks: the SEO essentials of 2018 for optimizing your Drupal website? For Drupal (and even so more Drupal 8) might be "spoiling" you, the marketer, with an ecosystem of SEO-focused tools and modules to “fuel” your optimization strategy with. Yet, you can't actually rock Drupal SEO if you don't know exactly: which of them are the truly "can't live without" ones how to put them all together and (most of all) make them all work together... to your site's advantage In short: what precisely do you need to set up and tweak on your Drupal site to give it a mega boost in rankings? And this is why we've put together this step-by-step guide on how to use Drupal's out-of-the-box potential for SEO to the fullest. Here's your list of 8 tips, tricks, Drupal SEO best practices for 2018: 1. Start By Giving Your URLs a "Deep Clean" Enabling clean URLs on your website should be on top of your Drupal SEO best practices list! Why? first of all, because all Drupal URLs get unique IDs instead of meaningful names secondly, because readable, clean URLs wearing the pages' titles, enhance both the search engines' crawling and the overall user experience And although in Drupal 8 you get clean URLs by default, there still are 2 particular scenarios that call for special Drupal SEO modules: when you move a piece of content to another section of your site and change its URL (Drupal won't automatically remove the old path and you run the risk to end up with duplicate content on your website) when you're facing the cumbersome SEO chore of manually naming each and every URL on your website Introducing the Redirect and Pathauto Drupal modules! Redirect: it creates 301 redirects which... redirect (obviously!) from the old URLs to the new ones it guarantees you that the links on your site preserve their value even when you apply changes to your Drupal content it pretty much takes the burden of fixing every broken link, manually, off your shoulders Pathauto: it automatically creates SEO-optimized URLs based on the content that you, yourself, define for instance, you can set the URL for your blog posts to always have the following path alias: /blog/[blog title] also (and this is a huge SEO factor) if you have ideally keyword-packed page titles, the Pathauto-generated URLs will automatically contain all those valuable keywords, as well 2. Install The Drupal SEO Checklist Module: One of The Very Best Drupal SEO Modules And, implicitly, the very first one to install before you go ahead and add any other Drupal tool or module to your SEO essential kit. “Drupal SEO Checklist is the most powerful Drupal module that "does nothing.” Robert Shea, IBM. And this says a lot, yet... not everything. For it's true, the Drupal SEO Checklist module doesn't show you how to optimize your website, yet it delivers you a full list of Drupal SEO best practices to adopt. Or a to-do list of actions you should take, modules you should consider implementing if you prefer. One covering several key sections on your site to focus your SEO efforts on: title tags paths content and more ... 3. One of The Key Drupal SEO Best Practices: Adding Meta Tags to Every Web Page "Letting Google (and other search engines and social media sites) know what the content on your web pages is all about", this is how we could sum up the meta tags' role. They're snippets of text that not only that: let Google know what each one of your web pages is all about but also indicate how you want the content of each page on your site to be described on other websites. Now, can you imagine the arduous task of manually adding a custom browser and page titles, descriptions and keywords to every single page on your website? No need to, for you can always install the Metatag module, one of the must-have Drupal SEO modules to add to your toolkit! Here's how it works: it enables you to add all the needed meta tags automatically, to each page on your Drupal site it places both the meta tags and the meta title in the pages' headers, which translates into less code to write for you and faster rendering And since we've reached the meta tags "chapter" on your Drupal SEO best practices list, let's put another key module into the spotlight: the Alternate Hreflang Module! A particularly vital module if it's a multilingual Drupal website that you're about to optimize: it adds hreflang tags to every page on your site alternative hreflang tags that search engines can then reference in order to serve the right language/regional URLs in their SERPs Pretty convenient, don't you think? 4. Set Up Google Analytics for Your Website & Other Must-Have Drupal Modules to Enable "Help them help you!" Ease search engines' "job" of crawling and indexing your website, by making your website... easy to crawl into and to index (obviously!). And by tapping into all those Drupal SEO tools put at your disposal for better “communicating” with them (the search engines). … for gaining a deep understanding of where your site's standing when it comes to its relationship with search engines and social media sites. Which brings us to 3 Drupal modules/tools that can intermediate (and enhance) your site's communication with the search engines: Google Analytics, XML Sitemap and Cron. Google Analytics: it automatically adds the more-then-valuable Google Analytics code snippet to your site ... that you can control (deciding how and when it should be used) to your liking it "injects" Google Analytics superpower into your website: priceless insights into your site visitors' behaviour on your site, what keywords they've used to land there, their demographics etc. moreover, the module fixes Google Analytics' known drawback of tracking down ALL visitors, admins here included ... and it does that by showing the code snippet only when "regular" (non-admin) users are visiting the website XML Sitemap: it generates an ideally formatted XML sitemap listing the content on your website, that you can submit to the search engines this way, they (search engines) get to crawl in easily and index ALL the pages on your site (all those that you want them to crawl) Cron: a system that keeps your Drupal site conveniently updated and "clean" it checks for updates itself, it recreates the XML sitemap if needed, keeping it up to date, it indexes the newly added content... End of Part 1! The second half of this post on Drupal SEO best practices to adopt in 2018 will tackle aspects such as: building your keyword list and using it to "fuel" your content with a few more essential Drupal SEO modules to add to your toolbox valuable tips and tricks on how to speed up your website (since top speed and search engine optimization go hand in hand) ... and more! Stay tuned!
Adriana Cacoveanu / Feb 13'2018
Continuing coverage of our latest recognition on Clutch’s annual report of leading firms in the United Kingdom and Canada, we wanted to dive deeper into what enabled us to achieve this success. While we are proud to showcase our leadership among web, ecommerce, Drupal, Shopify, and Magento developers in Canada, it is important to reflect on the past projects and relationships that drove us to these heights. Having evaluated our team across various development sectors, Clutch has taken the time to conduct interviews with many of our clients, framing an accurate picture of what it’s like to work with us; their conversations cover an array of questions regarding the challenges, solutions, and results of our time working together. Dedicating much of our success to our clients, we wanted to look back, not only to share some of the things they’ve had to say about our work, but to share how we’ve become a Canada development leader as well: “They really know their stuff in Drupal, more so than any other development shop I’ve worked with…their team was essentially available at any time to answer our questions, solve an emergency, or fix a mistake that we made,” referenced the Director of Design & Development for a digital agency. They went on to describe the measurable impact one of our team’s suggestions had on their project’s success: “After he made the switch, the site’s response time decreased by 53%. Immediately, the site started working faster. The dependencies that the site relied on went from over 200 to under 125. Overall, his recommendation made a huge impact on our business to the point that at the end of 2014, we grew by 400%. By the end of 2015, we were doing about 12 million pages with the website he developed.” Additionally, the Technology Coordinator for a school division, remarked on our project management expertise: “From day 1, the communication has been the hallmark and has been phenomenal. There have been no issues whatsoever with project delivery as a whole. They are far quicker than other services we have been involved in.” Another client, the Technical Product Manager of a sports company, spoke on our dedication to the project and beating expectations: “Considering what we asked of them, and knowing they didn’t receive our mockups and wireframes until 3 weeks out, it was crazy that we managed to launch. They stepped up in terms of commitment.” To learn more about our clients’ experiences and how we’ve distinguished ourselves as a Canada development leader, follow our Clutch profile here.
Adriana Cacoveanu / Feb 08'2018
That we're witnessing a major shift these days — from web apps' supremacy to mobile apps' domination — is definitely no news. It's been a while since it grew from a trifle into a (digital) world dominating... reality. And so, anticipating which of last year's trends will be growing into “megatrends” and which of the newly emerging ones will be the mobile app development trends in 2018 with the highest impact on the digital landscape … becomes crucial for anyone in the mobile app industry. Should you continue to bid on virtual reality and cloud technology? Is blockchain nothing but a bubble about to burst this year? What place should wearable apps and IoT have in your mobile app development strategy? We've done our research, approached the experts and the authority figures in the mobile app development industry apps and here's what we've come up with: An 8-point list including precisely those high-impact trends to keep an eye on in 2018: 1. Wearable Devices and IoT Are “Exploding”! And So Is Wearable App Development And I'm sure you, yourself, anticipated this: that IoT devices and wearable apps will go from niche to mainstream. With more and more industries adding up to the list of IoT adopters — education, smart health, automotive — and with Apple cutting off the price constraint, it's only reasonable to expect wearable devices/apps explode in 2018. … to expect to see more apps for wearable devices (and not just watches) and an increasingly powerful impact of IoT on mobile app development. Considering that smartphones are needed for controlling IoT devices... 2. Android Instant Apps, One of the Growing Mobile App Development Trends in 2018 It's a fact: Android Instant Apps will be one of those (not so) new trends in mobile app development to be growing like a beanstalk this year! The reasons behind this anticipated growth have a too powerful impact on the users not to turn from a predicted scenario into a... reality of the digital realm: they're conveniently easy to use: no installation required and yet they're more on the native app's side and they work like websites they use fewer resources they can be accessed from anywhere (WITHOUT installation) In other words: the border between the realm of apps and the landscape of websites gets even more... blurrier this year. 3. Accelerated Mobile Pages A huge “hit” ever since its “debut”, in 2016, Google's AMP is definitely on the up and up in 2018, too. And no wonder why this open-source initiative — accelerated mobile pages — still “runs the show” and continues to “seduce” mobile app developers: it's a publishing technology (HTML's stripped-down version) geared at boosting mobile pages' performance … practically it injects both sites (on mobile devices) and web apps with high speed … keeping the bouncing rate to a minimum Now, these are strong enough advantages for this trend to be one of the high-impact mobile app development trends in 2018. 4. Predictive Analytics Gains an Increasingly Powerful Influence on Mobile UI/UX What do you think about joining the “gang” of tech giants in the mobile app industry (Google, IBM, Apple, Facebook) and jump on this trend in 2018? Why bother? Well, because: we'll be witnessing a shift from mobile apps as “mere” utilities to apps as integral components of your workflow this advanced software is the “offspring” of AI and machine learning … with a major impact on your customer journey via your mobile app's UI/UX … since it provides valuable predictions related to your business (by leveraging the available data) for you to capitalize on (and to do what it takes to enhance your app users' experience) 5. On-Demand Apps Will Ride The Tide of Popularity How could they not? After all, they're making people's lives easier by simplifying their day-to-day activities, such as: looking for laundry services ordering food looking for cleaning services looking for rideshare and taxi services And not only that on-demand apps will be in... high-demand this year. They'll be one of those mobile app development trends in 2018 expected to “bloom” with new cool features and functionalities: business bots UI/UX enhancements predictive analysis m-commerce facilities 6. Blockchain: Newer Mobile App Development Trends in 2018 With Huge Potential Blockchain has been intriguing, “seducing” and gaining so much good press, that it can't but continue to grow, as a trend, in 2018, too. And it's no surprise why: it provides companies with a shared, unalterable ledger storing their information (transaction histories or bitcoins) presented in the form of blocks … “unalterable” meaning that the info can't be modified unless all the subsequent blocks get modified; which would automatically lead to the entire network's collision A principle of “openness” that continues to “seduce” legit businesses. Businesses that do seize the huge potential of providing transparent access to the blockchain. 7. Dare to/Continue to Bid on Cloud Integration This Year The future of mobile apps and their development is one where the benefits of cloud technology are being (finally) leveraged to their full potential. And here I'm talking about benefits such as: better storage reduced costs in hosting and equipment improved page loading times streamlined operations increased productivity and collaboration And nonetheless: developing mobile apps over the cloud will enable them (the apps) to run seamlessly across multiple platforms. Now that's superpower, don't you think? A huge “leap” into the future of mobile app development software! 8. AR/VR Will Have an Even Higher Impact on App Development Strategies These 2 technologies are already too well rooted in the long-term future of mobile apps that they can't go anywhere else but... UP. AR and VR continued to be developers' trump cards for creating jaw-dropping mobile app experiences. Even so more this year, with all the compatible hardware expected to invade the market. And it's not just the gaming sector that will benefit from augmented reality graphics and videos presented in VR, but others will fall under its “spell”, as well. Here I can only think of the huge potential that these 2 technologies have in the retail sector. Speaking of which, are you think what I'm thinking? About Amazon Go and all the doors that it has opened for other similar apps to steal the spotlight this year? End of the list! These are, judging by the stats, forecasts, and expert opinions that we've analyzed, the 8 high-impact mobile app development trends in 2018. Also, judging by all the enhancements in hardware: button-less mobile devices more and more powerful chips … and the emergence of a new level of digital speed — 5G — I can't but be certain that these 8 trends here will get turbocharged in 2018.
Adriana Cacoveanu / Feb 05'2018
It's no longer a matter of “Why?”, but a matter of “How?”. The conversational interface trend isn't going anywhere but... UP. So, if you want to keep up with the break-neck pace at which your competitors will be launching their own chat-based apps this year, you first need to: put an end to your “to go or to go conversational?” dilemma. You only have one option... Then, to start focusing on more pressing issues: what are the user experience challenges to expect when designing conversational user interfaces (CUIs)? what are the best practices to adopt for creating state of art conversational experiences? how do you design a... conversation, after all? One that's natural, seamless, quick and ideally convenient for the user? And once you've pondered on these 3 questions, go ahead and turn the following “enlightening” answers into your trump cards for designing your own rival to Siri, Alexa and or OK Google. 1. Put Together An Exhaustive List of Hypothetical Use Cases In other words: leave no dead ends in your chat-based app's script. No weak links that could impact your conversation's fluidity. And how do you get “unpredictability” down to zero? By getting knee-deep in user research work. Invest plenty of time and teamwork in identifying all the possible use cases that your chatbot's scrip should cover... impeccably! How will users react to hypothetical scenario A? And what queries is he/she likely to input in scenario B? What “tricky” request will he/she make? Once you have THE list at hand, filling in your script with copy will sure feel just like putting the puzzle pieces together. 2. The Onboarding Experience: Be Sure to Give It Special Attention The more straightforward your chatbot's onboarding message is, the more chances there are for the user to interact with your conversational interface. In other words: take no chances, don't try to play smart, resist the temptation to turn your app into a “guessing game”! Let the user know which are your bot's functionality and key features and how precisely it may serve him/her via: a speech bubble an intro message a suggestive animation … from the very beginning. 3. Focus on User Convenience When Designing Your Conversational Interface And convenience in conversational UX translates into minimal user input! Now here are 2 best practices to consider for achieving the proper level of user convenience: keep your copy crystal-clear and straight to the point: avoid ambiguity at all costs, like giving more than one answer to the same question or answers completely out-of-the-conversational-context, irrelevant to the user's intent keep the user's input to a minimum: the less your customer will need to type in/interact with your chatbot, the better; aim for “yes/no “questions and avoid overburdening them with too many choices to scan through and to select from Extra tip: make your content ideally easy to squeeze through; keep your sentences conveniently short, thus anticipating that the user might head straight to the call to action. Why should you discourage him/her with an almost impenetrable block of text to keep on scrolling through? 4. Set Up Visual Cues-Based Replies to Your Users' Queries How would you improve readability in “conventional”/non-conversational design? You'd instantly reach out to your not-so-secret trump card — the whitespace — right? Well, in case of a conversational design, your trump cards are the visual cues. Here are 2 examples of how/when you can use them for boosting readability and turning your conversational interface into a truly intuitive AI experience: Use them to assist your customers when in need; for conveying bite-sized information and addressing your users' queries in a highly intuitive way. Maps, charts, infographics images, GIFs will be far easier to “digest” than chunks of text and far more efficient for relaying the message Use them to convey... emotions: whenever words are not enough to convey the feelings you need to convey (e.g. giving them a warm welcome into the app), go with... visual cues; and emoji make the handiest of them all 5. Empathy Is Key to Designing a Human-Like Chatbot A natural conversational interface experience is a human-like one. And a “humanized” AI app is one that easily passes the empathy test. Now here are 2 suggestions on how to “inject” empathy into your chatbot: Read the script out loud: how does it sound? Would you say those lines to someone close to you? Do they sound natural enough? Or rather robot-like? Is the conversation fluid enough? Pay attention to context and adapt your script accordingly. Now you wouldn't want your app to give a robotic-like, impersonal reply such as “I hate to hear that” to a user writing: “I feel a bit dizzy”. It goes without saying that you should anticipate all use cases and user queries and have all the context-suitable replies ready (popping up a map showing the nearby hospitals in this case, for instance) 6. Embrace the “Less Typing on the User's Side” Principle For the less they'll need to type, the more fluid the whole conversational UX is going to be. And, in this case, by far the most popular example to inspire you is Linkedin messager's automated replies. See how it provides users with plenty of choices, right at hand (multiple buttons, “attach a file” option, automated replies etc.)? In other words: whenever suitable, automate... everything and aim for user convenience at its best! These are the “tips and tricks” that you may want to consider if you're determined to create a highly intuitive conversational interface experience for your chatbot's users. Ponder on them and see how you can adapt them to your own app's and use cases' scenario.
Adriana Cacoveanu / Jan 16'2018
The world's tiniest laptop, the rollable TV, the world's largest wall TV... all the disruptive “superlatives” in the tech industry are being currently showcased at CES 2018 — Consumer Electronics Show — in Las Vegas (Jan 9-12). And if you haven't managed to attend the huge tech show and you're in the consumer technologies sector or just an innovative gadgets & technologies passionate, stay assured: we'll be keeping you in the loop! Here are the: event's highlights “steamy fresh” info on precisely those gadgets stealing the spotlight as we speak news on the most-talked-about innovative consumer technologies at the show CES 2018: There's Something for Everyone's Taste That's right, take this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) as a “theme park” overwhelming its visitors with its load of attractions. Its “visitors” being all those with a keen eye for sleek, next-generation gadgets and a guilty addiction for breakthrough innovations in the tech industry: There is a high tech “ride” for everyone's taste From wireless headphones to 8k OLED TVs, from electric cars to monster-sized TVs, robots for commercial use, wearables, high-tech hi-fi, to fingerprint scanning-incorporated mobile phones... And the list can definitely go on: there sure is something to turn anyone's high tech fantasies into reality at CES 2018! Everyone had been expecting (since it's a 50 years old tech show after all) both the Las Vegas Convention Center's show floor and the Halls of the Venetian to be “piled up” with... jaw-dropping tech innovations! With tech manufacturing giants — Samsung, LG, Sony, Acer, Panasonic and Big G itself — as "stars" of the show, this gathering can't turn out to be but... overwhelming, for any show attendee. Gadgets and Tech Stealing the Show, The Largest Consumer Tech Show I bet you'd die to take a sneak peek inside. And even if it's going to be just an imaginary tour of the exhibits, your time is limited, isn't it? So you want to know which are those gadgets and consumer technologies “basking in a rockstar fame”. Well, get ready for they're about to step into the spotlight, here below. It's a selection of the consumer electronics products gathering the largest crowds these days in Vegas, at CES 2018: The headphones equipped with translation capabilities Samsung's monster-sized Wall TV: its 165 inches are getting loads of attention at the tech show, not to mention that the giant consumer tech brand has also unveiled its battle plan of conquering OLED this year Acer's Swift 7, the world's tiniest laptop (so far): it comes with out-of-the-box 4G LTE connectivity to boot LG's latest robots designed to assist customers at hotels and shopping centres LG's 65-inch OLED rollable Ultra HD TV prototype: the future of technology has the shape of a highly convenient TV that you can easily... roll up, just like a newspaper Blyton's electric car: which has easily managed to stand out from the crowd of SCI-fi-like TVs, mobile phones, and other next-generation gadgets; CES 2018 is sure to make a fantastic “stage” for the Chinese startup to show off its innovative potential to the world Intel's CPU's with AMD Vega graphics Asus's MC mini-like Chromebox 3: since “small” is definitely the new big, Asus, too, unveiled its own small-sized product, equipped with built-in support for Gigabit LAN and dual-band 802.11 ac WI-FI (meaning, of course, that it will stream 4k videos... superbly) End of... tour! Of course, the lights on the global stage of innovation — CES 2018 — are still on. And they'll be on till Friday, the 12th of January. New “superstars” in terms of gadgets will be rising, so take my selection here as a rough guide only!
Adriana Cacoveanu / Jan 10'2018
“Build the next big thing in terms of AR apps!” Is this goal on top of your New Year's resolutions list? Well, then right now you must be wondering: “With so many tempting augmented reality tools out there to choose from, which one's best for my own AR solution?" A frustratingly ambiguous answer could be: "The one that best serves your AR app development needs." Meaning that whatever AR platform you'll be choosing, it should: meet your project's requirements serve the goals that you will have set up for it And yet, this “matching” of the AR libraries at your disposal with your project's specific development needs is your “mission” and yours only. Nevertheless, we can still help you streamline your selection process. How? By shortlisting 6 of the most popular augmented reality development tools in 2017 with a great potential to grow even more influential in 2018. Here they come: 1. Kudan AR An augmented reality SDK that “pioneered” the network intelligent vision (bringing together AI and IoT). And which sets itself apart from the other augmented reality tools in our shortlist here due to its robust single-camera SLAM. In other words: Kudan AR supports mapping tracking and simultaneous localization. Built for both iOS and Android-based apps, Kudan AR supports markerless tracking (meaning that it uses features such as edges, corners, and textures) and, moreover, it's designed to recognize an unlimited number of images. Where do you add that it doesn't get “greedy” using too much of your app's memory to store its files and (big advantage!) it's significantly faster than other AR SDKs. Summing up its key features and functionalities now: 2D/3D Recognition in the same application supports markerless tracking supports Simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) tracking technology 2. Vuforia, By Far One of the Most Popular Augmented Reality Tools Call it a "complete tool" for developing AR apps! It practically “empowers” you to create any kind of AR solution for any type of device, any platform! A visually arresting augmented reality app or game “packed” with cutting-edge functionality. Yet, it does have its own shortcomings, too, the most “discouraging” one being that its free version comes with Vuforia watermarks and limited functionality. Even so, the balance between great features and innovative capabilities and shortcomings is titled so that it favours the first ones. Let us detail: it's supercharged with smart terrain functionality for reconstructing a terrain and therefore a whole 3D map of the environment in real-time the same, above-mentioned functionality, will empower you (or your app development team) to create some fully interactive user experiences where the app's elements interact with the physical world it's extended tracking feature enables your future AR app to deliver a 100% realistic visual experience even when the target elements are out of view (in other words users will be able to simultaneously engage themselves in the gameplay and still visualize the vehicles for instance) And now summing up Vuforia's most notable features: it comes with virtual buttons, which allow you to switch between various surfaces, which play the roles of your true-to-life, natural-looking touch screens mixed reality and eyewear support (that's right, Microsoft HoloLens here included) cloud recognition (and on-device, as well), meaning that it's capable to use either a local or a cloud database during the image recognition process Vuforia Object Scanner it comes with Vumarks (Vuforia barcodes), which act both as data encoders and as markers it's built to recognize both 2D and 3D objects text recognition: Vuforia's designed to recognize over 100.000 words (and, moreover, you're enabled to use your own custom vocabulary, as well) 3. Wikitude The third augmented reality development kit on our list is actually an “all-in-one” platform in fact. One which brings together: Instant tracking + 3D markerless technology + Geo-location + Object/Image recognition and tracking And all these top-notch AR features bundled up in one single AR app development kit can only mean 2 things: you get to build both marker AR mobile apps ... and location-based ones Available for iOS, Android, and Glassware, Wikitude is one of those commercial augmented reality tools. It does come in a trial version, as well, but do expect it to “surprise” you with a series of limitations, such as its logo showing up in the cam view. And now, let's go through its attention-worthy features and functionalities: it provides you with Wikitude Studio, which makes AR app development a breeze, literally, since it requires no programming skills whatsoever: just drag the elements onto the studio screen and... put together your app Wikitude SDK is currently available for Android, iOS and the Glassware platform on-device and cloud recognition instant (3D) tracking (it will display virtual objects and map out environments without using markers) extended tracking geolocation support: your AR mobile app can get enhanced with location-based services, as well 4. ARToolKit ARToolKit is, in fact, a group of augmented reality tools that you can use for building your app. And its heavy-weighing pro, that helped it make it to our list here, is that it's... an open-source code! That's right, you gain free access to its library, so you'll be able to tailor its source code to your AR app's specific development needs. Nevertheless, this comes with a drawback: limited documentation! So, do keep this in mind when you're on a lookout for the most appropriate AR platform for your app project. And now, let's list its other “seductive” features besides its open-source nature: simultaneous tracking: basically you get to “empower” your AR apps to track multiple objects at the same time both single and dual camera support integration with GPS (a vital feature if it's a location-based AR app that you're developing) it supports various platforms, ranging from iOS and Android to Windows, macOS, Linux... 5. Apple ARkit, One of The Revolutionary AR Frameworks And it was pretty much around the time when iOS 11 introduced ARKit in the digital arena that app developers' “mad race” to build their own next big thing started. Did you start planning your own AR solution around the same time? Running on Apple 9, Apple 10, and A11 processors, Apple ARkit empowers you to create and deliver augmented reality experiences to your users both on iPhone and iPad (obviously!). Now let us highlight the top-notch functionalities that will empower your app development team to put together not “just” AR experiences, but some truly realistic, immersive ones: VIO (Visual Inertial Odometry) combines core motion data with camera sensor data, enabling your future AR app to accurately track the environment it's capable to detect horizontal surfaces (e.g. floors and tables) and objects on smaller feature points it's equipped for plane, scale, and ambient lighting estimation fast motion tracking it can be used with third-party tools such as Unreal Engine and Unity, with SceneKit and Metal 6. EasyAR Here's another SDK “overloaded” with cutting-edge functionalities on our augmented reality tools list here! And even if you go with the free version of the EasyAR kit (which won't provide you with certain of its functionalities, such as SLAM, 3D tracking, and screen recording), you still get an impressive load of features: cloud recognition 1000 on-device targets storage unlimited recognition queries And where do you add that getting it up and running is just a matter of registering your account and generating your Bundle ID's plugin key. Its list of top features would have to include: cloud recognition app cloud packaging 3D object recognition environment tracking The END! These are the 6 augmented reality tools that you should consider selecting from if you're decided to go ahead and build your first AR solution this year. Good luck checking them off your New Year's resolutions list!
Adriana Cacoveanu / Jan 03'2018