Categories
Mobile Apps Nudge Blog

Mobile – tips every entrepreneur should know

It’s 2012 and smart phones and tablets are taking over the world!

Well, not quite, but according to whichever facts you read (yesterdays are already out of date), there are more devices than people in the United States! Many organizations are already employing a “Mobile First” strategy whenever they deliver content for the web. It’s all about design and user-experience and less about “shiny new objects.”

A few of my devices – Ipod and blackberry are missing!

That’s a big deal.

So, what does this mean for your business?

Should you jump on the bandwagon and create an app? Should you invest in a “mobile-ready” website? Is this really expensive? Do I need to hire a programmer?

All great questions, but feel free to take a deep breath. “Mobile” has been around for years. In fact, one of my expert friends, Judy Brown, has been pursuing mobile learning studies for over 15 years. It’s not new, but the ways we can use the capabilities of the new devices are and continue to progress.

Before you go and spend $100k on a robust app (I know some who have done this in the corporate/government world), take some time to think on a few thoughts and learn more about the following:

  • Who is your target audience? – Perhaps your target audience doesn’t use devices that much OR maybe they just won’t be using them for the purpose your product or service. Or, maybe they don’t live or work in an area that has great reception for mobile access.
  • Are you already mobile?– Chances are you didn’t know that your very own website is already mobile friendly. In some cases you need to modify the settings in the administrative section, but most are making mobile-read formats a default option. In fact, you’ll notice some websites looking more simple and elegant now to ensure that they easily translate into the many different browers available on devices. Online options that already have templates that serve up your content differently when people access your website from a mobile device:
  • What are downloadable apps vs. web-based apps?
    • Downloadable apps (typically through app stores) are often based upon a particular activity that the user is going to perform (e.g. play a game, draw something, calculate using built in equations, etc.) The programming involved and the amount of interaction the user has with the screen often makes the “app” a pretty big file size. We all know how difficult it is for the web to handle really large movies, games, etc. A downloadable app allows you to download that huge file to your device and play it “offline.” Now, some apps we like to call “blended apps” because you download them, but they still pull pieces and parts live from the web while you are using it. Of course all downloadable apps aren’t Angry Birds in complexity. Some use simple HTML templates (e.g. jquerymobile) that create a look and feel of an app, but they could technically just be offered through a normal web-page…which leads me to web-based apps.
    • Web-based apps (mobile apps)– sometimes the terms get all intertwined, but many of you probably have experience with web-based apps. For example, if you want to pay a bill from your phone, you may go to your bank website and it looks different on your phone than it does on the desktop.

  • Who is your target audience? – Perhaps your target audience doesn’t use devices that much OR maybe they just won’t be using them for the purpose your product or service. Or, maybe they don’t live or work in an area that has great reception for mobile access.
  • Are you already mobile?– Chances are you didn’t know that your very own website is already mobile friendly. In some cases you need to modify the settings in the administrative section, but most are making mobile-read formats a default option. In fact, you’ll notice some websites looking more simple and elegant now to ensure that they easily translate into the many different browers available on devices. Online options that already have templates that serve up your content differently when people access your website from a mobile device:
  • What are downloadable apps vs. web-based apps?
    • Downloadable apps (typically through app stores) are often based upon a particular activity that the user is going to perform (e.g. play a game, draw something, calculate using built in equations, etc.) The programming involved and the amount of interaction the user has with the screen often makes the “app” a pretty big file size. We all know how difficult it is for the web to handle really large movies, games, etc. A downloadable app allows you to download that huge file to your device and play it “offline.” Now, some apps we like to call “blended apps” because you download them, but they still pull pieces and parts live from the web while you are using it. Of course all downloadable apps aren’t Angry Birds in complexity. Some use simple HTML templates (e.g. jquerymobile) that create a look and feel of an app, but they could technically just be offered through a normal web-page…which leads me to web-based apps.
    • Web-based apps (mobile apps)– sometimes the terms get all intertwined, but many of you probably have experience with web-based apps. For example, if you want to pay a bill from your phone, you may go to your bank website and it looks different on your phone than it does on the desktop. Bank of America – desktop versionThat’s because they’ve (usability experts and interface designers) determined that you are most likely to perform certain banking actions on the phone compared to actions you would have taken on your desktop. They arrive at this from beta tests, usability studies, and customer feedback. Plus, they see the backend and know where you click…every.single.time. So, they want to create the best user experience possible while not creating more work for themselves.

  • Who is your target audience? – Perhaps your target audience doesn’t use devices that much OR maybe they just won’t be using them for the purpose your product or service. Or, maybe they don’t live or work in an area that has great reception for mobile access.
  • Are you already mobile?– Chances are you didn’t know that your very own website is already mobile friendly. In some cases you need to modify the settings in the administrative section, but most are making mobile-read formats a default option. In fact, you’ll notice some websites looking more simple and elegant now to ensure that they easily translate into the many different browers available on devices. Online options that already have templates that serve up your content differently when people access your website from a mobile device:
  • What are downloadable apps vs. web-based apps?
    • Downloadable apps (typically through app stores) are often based upon a particular activity that the user is going to perform (e.g. play a game, draw something, calculate using built in equations, etc.) The programming involved and the amount of interaction the user has with the screen often makes the “app” a pretty big file size. We all know how difficult it is for the web to handle really large movies, games, etc. A downloadable app allows you to download that huge file to your device and play it “offline.” Now, some apps we like to call “blended apps” because you download them, but they still pull pieces and parts live from the web while you are using it. Of course all downloadable apps aren’t Angry Birds in complexity. Some use simple HTML templates (e.g. jquerymobile) that create a look and feel of an app, but they could technically just be offered through a normal web-page…which leads me to web-based apps.
    • Web-based apps (mobile apps)– sometimes the terms get all intertwined, but many of you probably have experience with web-based apps. For example, if you want to pay a bill from your phone, you may go to your bank website and it looks different on your phone than it does on the desktop. Bank of America – desktop versionThat’s because they’ve (usability experts and interface designers) determined that you are most likely to perform certain banking actions on the phone compared to actions you would have taken on your desktop. They arrive at this from beta tests, usability studies, and customer feedback. Plus, they see the backend and know where you click…every.single.time. So, they want to create the best user experience possible while not creating more work for themselves. Bank of America – mobile browser versionOn the backend they put certain tags in the code that pulls content from one page and displays it on another in a mobile-ready format. That way, if they change content on the main site, it will automatically be updated on the mobile-ready pages. Other coders just put pieces of code in their pages to tell them which pieces of content do/don’t show when the page shows on a device and when/if it should show on the desktop. This is becoming fairly normal and many organizations now have a “Mobile First” strategy for presenting content on the web. Here’s an example of a site I’m very familiar with where the programmers “pull” content from the main website to display in this web app so they update content in one spot and it populates to this site. http://www.dau.mil – Check it out on your device? We’ve even set it up for tablets to display the mobile version.
  • How do I know if I need any kind of app for my business?
    • First of all, if you have a website created in the last couple of years it is most likely already mobile-friendly …or the provider is in the process of making it so. After all, they are competing for your business.
    • Secondly, you might not need one if all you are doing is presenting content, sharing typical info through typical online mediums (e.g. video, blog entries, discussion boards, etc.).
    • But, you might need one if you want to provide any of the following:
      • Personal Support Tools – need to track miles run, weight loss, calories consumed?
      • Reference Information – glossary, dictionary, tips and tricks.
      • Process Flow – step-by-step process to help remind people how to perform a task.
  • Is mobile here to stay? Yes. Need I say more? No, but I will. It is here to stay and it continues to be an innovative powerhouse for delivering content.
  • What “counts” as mobile?This is really important. A lot more “counts” as mobile than you might think. Smart phones and tablets have blown it wide open. In Africa most people don’t have a computer, but they have a cell phone. Text messaging has been huge there for years. Asia too. The U.S. has actually been somewhat behind. Text messaging can be a powerful way to deliver messages, spaced learning and drip marketing. Now that we are beyond cell phone into the smart phone and tablet era, there are so many options – email, phone, text messaging, video, web-apps, native apps (from the app stores), regular websites, cameras, recording options, etc. Mind blowing to actually have all of these capabilities at your fingertips!

Stay tuned for more!

Full Disclosure: Part of my day job is leading a Mobile Learning Initiative. So, these are thoughts off the top of my head, but I promise to follow up this post with well thought out info and more examples.

Categories
Customer Needs Customer Relations Emergency Preparedness Planning

Fire! – What to do if your office goes up in flames

Yesterday started just like any other day. I got the laptop started up, communicated with co-workers, answered emails, drafted a program plan, and …even ate lunch at 11:00 a.m. before the cafeteria rush.

Around noon, the fire alarm rang out.

We’ve had this before. A lot of false starts. The smell in the hallway just seemed to be a smell from a microwaved lunch slightly overdone. No big deal, right?

After the entire building was outside, we looked up! The gabbles on the roof had smoke coming out of them. Yikes! It took a couple of minutes, but the fire department did arrive and got as many trucks and hoses lined up as they could to squelch the flames.

Photo of a burned rooftop
Damaged roof of our building

 

Except, it didn’t die down. In fact, I found out today that they stopped working on it 11 hours after it started and the fire started up again around 10:30 p.m. at night.

So, what next?

We don’t have access to our office space. There was a concrete floor above our heads and so that most likely means no fire, but LOTS of water damage. Most of us grabbed personal items, but left our laptops. Ironic, since most of us carry our laptops everywhere. But, when push comes to shove, we are going to take a few personal meaningful items – phones, keys, wallets, a stray family picture, right?

So, really, what next?

What happens if your space goes up in flames? Do you have a plan? Will it have a massive impact on YOUR business?

Here are some tips to think about right now:

  • Back-up the Computer– Regularly – “regulary” depends upon how much you use it. I am on the computer all day creating, modifying, designing, organizing, etc. I should be backing up almost daily in some way, shape or form. There are a lot of services online that provide secure backup services. However, take a look at the next tip if you don’t want to tackle this today.
  • To the Cloud – You’ve heard about it on the news, in the blogs and at work. It’s actually been here for a while and you use it more than you think. Take Hotmail, Gmail or Yahoo – they are in the cloud. You may set up your computer to get them delivered right to your Microsoft Outlook, but they ultimately reside out there somewhere. If I edit an important presentation or document, I often email it “to the cloud.” That way, even if something happens to my computer, I’ve still got access to the document. It’s a big deal with photos! Scan in those old pictures and upload them to Flickr, Picassa and/or Photobucket. That way you’ve got three copies – physical, digital and online. We all know photos aren’t replaceable, like a laptop.
  • Keep the personal valuables small – Do you really need a lot personal stuff around the office?Most of us were able to put all of our personal items in a bag and walk out – within 5 – 10 seconds of the alarm. Would it take you longer? A co-worker brought in all his personal books and manuals he had collected over a period of 20 years to round out his office space. It is probably all damaged now. Would it have been safer at home? Maybe/Maybe not. Take a look at your space now and make that determination.
  • Damage Control & Contingency Planning – If you do own the space, have you thought about what could happen to it in an emergency? Does your building have cement walls and floors? Is there amble protection of your inventory if say a flame bursts through a door or water pours from the ceiling? How will damage impact your ability to meet customer needs? Will it be a minor inconvenience (e.g. system down for a day) or will it incapacitate your business (e.g. cafeteria closed, no other location) completely. Thinking through this before a crisis may avert a real crisis down the road. Some questions to ask:
    • Can those that support me do so at another location? with other computers/materials?
    • How will I prepare now to address customer questions? Facebook/Twitter announcements? Radio spot? Phone calls? Flyers?
    • Am I willing to change my business approach in order to meet both my employee needs and my own (e.g. willing to pay for telework vs. expecting everyone to stop work without pay)?
  • Create cheat sheets – Now is the perfect time to make a few simple lists and put them on a sheet or a credit card sized reference guide. Here’s a few suggestions:
    • Contact Sheet– Yesterday we used a small credit card sized laminated list to make sure everyone was out of the building. The card listed the name/phone/email of each person. These were alternative phone/email info, not our organizational info. Phone tree arrangements should also be listed.
    • Key Inventory Quick List– How many laptops, iPads, scanners, copiers or other equipment will need to be accounted for in case of disaster? Have a quick list available “in the cloud” and in hard copy to quickly access. Include on this list top items that should be picked up quickly on the way out if the need arose.
    • Emergency Sheet (from the business owner) – Wouldn’t it be nice if each person already had the emergency sheet/reference card on them? Whenever and wherever – they’d have info on what to do in case of emergency? Make your own to give out to the people you pay to support your business. It will remove a lot of the questions and worry that arise while in stressful moments. Note: It might be good to include any of the contingency planning details on that as well.
  • Discuss and Listen – Now might be the best time to set up an online space or a series of meetings for the different players in your business to work through “what if?” scenarios and to create a plan. Make sure to include all areas to gain greater insights into the impact an upset could cause. In DC, a derecho storm hit at the end of June 2012. Grocery stores lost power for days. It had a massive impact on the entire supply chain. They couldn’t buy groceries because they couldn’t freeze/refrigerate them which in turn meant that warehouses way out in the Mid-West couldn’t sell their inventories fast enough. A lot of business was lost in the weeks that followed as a result of a couple locations in DC being out of power.

Today I’m lucky. I’ve just lost the laptop and nothing else. I’ve got a paid day off as the powers that be work through the logistical and performance issues that the fire caused. I’m lucky. I’m an employee during the day and an entrepreneur by night. But, what about George? He owns the contract that runs the cafeteria. His workers have no where to go and most likely no benefits or vacation days. Hopefully they have backup plans. If not, some of us will step forward to help…and probably will anyway. It is the right thing to do.

Have more thoughts?

Please share.

Categories
Innovation Technology

Innovation and Market Shifts – at warp speed

Recently, Adobe announced that it would no longer work to support Flash on mobile devices. On October 3, 2011, it announced it was also going to acquire PhoneGap – a tool that is used to take one piece of content and output it to all the major mobile device platforms.

 

Let’s not assume that Adobe is going to take over the world, but they’ve done a great job keeping up with the needs of the market. (Remember, Adobe acquired the Macromedia Suite – Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Flash – which has been the primary suite used by web developers around the world over the last 10-15 years).

Adobe isn’t the only company fighting to stay on top of the market. WordPress (blog, website and content management technology) has continually added templates (including purchaseable templates created by power users) and newer blog technologies like Tumblr and Posterous are even more forward building in widgets/gadgets that make their sites perfectly situated for leveraging social networks and information sharing with like minded individuals. Think Twitter with larger text limits. Drupal and Joomla are now the primary sites for serious web developers and constantly innovate with their templates.

Blogger, not to be outdone, has just added a powerful dynamic template. The new twist allows any user of the page the ability to display the page in a way that meets their personal viewing needs.

Pinterest has taken the world by storm as a kind of Delicious (popular bookmarking site) on steriods – you save what you like and others can view what you like and “re-pin” items they like. Driven by pictures vs. text links. Great way to share ideas, get more exposure to your product and ultimately find more business contacts.

LinkedIn, the online networking site, has made great strides with the groups and sharing features. I posted a job posting to a group of designers and was able to provide a friend 30 applicable resumes within 48 hours of the posting.

So, what of all this innovation and keeping up with the market?

No one can keep up with it all. What is popular today may be outdone tomorrow.

Keep a few points in mind while navigating this landscape:

  • K.I.S.S.– Keep it Simple Stupid. It’s time to go back to basics. Take out extraneous eye candy, complex designs, and convoluted implementation. The design needs to be simple for customers and for you…especially since you could be switching to different tools each year (or sooner).
  • Don’t jump too fast! – See a flashy new tool? Want to jump in and use it for your website? Not so fast. Create a test site/account and fill it with fake content. Test it with other gadgets, find out how it looks on your mobile device, see how it works with your day-to-day use. Make a list of all the functionality that is there AND that seems to be missing. Compare it to your other site or product. Is it really better? Is it better in some ways and not in others? What are you willing to give up to have it? We all have our own list of technical requirements and sometimes something new won’t help you.
  • Tools aren’t necessarily the answer– we’ve got hundreds of technology tools to choose from for websites, project management, photo management, social networking, online communities, photo editing, and more… I used to work for a boss that had me try out new tools every day of the week. It started to detract from my day job. I started to realize that tools are there to assist us, but they aren’t the point. They should support your business. Not the other way around – unless you are selling tools.

The market will keep shifting thanks to continued innovation. That will bring great possibilities for us all. Something that will best meet your needs may not have been invented yet, but is soon forthcoming.

The key is to stay true to your roots while being willing to test new ideas and technologies, but remember that you don’t have to use them.

Good luck!

Categories
Ideas Inspiration

Stealth Creatives

I’ve had this thought on my mind, but haven’t had a chance to capture it in a written post. But, I put on a necklace tonight and sat in front of my webcam and recorded directly into my YouTube account.

Isn’t technology great?!

So, just wanted to share some thoughts on people I call “stealth creatives” because they often have great ideas and don’t know it.

Categories
Inspiration Marketing

Clarity Nudges

Yesterday I had another encounter with one of the people I wrote about in the Feedback Makes Me Angry post.

The person said that they still didn’t understand what I was trying to do with one of the initiatives that I’m leading. He asked if I could explain what it was, why we were doing it and what value it gave to him, our faculty and to the workforce that we serve. I have to admit that I couldn’t do it. Perhaps if I hadn’t been in the midst of an interrogation, I might have been able to blurt something out. But, these conversations can incapacitate my speech capabilities. A photo with a flower under a magnifying glass

…for a few minutes.

The real concern is that the person was having difficulty sharing the message with his leadership. So, he was a bit frustrated that I hadn’t clarified it for him so that he could clarify it for his leadership.

I was a bit annoyed because I had gone to such great efforts to create presentations, hold meetings, etc.

But, I did go home and create a draft executive summary. After all, I’m the Chief Nudger. I should be aware when people are trying to nudge me in the right direction. (-:

Inspiration for this draft came quickly. I even stayed home until my first meeting so I could focus. Was it perfect? Heavens no. Draft mode for sure. But, it was the act of putting it down that helped me start to clarify what the message was and how we could go about sharing it.

Tonight I have an even better draft and I think I’ll send it out to some co-workers for modifications and discussion. After all, I need them to understand the message so they can share it with their stakeholders and leaders.

Be grateful for those that have the courage to be honest with you. They help you more than you know.

In fact, some of the lessons learned in that environment are helping me clarify what I want to do with Nudge Village going forward.

Stay tuned!

Categories
Customer Relations Marketing

Wine and Dine

It’s past 9:15 p.m. and I’ve just walked into the door of my great little getaway in Orlando. The typical thunderstorms that hit Orlando started right as I opened my hotel room door. Luck was on my side and I’m now able to sit in a semi-luxurious room and write this note as the rain pours down on the little geckos outside my abode.

Ok, this is starting to sound more like a novel…

I’m at a conference with a few geeky people, a few military people, a few contractor people and a few government people. With some luck, perhaps the Star Wars die hard people will be in town before this conference ends. Until then, I will be attending my conference and will actually be presenting tomorrow.

When I attend conferences, I like to have the evenings to myself. I like to take walks, drive around to explore the town, and perhaps drive through a McDonalds for a quick ice cream sundae.

However, tonight I met with a little company that we work with periodically. They heard I was going to be at the conference and they drove an hour and a half to come to dinner with me, on their dime. They didn’t need to, but they decided that they’d really like to get to know me better. Yes, they want my business. Yes, I’m sure they do this with all their clients.

But, seriously, these people are sincere people.

How do I know?

Prior to tonight I knew this about them:

  • Communication – they email us every week or so to see how we are doing or ask if we are going to be at  particular conference.
  • How can I help you? – they regularly ask how they can help us and sometimes write unsolicited white papers for us to consider. They tell us about resources they’ve heard of or share some of the projects that they are allowed to share with us from other contracts.
  • Innovate – they are constantly looking forward so that they can provide innovative solutions to us vs. us having to bring them up to speed on what we are pursuing. We are forward thinkers and so to stay ahead of us takes practice and perseverance.
  • Customer Relationship Managers – they have one or two or even three. Rare for many contractors. They are out to build relationships, not make a quick buck. And, they’ve been in business for over 25 years in an industry that has a lot of turnover.
  • Values that show – they are bold with their values and don’t make excuses. They are known to be kind, generous, and thoughtful while also delivering top notch results.

After “breaking bread” with them, I realized all of the above on a deeper level. Sometimes these attributes feel a bit surface level at first. You aren’t sure the intentions of the other party. You can be a little leery that they are just out to find out what $ you have to burn.

I didn’t feel that way. And, I often do.

These people talked and shared and let me talk and share. They let me guide the conversation, but asked the questions they needed answers to and the right time and without following a hidden agenda.

I felt like this company would take care of me and be good stewards of the money they would be receiving for certain product development efforts. Even if they weren’t working on anything with us, I know it would still have been a great conversation.

And one more key thing – I left motivated to be a little more like them with my interactions with others.

So, a little wining and dining (without the wine in my case and surprisingly theirs – did they follow my lead?) with them tonight took me beyond the surface relationship to a deeper client/contractor relationship.

Who do you think I’m going to think of the next time we have something that needs to be done?