Category Archives: Mobile

John’s theory of Concurrent Content

Hot off the press is the theory of Concurrent Content, by yours truly. This theory was inspired by a new product that me and the team at Life in Mobile will be rolling out in July 2015, which as been in development for about two years. The idea is this: when you’re creating content for users, especially mobile users, it sure would be swell to be able to customize the content or portions of the content to individual users in order to increase relevance and the chance of adoption or interaction.

So for a real world example, lets say you’re creating a responsive microsite around a product promotion. Well, we all know A/B testing and how that works. But, what if you could not create a few versions to ‘see’ what converts better, but what if you could create a dozen or more versions of your microsite based on not only device type (mobile vs. PC vs. Tablet) but also a user’s prior engagement with your brand, the time of day or day of week, the user’s location, the weather conditions that user is experiencing, or even the outcome of the previous night’s Yankee game. AND what if you could control the logic directing the traffic without the need for a team of programmers, but instead through a super simple interface.

I’m not quite ready to spill all the beans, but if this concept wets your proverbial whistle, head on over to linknex.us and sign up.

Re/Max NJ: You’re not doing it wrong…but you could be doing it better

So on my way down the Garden State Parkway to the Jersey shore this past weekend, I pulled into the infamous Cheesequake rest area (my personal favorite) to get some gas and a drink for the remainder of the trip. In pulling in, I was greeted by a giant sign for Re/Max NJ. What a great idea – not only would those signs target prospective homebuyers but also possible new agents…AND people both traveling within and through NJ – kind of making them a customer and employee acquisition tool. The URL was prominently displayed at the bottom of the sign, remax-nj.com. So I pulled out my phone and went to the URL, half expecting a non-mobile site to come up. But to my surprise, a mobile formatted site showed up and loaded pretty quickly. OK we’re getting there! (note: I was the passenger on this trip, so wasn’t texting while driving :))

So here’s the part that I would have normally posted into my ‘You’re doing it wrong’ category, but hey they had a mobile site, so I can’t go too hard on them. Sure the form fields are pretty small on my iPhone 4, the interface elements could be a bit larger. Like 40% larger. I’m sure some creative director talked about everything being above ‘the fold’ instead of being clickable with anything but an infant’s thumb or an electrostatic-enabled pencil eraser.  Call me progressive but personally I prefer usability over keeping design and UI elements within the ‘fold’ as the fold is different on devices and changes based on rotation. Plus thumb-scrolling is pretty widely accepted in getting to the bottom of a page (and its quick too). And, if coded reasonably well a text-entry dialog will have a ‘search’ button clickable after entering text.  But hey at least its mobile-friendly which is more I can say about most sites I visit.

Moving right along, so from the search page I check a few boxes then click SEARCH. My mouse pointer returns to the ‘Enter City, Zip, Address or MLS#’ form field. I figure maybe I missed the miniature button, so I carefully take aim and click again. Same thing. So here I am at a NJ rest stop, I haven’t a clue what city I am in (apparently Cheesequake isn’t a city as it returned an error), no idea about the present zip code, and based on the lack of knowledge regarding the previous two options it’s safe to assume that knowing an address is out of the question. I won’t even comment on MLS#. All I want is a listing of properties nearby that match the checkboxes I’ve selected (Single-Family, Condo/Townhouse, Multi-Family) and I can’t execute a search.

To make matters a tad worse, my second thought above was what a great recruitment tool this would be. Sadly there wasn’t even a mention of ‘Join our Team!’ or anything similarly upbeat and aimed at recruiting new Re/Max talent. Anyone reading this that runs a business knows the cost of finding talent; with the awareness and sheer eyeballs seeing this sign, I see that as another lost opportunity.

Anyway the title of this here entry includes ‘…you could be doing it better’ so here goes. First, let me search. Sure it taxes your database just a tad more to allow me to do a search without any text in the search box, but give me some results. Even if the empty box search returns some featured properties (maybe with some tools to refine my search), do something to put some property information on the screen for me. I got to the site, you have my attention for 15-30 seconds. Something…anything. Red error message text generally results in me clicking the top right button and putting the phone back into my pocket, or switching back to Words with Friends.

This leads me into fix #2. The mobile device is good at a few things – making calls, sending texts…and knowing its location. So fix number 2 is…(drum roll)…PUT A GPS SEARCH ON IT! People from all over travel the Garden State Parkway, help them find properties. Each rest area may have different results, it could be fun. You could even make a contest out of it if you wanted. Regardless, put a (damn) GPS search on the page and show me properties near this place where I’m getting food, gas, and generally killing a few minutes before I hop back on the road. Or lets combine 1 and 2 here – if my search field is blank, prompt me for my GPS location. Kill two birds with one stone (or query in this case). You get my drift here.

Rant aside, it’s a shame because lack of a mobile strategy and planning is certainly turning business (and possibly talent) away from Re/Max NJ. They have great billboards with great visibility. The billboards are all new (I didn’t see them last trip) and they’re BIG. While reading this some folks will probably say ‘well yea but we want to drive people to our website.’ That’s great! But let me know if anyone has their PC rigged into their car so they can view the full site in the few minutes they have between highway hauls. Or instead rely on the memory retention of GSP drivers after having seen hundreds of miles of advertisements…I doubt many of them will get home, unpack, and remember to go to the URL they saw on the sign (what was that website again?).

The really bad news here for Re/Max NJ is they have someone like me seeing the sign, thumbing in the URL and getting to the site – and all they’re getting is a bounce. I’m sure those signs, and the space on which they’re built weren’t cheap. I’m the target demographic, and I may even be looking for a small summer home on the Jersey shore…with no way for me to find it they missed their opportunity. But alas, next year around his time I’ll be going back down to the shore, hopefully by then they’ll have read this article and either fixed their mobile site or brought on an actual mobile vendor to do it correctly – instead of a web vendor who builds a miniature website to say that they ‘do mobile’.

Or, maybe by then I’ll be driving to my summer home which I’ve found between now and then.

Surf vs. Splash

We’ve all ‘surfed’ the web at some point or another. I remember being in high school and first hearing the phrase surfing the web. At the time I was a tad puzzled, what do they mean? Are masses of people doing something differently than I am? Of course they weren’t, we were all glued to our computers, soaking up content like never before, site after site, screen after screen – I was just not too familiar with the jargon of this new medium. A decade or so later most if not all of us are still surfing the web, but instead of black and blue text on a white page we have games, videos, networks and more to keep our digital wetsuits on.

Enter the mobile device, all shiny and hooked up to the same web our desktop and laptop computers communicate with constantly. When on your mobile device are you surfing the web? I don’t think so. To me, from a mobile device, you’re ‘splashing’ the web. As I recently explained it to some partners of ours, surfing is an involved process – you go out into the water, ride a wave, go back out, ride another, etc. That behavior is very similar with how we interact with the web via our computers and laptops; find a site, consume it, back to the search engine, find another site, and so on. But with mobile it tends to be a far less deep experience. Sure most mobile splashing starts with a search engine, but rarely do mobile users go deeper than a page or two. They get their information then ‘leave the water’ so to speak…its less about consuming content, but more about getting what you need then phone off, in the pocket, back to reality.

The ever lurking presence of reality, and the limitations of the mobile interface are why we splash the web via the mobile device. Remember, in most cases reality is around you while on the mobile web. While on your computer you’re at home, in a controlled environment where you can minimize distractions and focus on whatever content you choose. When using a mobile device, you’re in a train station, walking down a street, in between meetings, etc. You dip in and dip out – or to stay true to the metaphor, splash in and splash out.

So beyond all the metaphors here, its important to remember surf vs. splash when architecting information and designing interfaces for the mobile user. Keep it simple, try to predict why the mobile user is coming to the site (hint, its usually an address, phone number, or information on a product or service). Develop your mobile site to prominently display your brand, make all of your great content and information available – but make sure that user with 15 seconds to take her eyes off of the sidewalk is able to splash your site, get what she needs, then get back to reality.

Miller Mobile – You’re doing it wrong!

I couldn’t resist this one. SMS has been in play for years now, and yet still overpaid agencies can’t get it right. Please see exhibit A below:

Now, let’s take a look at this. This is obviously a coaster, likely being used in a bar or club to promote Miller’s “Win Epic Prizes” campaign. At a glance we can tell legal got their grubby hands on even the tagline…’epic’ has an asterisk which makes me question the epic-ness of the prizes. I digress.

It doesn’t take more than a middle school degree to realize that the goal of this campaign is to have customers text in – that would likely create a successful campaign. My prediction: the campaign to win epic prizes will be an epic fail.

First let’s look at the keyword, or what we at Mobile Card Cast call the Mobile ID. Not only is it a 10 character Mobile ID, but its mixed alpha-numeric. This will not only strongly deter folks from texting in, but exponentially increase both the possibility of input error and the frustration level of the user – most users will have to toggle between the alpha and numeric keyboard modes during input. Fail #1.

Second, let’s look at the shortcode. OH THAT’S RIGHT, I cant see it either. This is to be used in a bar people, and anyone who’s ever been to a bar can agree that for the most part they’re not the most well lit places on earth. And how about the call to action? The word ‘Text’ is equally illegible. So my question is, what brilliant Creative Director decided to use 8pt condensed font for the shortcode and CTA? Are they giving away free illuminated magnifying glasses to potential participants? Fail #2 and #3.

Rants aside here, you can see why this is categorized in the ‘You’re doing it wrong’ section’. The Mobile ID is cryptic; the shortcode and call to action are illegible in the environment within which they will be viewed. This is why having a strong mobile team on your side is important…it will prevent your ‘epic’ campaigns from becoming ‘epic’ fails.

But hey, at least it will keep the moisture off of the bar.

Mobile users on the internet while watching TV

Ah, I’ve been telling people this for about three years now. Something to think about gang, the new thing to do during commercials is to play on the mobile internet. Now, if someone sees a commercial that interests them, and they go to that company’s website and it doesn’t work on their mobile device, its a fail. It actually could qualify as a ‘you’re doing it wrong’. But to prevent an all out rant, I’ll just give you the link and you can see for yourself.

Case in point: if you’re advertising on TV, you had better pay it off with a good mobile presence.

Read The Full Story

Do you need an App?

I was recently ranting about a question that was posed, the question being: Do small businesses need an App to be competitive? Now, as some of you know this is a subject I’ve talked about quite a bit. The short answer is an overwhelming NO. Small businesses need a mobile website, but don’t need an App to be competitive. Why? Well, let my rant ensue! :)

< rant >
Needing an app is one of the largest misconceptions in Mobile right now, especially for small businesses. What businesses need first is a Mobile website. For the most part, a consumer will turn to their mobile device for information when they’re on the road – shopping, looking for a restaurant, a product, etc. If that consumer does a quick web search, then clicks on a result that’s not formatted for their device, that business loses a new customer. No one is going to find a business, search for them in an app store, install their app, THEN try to find out their address or driving directions, or even their phone number.

There are existing Apps, however, that businesses should embrace. For example, Foursquare, SCVNGR, Yelp, and others will help consumers find a business, as each app has a large existing installed base. But to think that a small business needs an App is absurd. There’s usually no reason for the consumer to install the app, let alone use it. “Yea Joe hang on a second, I can get the address for Fred’s restaurant, let me search the app store for the Fred’s Restaurant app, then install it, then I’ll get the address.” Nope. Google Fred’s Restaurant, click a link, and if Fred did it right, Fred’s website will redirect the mobile user to Fred’s mobile website, and front and center will be a button that says “Find Us” or similar. Ah, and a big click-to-call phone number, just in case.

Local search is what the majority of consumers are using mobile devices for, and those devices can be a powerful acquisition vehicle for local businesses. When consumers are searching for information about a business, a menu, or products, having to install an app is an unnecessary barrier to entry. Having a good mobile website with your businesses information is the first step in getting people to your doorstep. Then, if you want to cater to the higher-end devices and provide some extra functionality, like the “Fred’s Restaurant Dart Game” or something, sure build your app. But build it to achieve a business need, not because a commercial or some developer tells you that you need one. You can spend way less and reach far more users with a mobile website. And as always, look to our big brother – the World Wide Web. Find me a software company that released an installable piece of software BEFORE launching their website in the last 10 years, and you’ll come up empty. It just makes no sense.
< /rant >

Designing for Mobile, part 1

So me being the overly ambitious person that I am, I decided to start a new series ‘Designing for Mobile’. Even though it says part 1, who knows if there will be any more installments. BUT Ill give it a shot.

So recently i was asked for an overview of how to design for mobile. Here is my response, i figured id share it with all of you. The original question was something like ‘how do you approach conversion of a web site to mobile?’ – my response below.

“For the most part we recreate the mobile site based on design and content from the web site. Designing and information architecture for mobile is completely different than web – the screen is smaller, and the needs are different. For example, on mobile contact info and address are always front and center. We can assume oftentimes a user will be accessing the mobile site while on the go, likely trying to find the business contact info or location. Or, a user is trying to find product information while in a store. The mobile experience needs to be designed according to the anticipated needs of the user. Secondarily we can provide tons of additional content that is a click or two deeper.

Also in mobile users tend to think side to side instead of up and down AND side to side as they do in web. In mobile left is back, right is forward – that’s a function of current mobile design and information flow, and is a key interface concept when designing and doing IA for mobile. Too many folks are trying desperately to retrofit their website for mobile and failing miserably because they don’t understand the interface assumptions and mindset of a mobile user.”

Fridays: You’re Doing It Wrong

This is my first post in what I hope will be a series of blogs categorized as “You’re Doing It Wrong”. Im going to attempt to find epic fails in the technology and mobile space. And trust me, there are PLENTY of them!

Lets start with Fridays “Mobile” play. I have mobile in quotes because its a pathetic attempt at a mobile campaign. Its a perfect example of how to ensure minimal results. See the image below:

Lets figure out why they’re doing it wrong. First off, whats with the numbers? Do i text JOIN or 5646? And, where to i text it? to MYTGIF, or to 698443? Or to MYTGIF (698443)? Does my phone allow me to put parenthesis into a text message? Do i text JOIN with the number in parenthesis? Now comes the part where the customer doesn’t text in, and the business loses an invaluable opportunity to acquire a customer.

The irony here, is that you’re supposed to text JOIN to 698443. Simple, right? But the messaging is so confusing, id bet there are 3 failed attempts for every 1 success…that is, assuming that anyone has ever texted in. My guess is that most customers look at it, dont immediately understand it, and push it to the end of the table.

Now, lets think motivation. Hmmm, just finished a steak – why am i texting? OH right, to join the Friday’s “Stripes” program. What the hell is that, and why would i text in to join? Is there a benefit to texting in? What am I getting? Is the text in free? No one knows. Copywriters and strategists get a D- on that one. Id give them an F but i kind of like the font.

This is a classic example of a decent creative or marketing firm assuring their client ‘ah yes we can do mobile’ and sloppily coming up with some half-assed concept and implementing it through one of their similarly half-assed partners. Its a completely wasted opportunity, a great example of what not to do in mobile, and should be a lesson to all of you out there. Fridays has a great opportunity here – their customer is sitting there for 45 minutes or more with nothing to do for the majority of the time. Fridays probably monetizes their rewards program, in addition to the loyalty they create. Make the program clear, offer a benefit, and maybe – just maybe – your customer will text in. Make the program confusing, offer little to no value, and lets face it…YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG!

But hey, lets look at the bright side from the firm’s perspective. They’ve succeeded in convincing their client that ‘mobile isnt right for their brand’ or some similarly pathetic excuse for their own incompetence. So at the year end review, they can tout that the website is working but mobile isn’t, and thus direct more of next year’s budget at web and less at mobile, in order to keep their client’s business. The fact is, however, that 2010 is the ‘year of mobile’ – and more and more brands are creating and expanding their mobile budgets, and will continue to do so for the next few years. Why? Simple. When done correctly, mobile can be a game-changer for any brand out there. When done incorrectly, its simply a small bar on a graph, a flat line on a chart, and an indication that a company is slowly falling behind on the technology side.

Wondering the right way to do it? Shoot me an email: TheOtherJohn@MobileCardCast.com

PS – are you from Fridays or the Marketing company behind this trash, and pissed off? Good, that means you read it, and you’re on your way to not totally sucking at mobile. Admit that you suck, and we can help you. Or, just go on sucking and the evolution of business will swiftly and efficiently make you extinct, which it does so well.

A night in NYC with my iPhone

After a sweet evening in NYC watching Moonspank play at the legendary Bitter End, I was reflecting on how truly amazing the mobile phone is. I have an iPhone as most of you know, but it really applies to most mobile devices. Heres a summary of the evening:
– Got a call telling me my ride was here, went outside.
– Driving down, i cracked open the maps application to figure out the best route to Bleeker street from Mt. Vernon.
– Wanted to see what other bands were playing, went to the Bitter End’s Website to check.
– Made a move in my chess game with a friend who’s on the road (game has been going on for a few weeks now)
– Sent out a mass text reminding my friends in NYC of the event.
– Got to the Bitter End, but wanted some food for me and the peeps. Cracked open ‘AroundMe’ app, came up with the Half Pint about 2 blocks away.
– Jumped on Yelp to make sure the ratings were good.
– Sent the address of the Half Pint to my girlfriend and her sister so they could meet us there.
– Took a really cool picture of the green room at the Bitter End.
– Posted a pic of Moonspank to Facebook.
– Tweeted some Moonspank lyrics to the masses.
– Shot a short video of Moonspank’s “Electric Freak pt 2”
– After the show, jumped on MTA website to check the train schedules from GCT to Hawthorne NY.
– Posted a pic of Tony wearing a ridiculous hat on the train
– Verified my girlfriend got home ok via SMS
– Wrote a reminder on my ‘Now Do This’ app to pick up a new battery for my home phone (random I know, but for some reason i remembered i needed a new battery when i got home)
– Opened Log Me In on iPhone – went onto my office computer to check what time my conference call was for the following day, and the dude’s name i had to talk to. From my computer, emailed all the info to myself so i’d have it for the call.
– Played ‘The Void’ video game on my iPhone
– Went to sleep! zzzzzzzz

I reflect like this, because at one point in the night my iPhone locked up. I literally panicked! A dozen thoughts went through my head…how am i going to take pictures? How will i find out where everyones going after the show? How will i let my friends know where I’m at? Etc, etc! Luckily, I just restarted it and all was well. But that made me realize that our mobile phones these days are far beyond a convenience, they’re a necessity!