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 >

Photoshop Not Loading – a Quick Fix

Here’s a geek tip for all of my fellow Photoshoppers.

Had a strange issue where Photoshop CS3 wouldn’t start, it kept hanging at the ‘loading preferences’. As it turns out that generally means that your preferences file is corrupt. BUT, thanks to some posts over at deviantart.com, I found a quick fix!

All you have to do is launch Photoshop then IMMEDIATELY hold down Control, Alt and Shift at the same time. It will ask if you want to delete your settings, click yes and bam, Photoshop opens instantly!

This saved me a full uninstall/reinstall so I felt compelled to share!

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!

Basically…

<rant>

Basically, using the word ‘basically’ really irks me. You hear it all the time. “What do you do for a living sir?” “Well, i basically run an IT department.”

Whats even worse is when people use it as a ‘crutch’. “What did you do yesterday Bill?” “Well John, i basically just went shopping to home depot, and picked up a chainsaw so i can chop down the tree that fell and is basically blocking my driveway.”

This burns my ass. Oh I see, so what you’re saying is that you have to boil it down because you dont think i can understand it? What am i a moron? Im gonna go out on a limb here. Im probably more intelligent than 90 percent of the people i deal with on a daily basis, and that could be conservative. Yea, jackass, i am basically smarter then you. Take the extra 8 words and .3% of brain power necessary to tell me the story. Or I’ll basically ignore you.

</rant>

Songs cubed

Ah to write a song. Its truly a gift, to be able to intertwine melodies, percussion, vocals, lyrics, etc and come out with some representation of your effort. Those who have this ability know that sometimes a song just flies out of you, and other times you have to write it by force, just make it happen or you’re stuck with yet ANOTHER unfinished song.

Then, there are times where you start writing one song, come up with a cool part – say a verse – and realize that the part is cool enough to warrant a different song. So, yay, you have ANOTHER song idea, but it didnt move you forward in your process at all.

Im having a situation where one song spawned another, and then the other is starting to spawn yet another. So i started writing one song, and now i have three pieces of songs that i cant seem to finish.

Ah i guess thats the life of a struggling songwriter, maybe its a blessing to be able to just rip out song ideas in bulk. But, its kinda frustrating as for the 30 or so songs ive written, i have at least 90 that are just a chorus, a verse, a melody, etc. Me being me, i have to ask ‘why’. Maybe I care too much. Maybe the parts are all so equally powerful or representative of my emotions or thoughts that I want to spread it across a few songs. Or maybe, just maybe, Im not the songwriter i thought i was, or the songwriter i hope to be. Maybe somewhere in the last few years i’ve lost it, or forgotten it. OR, maybe this is the next evolution, the ability to have so many threads in your brain running that you can write more than one song at a time. Maybe this is how one can write a totally coherent album; start with one song then spread it out across 12.

Maybe.

Call Yourself!

OK heres a cool little way to make your computer call you whenever you want. Its kinda like a wake up call, and combines skype, a batch file, and windows scheduled tasks.

First, install skype and add some credit if you dont already have it. Then, open up notepad, and put the following in it:
“C:\Program Files\Skype\Phone\Skype.exe” /callto:+18005551212

Replace the 18005551212 with the number you want to call. Save that file as callme.bat.

Now, open control panel then scheduled tasks. Hit ‘add scheduled task’ then under the prog list choose ‘browse’ and select the batch file you just created (callme.bat).

From there, just choose when you want it to run – daily, weekly, etc., and schedule the call.

This works pretty reliably – AND under advanced settings you can choose to have the scheduled task wake the computer up to perform it. I suggest if you do this, schedule the task twice – sometimes the first call wont work as the computer is still waking up and the net connection isnt activated yet.

This is a cool way to have a wake up call, a reminder, etc. I wouldnt be surprised if someday skype incorporates this directly into the interface, but in the meantime its a neat little windows hack. Enjoy!