12/19/2014

Facebook’s new Messenger spin-off app lets you put stickers on your friends’ faces


Well, here’s something we weren’t expecting – Facebook is releasing a separate app for its Messenger stickers just in time for the holidays, dubbed Stickered for Messenger.

The new app basically just lets you add stickers to your photos and then send them to your friends on Messenger. You can finally put huge emoticons and cute cartoon animals over your friends’ faces easily.

Facebook is also introducing new holiday-themed tidbits to the regular Messenger app as well.  These include frames for your New Year’s Eve selfies, snow globe chat heads and holiday-themed sticker packs.


Stickered for Messenger will be available from the Play Store later today, and is “coming soon” to the iOS App Store.

12/17/2014

10 Responsive Design Problems and Fixes

The Internet is changing, with responsive websites quickly adapting to any device and screen size to bring the user the most dynamic experience possible. 


From multinational corporations like Sony, Microsoft, and Nokia to global tech stars like Salesforce to online travel giants like Expedia, serious players are turning to responsive web design to march in step with the current trends in and reach an even wider audience of customers.

But making responsive websites has its downsides. The value the site provides to the user is more important than ever, and aesthetics often take a backseat while performance reigns supreme. The problem is that performance cannot be mocked up in Photoshop, and new methods to meet design challenges have to be adopted. So here are 10 problems with creating responsive design websites, along with 10 possible solutions.

1. A More Problematic Visual Stage
In the past, the client had to approve static images and screenshots before development could begin. Today, designing can be a more chaotic and fluid process of sketching and prototyping where the focus is on designing elements and how they will be rearranged, depending on different device dimensions and resolutions.

Fix: There are two approaches to responsive sketching. One approach is creating sketches for a desktop home page, as well as every other website page, and then adapting them for the most popular tablet and mobile screen sizes and dimensions. Another approach is using paper and communicating to the client to demonstrate design layouts and how they will reflow on different screen sizes. Designing in the browser and working with HTML and CSS prototypes starts early on; creating a system of components and seeing how they can be reassembled for different configurations replaces the creation of wireframes for every single page and state. The chosen method is usually dictated by the complexity of the website.

2. Navigation
Before responsive design, every user knew where navigation was. Even though today, the three bars at the top left corner of the page usually represent the de facto navigation "button," many users still find it difficult to navigate beyond the menu, especially when it comes to websites with complicated structure. Today, the whole concept of navigation has to be reconsidered.

Fix: Designers should spend more time trying to make navigation intuitive and self-explanatory. Studying the website’s content and information architecture, and understanding users—how and why they browse the site—is the only way to make a unique navigation decision. In addition, testing navigation on as many products as possible can help developers get it right.

3. The Appearance of Background Images and Icons
Images are crucial to a user’s experience on the web. In responsive design, images and icons have to be flexible to allow users to enjoy the graphics on high pixel density devices, which are becoming more widespread. Making sure the images don’t look blurry and poorly scaled up is the goal of every designer and developer.

Fix: Lazy loading images can help optimize browser rendering and reduce the number of HTTP round trips by deferring the loading of images that are not in the client's view. Making icons scalable (using the SVG format, which keeps icons light yet high-quality) and retina-ready can also help users enjoy the website without loss of quality on any device.

4. Showing Data on Small Screens
Showing data tables (airline flight timetables, for instance) on small screens is a real problem when the tables are complex and convoluted. It doesn’t help that they are also often large with a great number of rows and columns.

Fix: Responsive tables are the best bet right now. There are also other methods: abandoning the grid layout and creating a smaller table that doesn’t call for horizontal scrolling; building more compact pie charts out of tables; replacing tables with smaller versions while offering a link to the full version; hiding unimportant elements on small screens with a dropdown menu with access to the full table; rainbow tables where colors are used instead of columns; and even flipping the table on its side to make it fit.

5. Creating Rich Experiences that Load Fast
One of the biggest challenges is finding the balance between a rich user experience and the fast-paced nature of the Internet. Responsive websites sometimes weigh a lot, and because they attract traffic from both desktops and mobile devices, the experience can suffer from slow loading times. This means losing business, as the majority of mobile users leave after five seconds of not getting what they expect.

Fix: The solution is conditional loading, which allows for loading of only what users need, when they need it. The rule of thumb is this: first load content, then enhancements, then leftovers. With users so used to lots of images, galleries, documents, downloads, etc. on awebsite, with the mobile-first approach, designers should take care to keep only the elements that are absolutely necessary to convey the message of the website. Because the proliferation of mobile devices is outpacing desktops, conditional loading is the way to go. And since in conditional loading many automation tools for scaling and caching images are used, it makes future changes to the site easier and faster. Also, assuming that the user connection is not perfect is a must to provide high performance.

6. Longer Designing, Developing, and Testing Periods
Because responsive websites have to work amazingly well on multiple (very different) devices—all while boasting rich functionality and complicated design elements—they often take longer to design, develop, and test. Usually it takes about twice as long to design a responsive site compared to a regular site.

Fix: The problem already contains a solution. Even though responsive sites may take longer to create, they are also better candidates for gradual change and natural evolution. Instead of having to implement major overhauls to a website, which are costly and lengthy, responsive sites can evolve step-by-step, saving owners a lot of time and effort in the long run.

7. Hiding and Removing Content
Websites with complicated UI elements, advanced search features, multi-step forms, data tables, calculators, dashboards with third-party scripts, and so on often pose a problem because they simply contain too much information. The approach so far has been to hide or remove content from users, but many people feel they deserve access to all information, even if they are browsing on a small device. In some cases, there is no way for a user to get the full version of the website they are browsing.

Fix: Thorough planning from the onset that determines where content is arranged in a way that doesn’t force developers to hide anything is the solution. The goal should be to optimize as much as possible, remove unnecessary elements from early drafts and focus on the core structure of the website, without adding any bells and whistles. Now is not the time to embellish, but to prioritize and cut. It is always best to give the user the possibility to have access to the full version of the website, if they choose to do so.

8. Converting Fixed Sites Into Responsive Ones
This is a huge dilemma: is it necessary to change the less flexible code of fixed-layout websites or can they be left as they are and still provide acceptable performance?

Fix: The conversion process is a challenging, but for light and simple websites, it’s feasible and has been done successfully in the past. The choice is often to reverse style sheets and templates or start a greenfield rebuild, which is a process of rebuilding the site without the need to consider any prior work. When you have a bigger, complicated website, a greenfield rebuild is a better option than not doing a conversion at all.

9. Older Versions of Internet Explorer Don’t Support CSS3 Media Queries
When working with mobile-first techniques, your website might not display properly on older versions of IE. In these cases, developers should find a way to support an older website on mobile devices.

Fix: It is best to take care of Internet Explorer users and to offer them a handy solution. An experienced designer can easily change page layouts, depending on the size of the browser window, using JavaScript. With a goal of maintaining the original layout, the solution is to use polyfill, which is a portion of code that provides the technology that developers expect the browser to provide natively. Another fix may be to use a conditional IE style sheet with elementary styling or do nothing at all if it looks passable. It all depends on the needs of the end user.

10. Not Everyone Understands Why They Should Go Responsive
The process of working with clients is not always structured and orderly, and the methodologies for responsive design are still being refined and tested. Solutions to challenges are rarely set in stone, which sometimes creates uncertainty and confusion for clients.

Fix: Showing the benefits of responsive design in action is the best way to get positive feedback and approval. Responsive design can prove itself a significant advantage in the market in terms of multi-device functionality, making future fixes easy, and appealing to a much widest audience of users.

Conclusion

Even though responsive design is becoming more popular, there are still many questions left unanswered and no official solutions to the challenges that this trend poses. The most important thing to remember is that responsive design should improve experiences, not reduce opportunities for users, and all designer and developer efforts should be aimed at making that goal a reality.

Source: Kirill Strelchenko

12/07/2014

Report: U.S. Mobile Search Spend Expected To Overtake Desktop Next Year

eMarketer's lastest estimates encompass PPC and SEO spending on smartphones and tablets.

Starting next year, marketers in the U.S. will spend more on mobile search — both PPC ads and SEO –  than on desktop, according to a new report from digital research firm, eMarketer.
Just last year, the firm estimates, less than a quarter of search spend went to mobile. The report suggests that the tables will turn entirely by 2018, with mobile accounting for 76.7 percent of search spending.
EMarketer includes both tablets and smartphones in its mobile numbers, but says the dramatic shift is being driven primarily by smartphones. Still, it’s worth noting that the market doesn’t have much control over what gets allocated to search advertising on tablets.
Google’s enhanced campaigns eliminated the ability to bid separately on tablet and desktop traffic last year. Bing Ads followed Google’s lead this year and also combined desktop and tablet traffic this fall.
Additionally, because SEO is included in these estimates, it’s not clear what the shift in ad spending actually looks like.

What is UX Design?


History of Programming Languages (Infographic)


8/22/2014

6 Steps to Create an Effective BYOD Plan (Infographic)

With workplaces more mobile and interconnected than ever, many employees have the ability to work from home or on the go. While at first glance, having a bring your own device (BYOD) policy in your office can help with flexibility and cutting costs, it could also lead to security issues and major IT headaches if businesses aren't too careful.
So what can managers and IT departments do to ensure the safety of company data and productivity of their employees?  Well, actually a lot.

7/18/2014

User Experience is Integral to Winning App Design

Each time that I download a new app on my iPhone, I expect it to make my life simpler, solve my problems efficiently and make it easier for me to get through my day.
Ninety percent of the time I’m disappointed, for the simple reason that many developers ignore the fundamentals of user-experience design.
Simply put, if the app has to tell me how to navigate from one screen to another or what each button means and does, it’s lost me completely. I now have to remember how to use this app each time I launch it. That doesn’t make my life any easier!
What is user experience, or more popularly referenced as UX? Let me tell you what it is not. It does not mean UI (user interface) or graphic design in simpler terms. It’s not about technology and certainly not the role of just one person.
So how do you deliver a great user experience for the app that you’re building? Here are some guidelines to get you started.
1. Choose the right features. User experience starts right at the planning stage. At the time when you’re dreaming up your first set of features for the app. It’s very easy to fall into the feature-rut where the feeling is the more features in an app, the more value it will have for the customer.
One of the toughest parts of building an app is deciding what to keep in the first version. Keeping it simple and building an app that offers the core value proposition will help your users to navigate through the app easily. Once they’re hooked, you can study their behavior and then build additional features.
Provide features that are relevant to the mobile platform. For instance, a banking app that lets you quickly check your balance and perform transactions on the go. Or an airline app that lets you check-in, gives you flight status and offers a boarding card.
2. Easy flow and navigation. Once you’ve decided on the first set of features you want to build into the app, it’s imperative that you make it easy for the user to flow from one screen to another, or from one feature to another.
Think how you can make the navigation and flow so simple that a 3 year old could use the app without parental guidance.
Your aim should be to reduce the learning curve for the users and make navigation more intuitive.
3. Understand your customer. a big part of delivering a great user experience is knowing the user of your app. What is the profile of your typical customer -- age group, gender, culture, their behavior with technology, etc.
The navigation, feature access (such as button size, easy tap instead of swipes), will differ from a 3 year old versus a 45 year old.
4. Utilize the platform. Each platform, iOS or Android, offers various gesture-based navigation tools. Swipes (left, right, top and bottom) can remove or add a record, bring a new screen and remove another. Pinch (zoom in and out) can zoom into the content that a user is reading or move out of the current screen as well.
Depending on the nature of your application and its purpose, use gestures offered by the platform well to provide an intuitive navigation. The Clear app is one that is based solely on gestures and doesn’t have any buttons for navigation.
5. Building trust. Users shouldn't have to worry about privacy issues or spam. Do not collect any more information than necessary for the user’s experience. If you can just get by with a name and email address, then do not ask for any more details.
Similarly, do not upload any content from their device onto your server without their permission. There have been apps that were barred from going live because they uploaded a user’s contact list without their knowledge.
Do not unnecessarily spam the user with frequent emails or push notifications unless otherwise absolutely necessary for the user to get a great experience.
6. Optimize push notifications. Push notifications can really be irritating. On the other hand, they can really help your business push forward.
Be mindful when setting triggers for notifications so that they do not become intrusive. Remember, the user should always have the option to completely stop all notifications.
7. Build a feedback loop. You need feedback from your customers to understand what the shortfalls are in your app or what features they love so you can evolve the product to suit their growing needs.
From the user’s point of view, if they’re using your app and find something they need to report, make it easy for them to get in touch with you or your support team. Make sure you respond to your customers within 24 hours of receiving the feedback. Customer service can help build a fantastic experience and you could win the customer for the lifecycle of your app.
Treat user experience as not just a part of design, but as an integral part of your product strategy. Remember, success is by design, not by chance.

7/16/2014

Prototype Improves Mobile Typing by Ditching the Keyboard


Typing on mobile devices such as tablets and phones is notoriously dodgy. It can be done, but it’s awkward, inefficient and frustrating. Sort of like rooting for the Chicago Cubs.
A startup in Austin, Texas, may have found a way to solve the mobile keyboard problem: Get rid of the keyboard entirely.
The AirType project — currently in early prototype phase — is a “keyboardless keyboard” accessory that allows you to type on any surface, or none at all. Unlike projection keyboards, which use a virtual keyboard image displayed on a flat surface, the AirType has no visual component whatsoever.
Instead, the Air Type system uses a pair of cuff-like sensor units that go around your hands and over the knuckles. The units track your finger moments to detect which keys you’re striking, or would strike, on your mobile tablet keyboard — which isn’t there, mind you.
It’s all rather Zen, really, and the AirType unit would seem to require total touch-typing proficiency. According to the project page, the system has some adaptive technology built in so that it will learn to adjust to your habits, and not the other way around. It appears to be similar to the way you “teach” voice recognition software to recognize your speech patterns.
Photos suggest that the AirType cuffs are designed to be small and mobile, clipping onto your tablet like a pair of friendly barnacles. The accessories would also come with an app that incorporates dynamic text correction and prediction.

From:  for Discovery News