Category Archives: Technology

From Desktop to Pocket: Why Americans Are Making the Switch to Mobile

Reaching a Breaking Point

In the years since Apple released the first iPhone in 2007, we’ve seen a seismic shift in the way that people are accessing the Internet. The landscape has changed so swiftly, in fact, that many have been left in the dust. In 2014, an incredible milestone was reached: for the first time ever, users spent more time accessing the Internet via mobile devices than they did on their PCs. Here are just a few reasons to believe that a movement to mobile is more than just a passing trend.

A Short, Snackable Experience

Since the rise of the smartphone, we’ve seen an influx of content that’s designed for a quick visit and nothing more — what some are referring to as “snackable” content. This could be anything from a short video to an infographic to a concise, easily navigable list.

We already know that peak Internet usage happens during lunch breaks, commutes, and decompressing time at home. But in a U.S. market where more than a whopping 178 million consumers now carry smartphones, content is often consumed in even shorter increments. More and more, users are harnessing just a few seconds to tune into the Internet on their mobile devices — and content generators are taking notice, churning out shorter, more digestible tidbits.

Apps on the Rise

Much of the newest research and data on user behavior suggests that users prefer smartphone apps to traditional browsers, and why not? Apps are elegant, to-the-point, and mobile by definition. The best ones make comparable websites seem bloated or even obsolete. In 2014, mobile app usage grew by 76%, and smartphone owners now download almost 9 apps per month on average.

Mobile Can Do It All

Last but certainly not least, users are ditching their PCs for mobile devices because phones and tablets can, simply put, do everything. Look at the device in your own pocket: chances are it can get you in touch with loved ones, snap a high-quality video, help you make an important purchase, check a flight time — the list goes on and on. Once upon a time, consumers felt a need to balance mobile devices with the desktop experience in order to meet all their computing and Internet needs. But PC sales have been declining as more users find their demands met by a slim, lightweight device that’s always within reach.

Looking Toward a More Mobile Future

Make no mistake — the mobile Internet is here to stay, and its reach and popularity is growing daily. Facebook and Google are still the biggest playmakers, with dominant lineups that include YouTube and Instagram. If you’re looking to build a following online, those remain the best places to start.

But don’t discount emerging mobile platforms, including lifestyle and shopping apps, which grew more in 2014 than any other category. It’ll also be in your best interest to refresh and update your traditional website — users still need to visit them, but they’ll be looking for a streamlined, simplified, and responsive interface that more closely resembles the mobile experience.


The Big Picture Implications of the New iPhone’s Outsized Screen: What It Means for Design, Development, and UX/UI

When Apple’s Tim Cook finally announced the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, he was greeted with rapturous applause from diehard fans, snarky attack ads from sour competitors, and an unlikely #bendgate controversy about skinny jeans warping the slick devices.

Coming in at 4.7 and 5.5 inches across, these behemoth new screens are much more than a status symbol, copycat tactic, and structural liability—they also open a brave new world for developers, designers, and user experience / user interface (UX/UI) strategists.

How will apps adapt to the new real estate, and how will users respond? The outsized screens present both a challenge and an opportunity for the future of mobile design.

New Territory: A Lot of Space to Fill

While the new phones are appreciably bigger, on first glance, you may not realize just how many more pixels have been packed in: the 6 features 38% more space than its 5s predecessor, while the 6 Plus adds a whopping 68% increase.

Devs and designers will jump at the chance to give users more content and information, without crowding the interface and throwing off iOS’s trademark simplicity and Zen-like minimalism. They can also use the opportunity for more detailed graphics and bigger fonts. That’s great for readability, but what about reachability?

Solutions for Sore, Stubby Thumbs

An iPhone 5s sits comfortably in the palm of your hand and allows easy access to every corner of the screen—perfect for subway rides, multi-handed multitasking, and texting on the go. As this handy (heh) graphic shows, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are a little less accessible. This places many navigational tools—typically at the top of an app—inconveniently just out of reach.

Apple’s solution? Reachability, a feature launched by a double-tap on the home button that brings the top half of the screen to the bottom. Interesting idea, but some UX/UI experts are already declaring it “hacky and completely unintuitive.” A better approach may be moving the nav buttons down below deck and integrating more gestural controls.

As bigger screen sizes continue to gain popularity and become the new normal, designers will be forced to innovate, reinvent, and rethink the way our digits and digital devices interact.

Will Apple Pay Make Tap-And-Pay Mainstream?

Apple Pay

Apple Pay is here, and just like the Apple II in 1977 and the iPod in 2001, it promises to make giant waves. The platform will support NFC (near field communication)-based payments from the iPhone 6, 6 Plus, and the Apple Watch, promising to bring tap-and-pay to the masses for the first time… well, sort of.

The truth is, NFC-enabled phones have been around for almost four years—an eon in tech years. The first was the Samsung Nexus S, debuting in late 2010. After the phone’s release, Android was quick to roll out updates, including tap-and-pay functionality linked to Google Wallet.

But it never caught on. Although you can find NFC tap-and-pay devices in NYC taxis, Walgreens, and thousands of other small-purchase, high-volume retailers, few people use them. So what makes Apple Pay different? Three words: timing, timing, timing. And a fourth: Apple.

Making Security a Priority

Putting sensitive information on a device that can be hacked, broken, or left in a taxi makes people uneasy. When they lose a credit card, most people know exactly what to do—but the rules for digital wallets are not as simple. To capture this market, Apple has positioned Apple Pay as safer than predecessors. The system uses tokens to add a layer of security, making sensitive information tough for hackers to reproduce.

Perfecting v. Inventing

Heightened security and brand name aside, timing is everything. Precisely because Apple isn’t the pioneer of NFC-enabled payments, the company is in a position to perfect it (sorry, Samsung). Furthering the hardware inroads made by Google and MasterCard, Apple can claim some 220,000 retail and dining partners, lending further authority to its culture-generating brand. Many of these retailers were early Google Wallet adopters and haven’t had to change a thing in their stores.

Striking Hot Iron

But Apple isn’t just hopping on a bandwagon. It’s positioned on the crest of a wave: a long-planned, nationwide transition to a new, more secure payment standard called EMV. EMV stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa, and is a global standard for inter-operation of integrated circuit cards (IC cards or “chip cards”) and IC card capable point of sale (POS) terminals widely used in Europe. This change will require merchants to upgrade to IC-capable POS terminals, or risk being held responsible for fraud. Since all new terminals accept mobile NFC payments, they will go from rare to the rule.

We won’t fully know how much users will embrace Apple Pay until it’s tested on the free market. But we’ll put our money—and our iPhones—on a giant shift in how we buy.


What’s the Difference Between Print and Digital Advertising ROI?

ROI, or return on investment, is Business 101. When you don’t know the impact of efforts, you don’t actually know if they’re worth it. If you spend $1 on something that generates $2, you can be confident that your dollar was well spent: you achieved a 200% ROI.

This metric is particularly important in marketing, where there are a dizzying amount of approaches and a need to convince the higher-ups that your preferred channel will yield concrete results.

Broadly speaking, marketers will typically divide their efforts between digital and print advertising—but how does calculating ROI differ between the two? And does one approach offer a better return than the other?

Enjoying the New Advances in Online Advertising

Finding your ROI has never been easier, thanks to tracking technologies employed by virtually every digital advertising platform. If you’ve correctly tracked conversions, you can calculate the price and return for every single click—a degree of detail impossible to achieve in print media.

Even better, online advertising allows for incredibly precise audience targeting. You can zero in on the ideal consumer by strategically segmenting your audience by age, location, device, and more. You can also choose to show ads to those who have already interacted with your website (a tactic known as remarketing).

Specifying a smaller subset to market to is a huge win-win: not only do you pay less by showing fewer ads than a shotgun approach, but those targeted ads are far more likely to engage and convert, delivering a double-shot of ROI goodness.

But how’s that ROI compare to print?

The Underestimated Power of Print

While it’s certainly more difficult to get exact ROI metrics with print ads, that doesn’t mean they’re lower. In fact, a Nielson study found that brands that invested in magazine spots recouped an extraordinary 781% ROI, or $7.81 for every dollar spent, compared to just 279% for digital portals and ad networks.

A European study corroborates the surprising advantage of print media, concluding that newspaper and magazine ads produce 120% and 130% ROI respectively, while online ads only yielded 110%.

Making Your Choice

It’s important to remember that the numbers quoted above are generalized. Your ROI depends on innumerable variables, including industry, audience, product, context, etc. No matter what approach you ultimately go with, take steps to accurately track your own ROI.

For those seeking instant ROI gratification, digital is certainly the way to go. Print ads, though, may offer more of a punch—even if those figures are a little fuzzier. It’s in vogue to say that print is dying. The numbers tell quite a different story.

Transcending the Traditional vs. Digital Divide

There’s a growing division in the advertising world: a yawning chasm between traditional and digital approaches. Old-school marketers, direct mailers and brochures in hand, stand on one side, and tech-savvy SEO gurus, web developers, and AdWords adepts on the other.

Yes, sometimes the two sides work together, though typically in a patchwork-style campaign. Predictably, the results usually fall flat.

This schism between analog and online isn’t just wrong-headed—it entirely overlooks the enormous power unleashed when both sides work seamlessly in a cohesive strategy. Both types of media become exponentially more effective when working as one.

Moving Beyond with a Media-Agnostic Approach

Too many agencies, advertisers, and businesses side with a camp from the onset, before even considering the specifics of the campaign at hand. Would a mechanic trash half his toolbox before discovering why the car isn’t starting? Would a general dismiss half his troops before determining the mission? You get the idea.

Before restricting ourselves to certain media channels, we work closely with clients to intimately understand the goals, challenges, and needs of the campaign. Only then do we proceed with a media-agnostic approach to implementing it. We go with whatever delivery methods work best—and that usually involves a combination of tradition and digital tools.

Digital platforms are indeed where more businesses are moving, and for good reason. It’s increasingly easy for customers to learn more, take action, or make a purchase online. But that doesn’t mean traditional tools are obsolete.

Some of the most successful efforts leverage the considerable power of traditional media—a physical brochure, a captivating sign, a direct mailing—to capture attention and send customers to a digital destination—a landing page, a mobile app, an ecommerce store—where they can heed the call to action.

Great campaigns make use of all tools at their disposal, merging digital and traditional media in a sharp, channel-agnostic strategy. The dichotomy between digital and traditional media is a false one: transcend it to make your message more effective. To paraphrase Aristotle, the whole is far, far greater than the sum of the parts.

Author: Zack Smith

How iOS 8 Might Just Change Everything—From Health to Home

As the legions of Apple fanatics waited with bated breath, CEO Tim Cook announced at June’s WWDC that iOS 8, the new operating system for iPhones and iPads, will be released this fall.

At first glance, the update doesn’t seem as radical as 2013’s iOS 7, which ushered in a major design shift. Yet when you look a little closer, you’ll find it packed with new features that could forever change the way we interact with our devices—and how developers craft experiences for us.

The overarching theme of iOS 8 is convergence—bringing everything together into an integrated, neat, easy-to-use whole. Nowhere is this clearer than in Apple’s two new toolkits for developers centered around health and home.

HealthKit: Bringing a Complete Medical Profile to Your Pocket 

In one of the more eye-catching announcements, Apple revealed its attractive new Health app. Imagine tracking the miles you ran, calories you burned, food you ate, heart rate you reached, and sleep you got all in one place.

Drawing from formerly disparate wellness apps and fitness devices, Health unites all their data into centralized graphs displayed with Apple’s trademark elegance and simplicity. The app seems designed to beautifully bring together wearable tech devices like Nike’s FuelBand, FitBit, and—some speculate—Apple’s rumored iWatch. More than just a nifty chart tool, Health was prepared with help from the Mayo Clinic and Nike, and has already caught the attention of doctors.

“This could be revolutionary,” said one physician on Quora, clearly impressed with the health data able to be stored in the app, including lab results, allergies, medications, vitals, and more. “I feel that HealthKit might well be the first step in creating something akin to a universal [Electronic Medical Record]. [This] could potentially solve one of the single worst problems in healthcare today: the inability to easily transfer patient records from one care location to another.”

HomeKIt: Building the Home of the Future

Just as the HealthKit unites external fitness devices and fractured medical info, HomeKit empowers Apple’s devices to control virtually everything in your home.

Your iPad could very well be the central remote to your very first smart home. It seems like something out of a sci-fi flick: picture yourself dimming the lights, locking the doors, turning off the TV, and turning up the A/C with a few swipes and taps.

In fact, thanks to Siri-integration, you could even do all that with five simple words—simply saying “Siri, I’m going to bed,” could make your home sleep-ready in seconds. Partners already on board include Phillips, iHome, Haier, and many more.

Converging Everything

In the realms of health and home, iOS 8 sees Apple devices flexing their muscles and exerting power well beyond their rounded-corner edges.

Whether it’s bringing together diverse medical records or uniting all the hardware in your house, iOS 8 shows that Apple is serious about becoming a central part of our lives. It’s a clear signal to both users and developers: Apple doesn’t just want everything in your life well-connected—it wants it all to be beautifully cohesive.

Author: Zack Smith

The Hidden Hazards of Technology (And How to Fix Them)

Technology exists to make our lives better—but does it?

For the most part, yes: instead of writing a letter, you can communicate in an instant over email or text; rather than cracking open an encyclopedia, you have the sum of the world’s history, art, and science at the tip of your fingers. You can order chic clothes from Paris with a click or forge a vital partnership with a business in Taiwan with a videoconference.

But for all its convenience, technology also brings new hazards, both to our health and our social lives. Fortunately, there are ways around them.

Take a Seat… Or Don’t

For both work and play, we’re planted at our computers more than ever. The problem? Most of us are sitting wrong, raising the risk for long-term injury.

How do you sit at your computer? Chances are good you’re hunching over, leaning far back, or bending your legs awkwardly. As physiotherapist Lorna Taylor tells Mashable, if such incorrect posture is “repeated again and again, lasting changes in muscles, ligaments and tendons can occur.”

Okay, so what’s the right way to sit? Keep your back straight against the chair, arms at a 90 degree angle, and feet flat on the ground. While it may feel robotic at first, you’ll be doing your human body a favor.

Hyper Connected, But Not in Real Life

With Facebook, texting, and instant messaging, you can reach all your friends in a millisecond. Reaching them in real life, however, may be more difficult than ever.

Gadgets haven’t exactly helped when trying to get the gang all together. In a hilariously true-to-life video, Alex Cornell explains, “cell phones have made plans susceptible to revision at any moment; thus, making them in advance is essentially pointless—futile, even.”

In the past, you made plans and stuck to them. Now it’s all too easy to be flaky when a night out is cobbled together on the fly. See that Facebook event? Notice how many people clicked the “Maybe” button. Next time you see a friend, try something radical: make plans in person and show up on time.

Technology has fundamentally changed the way we live our lives—and mostly for the better. It’s given us all sorts of instant conveniences, delightful diversions, and powerful connections.

Still, it’s important to understand the new risks that technology poses and how to overcome them. As awesome as our gadgets are, it’s refreshing to take a break from time to time—they haven’t made the real world obsolete just yet.

Author: Natacha Arora