All Posts in mobile app

March 19, 2014 - No Comments!

DisGo Mobile App: Discourse on the Go

DisGoSigninOn the train? Working remotely? Now you can take your Discourse conversations on the go.

We use the online discussion platform Discourse for communicating about a lot of internal topics. It’s a well-designed, modern forum, message board, and chat room, all in one, and we find it a valuable companion to email as a tool for gathering and disseminating information. But workdays get busy and people don’t always have time to use it. Instead, a lot of us wanted to be able to check in on Discourse and participate in its conversations during our commutes. When we realized there wasn’t a mobile app, we decided to build one.

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March 17, 2014 - No Comments!

Tech Tip: Discourse

What do you do when you want to share specific information with your company, or solicit feedback on a certain project, or ask a question of your colleagues? You could email your entire company, but these days, people are pretty sensitive about extra emails cluttering their inboxes and interrupting productivity (and if you work with developers, you know that can be annoying and costly). Depending on the topic, it might even feel spammy.

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February 7, 2014 - 1 comment.

Tech Tip: 11 Tech Tricks to Beat Winter

cold-glacier-iceberg-snow

The polar vortex has blasted Chicago. The blizzards have bamboozled Atlanta. Sunshine and highs in the 60s have nearly torn San Diego apart...wait...

Winter is terrorizing most of the country, but luckily we live in the 21st century, and there's an app for that. These 11 tech tricks will help you survive February from morning to night.

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October 30, 2013 - No Comments!

Introducing the New Facing Disability Mobile App

We just launched the new Facing Disability mobile application under the design leadership of Ed Lafoy, our resident iOS wizard. This new app allows anyone to create and upload videos to Facing Disability's website.

Facing Disability is a nonprofit organization supporting and connecting individuals suffering with spinal cord injuries. The site aggregates more than 1,000 videos and shares answers to common questions about coping with spinal cord injuries. The videos are highly curated, edited, and are the culmination of more than a year of interviews.

The new mobile app makes it possible for even more people to contribute their voices and perspectives to FacingDisability.com. Now members can securely contribute videos anytime,  anywhere, and enjoy a new flexibility and accessibility that’s particularly important to the Facing Disability community.

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August 19, 2013 - No Comments!

Josh Golden Talks to NBC Chicago about Chicago Ideas Week

nbc5txiEarlier this month, our CEO and founder Josh Golden chatted with Art Norman and Charlie Wojciechowski of NBC Chicago's Weekend Web. On the docket: The great work we're doing as part of our technology partnership with Chicago Ideas Week (CIW) (October 14-20).

Check out the interview below, where Josh discusses the new platform and ticketing system we built for CIW, and be sure to check back on September 1, when tickets go on sale to the public.

August 8, 2013 - 1 comment.

Infographic: Mobile App vs. Responsive Website

Earlier this spring, we wrote an article about the 10 questions to ask when choosing between a responsive website or a native mobile app for your business. It's question a lot of people are asking these days, so we decided to turn it into a helpful infographic, which VentureBeat featured on its site last week.

Use the chart below to help you decide whether your company needs a responsive website or a native mobile app.

Mobile App vs Responsive Design

Special thanks to Kenton Quatman his infographic design.

June 20, 2013 - No Comments!

6 Tips for Teaching Your Kids to Code (and Why You Should)

hopscotchWith all of the hype surrounding fast-growing tech startups, as well as discussions about improving our education system, teaching kids how to code is top of mind for many people these days. Large scale change is in our future, and I look forward to a day when coding is as integral a part of early education as reading, writing, and math.

Fortunately, you don't have to wait for "someday" to get your kids coding—here are 6 tips to help you spark and sustain a child's interest in programming:

1.  Emphasize that Coding = Creativity

Coding is as much about creativity as it is about math, science, and problem solving. The stereotype of computer programmers as math nerds scares many people away from coding, adults and children alike. But coding is creating and making things come to life—drawings, games, robots, applications. Most kids like to create things, so coding will come as naturally as painting a picture or building something with Legos. Capture their interest by emphasizing creativity, and they'll naturally learn some core programming concepts along the way. Keep it fun and don't force it—not all kids like to paint, and not all kids will like to code either.

2.  Encourage Exploration

Find age-appropriate tools that give your child enough room to play without needing to read an instruction manual every few minutes. The process of discovery—or the "I wonder what will happen if I do this?" moment—is a core component of a coder's world. Encourage your child to experiment, and keep an eye out for signs they're reaching the limits of a specific app. Even if you're not a coder yourself, you can learn along with your child.

Here's a list of free apps/websites to get you started:

Daisy the Dinosaur (iPad, ages 6-10): This simple iPad app will get kids excited about being able to control the movements of a character on screen using basic commands. As an intro to coding it’s even great with younger children, but may not hold older children's attention for very long.

Hopscotch (iPad, ages 8-12): From the makers of Daisy the Dinosaur, this app is fun, easy to use, and lets kids create drawings and more complex animations with a whole cast of characters to choose from. You can also share your programs with other Hopscotch users via email, which is great for encouraging kids to play with friends and share their creations.

Scratch (web, ages 8-16): Scratch has been around for a while and has an active community of young programmers. It builds on some of the basic programming controls used in Hopscotch, and introduces many new tools for creating more unique and complex animations and games.

Codecademy (web, ages 12+): Codecademy provides free online courses in specific programming languages. Older children who show a sustained interest in coding may be ready to start learning to program on their own. The course on HTML and CSS is a great place to start, and it will teach your child how to create web pages from scratch.

3.  Tap Into Each Child's Passions

Coding can be used to create many different kinds of programs—try those that interest your child and don't write off coding altogether if they don't enjoy one specific flavor. There are apps that focus on everything from drawing to animation to storytelling to game design. Kits like Lego Mindstorms, Sparki, and littleBits let kids design robots and create programs to operate them. Avid readers can build websites to publish reviews of books they've read. Sports fanatics can build websites to track the stats of their favorite players or teams. Tap into something your child already enjoys doing and show them how to use coding as a new way to bring their ideas to life.

4.  Make Coding a Social Activity

Find opportunities and encourage your child to code with other children. As they grow, having a network of friends who are also interested in coding will go a long way to keeping them engaged. "Kids become coders because they are friends with other coders or are born into coder families," Mimi Ito recently pointed out in a Fast Company article. Doing a quick search in your area will likely turn up a number of options for local summer camps or after-school programs. You could also gather a couple of kids and help them participate virtually in an online program, or find someone to help you create a project to get them started.

5.  Find a Mentor

As Mimi Ito noted, children of programmers are more likely to code than children of non-programmers. But hope is not lost if you're not a programmer yourself! There are plenty out there and most would be excited to help you. Find a friend or family member who codes or works in a technical field and ask them for assistance. (If your child is at that age where they want to do the opposite of everything you suggest, this may be even more effective than doing the mentoring yourself.) This person can guide your child when they hit a roadblock with a program they're creating, challenge them to keep exploring, and show them what different coding careers could look like.

6.  Keep Problem Solving Fun

Programmers like to solve problems, and many professional coders choose where to work based on the types of problems they'll get to solve. Whether or not your child gets hooked on any of the apps listed above, you can always encourage them to be curious, to tinker, and to solve problems. Push them to learn how something works and to find different ways of doing things, or make puzzle games a fun thing you do as a family. A child who enjoys creative problem solving may get into coding somewhere down the road, even if they're not interested today.

Introducing children to coding will open up a whole world of possibilities for them later in life, not to mention the enjoyment they'll get from having new tools to create with today. But it's also important to remember that coding isn't for everyone. Not every child likes to paint or play baseball or dance, and not everyone will like to code either. Don't force it. Show them the apps, provide some support, and let them drive. If they don't show an immediate interest, they may yet come back to it later.

June 10, 2013 - No Comments!

Table XI Takes on TechWeek

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TechWeek Chicago is just around the corner again and we'll be back (June 27-29, Merchandise Mart). As Chicago's tech scene continues to grow and thrive, we love getting the chance to listen, learn, and participate in this ever-evolving community.

This year we’ve got two Table XIers speaking at the conference, so be sure to register and get these talks on your calendar.

COO Mark Rickmeier — Mobile Prototyping: TechWeek Lab Coat Series
Fri, June 28 / Bing Stage / 3–3:30 pm

Mobile applications require massive amounts of usability testing and incremental design—nowhere is rapid prototyping more important. We'll explore the best tools for quickly creating functional prototypes that you can use for customer demos, as well as which tools to avoid. If you're still using whiteboards, powerpoint, .psd files, or balsamiq to convey your mobile app concepts, this talk is for you—you'll leave with options and ideas to put to work following your TechWeek experience.

Senior Developer + Agile Coach Noel Rappin — Welcome to Ember.js
Fri, June 28 / Technical Stage / 11–11:30 am

Ember.js is the most powerful of the JavaScript MVC tools. It takes a different perspective on managing changing data in your browser. This talk will discuss the key ideas and concepts in learning and using Ember.js.

May 29, 2013 - No Comments!

Mobile App vs. Responsive Design: Ask These 10 Questions First

“Do I need a responsive website or a native mobile app for my business?”

We’re getting this question a lot these days.

Let’s back up. For those unfamiliar, “responsive design” refers to a design approach aimed at providing optimal viewing, reading, and navigation experiences on any size device, from desktop computer to mobile phone. Mashable called 2013 the year of responsive web design. We couldn’t agree more.

Even if you have a mobile app, your website should use responsive design to ensure that anyone visiting your site via mobile phones and tablets will have a good user experience. After all, despite the fact that you may have a beautiful app, a segment of your target audience will still visit your website from their phone's browser. And remember, just because you have an app, it doesn't mean it will be downloaded and used. (Just ask the makers of the thousands of undownloaded “zombie” apps about the competition out there.)

ebert-casestudy2

Example of RogerEbert.com responsive design.

That said, there are times when having a mobile-optimized site and a native app makes great business sense. Wondering if this is you? Consider these 10 questions, which could help guide you to the answer.

1) Will your native mobile app take advantage of smart phone functionality?

Do you need to use the camera, GPS, scan feature, or other phone functions? If you intend to provide unique functionality or content not available on the mobile web, then an app is likely the way to go. When Sprout San Francisco came to us wanting to build a mobile app, we knew that we could provide a useful tool to soon-to-be parents by incorporating the scanning function into the app. This allows parents to easily create registries on-the-go straight from their phones, something they couldn’t do through a responsive design website.

Advantage: Native

uberapp2) Is personalization important?

One of the great features in a mobile app is the ability to craft personalized experiences for the device with fewer limitations. Since a native mobile application is always tied directly to a user’s device, it creates many more opportunities to target and craft the user experience. For example, within a native app a user can create and save a profile, which allows them to customize their interactions. UBER has an excellent native application which lets users scan and remember credit card details, making future purchases quick and simple.

Advantage: Native

3) Do you have complex design and UI?

At a certain level of complexity, HTML5 (responsive web) may not work to achieve your goals. HTML5 can indeed deliver customized user experiences, but native apps tend to provide the most tailored UX. Because responsive designs need to adapt to all possible environments, designers have to make compromises to find a solution that works in all scenarios, browsers, and screen sizes. Conversely, a native mobile application is a targeted experience and can take full advantage of the interaction expectations of the user and their device. Web apps still have a lot of room to grow (see forecast.io, for instance), and while they’ll eventually get close to native apps in feel and function, they can’t match them—yet.

Advantage: Native

4) Do you have a limited budget?

Generally speaking, responsive design is a less costly undertaking because it’s quicker to develop and deploy than native applications, typically requires fewer dedicated resources to bring an idea to market, and only needs one code base to ensure it works across all devices. That said, ideally, ROI justifies development costs. If mobile transactions and in-app purchases represent a significant portion of potential revenue, investing in app development could be the smart decision. But if you can’t afford the spend immediately, start with a responsive website and add the native app as part of a future iteration.

Advantage: Responsive

5) Are you trying to monetize content and encourage purchasing?

If you have a product that offers potential for ongoing micro-purchases, then a native application is the way to go. A shopping cart on your website can facilitate this, but the in-app purchasing system is so simple and tied into all the rest of a user’s purchases on the platform that it is second to none.

Advantage: Native

6) Is SEO an important consideration?

If part of your strategy is to increase visibility among search engines and drive traffic to your site, then stick with a responsive mobile website. Apps are closed environments and cannot be crawled by search engines—they won’t impact your organic search ranking.

Advantage: Responsive

7) Will you have difficulty getting App Store approval?

Apple asks developers to follow stringent guidelines when submitting to the App Store, and the approval process can take anywhere from a week to several months. There are certain areas that are regulated more strictly than others, such as in-app purchases and in-app subscriptions.

Moreover, other kinds of features easily achieved through HTML5 are banned in native iOS applications. For example, Apple regulations forbid iOS applications that take donations, a fairly commonplace transaction in responsive web designs. This is a serious drawback for nonprofits looking to reach potential customers and donors through mobile apps.

Advantage: Responsive

8) Are you sending and receiving massive amounts of data?   

An app will generally work faster than a responsive website since it doesn’t rely as heavily on Internet and network speed to serve up information. However, responsive websites may be closing the gap—a recent article in Ars Technica discusses the ways that developers are trying to "speed up the web" to compare with native speeds.

Advantage: Native (for now)

9) Do you plan to make frequent updates?

Native applications make frequent updates rather painful. First, application updates need to go through the same lengthy approval process in the App Store. Next, native applications require consumers to manually download the updates before they can be used. If you expect to have frequent design updates, a responsive design may be the simplest way to ensure your users are accessing the most recent version.

Advantage: Responsive

10)  Are you trying to create something that’s universally accessible?

If you want to appeal to everyone across multiple platforms and devices, responsive is the answer. It’s faster and easier to get your product in people’s hands, and it’s fairly straightforward to build a mobile-specific menu that gives mobile users what they need. Native apps, on the other hand, must be uniquely designed for Android, iOS, Blackberry Mobile, and Windows Phone 8, and present compatibility concerns for businesses that don't want to segment their user base.

Advantage: Responsive

So there you have it: 10 questions to help guide your decision-making process. Granted, these aren’t hard and fast rules, but thinking about these factors can get you started. Still stuck? Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or comments. Email me at mark@tablexi.com. And if you do decide to build a native mobile app, make sure you’re familiar with the 5 mistakes to avoid when developing an app and the 5 things that annoy app users.

Special thanks to Table XI’s mobile development team for their contributions to this article: Ed Lafoy, Kate Garmey, Jon Buda, and Mike Gibson.

May 23, 2013 - No Comments!

Top 5 Ways to Annoy Your App Users

Mobile apps are all the rage these days, but it's easy to create something that just leaves your customers raging. Make sure your app isn't guilty of these sins that drive users nuts:

1. Forced registration. Unless you’re a service I trust and I’m accustomed to using, why do you make me register before I know what I’m getting into? Getting a download is hard enough. Don’t raise the bar even higher by forcing another action before a user can interact with—and find value in—your app.

2. Complicated navigation. Part of the advantage of using an app (versus a mobile site) is the ability to deliver targeted content at the touch of an icon. While we recommend everyone adhere to the “Three Click Rule” of usability, it’s even better if you can deliver in one or two. And it’s just as important to give your users an easy way to navigate back to previous pages—no one likes getting lost three pages deep.

3. Preference amnesia. Now that we’re a population of app-savvy users, our expectations have changed. If I’ve entered information about myself and my preferences, I expect my app to be “smart” about it. Leverage the data I’ve provided before to serve up relevant recommendations or information.

4. Long forms. Nothing is more annoying than trying to pick through registration forms with your thumbs. Limit forms to the minimum fields required, and use shorter alternatives where possible, such as a ZIP code instead of city and state. Wherever possible display default values, like today’s date or nearby locations.

5. Ratings prompts. Once is understandable (if tastefully done), twice is annoying, three times is desperate. Don’t constantly ask me to rate your app—it’s getting in the way of enjoying your app.

For more on mobile app best practices, check out Mashable for my 5 Mistakes to Avoid when Creating Branded Apps.