Table XI Blog

mobile app

May 23, 2013No Comments

Top 5 Ways to Annoy Your App Users

Woman clenching her fist, while looking angry at her phone.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.

Want all the best React Native tools in one stack?  Download your free copy of our own mobile development stack

May 22, 20132 Comments

Noteboard: An (Un)Tech Tip

noteboard

Each month we try to bring you a new technology or service that makes your life easier. The newest craze sweeping our office doesn't require an internet connection, or even a plug: Meet the collapsible, pocket whiteboard called the Noteboard.

"Durable, portable, and infinitely re-writeable," Noteboard consists of a grid of laminated index cards that fold up map-style from 35" x 15" to 5" x 3", and can be wiped clean with a dry-erase board eraser. Nothing fancy, but sometimes the best solution is the simplest one.

Already our team has found many uses:

1. Presentations. We've been sketching out our ideas for presentation slides on Noteboard's index cards; folding the grid in different ways then allows us to visualize alternative slide orders. The convenient portability means that if inspiration hits on the train or in the Starbucks line, we can capture thoughts on-the-go.

2. Interviews. Rather than make interviewees use the wall whiteboard to solve a problem, we spread the Noteboard out on the table for them. This way our group can observe their thought processes without all that pressure of standing up at the front of the room, like you had to do in math class.

3. Prototypes. Since each index card is roughly the size of an iPhone, our mobile devs use them to design app pages and flow. Then they take photos of each card and map out app prototypes on POP.

So there you have it: a low-tech tool for high-tech problems. And at $10 a board, it's a cost effective one, too.

Planning to pick up your own Noteboard? Let me know—I'm curious to know how you use them.

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April 25, 2013No Comments

Tech Tip: Mailbox Mobile App Makes Managing Gmail A Breeze

If you’re anything like me, managing email can be daunting. I maintain multiple Gmail accounts (including my Table XI account) and if I’m not careful, I can quickly creep up to more than 1,000 unread messages.

Now there’s an answer to organizing inbox madness. The Mailbox app for iPhone makes it easy to achieve the mythical “zero email inbox,” and as of this month, the waitlist is over— it’s available for free on iTunes (though currently available only for Gmail, other platforms are in the works).

Developed by Orchestra, Mailbox checks email from the cloud, then delivers messages to your phone securely. While the interface may look familiar, it operates differently, using swipe controls to archive messages or move to trash. You can easily scan an entire conversation at once with chat-like organization. And best of all, you can “snooze” emails with a tap of a button, and they return to your inbox later when you have time to address them.

Fewer distractions, simple categorization, and easy prioritization make this app an incredible time saver. And apparently, I’m not the only one who says so. At last check the app was rated 4.5 stars in iTunes with more than 5,000 ratings.

What do you use to manage inbox overflow? I’m always looking for new suggestions.

Example of how to use the Mailbox app to declutter an inbox.

Want all the best React Native tools in one stack?  Download your free copy of our own mobile development stack

April 4, 2013No Comments

Don Your Cape: Becoming a Deploy Hero

Drawing of Tabel XI hero wearing a green cape holding a cat.

It's a day like any other. You're sitting at your desk, building a web application in Rails, when suddenly disaster strikes! You find yourself in need of something that Rails simply can't do on its own. Maybe you need to run Resque or Delayed::Job to add some asynchronous behavior to your app. Maybe you need to add a daemon or a cron job of your own for an even more customized process. Whatever the case, you know that you're going to need to write and run some rake tasks.

You're making good progress, but you find yourself edging closer and closer to dangerous, forbidden territory—the Capistrano deploy scripts! You've been warned not to touch them. You've heard the whispered rumors of a young developer, his sanity claimed all too early by the tangled code lurking deep within those recipes. You have a decision to make...

Do you choose Option A, retreating to the safety of your application code? After all, you can always ssh onto the server after each deploy and do whatever cleanup you need to do. It'll only take a few minutes, right? Besides, those recipes are just so...scary.

No! You've come this far already, there's no turning back now! You've taken a few hesitant steps and peeked around a corner or two; it doesn't look that bad in here. So maybe you'll choose Option B, and define your own Capistrano tasks! You move ahead, and end up with something that looks like this:

[gist id="5282730"]

It's not...terrible. In fact, it's okay. Sure, you're manually defining a Capistrano task for each Rake task you need to run on deploy, but at least you're using bundler, and you even made your rake calls nice and DRY!

But what if I told you there's an Option C? What if I told you that there's a way you can become a deploy hero, striking down your recipe complexity once and for all? There is.

Introducing: cape! By day, a must-have fashion accessory for superheroes of all ilk; by night, a small gem dedicated to cleaning up repetition in your deploy files. Add cape to your gemfile, and the same deploy script from above is transformed into the following:

[gist id="5282838"]

Cape helps keep your deploy scripts nice and clean, by allowing you to write your rake tasks once and run them on your remote servers painlessly via Capistrano. It's the Robin to your Batman, tackling hordes of henchmen so you can focus on bringing down the big baddie. It's the Arthur to your Tick, bringing a voice of reason and pragmatism to temper your cavalier sense of adventure. It's the Snarf to your Lion-O...okay, maybe not so much.

If you ever find yourself needing to run rake tasks remotely, give cape a shot.

Image by Andrew Horner, 2013

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March 21, 2013No Comments

Tech Tip: Make Your Mobile App POP

POP app logo.We’re always on the hunt for new technologies that will improve the process of developing and designing mobile apps for our clients. Recently we stumbled upon a great little app called POP—short for “Prototyping on Paper”—that animates your wireframes.

Normally, during our inception process with a client, we (the client included) break apart into groups to hash out what we think each chunk of the product will do, as well as what it will look like. Typically we use giant, 2 x 2.5 ft. sticky notes and a Sharpie to draw up basic wireframes. This serves us well since it allows us to brainstorm separately and then reconvene to talk through our thought process and ideas. But sometimes it can get complicated to try to show the flow of an app—i.e., where buttons will link to—using only pen and paper.

Screenshot of “link spots” created using the POP app.

POP solves this. Take photos of your wireframes, then link your sketches together with “link spots” to create an interactive, automated storyboard. Designers and clients alike can then get a more accurate simulation of your app prototype’s user interface and flow. You can do this directly on your iPhone, or use Airplay and an Apple TV to project the prototype for a group.

As a bonus, POP also lets you share your prototype—it’s viewable on iPhones, iPads, and web browsers—so it’s easy to send off to others who may need to weigh in on your design.

This app is obviously helpful for developers, but we encourage our clients and other non-devs to check it out, too. If you’re looking to build a mobile app for your business and have thoughts about what it could look like or how it might work, POP is a great, user-friendly way to convey your ideas.

Plus, the kids love it.

Want all the best React Native tools in one stack?  Download your free copy of our own mobile development stack

March 20, 20131 Comment

Prepare for Baby with Sprout San Francisco Mobile App

After months of planning and anticipation, we're proud to announce the arrival of the free Sprout SF Baby Planner mobile app, designed to reduce some of the guesswork and stress associated with becoming a first-time parent.

Preparing for a new child can be an information-overload. No one knows this better than Sprout San Francisco, a natural and organic children’s boutique and online resource for parents. We worked closely with their team to develop and design an app that helps parents get in-depth information about all of Sprout’s products, find the items they want, then quickly and easily create a baby registry straight from their iPhones.

The Sprout app functions both as a mobile registry and a checklist, so parents can ensure they have everything they need for a new baby. The app is easy to use: Simply add products to a registry by selecting them directly in the app, or, if you’re shopping in the Sprout store, use the Scan feature by taking a photo of the product’s barcode.

Just like the Sprout website, every listing in the mobile app displays detailed product information so parents can make informed choices, and a “Get Educated” section lets parents learn more about organic products and access healthy baby guides.

Want to know more about the Sprout app? Head to the App Store and download it for free!

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July 16, 2012No Comments

Going Mobile

Two mobile devices displaying two different mobile strategies.At Table XI, we’re thinking more and more about mobile everyday—after all, by 2014 mobile Internet usage will overtake that of desktops. At last month’s Chicago Counts conference, Kate Garmey and I talked about what makes an effective mobile strategy for small businesses and nonprofits.

While mobile apps can offer a snazzy user experience, for small businesses that may have tight budgets, a mobile website is likely the way to go. Mobile sites typically require less investment, are easier to build and deploy, and are relatively simple for employees to maintain without special development training. Moreover, mobile sites are searchable, and Google AdWords can help drive traffic to your site.

We recently launched a mobile site for Kids In Danger and just hired our first full-time mobile developer, Ed Lafoy. If you’re ready to talk about the right mobile strategy for your business, so are we.

Image source: Salty Waffle

Want all the best React Native tools in one stack?  Download your free copy of our own mobile development stack

June 20, 20124 Comments

KID Mobile Gives Parents Peace of Mind

KID mobile app on iPhone.We’re proud to announce the new mobile site for our nonprofit partner, Kids In Danger (KID) an organization dedicated to improving children’s product safety. KID was founded in 1998 by the parents of sixteen-month-old Danny Keysar, who died when a portable crib collapsed around his neck. Though the crib had been recalled, many people weren’t aware and it and similar recalled products were still widely used.

To help put an end to tragedies like this, KID wanted to give parents an easy way to search the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) database of recalled products. We advised building a mobile website, and we joined forces with WeMakeItSafer to employ their Recalled Product Search application.

Now, with a fully functional site that’s accessible across all mobile devices, parents can quickly and easily search for recalled items wherever they are, whether it be a store, garage sale, or friend’s basement, and make informed decisions before acquiring new products for their kids.

At their recent annual Best Friend Awards presentation, KID highlighted this mobile site as one of their biggest triumphs of the year. “Working with Table XI put life saving tools in the hands of parents and caregivers,” said KID Executive Director Nancy Cowles. “They were able to take KID’s vision of the kinds of tools we wanted and add their own creative and technical skills to put out a valuable mobile site.”

Want all the best React Native tools in one stack?  Download your free copy of our own mobile development stack

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