FAQ: How To Close Your App

This is a quick “frequently asked questions” post if you want to show off your beautiful load screen or view an update made from your Dashboard.

The short answer: close your app then re-open it.

Sometimes your app stays open in the background as a benefit of “multi-tasking”. Your app will close on its own after a period of time, but you can force close it now using the following steps:

 

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The Value of Discovery

Mobile 101: This post is part of our educational series on mobile technology. If you are new to the smart phone/app arena, this series is a good place to start.

Last week I received this email:

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it, but I responded. Victor called me the next day.

He explained to me how his daughters “made him” get a smartphone. He figured out how to download apps and got excited when he found our “crib sheet” app from his alma mater.

Victor hadn’t been in contact with his school since he graduated in 1970, but reconnected with his frat house earlier that morning via the app. I call this “discovery”.

If you follow our blog, you’ve read my lovely wife’s series on best practices for promoting our app. When you promote, you get downloads from connections that already exist.

But what about the “Victors” of the world? When your app is in app stores, alumni find you. That’s powerful stuff.

How Discovery Happens

How do people get apps? In most cases, they search an app store:

Each type of phone has their own app store, but they work in much the same way. Search for a term and download an app.

When I first got my iPhone, the first thing I did was go into the App Store and search for “Duke,” because I’m a Dukie.

Based on feedback and statistics, “discovery” happens. Alumni are reconnecting by searching an app store for their alma mater.

In short, your alumni are out there looking for you.

And, as the case of “Victor” proves, they are not always the ones you’d expect.

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Native App vs. Mobile Website?

Mobile 101: This post is part of our educational series on mobile technology. If you are new to the smart phone/app arena, this series is a good place to start.

Once you “get religion” that mobile is the future, your next step is to decide on a mobile strategy.

At this point, someone may ask you, “Do you want to go with a mobile website or a native app?” If your response is, “Um, wha?”, read on.

In this post, we’ll define these terms and suggest a few things to consider.

Mobile Websites

Sometimes referred to as “web apps,” these are simply websites made for the tiny screens of a mobile phone.

For example, the Oklahoma State Alumni Association created a mobile website. Here’s what it looks like on an iPhone:

On the small screen of an iPhone, the mobile website (right) is easier to use than the regular version (left).

Native Apps

Native apps are little bits of software that are built for and live on your phone. To read more, see our post called “What’s an App?”.

These apps require unique sets of code for each type of mobile device (e.g., iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, etc.).

Upsides to Mobile Websites

- BETTER COMPARED TO A REGULAR WEBSITE

Building a mobile website is a good alternative to asking your users to read your regular website on a mobile phone, especially if you are directing them to a feedback form.

- (USUALLY) LESS EXPENSIVE

A mobile website is usually less expensive than building your own native apps across several platforms (e.g., iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, etc.).

Shameless plug for our app: we’ve leveled mobile website vs. native app price benefits by selling an affordable, customizable native app.

Upsides of Native Apps

- FASTER

The code for a native app “lives” on your mobile device – as a result native apps work much faster than mobile websites (no “browser lags”). Don’t underestimate this benefit.

Speed is key — everyone knows that figurative “speedbumps” slow down action, but few people appreciate that even the smallest speedbumps turn away users.

- APP ICONS

Native apps always have an app icon:

This icon is always on your users’ screens and never out of sight. With a tap of the icon, your users are in your app.

To access a mobile website, you generally need to type in a hard-to-remember URL address.

Users can “bookmark” a mobile website and might jump through hoops to create a mobile app icon, but it’s clunky.

For example, to create a mobile website icon on an Android device, you’ll need to:

- bookmark the page you want to add to a home screen,
- go to the home screen you want to add the link to,
- long-press in an empty space to bring up the “Add to Home Screen” menu,
- select “Shortcuts”,
- select “Bookmark”, and
- choose your bookmark.

Native apps, on the other hand, are easy. They keep your brand present and easily accessible.

- DISCOVERY

When people are looking for apps for their phone, they search an app store. Only native apps can be listed in an app store.

When I got my first iPhone, the first thing I did was search the app store to see whether Duke had any apps. I was one of those fans…

I wanted Duke on my phone.

Your alumni or members will discover your app by searching for keywords, such as the name of their alma mater or your organization.

- MORE ACCESS

A native app can include more bells and whistles because it can access other parts of your phone, like your camera, address book, an so on.

- POPULARITY

Native apps are heavily marketed on tv. “There’s an app for that.” People have been taught to use native apps.

Takeaway

A mobile website is a choice in the right direction; but a native app is going to be faster, more usable, more customized and more functional.

If you’d like a native app for your organization, you may consider building one yourself or you might customize our app, Crib Sheet, for much less money. We’d love to have you as a customer.

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The Growth of Niche Apps

Mobile 101: This post is part of our educational series on mobile technology. If you are new to the smart phone/app arena, this series is a good place to start.

Once you “get religion” that mobile is the future, your next step is to decide on a mobile strategy.

If you’re a college, or any large institution, one of your first questions should be:

Do I create a general app for my institution or multiple niche apps (e.g. one just for alumni)?

Apps are one of the newest mediums for communication. Consider what other mediums do – for example, magazines:

People generally prefer information that is catered to their specific interests.

We think this preference holds true for mobile apps.

Though admittedly a very small sample size, my own little family is a shining example of this. I read news, my wife loves celebrity gossip, my daughter could dress up dolls 24/7, and grandma can’t get enough of sudoku.

Role of Apps

Apps, by their very nature and design, are meant to cater to specific needs. Since mobile devices have smaller screens, they demand a more focused mission.

The App Store has over 300,000 apps. They don’t all do the same thing.

The Student App vs. the Alumni App

Some schools have started their mobile strategy with an app for their student body: campus maps, directories, bus routes and so on.

Duke (my alma mater) has a great student app, but it doesn’t “feel” like it’s for me, so I don’t personally use it.

In addition, alumni offices have different needs (address updates) and messaging (benefits and events) than other departments on campus.

The “Everything” App

Some schools try the “everything” app approach by including an alumni module in their “student” app.

A friend, who is a loyal UVA grad, was over for dinner the other night. We got talking about work, and she showed me the UVA “everything” app:

Her comments, which I think sum up the argument against “everything” apps were:

- Wrong messaging

It didn’t make her feel particularly special when “Alumni Resources” carried the same weight on the screen as “Grounds” and “Claude Moore Lab”.

- Lack of focus

Too many choices made her feel overwhelmed.  The UVA app reminded her of grocery shopping:

Crystal Light Overload

Personally, I think alumni want a focused app made just for them.

Spread of Niche Apps

Mobile apps are still young, but the growth of niche apps have already taken root for many schools. Below are just a few examples:

Over time, I’d expect to see many schools with an admissions app, student app, sports app, and an alumni app.

Competition?

I’ve heard the question, “Will a niche app ‘compete’ against another app from my institution?”

Think of an app as less of a product and more of a communications tool.

Every school uses different web pages and different marketing materials to speak to different audiences. Niche apps play this same role.

(As an idea to cross-promote apps, add a link in each app to the other.)

Crib Sheet, the Niche App for Alumni

“crib sheet” is a focused, niche app for your alumni or members. It offers:

- an alumni newsfeed (you select the feeds),
- alumni-specific feedback forms (e.g. address updates), polls and links,
- “life skills” topics for alumni (mortgages, insurance, money, etc), and
- promotion of alumni-specific benefits (e.g. affinity partners).

As you develop your mobile strategy, if niche apps make sense to you, we encourage you to check out our “crib sheet” app for your alumni or members.

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What does it cost to build an app?

Mobile 101: This post is part of our educational series on mobile technology. If you are new to the smart phone/app arena, this series is a good place to start.

I’m often asked, “What does it cost to build an app?” This question is tough to answer because it’s like asking “What does it cost to build a house?”

Short Answer

In my experience, you’ll probably pay north of $100k for a polished iPhone app with good functionality, but you could pay $20k for something really simple. Multiply those figures if you also want your app on iPad, Blackberry, and/or Android devices.

Long Answer

Read on for some of the criteria I’ve learned to consider.

Scope

If we built an app with the very basics — just some text on the screen — users wouldn’t return. We needed more complex functionality (a news feed, feedback forms, polls, and the ability for our sponsors to update the app “on the fly”).

What I learned: Functionality is expensive, especially in apps.

Graphic Design

It’s not hard to remember what websites looked like twenty years ago:

Good graphic design is one of the first things a user notices when visiting an app.

What I learned:  You really need a good graphic designer to make your app look professional.

Interaction Design

I knew that graphic design was important, but it took me a while to appreciate “interaction design”.

Think of interaction design as the “big picture” thinking of an app. It’s the blueprint (wireframes) for how everything works.

What I learned: Design is essential at the beginning of the process. You may spend a lot of time up front, but this forethought will save you a lot of money in the long run.

Design vs Coding

I dove into our app development underestimating the difference between designers and coders.

In short, coders don’t design apps. They build apps. You wouldn’t tell a carpenter to build a house without blueprints from an architect.

What I learned: You can’t give a coder a general idea for what you want and expect that he or she can read your mind.  Spend the money to draw up good plans first.

Platforms

I knew that I wanted our app on more than just the iPhone. If we had developed for only one platform, we’d exclude a whole bunch of users who don’t have that phone.

What I learned: The coding for one platform is not easily transferable to another platform, so you need a different coder and designer for each platform.

Maintenance Costs

Unlike building a house, when you build an app, your foundation is constantly changing (maybe it’s like building a house in California?).

At least once a year, the “OS” (operating system) is updated. The OS is like the foundation that all of your code runs on. Your code needs to be updated every time the OS is updated.

Also, when new phones are released, your code may need to be updated. For example, when the “retina display” was created for the iPhone 4, it was great for users, but a pain in the rear for us. We spent days updating our photos and images.

What I learned: You’ll need to pay for code updates when the OS changes and new devices are released.

Developer Choice

“Experienced” programmers have three years experience, so determining a competent programmer vs. a “big talker” is difficult.

What I learned: Going abroad is almost always cheaper, but you often get what you pay for in terms of quality, design, and communication.

Takeaway

Building a professional, functional app on your own is expensive. The costs range wildly (anywhere from $50k to $100k+) for just one platform, such as the iPhone. I encourage you to read more articles and posts from people who aren’t trying to sell you an app.

In addition to costs, building a good app takes time and focus. If you’re an organization in the business of X, your focus should be on X.

We’re in the business of apps. We’ve spent the last two years learning what’s important, making revisions and building a great, customizable app called “crib sheet”.

Our prices are reasonable.  Our annual subscription will cost you less than the annual maintenance costs if you built your own app.

With the huge growth in mobile, now is the perfect time to get a mobile app for your organization. We encourage you to check us out.

Demystifying Mobile Platforms

Mobile 101: This post is part of our educational series on mobile technology. If you are new to the smart phone/app arena, this series is a good place to start.

If you sent your magazine out to only your blue-eyed alumni, you’d only reach a small slice of your intended audience. Not the best communications strategy, right?

Likewise, an app built for only one phone type (like the iPhone) will limit your potential users. Your alumni or members, and their phones, come in all types.

In this post, I’ll briefly describe the major smartphone platforms and what this means for your organization.

Platforms

In the US, a majority of smartphones run on one of four major platforms, or Operating Systems (OS): Blackberry (RIM), iOS (Apple), Android (Google), and Phone 7 (Microsoft: small, but growing).

Statistics

If you are thinking about reaching your alumni or members through an app, you should think about the stats in two ways:

(1) Phone Ownership

“What kinds of smartphones do your potential users have?”

The winners are: Blackberry (RIM), Google (Android), iOS (Apple) and Phone 7 (Microsoft).

(2) App Usage

“What kind of phones do people have who use apps?

The results are the same big four, but in very different order: iOS (Apple), Google (Android), Blackberry (RIM) and Phone 7 (Microsoft).

In short, lots of people own Blackberry phones, but they mainly use them for email and not for apps.

The Four Big Platforms

iOS (Apple)

Apple is the major player in the app world. They run their iOS on Apple-manufactured devices like the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Although the iPad is part of iOS, many companies (like us) create separate apps to take advantage of its large screen.

Apple started the app movement in July 2008 by opening their App Store with 550 apps. Today, the App Store has over 300,000 apps.

Apple is famous for being picky about what apps are allow in their App Store. The result, in my opinion, are higher quality apps than on other platforms.

ANDROID (Google)

Google is a little different. They give away their Android software to practically anyone so that people will do more searches on Google. Consequently, you’ll find Android software on lots of different phones and carriers.

Many people don’t even realize that they have an Android phone, but they’re everywhere: Droid, Evo, Galaxy, HTC Hero, Captivate, and so on.

BLACKBERRY (RIM)

Blackberry phones have long been known for their email and phone capabilities, and are popular as business phones. But many people don’t use apps on their Blackberry because (a) getting apps isn’t easy or (b) their company won’t allow them.

Fortunately, Blackberry is slowly beginning to focus more on apps. You never would have seen an ad like this from Blackberry a few years ago:

PHONE 7 (Microsoft)

Microsoft is in flux. Their software has been on mobile devices for years, but it was just terrible. So in the middle of 2010, they scrapped everything and announced their new phone software called Phone 7.

The jury is still out for how successful this will be, but with a $500 million marketing budget, I suspect that we’ll see a lot of phones sold with Phone 7 on them.

What Does This Mean for Your Organization?

The future is mobile, but for better or worse, that future is a fragmented and diverse market.

If you’re thinking of creating your own app to reach all of your alumni or members, take a big picture perspective. An app on ONE platform gets you only ONE slice of app users.

If you’re like me, you probably want to reach as many people as possible (our app is everywhere). Being everywhere involves a big commitment…or just buy our app and your work is done.

What’s an App?

Mobile 101:  This post is part of our educational series on mobile technology.  If you are new to the smart phone/app arena, this series is a good place to start.

What’s an App?

The term “App” is short for application.  Apps are little bits of software that live on your phone – designed to enable you to easily do an endless number of things from your phone like checking the weather, finding movie times, taking photos, or reading the news.

Beck (age 18 months) and my iPhone

My 1 year old son is obsessed with the apps on my phone.  He knows that if he gets antsy enough in a restaurant, my phone will show him Sesame Street.  He drags his sticky fingers across my screen as he video chats with his Aunt Anne.

The other day, my wife found him holding her phone and softly whispering “Anne?, Anne?”.

Where Can You Get an App?

You typically get an app through an app store.  There will be an app store icon installed on your smartphone.

App Store on an iPhone

Tap on the app store icon. Do a search for whatever kind of app you are looking for, tap install, and it downloads within seconds.

Steps to get an app on an iPhone

Many apps are free to $.99 while some can cost north of $10.

Can’t I Just Use the Web?

Smartphones are leading the change in how we connect to “the internet.” Phone and tablet screens are typically smaller than computer monitors, so most websites are clunky to use via a phone.  Compare the screen shots below:

Kayak WEBSITE on an iPhone

Kayak APP on an iPhone

Apps work better than the web on phones because, well, apps were designed for phones. They’re faster and more functional way to complete a task.

Apps Aren’t Going Away

Apps are growing even faster than the ridiculous growth of smartphones. Mobile app downloads are expected to grow from 11 billion downloads this year to 77 billion in 2014 (a SEVEN-FOLD increase).

The marketing machine for apps is starting young, and ain’t stopping. Just ask my son.

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The Ridiculous Growth of Smartphones

Mobile 101: This post is part of our educational series on mobile technology. If you are new to the smart phone/app arena, this series is a good place to start.

Smartphones and other “smart” mobile devices aren’t just growing, they’re growing at a ridiculous rate.  I’ll spend the second half of this blog post sharing some statistics and links, but before I do, let’s talk context.

Mobile phones were first seen in the 70s.

First cell phone (1973)

Over time, the phones got smaller (thankfully), cheaper, and more powerful. Besides calls, these “feature phones” allowed people to “text” and take basic photos.

The popular Razr phone

Today, the U.S. cell phone market is considered “saturated” – it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t have one.

Now we have a new wave of technology.  Smartphones, which I’ll define as a phone which uses “apps”, are exploding in growth. I’ll give two reasons for this (there are many).

Growth Reason #1: A Smartphone is Your Third Arm

With maybe the exception of a wedding ring, not much else travels with you every day, everywhere you go. Calls, texts, e-mails, photos, appointments…my cell phone is a clearinghouse for a lot of my daily contact with the world.

A lot of people obsessively use their phone (I love this commercial):

When a new cellphone comes out with a new bell and whistle, it means that I can do more in my life. Given the option to get a phone which can use apps (i.e. do anything), people jump at the opportunity to add another finger to their third arm…or something.

Growth Reason #2: Phone Economics

When you pay $199 for an iPhone, you’re actually paying over $500 for that phone over time. A portion of your monthly cell phone bill pays for your phone.

But, once your two year contract is finished and your phone is paid off, your monthly rate doesn’t drop. If it did drop, people might keep using their old phones for years (gasp).

The two year contract

Instead, you’re encouraged to buy a new phone at a low upfront cost and a new two year contract. It’s an efficient mechanism that quickly cycles people towards newer technology.

Do you buy a refrigerator every two years? Toaster? Car?  The adoption rate for smartphones is growing at a ridiculous pace due in part to these atypical phone economics.

The Numbers

If we looked back at the year 2011 ten years from now, I think we’d recognize a tremendous change in behavior — a tipping point — in computers, technology, and the “getting of information.” That change is “mobile.”

I read about this industry daily, but some of the statistics that I found when researching this post still amazed me.  Look at the trajectory of smartphones in the below graph:

We think smartphone usage for our user demographic is even higher because most of our users are college graduates (more affluent and technology savvy).

Impressive stats:

  • AdMob, the biggest supplier of ads on mobile devices, has seen a DOUBLING of ad impressions on popular smartphones (Android and Apple/iOS) in the last SIX MONTHS.
  • Nielsen is predicting 80 MILLION new US smartphone users in just 2011. To put this in perspective, we have roughly 300 million people in this country.
  • Google reports that there are over 300,000 Android phones activated PER DAY.
  • Fortune predicts that smartphones will soon outsell COMPUTERS due to “insane” growth.

This trend isn’t stopping any time soon:

And all of the above statistics don’t account for the rise of tablet devices, like the iPad, which I’ll cover in a future post.

What This Means for Your Organization

If your institution is looking to build loyalty with its alumni and members, you need to be forward thinking.  As Wayne Gretzky once said, “Skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

The future is mobile devices. Go “mobile” and you’ll be able to sustain the kind of smart communication that builds long-term loyalty to your institution.

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