As one of our web application developers, it’s no surprise that Tyler loves programming, online gaming, and developing mobile apps. Here on the blog, he’ll clue you in to what’s up on the app front.

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Getting SASSy

I recently got acquainted with SASS and I’m a big fan! SASS stands for “Syntactically Awesome Stylesheets” and its purpose is to simplify writing CSS and compiling everything into as few of stylesheets as possible. Overall it was not a very difficult transition into the new syntax that comes along with SASS. After all, it still requires developers to use CSS, it just spices it up a little bit. A few things that SASS adds to CSS that isn’t there normally:

  • Functions to dynamically write CSSSass
  • Easy way to minify the code (compresses all of the code into one line to decrease file size and the amount of connections the website has to make to the server)
  • Allows selector nesting rather than typing out long selectors for specific items
  • Grants the capability to copy the styles of another item without re-typing them

Another feature takes a bit of explaining. With SASS, developers can use the “%” sign to create dummy-classes. And what I mean by that is you can create a set of styles with no intention of adding that specific class to your markup. This is great for two reasons, the greater of which being that there is now no need for multiple classes on an element just to get the right styles going. Instead you can create a selector for the element and extend (@extend) the styles of one of those dummy classes to apply those general styles without adding a class to the markup. It cleans up the code and provides the same functionality.  The other great part is that they function just like a class. You can apply those styles and then add to them as you see fit in your stylesheet.

SASS runs in the background while you’re writing your code. There are two ways that it works, either by command line, or downloading a program to do it for you. I personally have been running with command line but that is mainly because I feel comfortable doing so. In command line I type “compass watch” in the directory for the site and it does everything else. If you choose to use a program to do it for you, the program typically runs in the background and will even automatically refresh your web browser to see your changes in real time. Every time you hit “save” on a SASS file, either the command line or the program will run the code necessary to compile the file and save it as a CSS file to be used on the website.

When I was developing with SASS I was working on responsive websites. To help with that I used two frameworks. The first is Susy, which is a responsive framework that provides grid functionality and a very simple way to write media queries. Susy relies on Compass, which is the other framework I used, which adds in ways to easily write CSS3 styles with all of the different vendor prefixes.

Like learning any new set of frameworks, it does take time to become efficient with the new workflow and the formatting of the stylesheets. With more experience it becomes easier, and truly speeds up the markup process. Would I recommend it for other developers? The answer is yes. The more I use SASS the more I am finding that I enjoy coding more that way. It makes more sense and in the end decreases the page weight that is downloaded from the server.

Have experience using SASS? Share with me in the comments!

Why I Like Being a ‘Jack of all Trades’

Many people say that when you become a ‘Jack of all trades’ you end up being proficient in many areas but never become advanced in all of them, and in some cases you won’t end up advanced at all. FALSE! This is completely dependent on who we are talking about. Who says that someone can’t become advanced in all areas of their field of work? Parents always tell their kids they can be whatever they want when they grow up, and they aren’t wrong as long as their child applies themselves when it comes to reaching that goal. So don’t look at it like its a bad thing, I love being more of a ‘Jack of all Trades’!

html-cssThe Beginning

When I started working at TKG, I was hired as a front-end developer and even then I wasn’t very good at it being just out of high school. If it wasn’t for the TKG Institute at the time, I would not be working here today. All I did was HTML and CSS work with maybe a little bit of JavaScript peppered in, mainly just smaller items that were pretty basic to complete. Also at that time I was working on a degree in Computer Science, so I knew I was able to do more, just not how to do more.

php and javascriptThe Middle

At the time, since I was just a front-end developer, I always had to wait for a programmer to take care of their items before I could finish my share of a project. The programmers would make the website dynamic and functional with the admin and I would take the design and apply it to what the programmer had set up. Every now and then I would find something that the programmer missed and I began getting tired of waiting on them to add the extra functionality just so I could finish what I was doing, so I started doing it myself. I’m sure I annoyed the programmer more than ever though because of all the questions I had, but it wasn’t long before I started getting the hang of that. The programming items I would do increased in difficulty as my team lead realized that I was capable of it.

And Now

Now I’m proficient in both front-end and back-end development. Rather than just focusing on HTML and CSS or JavaScript and PHP, I focus on all four languages. I’ve been at TKG for just over 4 years and I’m consistently working to become more advanced in each area. It really is nice because my “job” sometimes changes from project to project. Some projects I only do the front-end development, and others I get to do both the back-end and front-end development. Helps keep everything fresh and it never gets boring. The other advantage to knowing both sides of the playing field is knowing how the two sides work together to make the page whole. If programming needs adjusted or added, I can do it. If the HTML and CSS need adjusted, I can do it. It makes getting through projects a lot easier rather than having to wait for someone else to have the time to fix it for me.

It’s The Karcher Group Way

I’m not the only one here at TKG, who knows how these items work together. In fact, all of us developers have at least a base understanding of how front-end development and back-end development work together. So the bottom line is, we can do it, and we can do it right. TKG also encourages each of us to learn more and continue to grow. Let’s face it, when it comes to technology it is always changing. It is part of our job not to keep up with the web development industry but to stay ahead of it, and we do a great job at it too.

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Creating Apps with Phonegap

Apple LogoEveryone knows that there are two major players in the smart phone world with a few more just behind them. Those two titans are Apple and Android, followed by Windows Phone 7 and many more. Companies that have limited resources may have to decide which platform(s) to have their mobile app developed for. This would be a completely different story if each of the different mobile devices were all based on the same programming language, but they aren’t. Just looking at the two largest players in the game, Apple uses Objective-C and Android uses Java. These are two completely different languages and takes more than a simple copy, past and maybe change a few things.Android Logo

Many companies will pick either Apple or Android, but rarely, if they are limited on resources, will they choose both. But what if there was a way to use one set of code and create apps on multiple platforms? Oh wait! There is!

PhoneGapEnter Phonegap

Developers can create an app using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript and then run the code through the Phonegap API for FREE! This will compile it into the different app platforms. I used this for myself a few days ago and wanted to share my experience.

 

Starting Out

Visit http://phonegap.com/ and follow the easily outlined steps to get it properly installed. On this site there are also many guides to help you get started on developing your app. As previously stated, Phonegap allows you to create apps using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, in other words three languages I happen to be very fluent in and work with every day. So check that one off the list.

phonegap

Another helpful tool that you may want to look into is called Build Phonegap. Developed by Adobe, this tool will store your different app builds in the Adobe cloud keeping it nice and organized for you.

Developer Accounts 

Even though you are creating the app using Phonegap, it is important to still keep in mind that in order to publish an app you have to have a developers account. Apple requires a $99/year fee and Android has a one time $25 fee. Once you have these  you can get your signing keys and begin to develop and test the app.

Signing Keys

Apps require signing keys in order to prove that it is a legitimate app when submitted to their respective store. These keys are actually files that get included with the app bundle and is tied to a developer account and helps prove ownership. Not all platforms require signing keys. Right now only Apple, Android, and Blackberry require one. Another benefit to Build Phonegap, is that it makes it easy to sign the apps with the appropriate key and allows you to download the app right away to submit to the respective store when its ready.

Warnings

First, when a new phone operating system comes out, in my case iOS 7, it may take Phonegap a bit of time to catch up and make sure that features are compiling correctly. To overcome this issue, I added a couple lines of JavaScript that was specific to the iOS platform and compiled it in XCode, which is the Apple software used to make apps, instead of PhoneGap and the issue was fixed.

Second, when creating the app and writing the HTML, meta tags are used to set specific parameters for the app, one being the width of the app. On Android, the one thing I learned was that even if you set the width of the app to the width of the device, it will always be 800 pixels wide (even if the device is 320 pixels wide). This was an easy fix though, just had to set the width of the app specifically to 320 pixels and then it was all set.

I hope this helps in the creation of your next mobile application. Or, if you would rather someone else create it for you, we’d be more than happy to help!

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iOS 7 Impact on Mobile Marketing

On September 18, 2013, as many already know, iOS 7 was released for the Apple iPhone 4, 4S, 5, 5C and 5S as well as iPad 2 and later and iPod Touch 5th Generation and later. There is a lot of good that came from this update, and very little bad from what I’ve seen so far. But what does this upgrade mean for the web development and marketing industry? It means new opportunities. Some new features, and some upgraded features now allow marketers to reach more people with greater ease.

PassbookiOS 7 Passbook

“Passbook keeps your boarding passes, movie tickets, retail coupons and loyalty cards in one place, and shows them on your lock screen when you need them. To get passes, you can scan Passbook bar codes with the camera, or add them from apps, emails, and websites.”. This means that consumers can now easily store coupons on their phone from a variety of different media including:

  • Apps
  • Websites
  • QR codes
  • Emails
  • Coupons that have a bar code

There are many possible uses of this technology for marketing purposes. Emails, rather than forcing someone to print off a coupon or promotion, can pull the offer right from the email and put it right into their passbook to be used in store. Even airlines could have a “go paperless” promotion if someone were to keep their boarding pass on their phone rather than have them print it out. Now may be the best time to jump on this technology and start getting creative with how this plays into your marketing strategy.

Air Drop

AirDropGoing along with passbook, is the air drop functionality. Air drop allows consumers to send promotions and other offers to their contacts that they are with. Imagine if someone has an offer in their passbook that gives 10% off a purchase of 50$ or more. They want to use that offer but their friend that they are with at the time does not want to spend too much money. The person with that offer then could send that offer to their friend and now instead of one customer that day, there are now two. Sometimes word of mouth travels farther than any email, advertisement, or coupon could ever go. Air drop only enforces that by helping your brand reach farther just by people talking about it and sharing it with friends and family.

To use this feature, blue tooth needs to be enabled on the phone and air drop turned on. This can be done from two locations. It can be turned on through the settings app that iPhone users have been used to for a long time. iOS 7 also introduces the control panel which can be accessed by sliding from the bottom of the screen to the top of the screen as long as you are on a home screen. There are many uses for this control panel, but the center icon in the top row of circle icons is the blue tooth setting. If it is white, its turned on, otherwise its off. Air drop then is at the bottom of the screen just above the row of square icons.

Auto-Update for Applications

iOS 7 brings another feature, auto update for applications. Before this update, users would have to go into the app store and go to the updates tab and choose to update applications. Sometimes, people will wait a few days before caving and updating their apps. I, on the other hand, can’t stand having notifications on my phone and would have to go in and update instantly. Now, you can follow these simple steps to allow apps to auto update as soon as an update becomes available:

  1. Go into the settings application.
  2. Scroll down and touch “Itunes & App Store”.
  3. Scroll to the Automatic Downloads section.
  4. Make sure that Updates is turned on.

After that, there is nothing a user needs to do in order to update an app they have on their phone. This means that all new marketing initiatives or new features will be available instantly for all who have that feature turned on and have your app installed.

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W3C: Why We Adhere to Web Standards and You Should, Too

Just because a website shows up on the internet, does not necessarily mean it was made correctly. It also does not mean that the site is guaranteed to show up properly in all of the most common browsers, let alone browsers as old as Internet Explorer 7. The big question then is how do you create a website correctly and make sure it is compatible with as many browsers as possible? That is where the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) comes into play. The W3C is responsible for creating web standards, supplying developers with code validation services, and providing developers with a starting ground to learn a variety of web technologies.

Purpose of Web Standards 
W3C_logo

Web Standards lay a foundation for proper web development.  Consider it the solid foundation that a house is built on. When you build on the solid foundation, it is sturdy and will hold true even through some nasty weather. But when you avoid the standards, it cannot be guaranteed to be sturdy in every situation. 

Web browsers are built by corporations and big name companies so they make sure to run on this foundation to ensure that it works. Websites on the other hand can be created by literally anyone and therefore can be done either the right way, or that person could do whatever they felt was right. Web browsers work well with websites that are created by the same standards, but if a developer does whatever they want, some problems could arise.

Code validation services
validator
The W3C provides 3 different validators: HTML, CSS, and Unicorn. Unicorn is a combination of HTML and CSS validators as well as using other web services to help create the highest quality web page. What you can do with these validators is enter a page URL or upload the HTML or CSS file and the validator will check the file against web standards and produce a list of warnings and errors that are highly recommended to be fixed. Since these tools help make sure that web  pages match the standards set by the W3C, very obscure hard to track down errors can be fixed just by running the page through validation and fixing any errors that page may have. 

Starting on the right path
w3schools
If you are new to creating websites, W3C will be able to help. They have a set of tutorials in various subjects which can be found at www.w3schools.com (link to http://www.w3schools.com).  This is where I started. I went through all of the HTML and CSS tutorials and learned valuable information which landed me the job at The Karcher Group. But the tutorials are not just in HTML and CSS; there is also JavaScript, Server Side Programming, ASP.NET, XML, Web Services, and Web Building information. These tutorials will show browser compatibility when applicable and in many cases there will be a “try it yourself” section where you can experiment a bit. Want to learn to make standards based websites? I highly recommend starting here.

Why follow all of these rules?
Let’s face it, not everyone on the face of the earth is going to use the latest browsers such as Chrome, Firefox or even IE 9 or 10. There are still some out there that favor IE 7 and some even IE 8. If you truly want to become a successful web developer, it is important for web pages to look good in all of these browsers, not just the latest and greatest. Not interested in learning to create a website yourself, but still want a top of the line website that follows all of these standards and works in all of these browsers?

Coincidentally, at The Karcher Group, it is our policy to provide these exact services for you so you can have that top-of-the-line website built by people who care about your business and want to see you succeed.

 

Optimizing Images for Retina Displays

For all businesses, mobile websites are becoming necessary as more people choose mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets to browse on the web versus a desktop. As those technologies grow, so do their capabilities. One of the most recent advances in mobile technology is the retina display.

Retina Display Defined
As defined by Webopedia, retina display is:

A marketing term developed by Apple to refer to devices and monitors that have a resolution and pixel density so high – roughly 300 or more pixels per inch – that a person is unable to discern the individual pixels at a normal viewing distance. Apple’s Retina Display made its debut on 2011′s iPhone 4S, which featured a 960×640 pixel screen with four times the number of pixels (326 pixels per inch) as the iPhone 4.

 

In simpler terms (for the non-techies), a retina display describes a screen that packs in more pixels than a regular device to enhance the visual quality. However, when an image is displayed on a retina device, it can sometimes appear blurry and not visually appealing.blurry and clear

Until recently, it hasn’t been easy to always render a high quality image. Now there’s a way for a developer to ensure that a mobile user will see the best version of the image.

So how can a developer ensure that image quality is as good as the right-side photo above?

First step is simple, double the size of the image, but don’t override the original image, that will still be used on non-retina devices. Instead, use the same file-name but tag on “@2x” to the end of the image name. It is considered a standard to recognize that this version is twice the size of the original image. Once this image is saved you are done with step one and we can move on to step 2.

Next, determine how the image will be used. There are two different ways that images are used on websites: background images using CSS, or in-line images using HTML. Depending on which of these the image will be used for will determine how to handle switching out the images. When it comes to actually switching out the images, the CSS method will use media queries to determine the pixel ratio, and the HTML method will use JavaScript.

CSS and the @media Query Method

To set specific styles based on the pixel ratio, you will have to use a media query which looks like this: @media (-{browser-identifier}-min-device-pixel-ratio: 2) { }

In this case, the {browser-identifier} refers to moz, webkit, o, or ms depending on the browser you are targeting, so it is best to create a rule for each. Specifically for Opera, this handles the pixel ratio as a fraction and not an integer so instead of “2″ it should read “2/1″. Within that media query, you’re able to use selectors to target the element and switch out the background image. Make sure to test this, some browsers may also require the use of background-size styles in order to re-size the background to the right size.

JavaScript Method

The window object in JavaScript has a built in property that describes the pixel ratio. So using the following if-statement you will be able to swap the source based on the appropriate pixel ratios. if(window.devicePixelRatio == 2){}

Once the document is ready or the window is loaded, you will need to target any and all images that need to be switched out. If there are only a couple images, then the best bet is to directly target those images using an id and a selector that directly targets that image. But if there are multiple images you will want to target all images.

Once the images are targeted, for each one, you will want to split the element source based on “.” to create an array of the image-name and the file-extension. Then, just replace the source by tagging the “@2x on to the image-name and then adding the file-extension back on.

Finally, just re-size the image appropriately and then you are done! You now have images on a mobile website optimized for retina displays and looks great on all devices.

Questions? Ask me in the comments!
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Building Mobile Applications: Security Issues to Consider

So you’ve created this awesome mobile application that you’re ready to share with the world. Has your app met all the criteria needed to make it through the approval process? Before you submit either your iOS or Android app for approval, make sure you follow these security-specific considerations.

ios appsiOS App Approval

One of the easiest ways to prevent your app from making it onto the app store is to try and use sensitive data without asking the user for permission. Many apps now use geolocation functionality including Facebook, Twitter, and many running apps such as Nike+. You may have seen these random popups saying “This app would like to use your current location” or “This app is requesting access to your contacts”. Though these can be annoying, they are necessary. This makes the user aware of the type of data that is being used and they can make the choice whether to use it or not.

During the approval process, the app is tested. Throughout this testing, most major bugs will be found and the app will get sent back to the developer and therefore be declined.  All iOS apps are required to be downloaded through the iOS app store, so there is no way to get around this approval process. Developers may find this to be a burden but as users we should rejoice knowing that we can, for the most part, trust whatever we find on the  app store.

Android AppsAndroid App Approval

One of the differences between Android and iOS is that Android apps do not necessarily need to be downloaded through Google Play. Just because an app is downloaded through Google Play may not necessarily mean it is perfectly secure, but there is no guarantee of any level of security if you download the app from somewhere else.

Some apps will leave certain processes working in the background. An example would be an app that requires you to build a city and it takes time in order to build a new building. It would be pointless to have to leave your phone on especially when some apps will require at least an hour per building. So Android requires that the developer stop certain services when the app is running in the background. Any app that uses Network, GPS, or Bluetooth technology will need to have that shut down. There are certain cases like Facebook, where the app requires the network to be able to work at all where that service will not need to be shut down though. When it comes to app security, the less your device is communicating with the network the better. When you are not using that connection there’s no easy way for any sensitive information to be stolen.

What do they have in common?

Both iOS and Android keep the user in mind. No one wants to have sensitive data stolen. There is only so much that the approval processes can prevent, but it is at least a start. After that the responsibility falls onto the developer. What will always remain true, though, is that big-named companies can be trusted. If sensitive data is stolen through their app, they will be held responsible and that company will have to pay for it, whether in reputation or payment for the damage done.

In both environments, just be smart. Look at what data you are allowing the apps to use and pay attention to how it is using it. If you give an app permission to use GPS but there is no functionality that either uses a map or that makes it evident you are sharing your location with others, that can be a red flag. Common sense is the best way to keep your data safe, regardless of device.

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Mobile Web – Are You On Board? (Part 2)

Back in December, we talked about this big metaphorical ship known as the “Mobile Web”. Since then, have you purchased your ticket and jumped on board? A common reason to not take the plunge is the concern of how much it costs to have a mobile website created and maintained on top of a desktop based web site, and some may not see any reason in having two versions of the same site. I want to give a little more encouragement for you to join many businesses world-wide who are taking a step into the future and taking advantage of mobility.

Mobile websites come in three different forms:

  1. Full mobile version of the desktop based site
  2. Mobile website for main pages in the website. Other pages will be viewed as desktop
  3. Mobile splash page just to introduce your company to the mobile world.

There is a reason why I ordered these this way. The first option is both most beneficial and most costly, with the last item listed being the least effective and costs the least. Don’t get me wrong, a mobile splash page can still make a world of a difference compared to sticking with your desktop based web site. That being said, if you are curious of the benefits of having a mobile optimized web page but are still weary of the cost. Give the third option a shot, see the true benefits that mobile will provide for your company. As you see the number of page hits increase, you can always re-visit this decision and upgrade from there.

Maybe your point of caution is not the cost of the second website, but having to maintain two different websites. That can be a very daunting task and takes up precious time that could be used on other items for your company. Well, you’re in luck! Mobile websites can be integrated into your current website. Essentially a mobile website is just a different design for the web site and therefore can use the same content as the main site just with a different look if it’s on a mobile page.

But wait, There’s More!

Ever hear of the term “responsive design”? It is a way to build a website where the design responds to the size of the web browser. As the browser window gets larger or smaller, elements will re-size and re-position so that the page continues to look crisp and clean. Still not sure about what I’m talking about? Here are some easy steps you can follow for a live demo of responsive design:

  1. Go to tkg.com
  2. Make sure your web browser is not maximized and filling up the whole screen
  3. Grab a hold of the side or corner of the web browser and start moving it around
  4. Watch as the page re-arranges and re-sizes to where it needs to be to fit the window

See how nifty that is? That is the true direction that this ship is sailing in. It is the way of the future. And the best part about it is that it does not rely on whether you are on a mobile device or not, only the size of the browser. It is a completely device and browser indifferent way of creating a web site that looks great no matter what.

What is not permitted on the Mobile Web?

Another thing to take into consideration is that just because your current website works on a desktop does not mean it will work on a mobile device. The big red flag is Adobe Flash. Mobile devices, especially Apple products, do not allow the use of Flash. So if your current site relies on Flash, it will not work on a mobile device. Not only will it not work, but for the few devices that it will work on, it uses a much larger file size than almost any other format for a web page. There are are other more elegant, mobile friendly ways to handle any functionality that flash may provide.

Change your mind yet?

Hopefully by now you see the true value of considering Mobile as part of your online strategy. If you are truly considering the true benefits that a mobile based website can do for your business, you are in luck. I know a fantastic group of people who know a lot about mobile and will always put your company’s goals first. Check out their page on mobile websites, to leave them a message or even request a quote and see just where this ship is sailing!

Mobile Applications: 3 Possibilities for Your Brand to Explore

mobile_app-vs_website

Lets face it, having a mobile application developed for a company can be very expensive.

Some companies use that money to make a mobile app that is more or less a working version of their website for mobile devices. Other companies will create ads that other mobile apps can include in their mobile applications. And lastly there are some companies that find an interactive way to advertise their product or service as a mobile application. Each has their own benefits and  uses.

1.  Getting Your Foot in the Door

The first use of mobile applications, which is having your website on the app store as a mobile application.

The Advantages

  1. Your company will show up in searches on the app store.
  2. Content can be stored off-line.
  3. Great for content that changes often such as blogs to keep users updated.

The Disadvantages

  1. Paying a lot to gain little.
  2. People want apps that are interactive not necessarily just for content.
  3. People look for information once and rarely need it again.

Since people will not be using it much, word will not get out about it and you will find low numbers of downloads and probably would not be worth the money spent to create it.

2.  Save Money and Let Others Do the Dirty Work 

The next level up is creating mobile ads that can be added to other websites. A great example of this is olive garden. One of the authors on Mobile Marketer wrote an article describing their strategy. Olive Garden has location friendly ads, that when someone taps their ad, it will find the nearest Olive Garden for the user to try out one of their new menu items under 575 calories.

The Advantage:

  1. Not as expensive as full-blown app.
  2. Advertises the product effectively.
  3. App developers will be attracted to adding ads into their app for the potential of generating their own revenue from it.

The Disadvantages

  1. Little to no control over what app your ad shows up in.
  2. Apps with ads often give the option to pay to remove ads which could cause visibility to decrease.

3.  Taking Full Advantage of Modern Technology

163785-one-billion-apps-iphone_original

The third option is, in my opinion, the way apps should be done. Sure its expensive, but it is also the most effective at getting your product, service, and/or brand out there. The key to creating a mobile application that gets your name out there is knowing what your product, service, or brand is.

Once you have that you just need a little creativity in the mix. Take a look at Charmin, yes the toilet paper brand. This mobile application is genius! This mobile application more or less keeps track of where there is a public restroom near your current location. Think about it, you have been on a nice 6 hour drive and all of the sudden, the three coffees you had before you left has hit. Where do you go? Open up the Charmin Sit or Squat app and you will find a place very quickly.

ESPN did a great job too. They have a mobile application that lets you follow your favorite sports teams and it will notify you any time the score changes when that team is playing. If you are on the go you never have to miss a game. This sort of application is possible for any company with enough creativity.

The Advantages:

  1. Gets people talking. When someone enjoys how they interact with your company they tell their friends and then they get hooked on it too.
  2. Possibility of paid version to help generate profit.
  3. Provide great advertising for what your company does.

The Disadvantage:

  1. The cost – It’s not cheap, there is no hiding that. But with proper marketing, the disadvantage of cost will turn into a profit as word of the app gets out and more people interact with the company.

Now It’s Your Turn

Which one of these approaches has your brand tried?  Any of them?  What worked and what didn’t?  Let me know in the comments.

The App Store: A Game of Hide and Seek

app store“Four score and seven years ago…” well, actually it was only about 6 years ago, in 2007 when the first iPhone was released and the modern sense of the smartphone became the new “thing” that everybody wanted.

These modern smart phones allow people to download and use apps that range anywhere from entertainment, to finances, to research. With the Apple App Store having almost 750,000 active mobile apps for download and the Android Market now has almost 500,000 active mobile apps for download, it can be very difficult for a new app on the market to be seen. So what’s the point?

The answer is simple. Just look at the Internet in general. There are billions of websites that can be found. Do a quick search on Google for “Internet”, my search returned 5,710,000,000 results. Somehow, though, certain companies have managed to get their one website to show up at least in the top 10, some are fortunate enough to be in the top 5 without paying to put an add at the top of the page. Fortunately, app stores work the same way. There may be hundreds of thousands available, but developers and marketers are able to give that app more visibility in many of the same ways that they could for a website.

Search Optimization

When submitting an app to the store, the developer needs to tell the store which categories it would go under. On top of that developers and marketers are able to assign keywords to the app. These keywords need to be based on what people may search in order to find your app. See, I told you it was a lot like making a website more visible! In that sense, it is the exact same as a website, no new skills needed. Proper keywords will help your app gain visibility and make the game of “hide and seek” in the app store much more tolerable for people searching the store.

The Apple App Store

That is no the the only way to gain visibility though. iTunes has a variety of categories your app has a chance to show up in as well. There is a chance that your app will show up on the “New and Noteworthy” category, which is up to Apple’s discretion, and will feature your app at the top of the app page on mobile devices and in iTunes on a desktop/laptop environment. A chance like this turns the game of “hide and seek” into “I’m standing right here out in the open now please come and download me”. Another category that is frequented by many users is the “What’s Hot” category, also on the front page when opening any version of the app store, which is based on the rating and number of downloads by users. So as your app gains visibility, it will continue to grow with the help of this category.

The Android Market

But wait, that was just Apple. What does it look like on the Android Market? When opening the Android Market, there are a few featured apps that will be showing, still not the best for app visibility, but wait, there’s more. With a simple swipe either left or right on the screen the “top” charts will be available for users without having to do any sort of search. Two of the categories are “Top New Paid Apps” and “Top New Free Apps”. Both of these work similar to a combination between the two Apple categories and give your app yet another chance to be seen in the Market.

Social Media

Let’s not forget about the social media power-houses either. Create a Facebook page and a Twitter account for the app to post information, get user feed back, and build a community of users. This may be a bit of work to get started, but as more people start liking and following these pages, your page will show up in the feeds of anyone associated with someone connected to one of your pages. Once these pages really get moving you will no longer have to worry about getting the word out, the community of followers and people who like and use your app will end up doing all of the marketing for you.

Launching an app can still seem like a very daunting task. Optimizing keywords, selecting the right categories, proper development techniques, and utilizing social media as much as possible will remove many of the obstacles that will make it difficult for users to find your app. It will take a little bit longer before the app can be released, but it will be well worth it in the end when you have a large following of users looking to use your mobile app. Stop playing “hide and seek” and start playing “here I am, come and get me”.