Gilbane Advisor 7-21-15 – Why desktop apps are making a comeback

Why desktop apps are making a comeback

Well, they certainly still have a role to play, right tool and all…

Most software products need an interface. That interface can come in different forms, but usually boils down to either an installed program, or a browser-based web application. For the desktop (mobile is another issue entirely), web apps seemed to have the upper hand, but successful newcomers — like Slack — and old timers — like Skype — indicate that the issue is still unresolved.

As the founders of Front, an app helping companies manage grouped email addresses … we maintain both desktop apps for OS X, Windows, and a web application. People often ask us the reasoning behind this decision, so here is our answer. Read more

Office, messaging and verbs

What’s the right tool for the job? Benedict Evans looks for a way to think about this question for productivity applications beyond feature collections. He argues that the difference between messaging and applications is blurring, and that is because the job we are usually trying to accomplish with software is largely based on a communication need. Certainly true if inclusive of humans and other software but, as he says, the trade offs are difficult. Lotus Notes for example, was both successful and ultimately a failure because of these kinds of choices.

The challenge here is the trade off between breadth and flexibility on one hand and focus and single-purpose efficiency on the other. It’s easy to make everything flow together in a single UI if you have a narrow domain, but much harder if you’re trying to encompass lots of different tasks and types of data. Sometimes the right ‘unified UI’ is a dedicated app and sometimes it’s Windows, or a web browser, aggregating lots of different apps with different UIs. But mostly, it’s the email app itself that’s the universal connector, linking documents, data and ideas. That is, ‘Send’ is the universal verb that ties the others together. Read more

Why Web Pages Suck

Ben Thompson takes off on John Gruber’s complaint about fat slow websites, and basically argues that publishers don’t have a choice and, in effect, neither do advertisers. Ad exchanges and programmatic advertising work well enough (I know, except when they don’t) that advertisers can’t ignore them.

… if advertisers are only spending money — and a lot of it — on programmatic advertising, then it follows that the only way for publishers to make money is to use programmatic advertising.

… the price of efficiency for advertisers’ is the user experience of the reader. The problem for publishers, though, is that dollars and cents — which come from advertisers — are a far more scarce resource than are page views, leaving publishers with a binary choice: provide a great user experience and go out of business, or muddle along with all of the baggage that relying on advertising networks entails. Read more

News Sites Are Fatter and Slower Than Ever

Frédéric Filloux measures a few news sites and comes down hard on designers, but I think he means to include other decision makers as well.

An analysis of download times highlights how poorly designed news sites are. That’s more evidence of poor implementation of ads… and a strong case for ad blockers. Read more

Newsonomics: On end games and end times

Can publishers find a sustainable business model this new age of Facebook/Apple/Snapchat/Twitter/Google distributed content? And is local news destined to be left behind?

Wonder why news organizations do some of the things they do? Ken Doctor describes the current challenges and choices publishers are faced with and how some are thinking about them. Read more

7 future web design trends

Jowita Ziobro provides a refreshing review of current design trends. Her first trend, “Gestures are the new clicks”:

We forget how hard scrolling webpages used to be. Most users would painstakingly move their mouse to the right edge of the screen, to use something ancient called a ‘scrollbar’… In 2015 it’s far easier to scroll than it is to click. On mobile, you can scroll wildly with your thumb. To click on a precise target is actually more difficult — the complete opposite of what we’re used to on the desktop… As a result, we should expect more and more websites to be built around scrolling first, and clicking second. And of course, that’s exactly what we’ve seen everywhere…

The post is a reminder that the way to look at planning and development of web and mobile applications is to focus on the ‘and’. Too much of the discussion is about the limitations of web or mobile or which should come first – a sometimes necessary short term choice but not a strategy for most. Jowita’s larger point is that from a design point of view web and mobile are converging. The post also suggests functional convergence, which I expand on in The convergence of web and mobile design. Jowita ends with:

Right now you see the best of mobile app design appearing in web design. With enough time, the difference between an app and a website might almost entirely disappear. Read more

Modern Design Tools: Adaptive Layouts

I’m sure there are exceptions, but design has almost always followed function in software development. That was never a great situation, but today’s reality of the constant additions of new form factors forces us to figure out how build function and design in a more parallel and earlier iterative environment. Responsive design is an important approach to dress up the past and get started with workable multichannel publishing, but its scale is limited. Josh Puckett has some great ideas and links to other discussions.

Since our tools shape our thinking, it’s critical that we have design tools that allow us to go beyond the static thinking that has encumbered us for so long. While it’s technically possible to design and optimize for various layouts and orientations today, it’s tedious and difficult, which means that we often don’t do it.

Design tools should have the same properties as the medium for which we are designing… Let’s take a look at how a modern design tool might work for designing an iPhone app. Read more

Google deep linking progress

Steven Levy comments on this year’s I/O event. He does a nice job of explaining deep linking / app indexing, and the much mentioned Google Now on Tap in the context of Google’s mobile and search challenges.

Google now says that it has expanded its app indexing program to Apple’s iOS platform. “App indexing” is the practice of Hoovering up the data that lives inside apps, the first step to making that information available by Google searching — it’s analogous to crawling the web. Google has been doing this since 2013 for Android apps, essentially creating an index that lives on a simulation of a giant Android phone. And I do mean giant: there are 50 billion deep links indexed so far. (Deep links are those which take you directly to relevant information inside an app, as opposed to leading you to the front door.)

I found the 50 billion indexed deep links surprising, especially since they are almost all from Android apps, and from only a little more than half of the developers asked to participate. There is a decent developer value proposition, but it will be interesting to see what Apple decides to do to keep control of its ecosystem. And then there are Facebook, Twitter, and others. Google would most likely be the biggest beneficiary of a deep linking standard if there ever is one. Read more

What is Code?

This is a fantastic piece. It is long, though the title may be too short. It is not just about code. It is also about coders and coder culture, code tribes, code conferences, coding languages, coding process, managing coders (well sort of), also funny, perhaps a little sad, and loaded with truthiness. Read more


Sponsor

Thanks to our hosting provider LuxSci for sponsoring this issue, and for 15 years of great customer service.

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Short takes

Apple is making it much easier to access the web from apps and developers are interested. iOS 9 and Safari View Controller: The Future of Web Views via MacStories.net.

SEO people, time to get up-to-speed on App Indexing & The New Frontier of SEO: Apple Search + iOS App Indexing via Search Engine Land

For communicators obviously an increasingly important skill… Exploring the 7 Different Types of Data Stories via Mediashift

For execs… What Every Manager Should Know About Machine Learning via HBR.org

Not a huge sample but some interesting data… Comparing the ROI of Content Marketing and Native Advertising via HBR.org

The non-tracking option… The Rise of DuckDuckGo via Fast Company

You may be surprised. The rise of mobile and social news: Oxford Reuters Institute’s 2015 report via Journalist’s Resource

A few gems… How to Cheat at Creating Great Presentations for Tech & Marketing Audiences via moz.com

Getting beyond some of the hype… iOS 9 content blocking extensions are not a mobile advertising armageddon via baldurbjarnason.com


About

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Why web pages suck

In Why Web Pages Suck Ben Thompson takes off on John Gruber’s complaint about fat slow websites, and basically argues that publishers don’t have a choice, and in effect, neither do advertisers. Ad exchanges and programmatic advertising work well enough (I know, except when they don’t) that advertisers can’t ignore them.

Advertisers’ strong preference for programmatic advertising is why it’s so problematic to only discuss publishers and users when it comes to the state of ad-supported web pages: if advertisers are only spending money — and a lot of it — on programmatic advertising, then it follows that the only way for publishers to make money is to use programmatic advertising.

… the price of efficiency for advertisers’ is the user experience of the reader. The problem for publishers, though, is that dollars and cents — which come from advertisers — are a far more scarce resource than are page views, leaving publishers with a binary choice: provide a great user experience and go out of business, or muddle along with all of the baggage that relying on advertising networks entails.

Of course there are lots of reasons websites suck that are not directly related to advertising, including poor design, extra non-advertising related code, and insufficient maintenance. It may be a useful exercise to test your site as it is, with ads and ad blocking, and with no ads. Read Thompson’s full postRead Gruber’s post

The convergence of web and mobile design

The actual title of the article I am referring to above is 7 future web design trends, by Jowita Ziobro. The trends are on target and the examples are clear. Worth a read.

But what struck me is that the post is a reminder that the way to look at planning and development of web and mobile applications is to focus on the ‘and’. Too much of the discussion is about the limitations of web or mobile or which should come first – a sometimes necessary short term choice but not a strategy. Jowita’s larger point is that from a design point of view web and mobile are converging. The post also suggests functional convergence.

Design convergence

Jowita’s first trend, “Gestures are the new clicks”, provides one example:

We forget how hard scrolling webpages used to be. Most users would painstakingly move their mouse to the right edge of the screen, to use something ancient called a ‘scrollbar’…

In 2015 it’s far easier to scroll than it is to click. On mobile, you can scroll wildly with your thumb. To click on a precise target is actually more difficult — the complete opposite of what we’re used to on the desktop.

As a result, we should expect more and more websites to be built around scrolling first, and clicking second. And of course, that’s exactly what we’ve seen everywhere…

There’s every reason to expect this trend to continue as mobile takes over more of the market. Modern sites have fewer things to click, and much more scrolling. We’ll see fewer links, more buttons, bigger ‘clickable’ areas, and taller pages that expect to be scrolled.

So mobile is changing web design for the better, and not only because of the consistency of the UX but because it is offers improvements.

Functional convergence

Mobile is also learning from the web. Mobile apps are either constrained by limited access to their own data and content, need custom deep linking to code to access other apps data, or need to exit to the web via a web browser. Whether the app uses a lightweight custom browser built for the app or one of the mainstream browsers the UX often suffers. The limited linking of mobile apps is a significant functional constraint, especially for enterprise apps.

Apple and Google are each interested in the health of both the web and their own mobile ecosystems and are both advancing deep linking to address data and content access. This will be a little wild-westy for awhile but the direction is clear.

Jowita’s sixth trend, “Components are the new frameworks” is relevant to design and function:

Web technology continues to get more complicated, and less semantic. Designers must embed messy code onto their pages for simple tasks, like including Google Analytics or a Facebook Like button. It would be a lot easier if we could just write something like this instead:

<google-analytics key=”UA-12345–678″>

And we can with Web Components, which aren’t quite ready to be used by most designers yet. 2015 is looking like their year.

Google’s Material design is here, and it may just be what gets this movement started. Powered by Polymer, and supported by all modern browsers, it provides the rich animation and interaction components from Android apps, with simple tags…

Apple’s newly announced Safari View Controller for iOS 9 ups the ante for mobile browsers by providing developers access to Safari code making it much easier to access the web from mobile apps. Developers can still build their own for specific design or functional reasons if they need to. See iOS 9 and Safari View Controller: The Future of Web Views.

Jowita ends with:

Right now you see the best of mobile app design appearing in web design. With enough time, the difference between an app and a website might almost entirely disappear.

Optimistic perhaps, but there is a trend to root for here. And a perspective to be embraced for a superior UX.

Gilbane pre-conference workshops announced

It’s only June but we’re already working hard on the 2015 conference program and want to share a bit of what you can look forward to.

We’ve got a great lineup of pre-conference workshops that will be held Tuesday, December 1, the day before the main conference, December 2 – 3.

Pre-conference workshops:

Developing a personalization strategy: one size doesn’t fit all
Instructor: John Berndt, CEO, The Berndt Group (TBG)

An anatomy of a digital audit
Instructor: Tim Bourgeois, Partner at East Coast Catalyst and Founder, ChiefDigitalOfficer.net

Insider’s guide to selecting the right WCM
Instructor: Tony Byrne, Founder, Real Story Group

Foundations for best-fit WCM service provider selections
Instructor: Cathy McKnight, Partner and Principal Analyst, Digital Clarity Group

Great ideas need the right metrics to flourish – building the analytics you need to monetize your innovation
Instructor: Jaime Fitzgerald, Founder and Managing Partner, Fitzgerald Analytics Inc.

Digital is global in nature, not by default: leveraging digital globalization to increase global customer experience
Instructor: Bruno Herrmann , Director of Globalization, Nielsen

Find out more and get detailed descriptions for these workshops.

Hotel now accepting reservations

The Fairmont Copley Plaza is the official conference hotel for Gilbane Conference 2015. Discounted room rates have been arranged for attendees and are available starting today. Find out more.

Know about deep linking?

We are close to completing the program for this year’s Gilbane Conference and have some topics we still need another speaker, or possibly panelist, for:

  • Mobile and web deep linking / app indexing. What do these do for customer experience? What do they mean for content apps? What do you need to do about deep linking and app indexing, why, and when?
  • Marketing technology stacks: strategies and experiences.
  • Digital multichannel strategies: mobile, web, responsive, social, IoT, pages vs cards, etc.

If you have a well-informed opinion to share on any of these email me at speaking@gilbane.com.

Keep in mind our audience is a combination of marketers, technologists, and content strategists and managers.

Of the almost 300 speaker proposals we will be able to include less than 100 so we welcome additional proposals on the topics above. Note that we will be notifying proposed speakers slowly over the next 2-3 weeks.

Modern Design Tools: Adaptive Layouts

I’m sure there are exceptions, but design has almost always followed function in software development. That was never a great situation, but today’s reality of the constant additions of new form factors forces us to figure out how build function and design in a more parallel and earlier iterative environment.

Responsive design is an important approach to dress up the past and get started with workable multichannel publishing, but its scale is limited.

See Josh Puckett’s discussion in Modern Design Tools: Adaptive Layouts for some great ideas and links to other discussions.

Since our tools shape our thinking, it’s critical that we have design tools that allow us to go beyond the static thinking that has encumbered us for so long. While it’s technically possible to design and optimize for various layouts and orientations today, it’s tedious and difficult, which means that we often don’t do it.

Design tools should have the same properties as the medium for which we are designing… Let’s take a look at how a modern design tool might work for designing an iPhone app. Read more

Google deep linking progress

In How Google is Taking Search Outside the Box Steven Levy comments on this year’s I/O event. He does a nice job of explaining deep linking / app indexing, and the much mentioned Google Now on Tap in the context of Google’s mobile and search challenges.

Google now says that it has expanded its app indexing program to Apple’s iOS platform. “App indexing” is the practice of Hoovering up the data that lives inside apps, the first step to making that information available by Google searching — it’s analogous to crawling the web. Google has been doing this since 2013 for Android apps, essentially creating an index that lives on a simulation of a giant Android phone. And I do mean giant: there are 50 billion deep links indexed so far. (Deep links are those which take you directly to relevant information inside an app, as opposed to leading you to the front door.)

I found the 50 billion indexed deep links surprising, especially since they are almost all from Android apps, and from only a little more than half of the developers asked to participate. There is a decent developer value proposition, but it will be interesting to see what Apple decides to do to keep control of its ecosystem. And then there are Facebook, Twitter, and others. Google would most likely be the biggest beneficiary of a deep linking standard if there ever is one. Read more

Gilbane Advisor 6.3.15 – The future is mobile and apps, except that it isn’t

The future is mobile and apps, except that it isn’t

You may have read other articles making similar arguments but this post by Ben Evans is certainly one of the best.

There are two charts that capture a lot of the way we think about mobile today. In the first, we see that mobile devices are approaching a majority of traffic, and in the second, that a large proportion of all web traffic (a majority in the USA in this instance) and the vast majority of mobile traffic is coming from apps rather than the web. … However, if you’re not careful you can get quite the wrong impression from these. Read more

And if you’re a marketer how do you think about the tradeoffs?…

Apps versus the web

There’s an involved, technical and (for people like me) fascinating conversation in tech about smartphone apps and the web – what can each do, how discovery works, how they interplay, what Google plans with Chrome, how watches affect things, whether the web will take over as the dominant form and so on. … But for an actual brand, developer or publisher wondering if they should do an app or a website, I generally answer that the calculation is much simpler and less technical: Do people want to put your icon on their home screen? Read more

Ad blocking software has figured out native content

This is going to get messy. Just one of the problems…

… ad blockers have grown exponentially in every market, and are now threatening the whole ecosystem.Their reach now extends to native advertising—which was, until now, relatively spared because native ads can be managed by the publisher’s Content Management System instead of an ad-server. But ABP’s engineers found a way to spot and remove any phrase like “sponsored content” or “sponsored by.” This creates pernicious side-effects, as the user won’t be able to distinguish between commercial and legitimate editorial content on websites. Read more

A Murky Road Ahead for Android, Despite Market Dominance

Farhad Manjoo provides a well done summary of Google’s challenges with Android. Read more

Speaking of mobile challenges…

Mozilla, mobile, and the web

Mozilla has a mobile problem. It also wants to keep the web healthy and provide an alternative to mobile walled gardens. Its mobile operating system, Firefox OS, is a worthy attempt to address both these issues. But this is a huge challenge. Read more

Influence People by Leveraging the Brain’s Laziness

For designers and marketers to consider…

… there is still an assumption that the environment is treated as a reflection of information that should drive preferences. For instance, it’s assumed that people tend to stick with the default option because they do not know enough to change it. … This view of decision-making assumes that information is always at the core of the cognitive economy. But in fact, energy is the key currency that the cognitive system seeks to preserve. … people are not treating the environment around them as information in most deliberative processes. Instead, they are performing the easiest actions with as little thought as possible. So if we want to influence other people’s behavior, we must make desirable behaviors easy and undesirable behaviors hard. Read more

Speaking of lazy brains…

Beware Spurious Correlations

A quick look at a graph can be a dangerous thing.

We all know the truism “Correlation doesn’t imply causation,” but when we see lines sloping together, bars rising together, or points on a scatterplot clustering, the data practically begs us to assign a reason. We want to believe one exists. … Statistically we can’t make that leap, however. Charts that show a close correlation are often relying on a visual parlor trick to imply a relationship. Read more

UX is UI

A little long but food for thought for product managers, UX/UI designers, and their execs.

… Product Managers: You might think you have all the answers with a combination of Google Analytics and your own hubris, and that’s fine if you can afford to be wrong. But please, stop hiring UX Designers to just implement what you’ve already decided. … UX Designers: If you want to make the world a better place, you have to take a strategic hand in defining what gets put into the world, not just how that thing works.  Read more

4 topologies of integrated marketing technology stacks

Will there ever be a dominant marketing technology platform / ecosystem? Will there be n overlapping platforms with competing components and centers of gravity? Where will there be stronger links? weaker links? Scott Brinker frames up the situation… Read more

And now for a look at another kind of ecosystem…

Apple Watch and Continuous Computing

Ben Thompson’s non-review review and analysis of the watch and its place in the computing ecosystem is excellent. Read more

Short takes

What do service providers really care about? Less lipstick on the As-a-Service pig please… via horsesforsources.com

A techie experiment with cross-posting on Mediumvia Medium

Inside Quartz’s thinking and a little bit of what’s coming… Quartz is an API via NiemanLab

A reminder that your Instagram photos aren’t really yours: Someone else can sell them for $90,000 … Well, not exactly, but still an interesting storyvia the Washington Post

Some good points on the supposed Power of the Screenshot via Medium

Mary Meeker’s 2015 Internet Trends report may not be, or have much news, but has lots of stats. via Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

Tim’s Web Decay Graph is a bit depressing, as are the broken links on my 19 year old site even after multiple link updating efforts. via tbray.org

Lenovo’s smartphone that can project apps right in front of you is interesting but what we need is a configurable movable holographic display. via Business Insider

About

The Gilbane Advisor curates content for our conference community of content, computing, and digital experience professionals throughout the year.