Methods for Mobile App Testing Emulating Real-World Scenarios

Methods for Mobile App Testing Emulating Real-World Scenarios

If you’re a mobile app tester, you know that testing mobile apps is complicated. There’s a long checklist to keep track of, like considering the effects of various OS versions, design requirements on various device sizes, comparing the differences between Android and iOS – the list goes on and on.

Most companies have a scalable testing strategy, however, I’ve noticed a very important shortcoming that is often left forgotten – the environment in which we test. Mobile testers think testing is coherent simply by matching the test cases and installing a fresh app for each case, however, we are forgetting how the app would be used in everyday life. In my experience, nothing is more valuable than taking the time to go outside and use the app as a user would.

To make sure your app can handle anything in a real-world use case, there are quite a few questions you should be asking yourself while testing. Questions like ‘What is going to happen to the state of the app if the user gets a phone call?’, and ‘What if the user accidentally left the app open on the map screen overnight?’ are just the tip of the iceberg. To ensure that your application can truly handle any real-life scenarios, your team must start with goals and a purpose to track.

Read on for effective methods I make sure to highlight in my QA testing sessions:

Network Connection

What happens to the app when the network connection is compromised? Test cases to try:

  • Turn off Wi-Fi
  • Have the device only run on LTE/3G/4G
  • No Wi-Fi and no network connection
  • Location Services Disabled

Disruptions

What happens to the state of the app when it is interrupted by other applications? Disruptions to try:

  • Receiving phone calls
  • Receiving text message
  • Receiving push notifications from other apps
  • Facebook messenger sticky on Android
  • Alarm Clock / Full-screen interruptions
  • Open Siri/Bixby/Google Assistance/Mobile Device’s virtual assistant

Overnight testing

What happens to the app when the user forgets to turn it off? Test cases to try:

  • Put device to sleep and reopen the app
  • Background app, open another app, then reopen your app
  • Leave device untouched for (especially for things where the app uses a camera or map)
  • 10 minutes
  • 1 hour
  • Overnight

Biometrics

What if the user is using biometrics on the app? If an app requires biometrics for accessing secure data, ensure to test the following:

  • Touch ID
  • Face ID
  • Toggle biometrics on and off, see how the app handles it
  • Test on a device that does not have biometrics
  • Attempt to access data with invalid biometrics, find the limit to how many times a user can get it wrong

Testing these everyday scenarios is crucial to prevent bugs from making their way to your users. Go on a walk with your testing. Literally. Take your testing outside, you might be surprised by scenarios that were missed in development. These methods for mobile app testing will ensure that your application can handle anything that real-world users throw at it. Leave us a comment and share what you think!

Reach out to us if you’d like to talk about how we can help enable your QA and development strategies to test mobile apps faster and more efficiently.

 

Jay Soumphont

Jay Soumphont

Jay Soumphontphakdy is a Cross-Platform Mobile App developer who enjoys working in a transdisciplinary manner— collaborating and wearing hats between roles for design, development, and QA. He is dedicated to continuing his education to create high-quality user-friendly applications, recently becoming an ICAgile Certified Professional in Agile Testing and Test Automation.

How a Track and Trace System Can Optimize ROI (In 6 Steps)

How a Track and Trace System Can Optimize ROI (In 6 Steps)

In logistics, the visibility of your product in transit is essential to promote your brand’s reliability and capability. It is an expectation, not an added benefit, for a consumer to know where a product is and when they can expect it.

We’ve previously talked with you about supply chain management, and the strengths of your track and trace system can directly influence the available impact of your supply chain by increasing transparency around your products in transit; if you lose sight of your products between order and fulfillment, then delivery speed, loss prevention, and, most importantly, your revenue are data points needing to be gathered after the fact rather than real-time.

1. Decrease your computing footprint, Increase your mobility

Realizing the capacity of inventory and the effectiveness of your logistics infrastructure is not a function only needed in an office or in a space where a desktop computer can be present, it’s something you need on you all the time. With over 4 and a half billion smartphone users worldwide, a handheld computer that is low cost, scalable, and widely compatible is the ideal track and trace terminal. Reduce the cost of maintaining the hardware and peripherals of a desktop solution and by focusing on the devices currently used by employees, and equipment costs and the operational costs of training can be reduced drastically.

2. Visualize your products in transit

Understanding exactly where a delivery vehicle and associated shipment is at any point in time can help both distribution and client project payment and inventory, but to understand where the delivery vehicle needs GPS. While GPS in vehicles is typically reserved for luxury or premium vehicle packages, GPS in smartphone devices is an expectation in 2018. Avoid the additional cost to provide GPS for delivery resources, and rely on the GPS available from the phone of a driver. By adding the data provided by other smartphone and GPS users worldwide using the APIs of Google Maps, Bing Maps, and other affordable solutions, you can gain access to real-time traffic data to better analyze expectations around delivery.

3. Centralize your data and integrate legacy systems

Knowing the multitude of systems needed to manage inventory and resources, whether enterprise resource planning (ERP), enterprise asset management (EAM) field service management (FSM), warehouse management system (WMS), or inventory management system (IMS), there are often more individual interfaces available that can be managed by one person or one team. With a mature user experience informed by business goals, bring the data and interactivity of the systems housing your data into a simple and accessible mobile solution via APIs and integrations, reducing the need to rely on different interfaces and compatibility models. Bringing all of the data around your track and trace system together can help build comprehensive business intelligence reporting needed for your business, helping you build a clear, real-time understanding of your capacity in the palm of your hand.

4. Use machine learning to project costs and capacity

Historically, resource projection and calculation would require analytics software on a powerful desktop computer in the organization, and are susceptible to human error from manually maintained functions. With the strength of cloud computing in your hand, leverage complex AI and machine learning models to build accurate and informed projections based on historical, competitive, and real-time data to be able to make decisions for the future of your resources through services like Google’s Tensorflow and Microsoft’s Azure ML. The cost of intelligently anticipating the needs of your product are increasingly affordable, and the benefits are available from your phone.

5. Ditch peripherals. Scan and tag products from your smart device

To measure and manage your inventory quickly, less is more: less mobile terminals, barcode scanners, and extra peripherals needed to validate barcodes and identifying information to update inventory. With a mobile device, you can scan your barcode, look at a QR code using your smart glasses, detect RFID or NFC tags on boxes, or even have your phone recognize your product based on its appearance with machine learning. Your bank recognizes your check when you use mobile deposit, so why shouldn’t your track and trace system be able to understand a barrel of your material based on an OSHA label? Whether by using visual recognition software on the device or by checking a label against a library of images stored in the cloud, reduce the cost of managing inventory by focusing on your mobile device.

6. Start your mobile track and trace system with Shockoe

By leveraging the power and proliferation of mobile interactions, your track and trace system can be more visible and more all-encompassing to keep up with demand and to promote profitability real-time. In bringing your track and trace system to mobile, you elevate your business goals and realize your logistics footprint from your pocket.

For more on how we’ve helped our partners implement a successful track and trace system, read about our Drive app built for J.B. Hunt.

Cameron Hall

Cameron Hall

Mobile Strategist

Cameron uses his experience in app and analytics strategy for healthcare, finance, government, and logistics apps with a focus on emerging technologies to deliver on customer-centric product development. When not devouring research on the latest and greatest, you can find Cameron hiking, playing soccer, reading a book, or continuing his education.

The Warehouse Management System of Tomorrow: Faster, Leaner, and Mobile

The Warehouse Management System of Tomorrow: Faster, Leaner, and Mobile

The Warehouse Management System of Tomorrow

Imagine this: you show up at your place of work, look out onto the warehouse floor, and see all your employees hard at work making sure inventory is being stocked and orders are being fulfilled. But these are not your normal employees, instead, they are robots automatically and seamlessly performing the work previously assigned to countless humans.

Some warehouses are already adopting these technologies, and it won’t be long before others do as well. With the ubiquity of mobile and greater access to the latest technology, it’s not surprising to see more manufacturers incorporating emerging devices into their processes.

Warehouses once relied exclusively on paper for production orders, dispatch notifications, and as a means of managing asset and inventory. Fast forward to today and you’ll see an increasingly paperless industry. Warehouse Management System software, scanning solutions, and other applications are now in place to enable data to be entered directly into digital or cloud storage. This has reduced the number of errors caused by readability issues or lost paperwork, while also reducing the operating costs of the companies.

So how do warehouses become more efficient between the world of today and the future world of automation? Well, the transition is becoming increasingly achievable with all the evolving technology. The key is evaluating the current infrastructure and technology, coming up with a strategy based on key objectives, and starting to make the investment.

Over the last couple of years, we have been working with Arrow Electronics to do just that – improve efficiency through mobile solutions. When we first started working with Arrow, they had a WMS system in place but were using older technology that limited the efficiency of their employees. Shockoe created an overhauled WMS using mobile tablets, wireless handheld scanners, and a revamped user interface. The new process and interface allow operators greater flexibility and maneuverability, increasing pick speed efficiency. Supervisors can now make necessary decisions away from their desk through the mobile interface allowing them to review reports, manage inventory and processes, and communicate directly with the operators.

As we continue to grow our relationship with Arrow, we are exploring means to provide further functionality to operators and immersing them in the mobile experience. This will include wearable technology which enables operators to work hands-free and eliminate the need to bring a cart down an aisle.

As we move forward, other technology will be considered to improve the efficiency of the warehouse operations. For example:

Integrating with Smart Glasses

How about integrating the core functionality of a smartphone into a pair of glasses? The main difference is the display technology: images are projected directly in front of the field of vision, freeing-up user’s hands for other tasks. When working in a warehouse, having free hands and ready access to information is hugely progressive for both ergonomics and efficiency. Using this kind of device in the picking process will ease the work for operators and can help increase picking performance. It is also a flexible solution to implement since it doesn’t need any other specific equipment in the warehouse.

integrating with smart glasses

 

Voice as a guide

Adding voice-guidance to different WMS functionalities can also increase the efficiency of warehouse operations. Instructions can now be heard rather than cumbersomely viewed. This can be integrated into both smart glasses or a traditional mobile app, further allowing the operators to function hands-free and increase focus on their tasks.

Integrating Virtual & Augmented Reality Into Processes

Augmented and mixed reality ‘picking’ uses smart glasses to merge virtual images and information with an operator’s surrounding environment. The operator would wear the glasses, follow any on-screen instructions, and scan product barcodes all within the glasses’ display. The combination of real-world and virtual information provides speed and accuracy beyond previous warehouse picking technologies.

integrating virtual reality

Training with Virtual & Augmented Reality

Did you know only 40% of information is retained when people observe versus 90% when they experience it themselves? So, how about leveraging VR or AR to train employees so they can become productive quickly, while also improving the quality of the work and reducing training costs? Using smart glasses, VR headsets, or other simulators allows both new and current employees to get immersed in the work to learn without having to shadow other employees. This keeps productivity high across the board as you don’t need to pull someone away from current work to train someone.

The state of warehouse management has evolved over time as companies continue to evolve to keep up with consumer demands. Fully automated systems will take time and money. Yet, with the ubiquity of mobile and existing WMS software, an affordable cutting-edge solution might not be so distant. By employing a combination of mobile solutions, smart glasses, AR/VR/MR, or voice, warehouses can become exponentially more productive — improving not just cost, but also overall quality and safety.

training with virtual reality

Note from Editor: 
With mobile technology, employees are no longer confined to their static cubicles, bulky PCs, and disorganized file cabinets. If you’d like to learn more about what it means to have a truly mobile workforce, check out this page.

Also, you can read about “A Mobile Workforce: What Customers Want” in our previous post.

Design Tips to Increase Satisfaction in Banking Apps – Part 2 of 2

Design Tips to Increase Satisfaction in Banking Apps – Part 2 of 2

In the first part of these series, we covered examples of best practices that we have seen play a role in facilitating engagement and improving the user experience.

For the second section of this two-part series, we will cover examples of best practices that we have seen play a role in facilitating engagement and improving the user experience.

Got question surfacing as you read? Give us a ring!

Search & Navigation Part 1

Content Part 1

Guidance Part 2

Privacy & Security Part 2

Appearance Part 2

 

Part 2: Guidance

Similar to what we mentioned for Search & Navigation— ease of use is the most important factor in overall app satisfaction. If users need to complete tasks, make sure you help guide them through the process from start to finish. Here are some tips:

 

Related functions not grouped together.

If you have multiple ways to complete the same task, organize the navigation in a way that makes it easy to find all the similar tasks in one place. For example, some financial applications separate sending money via a mobile number from other payment/transfer operations.

guidance search and nav bank apps

Unnecessary steps to make the user get to where they want to go.

Don’t make the user dig for the information they need. Several banks hide useful details behind another tap, and some even request the user to fill out a form before showing them the details they are looking for. For example, some banks don’t provide easy access to view savings accounts and/ or interest rates.

my credit card - showing info

Progress trackers help users understand how many steps it takes to complete a task, what the next step is, and how far along they are in the process.

Providing a stepper is an easy UX improvement in terms of giving a user more guidance in completing their tasks. You’d be surprised how often you see a multi-step process in bank applications that don’t incorporate this simple yet effective guidance method.

progress trackers in banking app

Provide guidance when you are not letting the user proceed to the next step, let the user know why and how to resolve the necessary actions.

If a user is not allowed to transfer more money than their account balance tell them why.

provide guidance for next step in banking app

User real-time validations on field entries

Don’t play “gotcha!” Whenever possible, let a user know right away if they’ve made a mistake or need to correct something.

User real-time validations on field entries baking app

Either indicate which fields are required, OR only indicate which fields are optional.

indicate which fields are required in banking app

indicate which fields are required in banking app banking app 2

Make it easy to contact the support center

When a user can’t complete a task they are trying to perform they are frustrated, and making them look for help will make them even more frustrated. Make it easily accessible at all times.

support center contact banking app

Part 2: Privacy & Security

Generally, only 31% of bank members use their bank’s mobile app. Of this 31%  there are advocates for the app and prefer using the app over visiting a branch, or using the website. If people are enjoying the app so much why is adoption only 31%? The primary hurdle banks need to overcome is trust. This isn’t a surprise to anyone. We are all aware of this hurdle and have seen great efforts in increasing trust. However, there is always room for more improvement.

Biometric login

Some banks have been making the switch to utilize device biometrics like fingerprint, voice, face recognition. These security measures are not only comforting for consumers but easy to use and adoption is high.

Biometric login in banking app

Provide privacy policies in context

When asking for personal information in an effort to make the app more beneficial to the user, explain why you need it and only when you need it.

privacy policies in context in banking app

Bank first, instead of the customer first

Some apps will not provide the interests rate for a product until after the user applies and provides personal contact information. This is a breach of privacy for the benefit of the sale/marketing and not helpful to the consumer. All the user wants to know is the interest rate so don’t hide it from them.

customer first mobile banking app showing loan amount

Part 2: Appearance

components of app satisfaction chart

Appearance is the second most important component that impacts user’s app satisfaction, coming in at just 1% lower than the most important— Ease of Navigating. An aesthetically beautiful app will elicit a positive emotional response to the experience. At Shockoe, we understand how important this is, which is why we value UI just as much as we do UX. Here are a few tips we’ve used to help clean up bank app interfaces:

Poor content hierarchy

Content organization is a role for both the UX of an application and the UI. Determining the type of content display, and the order in which it’s displayed is pivotal in UX design, while UI design will bring that experience to life using visual hierarchy. Visual hierarchy is based on the Gestalt theory which examines the perception of elements in relation to each other and shows how people tend to unify elements into groups using size, contrast, proximity, negative space, and other design techniques.

content hierarchy in a banking app

Crammed screens

Order makes everything more comprehensible. The same works with user interfaces of digital products. Make sure the focus of the UI is clear and minimized. Don’t cram lots of unnecessary text that doesn’t help the consumer accomplish their task. Don’t bombard them with too many actions to choose from.

comprehensible screens for banking app

Illegible text

Accessibility is mandatory. Make sure all content is legible and follow contrast & size guidelines.

illegible text banking app

 

Make sure actionable items look interactive.

For mobile devices, Google Android and iOS have guidelines on how large a touch-area should be so that any finger large or small can tap an interactive element with ease. Make sure these guidelines are being met.

Make sure actionable items look interactive banking app

large a touch-area should be so that any finger large or small can tap an interactive element with ease on banking app

 

Make sure the interfaces have visual cues as to which elements are actionable or not. Keep in mind that depending on the type of action; hold, swipe, tap, etc— that the correct commonly understood visual cues are being used.

What did you think about these design tips? We’d love to hear your feedback!

Ready to increase user satisfaction in your app? Connect with us here.

 

 

Samantha Carbonell

Samantha Carbonell

UI/UX Designer

In addition to traveling all over the world — China, Thailand, Korea, Germany, Amsterdam, and El Salvador — Samantha has experience working overseas in Japan. While living in Okinawa, Japan, she freelanced as a graphic designer for a transportation company, tasked with finding a creative solution for encouraging a younger audience to use the bus system. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, Sam holds a degree in Graphic Design. Inspired by modern, simplistic design, she adds an aesthetic and conceptual quality to all branding material she creates.

Four Retail Inventory Management App Best Practices

Four Retail Inventory Management App Best Practices

Starting Your Inventory Management App Off Right

When designing a retail inventory management app, it’s crucial to do a lot of heavy lifting in the preliminary stages of design to ensure that the transition from the client’s old system to their new retail app is seamless, intuitive, and incorporates just what they need to get the job done right. From concept to delivery, the retail inventory app design process requires research, attention to detail, inspiration, testing, and refining. By keeping the following tips in mind during the design process, you can be sure to deliver a quality app that your client and their employees will love. Here are four best practices to develop an effective retail inventory management app:

  1. Do Your Homework on the Client’s Needs
  2. Find out What the App Users Need
  3. Create an Inspired, Intuitive Design
  4. Test Your Design, and Redesign as Necessary

Now, let’s look at each best practice in more depth.

Best Practice 1.) Do Your Homework on the Client’s Needs

Prior to diving into a design project, it’s important to ask the right questions in order to understand 1) why the business prioritized this project, 2) the process/tasks employees are being asked to do, and which parts are the most challenging, and 3) how the system (including APIs) works in order to design around limitations or suggest changes accordingly. These questions are crucial, along with other obvious questions, like what equipment/device does the client foresee using, how many stores do they have, how many employees will be using this solution, who has admin privileges, and how will admin use differs from that of general employees? This initial info-gathering stage is key in the design process because having the team and the stakeholders “in the know” is necessary when making a polished, efficient, and effective app that everyone is proud of.   design_agile_shockoe

Best Practice 2.) Find out What the App Users Need 

Once you’re confident with the client-provided requirements data, the interview process should transition from the stakeholders to their employees. Sitting behind a screen, it can be easy to gloss over seemingly minor details, but those minor details can impact the people on the other end and affect their job performance daily. By focusing on details such as how the user will input data to the app and how they will maneuver around in it, you will be able to design a new system that will be effective and intuitive for all users and will replace outdated systems that might require quirky shortcuts and workarounds. Vital to this step is gathering client data, studying the data, and researching and implementing said research, all the while incorporating your interview results with the employees/users. If you don’t understand their procedures, keep the dialogue going until you understand their daily routine, in order to provide them with the solutions they’re looking for. app-user-needs

Best Practice 3.) Create an Inspired, Intuitive Design

Once you have all the details worked out, start working out the app flow. Put the pen to the paper, the markers on the whiteboard, and let the heavy brainstorms pour inspired innovative ideas. This process will require multiple iterations and failures so you can reach the holy grail of design solutions for your client. In order to achieve this level of design fruition, you will need to research design trends (Pinterest, Dribbble, Behance), your client’s app (if they have one), and their competitors’ apps (if they have them). Expand your design horizon outside of your comfort zone. Don’t be satisfied with safe designs; mediocre designs don’t break any new ground or impress clients. That being said, try not to reinvent the wheel either. It’s great to have inspiration, but it’s up to you to be innovative while also staying intuitive. user stories - inventory management app

Best Practice 4.) Test Your Design, and Redesign as Necessary

Now that you have shiny, impressive, and modern designs, it’s time to test. Your design has to exceed expectations. So, even though you’ve interviewed a variety of people, researched every corner of Google, and spent countless hours in Sketch, Xd, or your design app of choice, you still need to test the app out. The testing results will likely incur some redesigns, as any good test would. It’s important to ensure that the user flow makes sense, which is why you’ll test your prototypes with the client’s employees. Remember, these employees are the experts in their job field. They know what they need to complete their job successfully and what will make their day-to-day work routine more efficient. Listen to their every complaint, concern, and compliment. Redesigns can be fun. They often make us rethink what we thought we knew or understood. This could be a eureka moment for a designer, their team, and possibly the client. At most, it should only require some simple, but effective, design tweaks in order for the user to know what’s what. So tweak away, tighten it up, and bust out of your design bubble. Find the sweet spot everyone’s looking for and apply your groundbreaking ideas to your designs. Finally, make sure any, and I mean any, users will know how your designs work—intuitively.

inventory-management-app

Key Points for Retail Inventory Apps 

Be sure to keep these points in mind when designing an app for retail inventory solutions:

  • Listen: The stakeholders typically have a good idea of what they’re looking for.
  • Answer these essential questions:
    • Why does the business (client) want this inventory app? Know their KPI (Very important!)
    • How does the system currently work? (APIs and integration)
    • What are the client’s current pain points? (This is where we can REALLY help, by improving on what doesn’t currently work.)
    • What works? (What do employees like about the current system?)
    • What type of equipment are you designing the inventory app for? (What type of device will employees use to access the app? Will they need a sling or a harness if they’re unloading a truck?)
    • What is the client’s budget? (A necessary evil.)
  • Follow up. Have constant communication and keep everyone in the loop. Interview the client’s employees to make sure you’re including everything they need to do their job well.
  • Prototype your designs, and see what works and what might need to be tweaked or rethought to make the app intuitive and easy to use.
  • There’s always room for improving the design until you get it right.

Look Towards the Future Once your super-powered retail inventory app is developed, there will be updates, which require continued communication between you and the client. It’s your job (and ours) to help clients succeed. When our clients are successful, so are we. Together, we can conquer the world—one app at a time. Editor’s Note:  If you’re interested in reading about our most recent work for a retailer, check out A.C. Moore Case Study and the Inventory Management App our team has created for this retailer’s team. Watch the full Case Study Video for A.C. Moore below. ac-moore-inventory-management-app-video

The Impact of Progressive Web Apps on Mobile Customer Engagement

The Impact of Progressive Web Apps on Mobile Customer Engagement

App experiences are very different today depending on whether or not users are accessing the app on a web browser or on their devices; users expect different interactions when coming from Google Chrome or the Apple App Store. With Progressive Web Apps, or PWAs, businesses are hoping to start to blend these expectations in an effort to focus on accessibility and a lower cost of entry.

A Place for PWAs

With global businesses, the expectations of what network speed users have access to for consuming their content with can be increasingly diverse; with users in Qatar, the fastest country by average, having a 62 Mbps average download speed and users in India, a country with a massive amount of phone users, averaging around 9 Mbps. This means that businesses that spend marketing and design dollars are tailoring to an audience that will not accept a mobile experience taking over 3 seconds to load, potentially losing users in the time it takes to load.

PWAs take this challenge head-on by being more lightweight, improved and advanced caching, and generally focusing on performance over an expansive app experience. PWAs are both a result of mobile-focused web design and a new output of leveraging important new processes that allows for an experience closer to a native app.

What is the PWA experience?

When a user accesses a website that is capable of delivering a PWA, the user will be asked if they’d like to add the site to their device’s homepage. Once the site has been added to their device, it will appear via an icon like any other native application, and, when opened, will not use a browser bar or any other menus you would expect from a browser. From here, a user can interact with the PWA as they would a native app, essentially not showing a difference between the mobile site and the native app. Once installed, businesses can still offer user-tailored content, send push notifications to the user, and track their activity via analytics tools. Also, unlike when using a mobile browser, PWAs can offer experiences offline by caching content and interactions, similar to if a user opened a native app when offline.

Who has made PWAs?

Social media and e-commerce easily have experienced the bulk of success with adding PWAs because of their ability to foster offline engagement which is often a limitation of native applications. Because native applications are limited by their connectivity for access, PWAs are able to serve customers who are unable to access native applications and increase retail sales due to brand loyalty, recognition, and access to the e-commerce provided in the native application. Some examples of successes in Progressive Web Applications include Starbucks, Alibaba, Lancome, Net-a-Porter, Lilly Pulitzer, and West Elm.

The Benefits of a PWA

The benefits of building a progressive web application hinge on spreading access to content as widely as possible. That’s why the retail space has seen so much success: coupling brand loyalty with wider access means more sales. Ultimately, building a PWA in conjunction with a native application widens the access to e-commerce and communication, broadens customer engagement and brand loyalty, and assuages connectivity concerns from a greater audience. Further, updates can be pushed automatically without updating through an app store, which means you can make updates to your user experience without having to wait for a full app store approval and release which is crucial around your brand campaigns. A progressive web application frees up space on a a mobile or tablet device, and, with being so lightweight, they are fast and responsive as well.

The Drawbacks of a PWA

PWAs don’t come without their limitations, however. For PWA success, a certain degree of brand recognition and loyalty along with cross-platform engagement is necessary. Further, Android devices really only have the capabilities of saving a PWA to the home screen while iOS is limited to the responsiveness of Safari.

Is a PWA for you?

Ultimately, PWAs are best suited for the retail space where brand recognition and loyalty is already present and there is a degree of omni-channel presence and customer engagement. A quick survey of the brands with successful and profitable PWAs would indicate just that: they have some sort of native application, an e-commerce presence, and wide brand recognition.

Ellen Weaver

Ellen Weaver

Strategic Account Manager

Ellen Begley Weaver is a Strategic Account Manager who shirked the traditional career path after law school and leapt fearlessly into the tech industry. A barred attorney and a Georgia Peach, she enjoys the challenges that come with shaking up industry precedent and embracing what people really want or need through conversation. While not working, she enjoys hiking and swimming in the James River with her husband and two dogs, pouring a pint for friends at Buskey Cider, and swimming on an amateur synchronized swimming team called the River City Magnolias.

What to Expect in iOS 12 and Android 9 ‘Pie’

What to Expect in iOS 12 and Android 9 ‘Pie’

Organizations in the market for new mobile solutions should find plenty of ideas to play in the recent introduction of Android 9 ‘Pie’ and the release of iOS 12. But what really stands out are the UX improvements which elevate your app’s potential to delight the end user with greater depth, efficiency, and personalization. Here’s a breakdown of some of our favorite features.

Voice Recognition and Shortcuts

  •  Siri Shortcuts (iOS 12)

Such personalization will be a hallmark of the new capabilities of Siri, by now a comfortably ubiquitous name yet historically an unfortunate mixed bag of wonkiness and frustration for Apple and their customers. Fortunately, Siri Shortcuts will analyze individual user behavior within your apps to add highly visible shortcuts in lock screen and spotlight. App owners can elevate the visibility of their product by donating shortcuts, increasing usage and platform efficiency. And a much-beleaguered, highly overdue addition – voice commands can now perform multiple tasks in one dictation.

  • App Actions (Pie)

Android introduces a feature to help position your app’s capabilities where and when the user needs them.  With App Actions, each function of your app meets an immediate want or need, upping your value proposition and visibility.  Plug in your headphones, and see your audio app come to life. Search for a film, and see your app shortlink to purchase tickets.

 

Notifications

  • Notification Grouping and Deliver Quietly (iOS 12)

With the barrage of attention-hoarding notifications our modern devices can parade, some of us might be wishing for a bit more organization in the all the chaos. Cue iOS 12’s ability to group notifications from the same person/app/source together, with the lead notification/message tappable to display the rest of the notifications neatly lined up behind. A further touch is the ability to ‘un-group’ by app through tagging specific notifications with a thread-ID, letting the user control more than ever the who, what where and when of their mobile experience. ‘Deliver Quietly’ scraps the home-screen and banner clutter altogether, making the notification center home base for the user’s desired alerts.

  • AI Auto Response and Notification Drawer (Pie)

Greatly enhanced machine-learning capabilities in both iOS and Android’s updates have allowed for some nice touches. AI-generated auto responses, gleaned from user behavior, will appear in the notification drawer on lock screen suggesting intelligent replies to messages (without even opening the app!). Those who dream of a device that knows their whims will revel in largely finger-free messaging on the fly when a quick yet accurate response is all that’s needed. Furthermore, hurried or unfinished replies in the drawer are saved and archived for sending at a later time. Images, stickers, and past messages will all be drawer-accessible with the ability to both send and receive them.

 

Augmented Reality

  • ARKIT 2 and CORE ML (iOS 12)

Apple is seeking to maintain pace with Google in AR and machine-learning improvements, unleashing their new tools for a higher level of development of AR apps and games as well as an increased efficiency in machine-learning. 3D objects now predominate in built environments, with shapes and sizes of furniture, toys and other items detectable. Universal Scene Description (created with PIXAR) allows the sharing of AR objects across multiple platforms. CORE ML’s enhanced machine learning facilitates developers in making their own machine-learning models more customizable and tailored to the app owner’s unique needs. Apple’s ‘Natural Language Framework’ bolsters natural language processing tasks even further. These enhancements are fueled by A12 Bionic, Apple’s next generation Neural Engine chip (powering their sleek new X-line below), which promises to intelligently increase speed and functionality to a whole new level.

 

Notch Support

  • Android P Notch Support (Pie) and Watch (iOS)

By maximizing the user interface, Android P Notch Support gives your app an edge on modern phone displays. A mainstay since Apple’s iPhone X (and now the new standard with Apple’s X-line, above), Notch display support for Pie cuts your app’s content to it’s most visually appealing layout on the latest phones. Developers can test a display cutout on any device, giving your app seamless, personalized integration into the user interface. What’s more, the new 4th gen iWatch from Apple with iOS 5 will deliver an expanded display for your app to flourish as wearables continue to evolve and dominate the mobile landscape.

The array of imaginative tools and improvements from both Apple and Android’s latest present a great case to update your apps.  If you’re in the market for a new product, or just want to seize the moment to leverage some seriously cool new features, consider these updates your impetus.  The most valuable asset in a UX is the user, and by putting them in the driver seat with your app’s new personalized capabilities and intelligence, you’ll edge them even closer to going mobile, first, every time.

 

Alejandro Otanez

Alejandro Otanez

COO

Alex has more than 10 years of international experience in Strategic IT Transformation and Custom App Development. His expertise in various industries ranges from Consumer Goods to Retail to Finance while assisting clients in the areas of Business Strategy & Development, Security & Compliance, and Technology Transformation. As one of Shockoe’s founding members, Alex is focused on business strategy, security & compliance, digital innovation, mobile management, and operational transformations.

The Impact of Emerging Technologies on Business: 2018 Report

The Impact of Emerging Technologies on Business: 2018 Report

Virtual reality and augmented reality are two of the most innovative technologies to gain mainstream traction over the past several years. These nascent media have taken content cues from the related fields of cinema and video gaming: that is to say that a significant amount of the content has been devoted to the purpose of consumer entertainment. However, businesses have identified other compelling use cases for these media that are all largely focused around the concept of utility.

 

Put simply, digital interfaces have the capacity to function as useful tools, and some of these tools make work easier, faster, safer, and more efficient. (For a more significant breakdown of the concept of utility apps, check out this post from Shockoe COO Alex Otañez). In the case of VR and AR, companies have been embracing these unique tools as a means of improving operations for a variety of use cases, all stemming from unique affordances inherent to the media themselves. I would encourage anyone who has read this far to download the full report posted below — while this post is a great start, the downloadable PDF provides a much deeper dive into technologies and use cases of how emerging technologies are impacting businesses and operations in 2018.

Download the Report

Adoption Outlook

In a 2018 survey from immersive technology research group VR Intelligence, companies reported significant growth of VR and AR technology in both consumer and enterprise applications. In fact, 38% of respondents reported strong or very strong growth in VR for enterprise, and 43% reported strong or very strong growth in AR for enterprise. Additionally, enterprises have reported a significant intention to invest in immersive technology, with 61% citing VR and 58% citing AR as high priority business areas.

On the surface, it may seem that many companies are attempting to stay relevant in an increasingly competitive landscape. However, the powerful benefits of these new interaction methods can, in many cases, result in a significant benefit to the business in a variety of departments and across many different industry verticals. While respondents in education, AEC (Architecture / Engineering / Construction), and Manufacturing indicated the greatest adoption of XR tech, it is becoming clear that significant use cases exist for everything from health care, to banking & finance, to retail. The most commonly integrated use cases include:

  • Product Design & Prototyping
  • Sales, Marketing & External Communication
  • Manufacturing
  • Workforce Collaboration & Internal Communication
  • Training & Knowledge Retention
  • Educational Learning.

The common thread throughout all of these use cases? Utility.

Understanding the Medium

Implementation of immersive media must begin with developing a clear understanding of the affordances and constraints of the medium itself. For both VR and AR, you are interacting with objects and environments that are three dimensional. For VR, the user is placed into that environment and interacts from within. For AR, the user maintains a sense of their true environment and places and manipulates objects within it. Both media afford the user a true sense of the following:

  • Sense of Size – The actual dimensions of a given object or space.
  • Sense of Scale – How large something is in comparison to the user, or other objects.
  • Sense of Distance – The actual distance covered.
  • Sense of Proximity – How near or far something is to a user or another object.
  • Sense of Materiality – The color, texture, and material type of a given object, and how it is affected by changes in lighting.

In addition, VR affords the addition of:

  • Sense of Presence – The feeling of “being there.”
  • Sense of Ambience – What the character and atmosphere of a space are like when all of the previous factors are taken into consideration. This can include lighting and acoustics in a space.

Understanding these unique affordances of the media can help guide businesses when attempting to identify use cases in the areas outlined in the above section. For example, a true sense of size and scale can help manufacturers use AR to improve their quality assurance process or use VR to iteratively design product in a tactile manner.

Considering the Benefits

It would benefit companies to look to smart speakers as a good example of how a medium’s inherent qualities can enable utility. For example, Google Assistant is a virtual personal assistant (or VPA) that is implicitly designed to offer useful benefits to the user. What makes it groundbreaking is the fact that voice interaction is so natively ingrained in day-to-day user interactions. Native language communication is one of the earliest developmental milestones for us as humans. As such, it is an interaction method that is largely heuristic, allowing users to interact in a natural manner to engender the desired outcome. In other words, the affordances of the medium itself make it more useful.

Virtual reality and fully spatialized augmented reality possess a similar quality. Even before we develop language, we develop fine motor skills in order to interact with the world around us. Picking up and manipulating objects is one of the greatest evolutionary benefits we have as a species. It has allowed for the development of tools, which has in turn allowed for the development of complex societies. Despite this, many traditional digital two-dimensional interfaces are limited in their tactility, forcing the user to operate in a rectilinear environment consisting only of an X and a Y axis. That’s not to diminish the value of two-dimensional interfaces—GUIs and touch-enabled mobile devices have been among two of the most groundbreaking societal advances. Yet, there are still certain tasks that might be better accomplished through three-dimensional interaction. By understanding the nature of immersive media, businesses can build useful applications that were previously impossible, thus improving accuracy, efficiency, connectivity, and mobility.

Want to read more? Download the Full report

To learn more about how emerging technology is improving the way that businesses operate, download the 2018 Shockoe Emerging Outlook Report.

Download the Report
Dan Cotting

Dan Cotting

Director of Immersive Technology

With over a decade of customer and user experience strategy under his belt, Dan Cotting is Shockoe’s Director of Immersive Technology and resident “future-tech-crazy-person.” Dan fully believes that virtual and augmented reality will pave the way for an entirely new approach to business operations: improving the lives of both employees and consumers, while simultaneously increasing business efficiency and productivity. When he isn’t dreaming about this “Ready Player One” future, Dan spends his free time playing bass guitar, practicing 18th century photographic techniques, brewing beer, and enjoying time with his wife Kelly and son Marshall, and their five rescue pets. He holds a B.S. from Boston University and an M.S. from Virginia Commonwealth University.

An Intern Project to Drive Good: Feed Racer

An Intern Project to Drive Good: Feed Racer

What is Feed Racer?

Feed Racer is a competitive food donation app built to help FeedMore in its mission to help provide in-need Virginia families and individuals with food supplies  — it’s a race to win where everyone wins.

A two-fold project: learning and helping

This summer, Shockoe put together a comprehensive intern program focused on the delivery of a fully developed application to drive a community initiative. Mason, Rebecca, Misty, Paulina, and the many members of Shockoe structured the project as well as our professional growth around a project with clear direction and purpose. Our intern project ultimately took shape as we conceived, designed, and developed an app to help bridge donors and the food bank in the Richmond area.

Research & Rationale

During the discovery phase, we met with on-site with FeedMore, one of the major food banks in central Virginia. They taught us about their donation, collection, storage, and delivery processes and how they plugged into the pantry network — an expansive operation that exists on a scale much larger than we had expected.

FeedMore’s largest obstacles were centered around food donations, money, and time (i.e. volunteering). We learned that FeedMore’s largest wins come when more people engage by giving back, in one way or another.

So we jumped on our research and investigated creative ways to engage people in this context. We began drafting up methods focused around playful competition which incentivize camaraderie around shared goals and driving desired donation behaviors.

Design & Development

We chose a race-centered theme because we believed that collecting food should feel more impactful and playful. Feed Racer promotes gamification, repeat involvement, and participation versus typical food drives that people forget after one-and-done donation.

Our core features include:

  • Race Dashboards
  • The ability to create races
  • Customizing races
  • Building teams
  • Fuel points (collected from actual donations)
  • Total fuel score (calculated from total donations from specific food categories)
  • Leaderboards
  • Recent donations

The team with the highest accrued fuel score at the set finish date will be crowned the winner of the race.

Future Vision

With our limited time frame we left some open ends on the project we hope to wrap up in time. A future roll out of Feed Racer will integrate rewards and badges where users can keep track of their progress, “lap battles” to incentivize donating specific items (a great option for FeedMore when supplies of a specific category are low). Last but not least, we hope to improve user, or “captain” in this case, permissions to allow more effective moderation of ongoing race.

We are optimistic that our project can be an impactful concept to help promote community initiatives around food donations. We are thankful to have had a chance to work through countless research, strategy, wireframes, designs, and development and giving us the insight to understand what it takes to create not just an application, but a method of engaging donors with the mission of a non-profit. We look forward to seeing it fully in action in the not-distant future!

Olya Polishchuk

Olya Polishchuk

Marketing Coordinator

Olya Polishchuk is a two-year Shockoe team member and the force behind the company’s marketing efforts. Her passion for content generation, promotion strategy, and inbound marketing are only matched by her love for her two dogs Beamka and Mars. Olya is a Ukranian native fluent in Russian, and in her spare time enjoys music, art, travel.