App Microtransactions: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

App Microtransactions: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

microtransactions-in-app-purchaseThe concept of app microtransactions is not foreign to consumers of mobile technology in the modern app market. Apps that include or require consumers to submit payment for additional features or add-ons have become the norm. This business model has grown organically as a result of users having a hard time deciding whether or not they should spend their hard-earned money on an app. By making an app free and offering the user the choice to pay for additional features as needed, the barrier to entry for new users to download and use an app has been greatly reduced. This model has its benefits, its downfalls, and its unsightly impact on consumers’ wallets.


The Good  

Developers have immensely benefitted from microtransactions. Developers can more easily test the waters of the market with their apps. Instead of overcoming the hurdle of figuring out whether or not their app is a good idea in the first place, they can create a slimmed-down version of it and release it as a free product. After it has been on the market as a free app for some time, developers can access the potential for the app to have continued success. If the app proves to be working, then they can take the time to implement the rest of the features and release those features at a cost to the current user base in a new update through a microtransaction.

Microtransactions have been most successful in the game app market. Games have an advantage over value product apps in that games are inherently more addictive and entice the user to want to win. Developers have a big opportunity here to add “pay to win” add-ons to help their users win by giving them in-game boosts. These boosts usually come at a small cost for small boosts, and can cost upwards of $100 for larger boost packs. This gives developers the opportunity to make more money than they would with the typical $1.99 to $9.99 price tag of most paid apps on the market.


The Bad

While this model benefits developers, it negatively impacts the quality of apps on the market by requiring a microtransaction to unlock more features. Apps are being released to the market that are not full featured and polished, leaving users with half-made apps and wanting more. While it may benefit developers to release apps on this model, it is unsatisfactory for consumers who look for apps to fit their needs but find that the apps lack the features they want.

It may be that you find a free app on the market that you really enjoy, but unless many others find the same enjoyment in the app as you, the developer might not release an update for it. You wouldn’t want to go out and buy a brand-new vacuum just to come home and find that the one you bought will require you to purchase two or three other attachments in order to vacuum in tight or high places when the packaging claimed it was compatible, right? Apps should not operate this way either, or they will continue to deter consumers from exploring and discovering new apps on the market outside of the mainstream apps that their friends and family use.


The Ugly

microtransactions-the-uglyAdditionally, apps that have success with this model are leaving users with the ugly truth that they will need to sink more and more money into an app to get the most out of it. This practice is particularly prevalent in game apps. As I mentioned earlier about developers having a good opportunity to make money, requiring microtransactions in order for the consumer to be successful in an app exploits the addictive nature of the game, and promises the user that by paying money, they will be able to win. Oftentimes these games involve high scores, and consumers will do anything to beat their peers in order to show that they are superior, whether they pay for the app or not.

Over the past few years, there have been many articles about children who are spending thousands of dollars on in-app microtransactions from games such as Clash of Clans, Candy Crush, Game of War, and others. A child in Belgium who was given a credit card by their mother to buy e-books racked up a total $50,000 worth of microtransaction charges in the game Clash of Clans. Another child in England spent $5,900 on the iPad game, Jurassic World, after memorizing their parent’s password for the App Store. While it can be argued that it is not the microtransactions’ fault for these incidents, it is obvious that microtransactions are enabling this behavior.

Microtransactions have their place in the app market when implemented with consumers in mind. Developers can use them as a tool to allow more freedom in the app-creation process. This way, developers will not be deterred from taking the time to make an app that will not be profitable. Making apps is not a simple process, and the reward of economic benefit helps developers feel better about putting forth the effort to make great apps. Microtransactions just need to be done right, and not with the intent to exploit the consumer. Consumers want to feel good about giving an app a chance and not feel like they are just going to be wasting their time by downloading a free app they can’t use. The amount that consumers can invest in apps should be throttled or deferred into donations for the developers to continue making worthwhile apps.

5 Ways an App can Increase Employee Productivity in Manufacturing

5 Ways an App can Increase Employee Productivity in Manufacturing

While we spend most of our efforts helping clients, there are times where we step back and reflect on the lessons we learn through these endeavors. I spent half of 2017 working with Crown, a leading innovator in world-class forklift and material-handling equipment. Through the course of this time, I personally saw changes confirming the app we were developing truly was a key factor in an increase in their employee productivity.

Through app usage, Crown developed a productivity mindset and removed organizational obstacles to their workforce productivity. The app gives employees the ability to work efficiently, keep their equipment operational, and ensure that tools or parts are readily available. Employees are now more productive because the former structures and processes, that consumed valuable time and prevented them from getting things done, have been replaced. Now, with higher labor throughput and with the same amount of relative work, they are more productive.

With these efforts in mind, I compiled the following five ways an app can increase a manufacturer’s employee productivity.

1. Reduce movement to optimize task efficiency
There are many factors that can contribute to unnecessary, time-consuming movement including ineffective floor layout; temporarily displacing material, information, tools, or people; and inefficient working methods. Movement can be reduced by strategically placing objects and information within an app, giving employees quick and easy access to this information. This can eliminate the need for time-consuming searches and demonstrations. For example, video of how to operate equipment can help employees better familiarize themselves with key information about the operations, which will empower them to make informed decisions that help improve their overall productivity.

2. Improve scheduling and plan for interruptions to reduce bottlenecksblog image - schedule effectively and plan for interruptions
Companies must act quickly when something goes wrong, or when their process must be put on hold momentarily because of a malfunct
ion, rejections, or any other changes that may occur. By having access to real-time information regarding employees, tools, and materials, adjustments and accommodations can be made for interruptions. Establishing the right system enables a company to determine the feasibility of scheduling requests, estimate the impact, and even minimize the impact it could have on production. 

3. Improve equipment reliability
Neglecting to maintain equipment, tools, or software puts the process at risk from unaccounted-for downtime. Furthermore, equipment that is poorly maintained or outdated will affect product quality. By taking a more strategic approach and analyzing performance data for key trends, potential issues can be anticipated and maintenance schedules created to extend the longevity of tools, equipment, and software. An app that displays these maintenance schedules gives employees quick access and keeps them informed on equipment status, enabling them to know which equipment needs repairs and which parts are needed for the equipment beforehand. As a result, there will be plans in place to help avoid disruptions to production due to unplanned downtime.

4. Optimize inventory levels to reduce shortages
It’s difficult to be productive when the proper tools to handle a task are unavailable. Companies need to account for and address short count, unexpected delays, and/or late deliveries. An app with this useful information allows accurate and timely visibility of inventory, keeps users informed on what’s running low, possible issues that might arise, and helps address these issues before they become problems that will affect production. In the cases where the shortages are unavoidable, having this system in place will enable users to account for them and even re-assign resources in the meantime.

5. Automate the processblog image - increase and optimize your inventory
The advancements in robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning has reached, or in some cases 
surpassed, humans in several different work activities. Having an automated process in production, or even part of an existing process can greatly improve the efficiency and productivity of the process. When the gathering and sending of information is automated, the possibility of human error is eliminated, which effectively prevents disruption to workforce productivity.

At Shockoe, we have been helping businesses increase their productivity by implementing these ideas. We even improved our own process by having systems in place to make our process more productive and efficient, so we can deliver an exceptional product to our clients. Our work with Crown has given us insight on how an application can improve a manufacturer’s productivity. By providing functionality like time tracking, inventory and equipment management, parts logs, order checklists, and more, we have successfully improved productivity for Crown’s workforce. Contact us to take the next step toward improving the quality of your company’s processes and productivity today.

4 Tips in Designing a Retail Inventory Management App

4 Tips in Designing a Retail Inventory Management App

When designing a retail inventory application that will streamline a client’s business, 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 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 key points in mind during the design process, you can be sure to deliver a quality app that your client and their employees will love.

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 differ 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.  


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.


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 to 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.


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, user will know how your designs work—intuitively.


Key Points to Remember

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 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 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.

You can also watch the full Case Study Video for A.C. Moore here.

Interested in what it would take to kick off your project?

Our experience and core services include strategy & transformation, user experience & design, mobile application development, and API management.

Debugging Titanium Applications using Safari Web Inspector

Debugging Titanium Applications using Safari Web Inspector

Debugging is one of the most frustrating aspects of software development of any kind – it is also one of the most essential. Finding a malfunction can be time consuming; therefore, it is important to have effective tools that can decrease your debugging time. For Titanium, most of my debugging consisted of log statements and alerts. While this method can be useful, it can also be a little time consuming to rebuild and to log a different variable, collection or model.

One of my coworkers saw me using this log for debugging and suggested an alternative: using Safari Web Inspector. I was very surprised at how easy it was to set up and how effective it can be throughout the process. This one line is all you need to add to your “tiapp.xml” file in your project:


under the <iOS> flag. Unfortunately, this method only works on an iOS simulator. Once you have updated your tiapp.xml, build your project and navigate to the page you would like to inspect. Next you will need to open Safari; if the develop tab isn’t visible you will need to follow a couple extra steps:

Select the Safari tab from that dropdown navigate to preferences then check “Show develop menu in bar.” After the Develop tab is visible you will open the Simulator option and then select JSContext.

This is where all the magic happens. The files where breakpoints can be inserted will be visible on the left panel of the screen. Breakpoints are very convenient for stepping through your code and seeing exactly what is happening. I suggest opening the right panel when the breakpoints are hit. This is where you will find local variables and can also add Watch Expressions. Watch Expressions is the place where you can add the variables that you would like to keep an eye on. You will be able to see and follow each variable through every step of your code.

The bottom console is also a very helpful aspect of this debugger. I use this for taking a look at any model or collection to inspect in detail what they contain. This has been a lifesaver for me. It makes it easy to investigate exactly what is going on with any unexpected behavior with your models or collections.

The safari web inspector has it’s problems and will, from time to time, crash the app – but overall this tool has helped me immensely debugging my titanium apps. It makes it so effortless to nail down exactly where the problem lies. As much as we all want to have flawless code without bugs, they will appear every once in awhile. However, this tool can save you from the frustration those bugs can cause. As I stated before, it is very easy to set up, so jump in and play around with it a bit. Have any questions or comments? Feel free to share your your tricks for debugging. Also, you can find our latest apps and check out our work here.

Editor: In case you need to know other ways we used to debug Titanium Apps, please also check Appcelerator Titanium iOS Debugging with XCode or Rapid Titanium WebView debugging with Chrome Developer Tools


Interested in what it would take to kick off your project?

Our experience and core services include strategy & transformation, user experience & design, mobile application development, and API management.

3 Ways to Improve User Engagement on Your Mobile Solution

3 Ways to Improve User Engagement on Your Mobile Solution

After months of development, your app finally makes it onto the app store. However, a few weeks later, you take a look at the app’s analytics to find an unexpectedly high number of total uninstalls.

Why are users deleting your app and what can you do to improve user engagement?

1. Improve User Onboarding
A crucial, often overlooked process in designing an app is the user onboarding process. User onboarding is essentially the method in which the app introduces itself to a new user. Within the first few minutes of use, your app should make a solid first impression.

– Start the app off with a friendly tour to get the user acquainted with the main features
– Highlight features one at a time – do not overwhelm your user with introductions to all of the features at once
– Place mission critical information upfront and concisely
– Place user values upfront – You want the user to envision how they will be using your app in their day to day life as soon as possible.

Below are a few examples on user onboarding on Winn Dixie. Our UX and UI designers put great care into the onboarding strategy– putting the designs through various critiques and presentations with the client. User Onboarding testing was implemented as early as wireframes.

Winn Dixie app Iphone iOS

Winn Dixie grocery app

Winn Dixie App Grocery

2. Reduce Clicks
Ideally, a user wants to use the least amount of clicks to get to the information they want. Information or features buried into tabs and menus may infuriate users trying to accomplish a simple task. Sometimes the cost of effort may not be worth the payoff for a user.

To resolve these pains, consider bringing in various testers as early as the design phase. Sometimes paper prototypes can be very telling of a user’s engagement of an app based off something as simple as an app’s layout. Reduce the amount of effort a user has to make by designing the method of navigation with well-defined paths.

3. Debug your app

On first glance through reviews of a low rated app, the number one issue reported by users is: the app is buggy and keeps crashing. The bane to any user on any software is one that they can not use properly. Buggy apps can be caused by a multitude of occurrences. Here are the top three reasons why your app may be buggy and bugging your customers away:
– Android or iOS hardware and software have updated causing your app to be out of date
– Uncaught memory leaks
– Weak user testing

Late last year to in anticipation for the release of iOS 10, the Shockoe development team thoroughly prepared by catching up on documentation and thumbing through depreciated features. Apps like 21st Century were given an update to ensure that the app would not be out of date. Changes included improvements to security and touch ups on depreciated UI features.

Test the app thoroughly to find as many bugs as possible and prepare another cycle of development! At the end of development, put the app through another round of testing to ensure that your app is functioning as ideally as possible.

Positive user engagement is essential to maintaining users. While the suggested improvements drive to enhance user experience on your app, be prepared to take note and study of how these methods impact user interaction. Taking a closer look into what propels users to continue to use your app or what you find users interacting the most within your app will greatly help you analyze and improve positive points in your mobile solution.

Interested in what it would take to kick off your project?

Our experience and core services include strategy & transformation, user experience & design, mobile application development, and API management.

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