From Creative to Tech: 5 Lessons for Mobile Development Project Management

From Creative to Tech: 5 Lessons for Mobile Development Project Management

shockoe-project-manager-Rebecca-mobile-development-project-managementMy journey into Mobile Development Project Management was almost accidental. I started my career in television production, first as a producer on a reality TV show and then jumping into production at a large advertising agency, helping to create television, radio, and video projects for national brands. But after six years of production, I started gravitating more towards the internal management of teams rather than organizing shoots and productions. I decided to give project management a try, and from the minute I felt the warmth in my heart of seeing my client’s multi-media campaign scheduled out across all deliverables, I knew I was home.

When I made the jump to a tech firm six months ago, I discovered several stigmas placed on project managers at creative agencies:

  • They don’t know agile, having worked in a decades-old process that is viewed as slow, clunky, and requiring several layers of approval.
  • They’re only used to working on large, expensive projects, and are unable to follow a tight budget.
  • They’re “snobs” if the work can’t win a snazzy industry award that looks good on a shelf, they’re not interested.
  • They don’t know digital or tech, and they can only work on traditional media (TV, radio, print).

But while there’s some truth and mostly fiction in all of these stigmas, I believe that my experience at that large, clunky agency has given me important lessons and ideas that I incorporate into my mobile development project management on a daily basis. And as more advertising agencies move into 2018 and beyond, agile is becoming more than just a buzzword; consultancies must incorporate more SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle) mobile project management techniques in order to stay competitive and meet their clients’ needs.

With that, here are five lessons I learned that can be helpful to project managers and team leaders in advertising/marketing and tech:

1. Process should help the work get out faster, and evolve and improve it over time
Agile has become something of a buzzword in advertising, and for good reason. Clients are getting frustrated with the time and cost it takes to get work done. But consultancy creatives have several fears about the agile process: that you can’t quantify the time it takes to get the “big idea,” that clients won’t be able to see work in progress throughout and envision the final product, that daily stand-ups would become too much of a time-suck, and that traditional teams should be structured as a copywriter and art director. A large hurdle for an advertising consultancy to get over is to view the work as an evolving piece, and not a finished product. Sometimes that means releasing something to the client or the public if it’s not finessed to the nth degree, or if it has minor bugs. If you’re constantly updating, engaging, and storytelling, then the focus is more on the brand’s journey over time, and less on one 30-second TV spot. Consultancy teams would also benefit from the structure and accountability that a daily stand-up can provide. Responsibilities are made clear, each employee is accountable for the progress and completion of their own work, and the small team is united in their singular mission of getting the work done. And while Project Managers in both industries keep a full list of functionality or deliverables, tech PMs have more of a voice around Sprint Planning, and work with their clients and team members to determine priorities around features, and keep a fluid backlog of “nice to haves” depending on time and budget.

2. Design should improve the experience, not just impress other industry folks
Software Development Life Cycle Mobile project managementAwards are a necessary evil for any consultancy. They’re motivating for employees and serve as PR and sales tools, attracting new clients and making them aware of the consultancy’s work. But one criticism of a creative consultancy is that work is often done for the sole purpose of winning an award, and not serving the consumer. Yet tech companies may often lean in the opposite direction, where design is sacrificed at the expense of functionality and performance. There is a lesson to be learned from both. There is always a place for impeccable design, but its end goal should be to improve the user experience and solidify the consumer’s impression of the brand. As a project manager, that means involving UX/UI designers and developers throughout the lifespan of a project. My most successful projects have started in a room where a designer and developer are both throwing ideas up on the board, and continue collaborating on functionality, navigation, and UX throughout the process, even in QA. But that’s not meant to undercut the importance of a developer because all the smoke and mirrors in the world can’t hide something that doesn’t actually work. This is why in the agile process, we’re not presenting a PDF to the client, we’re presenting a functioning piece of technology. The code isn’t just the “back end” it’s as much of a client-facing deliverable as a design presentation and needs to be as clean, thorough, and documented as the slickest consultancy deck.

3. Strategic Planning can set a foundation for development too
The best advertising campaign is built upon a solid strategic foundation, and a mobile app or tech project should be no different.Functionality shouldn’t be added just because it’s a hot trend– it should make sense for the overall brand and their consumer, and deliver on a business problem the same way a piece of advertising would. One takeaway that a tech company can glean from a creative consultancy is the importance of a creative brief that’s rooted in the overall brand strategy. If the design is always driven by strategy in addition to the normal technical requirements, your projects will never feel like just a string of new functionality with no big picture in sight– which is frustrating for UX/UI designers and developers alike. While sometimes our clients in IT aren’t privy to the marketing plans and decisions of their brands, it’s our jobs to help them create a strategic plan and roadmap that bridges that relationship and creates consistency across all platforms.

4. Saying “Yes” doesn’t mean “Yes, right this minute”
Mobile Development AgencyIn a company meeting recently, our COO Alex was answering questions about timesheets, and stated, “Your nights and weekends should be your own.” I was immediately shocked and felt like applauding (ok maybe I did a little bit). That a statement like that would be shocking speaks to the culture of creative consultancies– you’re expected to be “on call” at all times, and you almost wear your late night and weekend work like a badge of honor. But why? I admit I’m still a bit stumped on this one. Could it be that creatives maintain that conception is not a science, and they can’t predict when lightning will strike? Or that good ideas don’t come until 3 a.m.? Or that marketing clients operate on faster timelines, with emergencies and last-minute media placements popping up quickly? Either way, I have seen some differences after working at a small tech company. UX/UI designers, developers, and project managers all employ “heads-down” tactics that help them to make better use of their time during the day. Also, daily stand-ups and using tools like JIRA and Slack help teams keep tasks prioritized and get work done quickly.

5. But saying “Yes” isn’t a dirty word either
Mobile Development Project Management Creative and Tech One frustration I hear about project managers in IT and tech is that whenever a new idea is raised, the first answer is “No, it’s not in scope.” But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from being an consultancy producer and project manager, it’s flexibility. Saying “yes” is now innate for me, but how do I make sure that we’re protected as a company and not giving away work for free? It’s still a tricky line to walk, but by ensuring my estimates have room for any bugs or issues that naturally occur in development, I can give us and our clients enough space to get it right, not just done. At that point, a new ask from my client begins a conversation: Is this the right piece of functionality for this release, and will the timing work? Will it make this release that much better, that it is worth the extra hustle? With those questions answered, now we can address the budget: How are we doing overall on our hours? Do we have room to add in extra work, or would this addition cause us to go over? By treating a new ask from a client as a conversation and opportunity instead of a disruption, we can reach the goal that’s shared by creative and tech project managers alike: to create work that we all can be proud of.

 

Note from Editor: 

Our team is all about sharing our “lessons learned” and techniques, here are a couple of other blogs that we think you may find interesting:

Ensure Success with the Right Mobile App Delivery

4 Tips in Designing a Retail Inventory Management App

5 Ways Shockoe Supercharged Mobile Workflow

3 Tips to Start Using Motion in Design

Points for Style

Points for Style

It’s been years, but I can still remember my lab partner’s frustrated exclamation clearly. “It’s not a rule. It doesn’t matter!”, let out in response to seeing the results of our automatically graded submission of a program in a mid-level Computer Science course. Our work was functionally perfect, but the grading tool had subtracted several points over incorrect indentation size and other various style errors. He was right, technically, as we had adhered to the implementation requirements and using our program would produce indistinguishable results from our classmates’, but the faculty had chosen to take a stand. They chose to force us to care about style, or at least notice it. They chose to enforce a few basic style guidelines at a time when it seemed irrelevant, a time when we did the vast majority of our programming as a single developer in a vacuum. I’m not going to say I saw the light immediately, and I don’t remember a single student arguing in the system’s favor early on. I did, however, adopt good habits that I would later come to be thankful for when I learned what is a shocking truth for many young devs:

Style is not extra credit. Style matters.

Now the vacuum is gone and there is no auto-grader, just a group of incredibly smart fellow developers whose time is valuable and sanity should be protected. I’ve been a strong advocate of vigilant style practices for quite a while, but Shockoe turned out to be a place where justification for that is omnipresent. Due to the nature of our business, every developer makes contributions to a wide array of codebases, and has a hand in reviewing even more. We’ll wrap up a project and deliver it to the client, who then shows it off to the rest of the company and stakeholders. Soon we get feedback… management loved it! And guess what, they want a bigger, better phase 2! This is fantastic news, but it’s time to start planning, and “bigger and better” usually means additional resources. That means bringing new developers onto the project. Getting up to speed on a project quickly is a crucial skill for us, and we want to make that transition as smooth as possible. A little extra time considering style and writing cleaner code up front could make the difference between the next developer brought on grasping it instantly or spending an entire afternoon pulling their hair out.

Every new developer at Shockoe, usually on their very first day, is invited to a repository where an internal fork of the Idiomatic.js style guide lives and asked to study it. We have eyes on each others code constantly. Every user story is a pull request that gets reviewed, critiqued, and signed off on by a coworker.

I’ve known a lot of developers to be hesitant to request stylistic changes to another’s code, and I shared those feelings once too. It can feel like you are pointing out insubstantial issues, or that style is a personal choice and you might offend them. What we need to remember is that we are all trying to improve. If another developer reviews my work and thinks “I would write this differently” then I want to hear how. Several times, seemingly minor comments or questions have sparked a discussion that roped in multiple colleagues and left us all writing better code.

So don’t be satisfied with code that gets the job done. Strive for code that actively helps the next dev down the line, that they will thank you for, because when that time comes, you could be on another project, thanking someone else in kind.

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The Hour of Code Virginia featuring Shockoe.com

The Hour of Code Virginia featuring Shockoe.com

The ‘Hour of Code’ is a nationwide initiative by CSEdWeek and Code.org to introduce computer programming to 10 million students and encourage them to learn programming. This one-hour introduction to computer science is designed to demystify code and show that anybody can learn the basics.

CodeVA has partnered with Code.org to host this year’s ‘Hour of Code’ in Richmond, VA. CodeVA is committed to expanding public school computer science offerings all across Virginia. They are grateful for the partnership they have developed with Code.org and look forward to making computer science education a reality for all Virginia children and for all Virginia communities.

Shockoe.com is excited to be joining CodeVA this year at the Science Museum of Virginia on December 9th at 10am. Shockoe is a cross-platform mobile app development company specializing in native and mobile web apps. We focus exclusively on the design, engineering, and development of mobile apps and their integration with backend administrative systems. Please stop by our information table between 10:00am and 12:00pm. We’d love to meet you and answer any questions you might have.

For more information about the event, visit Code Virginia

Shockoe Helps Homes.com House Hunters Find Perfect Rental

Shockoe Helps Homes.com House Hunters Find Perfect Rental

Mobile technology is changing the fundamental interactions between business and customers in meaningful ways not foreseen a decade ago.  Even a traditional business model, like car rentals, has been disrupted by a rapidly expanding company with what seemed a niche idea, due to the flexibility that mobile technology gives consumers.

Why can’t the same principle apply in the home rental space?

Homes.com is part of the fifth-largest real estate listing portal network with over three million homes represented in the United States and that’s the question that they asked us at Shockoe.com.

Since then, we have been working with Homes.com to enchance their collection of iOS and Android apps.  One of the first joint projects was released on October 16th to great acclaim.  Homes.com’s industry knowledge guided the thoughtful design and solid codebase that Shockoe supplied and the brand new Homes.com Rental app is averaging 4.9 out of 5 in the Google Play Store and 5/5 stars on the iOS App Store in just a week’s time.  And as a recent study showed, app ratings are now more critical to rankings, thus exposure, than ever before

So how did Shockoe and Homes.com do it?

The new Rentals app was built with today’s sophisticated renter in mind.  The app is the first in the market to offer current commute times for points of interest such as user’s place of employment, gym or shopping, tailoring the app to today’s ever busy consumer.  This of course hits the three keys to mobile real estate: geolocation, geolocation, geolocation.

Now, on-the-go consumers can easily browse an expansive database of rental listings on the Homes.com app, which has built-in extensions to Homes.com’s sister site ForRent.com.  ForRent.com is the exclusive provider of apartment listings on the Rentals app. Homes.com developed the smartphone app for effortless use on both iOS and Android devices and included iOS7 features such as natural navigation gestures.

“With year-over-year rental search traffic growing on Homes.com by more than 514 percent on mobile devices, our first priority in designing the rentals mobile app was to create an optimal shopping experience for renters,” said Brock MacLean, executive vice president of Homes.com. “The new app allows consumers to customize searches, instantly view and save listings, and connect with agents or property managers. Whether a renter is searching for a place to celebrate, create or unwind, the place to find it is Homes.com.”

The mobile app enables potential renters to tap into current listings filtered by user preferences.  Filters run from standards like price, size and type of residence to many extras like fireplaces, parking or (a mobile first for the industry) pet-friendly rentals. Map searches are made simple with slide and tap navigation, all while referencing a geo-targeted map for an easy view of points of interest throughout the search experience.

How did Shockoe create this for Homes.com in such a short timeframe?

From the beginning, Dominion tasked Shockoe with building the revisions in the Appcelerator Titanium codebase to create an amazing user experience across multiple operating systems and devices while improving overall app performance.  Rebuilding a unified codebase for Homes.com within Titanium offered Shockoe.com a chance to make big changes to simple usability and interface aspects of both mobile app experiences. For example, the older version of the mobile app made dynamic selection difficult in the area overview map.

Due to past experience, the Shockoe development team decided a whole new map design was necessary since the map function is a crucial. While it sounds daunting, we know it would end up being a major time saver since the redesign would be built just once in the Appcelerator Titanium toolset.  The new map function would then be instantly reflected across both iOS and Android versions for multiple form-factors and the functionality could be re-used and applied to other projects down the road for Homes.com.

Shockoe has been a longtime partner and evangelist of Appcelerator.  The cross-platform nature of Titanium enables us to meet deadlines and budgets that would be impossible had we designed for each platform separately.  Our experience with Titanium makes an already accelerated schedule even shorter.

We at Shockoe look forward to collaboration with Homes.com and their sister site ForRent.com in coming up with new and interesting ways to help the companies enhance products and tie themselves together in the mobile environment.  With an economical foundation on which to fortify their ability to acquire and cross-sell their customers in the mobile space, look for many more good things to come from the teams at Homes.com and ForRent.com.

How can Shockoe help your business take a great idea and make it a disruptive force in your industry?

Download the new Homes.com Rentals apps – [Google Play] [Apple App Store]

About Homes.com®
As one of North America’s top online real estate destinations, Homes.com® Rentals inspires consumers to dream big. From affordable houses to luxurious estates, condos, apartment rentals and more, Homes.com features nearly 3 million property listings and a user-friendly format, making finding your next home easy. Visitors to the Homes.com blog will find a collection of rich content and posts on DIY projects, painting, organization tips and more, providing the ultimate resource for everything home related. From finding your first apartment to buying your first home, upgrading, downsizing and everything in between, Homes.com is an inspiring and engaging partner in every phase of the home buying or renting process.

Homes.com is a division of Dominion Enterprises, a leading marketing services and publishing company headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia. For more information, visit www.dominionenterprises.com.

About ForRent.com®
As one of the nation’s leading online home search destinations, ForRent.com® inspires renters to discover their next apartment, loft, townhouse, or condo. ForRent.com features rental listings in a user-friendly format, making finding your next home an easy exploration. Visitors to ForRent.com’s apartment living blogFacebook pageTwitter account and Pinterest boards will discover relevant content and can join the conversation surrounding their home decorating style, rental tips and more, serving as the complete resource for renters in every part of their living experience.

Why iOS7 is a Game-Changer for the Enterprise

Why iOS7 is a Game-Changer for the Enterprise

The recent launch of Apple’s new iOS7 has many talking about how the new version of the operating system was the final death knell of Apple’s skeuomorphic roots, but beyond the style and sleekness of the upgrade, the enterprise should see the feature dense iOS7 as a major force in driving enterprises to mobile.

Security has and will continue to remain a major concern for the enterprise, but as Q2ebanking.com’s CSO Jay McLaughlin recently stated, the iPhone is by far the most secure device to try and integrate into the enterprise — as long as users aren’t jail-breaking the device.

“iOS 7 presents new vulnerabilities in the fact it contains new code, technology and features,” McLaughlin told TechRadar.com. “Once discovered, you’ll see new exploits created – many of which would be used for jailbreaking purposes – which inherently breaks and destroys the strength of Apple’s underlying security model for iOS. […] Historically, Apple has tightened its security within iOS with each subsequent release, adding stronger encryption, Data Execution Prevention, ASLR and the new A7 processor’s ‘Secure Enclave.’ As such, when in a non-jailbroken state, the iPhone is one of the most secure consumer devices.”

Here is eight features of Apple’s iOS7 that will change the business world for the better:

Stronger Security through TouchID & Activation Lock

One of the biggest drawbacks of extending the enterprise to mobile is the multitude of security threats to which mobile devices can expose an enterprise.  TouchID made news when in less than a week a computer club in Germany demonstrated there are ways to bypass the TouchID system.

Even so, ComputerWorld’s Michael deAgonia writes that it is still a groundbreaking advancement for mobile.

“I’ve already decided [TouchID] will be a game-changer. In concert with new Activation Lock features in iOS 7 — GPS tracking can’t be deactivated and access to the iPhone is blocked without entering your iCloud username and password, even after a device wipe! — it’s hard to see this as anything but a major win for security.

[…]

The hoops someone would have to jump through to hack into the phone — lifting fingerprints, making a fake print using latex — are complicated, if they even work at all. For me, this doesn’t change its usefulness; it’s just a reminder that no security function is 100% foolproof.”

Weak passwords, disabled security locks and misplaced devices are what keep security-minded companies up at night when thinking about extending mobile in the enterprise.  While not perfect, fingerprint-based authentication in concert with the Activation Lock and device wipe capabilities can allow companies to quickly intervene in a potential security violation before sensitive data is compromised.  Better to wipe a $200 smartphone quickly than expose a business to tens of thousands, or even millions of dollars to a potential data breach while a would-be hacker fiddles with latex fingerprint molds.

Simplicity With Enterprise Single-Sign-On

For the busy folks on the front line delivering packages, checking manifests and entering patient data and all the while jumping between programs to do so, the repetitive authentication for each transaction can become major deterrent in the use of the products, or at the very least the secure use of them.  What if that worker could log into a CRM app and then jump into an order-tracking app without another sign-on?  iOS 7 allows users to take their corporate credentials across apps, even including apps from the App Store. This reduces the need to remember and enter a number of different passwords while also keeping data secure.

Opening Up on Managed Open-In

Would you like an employee accidentally tweeting the Q4 forecast numbers?  Probably not.  Thanks to Managed Open-In, companies can force their employees to open email attachments in specific corporate-managed applications rather than an app of the user’s own choosing.  So, even without a containerization solution to protect corporate data, enterprise information technology departments can keep business data in business-related applications on the mobile device. The business can then dictate to the user the open in options by app or user account, providing a lot of management flexibility.

Private Server Conversations With Per-App VPN

Per-App VPN allows information technology departments much more granularity in access to back-end systems. Only specific apps can gain access to a corporate network, so unmanaged or unapproved apps can never gain access to sensitive data within the enterprise.  As well this restricts the ability to remove data from unapproved applications thanks to Managed Open-In.  This feature greatly improves user experience and firewalls privacy so that non-business data is unable to touch the corporate network.  One of the major benefits to business?  Since this can quickly create barriers between SAP and Facebook, Per-app VPN makes Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) a much more realistic goal for enterprise.

Mobile Device Management Software Made Simple

iOS7 includes a new MDM protocol to streamline third-party MDM solutions.  For large businesses, the need to keep hundreds or thousands of users up to date with supported versions of software can be daunting without management software.  Corporate-owned devices can be automatically enrolled in an MDM solution during activation, automating much of the custom commands, fonts and wirelessly set-up managed apps.

Giving iWork Mobile to Get

Microsoft made a kingdom into an empire by licensing their end-user productivity tools.  Now, just like Google Drive did, Apple is giving away iWork with Cloud capability in their latest release.  This move won’t push blue chip companies to defect in droves from Microsoft’s enterprise licensing program, but for smaller businesses this strategic investment on Apple’s part could help them justify the cost of equipping Apple devices while simultaneously extending on one set of productivity tools between laptop and mobile device.

Keep the “Property” in “Intellectual Property” Through App Store Volume Purchase Program

Enterprises can now buy apps and books for their iPhone and iPad-using employees and keep the to those apps or books to transfer them to other workers. For a handful of users, this might not seem like much, but those 99 cents start to add up quickly when it comes to thousands of users or expensive B2B apps or books or other such pricey materials.  Previously, companies had to go through a painful process of buying redemption codes to hand out to employees to go out and download the apps on their own.

Microlocation through Apple’s iBeacons

Apple’s iOS 7 supports low-cost transmitters that can work with an iPhone or iPad to collect location data, even if there’s no location system installed in a workplace or other environment. The system works over Bluetooth 4.0 and can be used to interact with an environment just by passing through it.

Major League Baseball has been a staunch supporter of the practical for Apple’s new tech for a few years now, and they have been off and running with how to use the iBeacon technology since last winter.  So far, MLB has created an experience to populate a ballpark guides stadium specific information and which prompts users with different results based on where they are located, be it prompting the ticket bar-code at the entrance for the ticket-taker or popping up a coupon for a free soda once one smells the aroma of hot dogs.

“We’ve been looking at customizing the app based on where you are within the stadium, but GPS is notorious for not working indoors, especially when you are in a building made of steel,” MLB iOS developer Marc Abramson told Mashable. “Instead, we are incorporating Apple’s new Bluetooth and iBeacon technologies for iOS 7 and couldn’t be more excited about the potential.”

“Essentially, we want to create micro-locations within the stadiums where you can get different experiences,” Abramson said.

On the factory floor or in a busy transit center this sort of device/environment interplay could change the way the user interacts and experiences their environment.

Endless Possibilities

These eight features are just a few of the many advances that Apple has made with their revolutionary iOS7 product.  Beyond what we wrote about above, there’s plenty more worth mentioning: Multi-Tasking APIs, AirDrop and PDF annotations are but a few.

The advance of mobile technology inside the enterprise will lead to major innovations for businesses and with the introduction if iOS7 large organizations have even less reason to put off extending to mobile.

We wrote months ago that organizations who move quickly but cautiously will be the ones that reap the largest long-term benefit for their business.  That said, Apple has addressed many of the major concerns for caution in the competitive marketplace with the introduction of technologies like Per-App VPN and ESSO.  Extremely secure yet game-changing technology is now available to the enterprise and iOS7 has done enough that smart enterprises will use these security, locational and MDM advances to propel their business forward in the next year with the largest gain at a fractional risk.

Shockoe and Shaka Smart Basketball Camps Team Up

Shockoe and Shaka Smart Basketball Camps Team Up

Any young organization that experiences explosive growth invariably runs into many of the same problems. Building a scalable infrastructure while offering the best customer service are two challenges that faced Shaka Smart Basketball Camps, LLC as they strive to provide the best basketball experience for its campers and parents each summer since 2009 in Richmond, Virginia.

Smart is the head coach of the surging Virginia Commonwealth basketball program, the college basketball Cinderella story of 2011 and the success of his program has driven greater attendance to his summer camps in the Central Virginia region. With the added campers came scalability concerns for the staff in 2011 and 2012 and with more campers in store for 2013, the team had to huddle to come up with a winning result.

The mission of the basketball camp is to “encourage self-esteem and a love of fitness and nutrition” through a fun and informative week-long camp. As part of that mission, the camp’s curriculum teaches its attendees lessons about practical financial responsibility through a camp “bank account” that the children can use to purchase items from one of a number of the camp’s stores.

For Shaka’s staff, registering each camper, tracking who was in attendance each day and the unique challenge of monitoring the balances of each camper’s “bank account” across a five day basketball camp presented problems. Keeping up with the swelling number of campers over the past few years with a paper process found difficult and time consuming.

After last year’s camp, the staff needed a better way to supply right-time account balances, perform inventory control, provide updated balances to the staffers at the camp store and then offer reports for parents to reinforce the camp’s lessons of fiscal responsibility. To accomplish this, Shaka Smart Basketball Camps teamed with us at Shockoe Mobile Application Development to come up with a solution for the staff. To meet the team’s needs, we created a back-end database built to automate inventory control, track camper attendance, and track camper account balances all while providing an intuitive front-end display on iPads for camp staff to quickly learn and efficiently access the system. The devices were then integrated with Square payment software to make payments as simple and accessible as possible.

Last week was the camp’s first of three weeks and was the first real test of how smooth and scalable the application could be for the staff. So how did it work?

With the new application, registration went more quickly, attendance was efficiently tracked and there were no discrepancies in balances at the various camp stores based around the location of the camp, Virginia Commonwealth University’s Siegel Center. Reports were then provided back to parents on how their children spent their allowances during camp for additional reinforcement of sound financial management.

With the new application in-hand, Smart’s staff of administrators and educators were able to focus on what matters most, teaching children the fundamentals of basketball while establishing a healthy lifestyle resulting in a win-win for everyone involved.

ABOUT SHAKA SMART BASKETBALL CAMPS, LLC

Founded in April of 2009, the mission of Shaka Smart Basketball Camps LLC is to encourage high self-esteem and a lifelong love of fitness and nutrition through fun, high-quality basketball instruction and games. The camp provides a wealth of experiences for its attendees including both current and former Virginia Commonwealth University basketball players, youth coaches from around the nation, conditioning experts, medical staff and VCU graduate assistants from the Center for Sports Leadership. This year, the camp will run for three week long sessions providing instruction and learning to hundreds of campers. Learn more about the camp at coachsmart.com.

 

Developing apps for Grandma: Developer, know thy user

If you’ve heard anything about software development in the last five years, you’ve probably heard someone talk about “knowing your user” or “putting the user first”. The massive growth of Apple in the last decade has shone a massive spotlight on relentless user focus and has caused developers at companies large and small to re-think their priorities and put usability first. However, if knowing your user is so important, what do you do when you don’t know or have anything in common with your user?

Recently, we were approached and hired to develop an application for a group of users that fits that description perfectly: non-tech savvy grandmothers and grandfathers. The gist of the app is to make it easier for them to access a specific kind of content that they have on their computers easily and quickly on their smartphones. What makes this task so interesting is that it’s not about facilitating them to do something they can’t already do: a user with any amount of tech savvy could accomplish this task with relative ease. It’s about making it so somebody with almost NO knowledge of the technology they’re using can transfer and easily  access this content with getting overly frustrated.

This task is 100% about knowing your user and catering to their needs by making existing technology more useable. The problem is, I’m a developer, capable of not only using difficult applications, but creating them from scratch. I pride myself on being a mid-adopter who is in touch with his “how I open Word again?” roots, but going into the project I found myself wondering if I really could adequately put myself in the shoes of someone who thinks opening Safari just opens Google and that Firefox opens the Internet.

So I did the only thing I could do: I talked to my own grandmother, creator of the aforementioned “Safari=Google” theory. She told me about using her computer and what she hates about it, and it was eye opening. She hates the updates and the clutter. She only wants to send and receive email, check her bank account, and use Google and that’s it. If there were 3 icons on her screen: Email with just an in and out box, her bank account, and Google that would be perfect. So even though she CAN access those 3 things from any web browser that exists, that’s not really sufficient: it’s not easy enough and browsers are too cluttered with, well, the internet.

My eyes opened, I now undertake the task of making her vision of simplicity and ease of access a reality, at least for one type of content.  Wish me luck (I’m going to need it).

Coming Soon! CODESTRONG 2012

Shockoe is getting excited about the upcoming CODESTRONG conference and so should you!

This year’s conference will take place from Oct 21st – Oct 23rd at the beautiful InterContinental Hotel San Francisco. CODESTRONG is a great opportunity to connect with the best developers from around the world and learn best practices in mobile development.  If you are not already familiar with Appcelerator’s Titanium platform, then this is a great place to learn from professionals about all the advantages Titanium has to offer its developer base.

Even better, Shockoe is also giving away a free ticket to CODESTRONG ($599 value) if you sign up for both the Building Mobile Native Apps & Advanced Titanium Mobile Development courses at the earlybird rate — so you can leave the Bay Area a certified Mobile/App developer!  Titanium training offer hands-on learning and in-depth tutorials from experienced Appcelerator instructors to give you everything you need to get started developing mobile Apps for you and your business.

Already familiar with Titanium?  Then this is a great chance to advance your knowledge and learn the latest in mobile development and Titanium coding practices from industry leaders. Appcelerator’s CEO Jeff Haynie along with many other notable speakers will be presenting on what to expect in the future of mobile development and how Appcelerator can help you reach your specific goals.  The full list of speakers has been finalized and the schedule is set so you can plan ahead.

Looking to give back and learn by doing?  Experienced and charitable developers can step up and enter the Hack to Help event.  Hack to Help is a Hackathon where over $500,000 worth of mobile apps are distributed to different charities. Participants will be randomly assigned into 12 different teams and will work throughout Sunday night to create an App that will utilize the power of mobile technology to help raise money and awareness for a worthy non-profit.  The teams will have until Monday 9 AM to submit their code and winners will be announced Tuesday.

If you register before September 15th you will save $300! So be sure to act fast on the early bird special to save on both your ticket and your hotel room.

Find out for yourself how CODESTRONG can help your company get the most out of Titanium and register today!

Know Your Business to Know Your App

For a moment, imagine if you owned a hotel chain. If you were going to create a mobile application for phones, should it make the focus on transactions? Should it make the focus doling out coupons and discounts to would-be customers?

You’d think so, right?

Not necessarily if your are the Ritz-Carton Hotel Company.

While the luxury hotel chain’s App does do those things, they certainly are not the focus of the marketing campaign or of the the mobile application itself, according to a recent announcement by Ritz-Carlton. The company has unveiled a new mobile application for Apple iOS and Android smartphones which provides more than just standard hotel searches and reservations. The Ritz-Carlton App highlights a feature for hotel guests called “Presidential Tips” in which Ritz-Carlton president Herve Humler shares his favorite spots, features and unique touches of each and every Ritz-Carlton Hotel from their chain of hotels around the world. It’s like a guided tour by the president, available for every guest in every Ritz-Carlton hotel, available at all times.

Brilliant, right?

“In my role, I am fortunate to be able to visit all of our stunning locations around the world,” said Humler about the App. “I want to enrich the Ritz-Carlton experience for our guests further with details about the things I have found to be quite unique and memorable in my travels. With The Ritz-Carlton App I can now do that very easily and in real-time.”

For even the most seasoned and pampered of luxury travellers, staying at a Ritz-Carlton is still a special experience, so allowing their exclusive clientele some VIP insider information delivered directly to their smartphones can only enhance their experience and will only increase the guest’s likelihood of sharing that experience with others.

The value of the Ritz-Carlton brand is in its luxuriance, its privilege, its uniqueness and its cultural and historical value for each of their properties, sharing those details can be difficult for a fully functioning hotel, even one with the level of service that even Ritz-Carlton affords. But the mobile application has made it very easy to provide more service and enhance the experience while tying right back into the core identity of what Ritz-Carlton is.

This mobile application ties in nicely with the overall exclusivity and luxury of the brand, while giving users reason to continue to use the App as they travel from one city to another to learn more about the company’s offerings, maybe those users will even find a deal or two along the way.

Even luxury travellers like a deal now and again … right?

What is unique about your organization or brand? How can you use that differentiation to your advantage through a web or mobile application? Can Shockoe help you uncover and utilize those key distinctions for your own mobile or web application? Please let us know in the comments, we’re here to help!