Google Flutter goes Beta at #MWC18

Google Flutter goes Beta at #MWC18

What is Flutter? 

 

According to Google, Flutter is a mobile UI framework for creating high-quality native interfaces for iOS and Android. As a Google Partner and a company that has focused on building cross-platform mobile solutions for individuals and organizations, it is amazing to see a product like Flutter be released into Beta.

 

Better than other Cross-Platform Solutions

 

First of all, this initiative is backed by Google, which gives it a strong start. Also, the performance and platform integration are seamless and the structure allows us to build at high speed with great performance on both major platforms (iOS and Android.) Sure, there are some bugs and shortcomings, but that is always expected in a Beta version. We are on a trial run and, so far, our team loves it.

 

 

The team at Flutter highlights the benefits best on their Medium Post (Seth Ladd, Product Manager @ Google for Flutter):

 

  • High-velocity development with features like stateful Hot Reload, a new reactive framework, rich widget set, and integrated tooling.
  • Expressive and flexible designs with composable widget sets, rich animation libraries, and a layered, extensible architecture.
  • High-quality experiences across devices and platforms with our portable, GPU-accelerated renderer and high-performance, native ARM code runtime.

 

As a cross-platform mobile application development company, we are very excited about this solution because we can start using it immediately with our current apps. We don’t need to write our complete app in Flutter, we can simply add new Flutter-based screens to existing apps. Flutter is better than most of the cross-platform solutions we use today because it allows us, not only to build for two platforms but to make changes to the source code and see the UI updates in seconds, making the development process significantly faster.

 

If you are interested in learning more about Flutter, please reach out to schedule an informational meeting.

 

google-flutter-goes-beta

 

Mobile World Congress (#MWC18)

 

MWC is one of the biggest events on the mobile calendar. This year, more than in the past, the focus is going beyond our traditional understanding of Mobile Apps and pushing into the connected life or what MWC is calling “Intelligently Connected.”

 

Follow Shockoe to keep up to date on the key themes this year:

 

  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI & ML)
  • Forthcoming 5G & LTE enablement
  • IoT smart city technology and edge computing devices
  • Big data and analytics
  • Technology in society and net neutrality
  • Consumer smartphone and tablet devices

Design Tips to Increase Satisfaction in Banking Apps – Part 1 of 2

Design Tips to Increase Satisfaction in Banking Apps – Part 1 of 2

Retail banking consumers now prefer using their mobile devices more than any other bank interaction, which makes a mobile app a primary component of overall customer satisfaction. With greater ease switching banking providers at a moment of dissatisfaction, banks need to place extra emphasis on keeping their customers happy and loyal. This starts by giving customers the best tools available and a user experience that helps them access and navigate their banking needs without difficulty. Read more about our design tips for banking apps below. 

 

For the first 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.

Any questions surfacing as you read? Give us a ring! You can always connect with us here.

 

Search & Navigation Part 1

Content Part 1

Guidance Part 2, coming soon

Privacy & Security Part 2, coming soon

Appearance Part 2, coming soon

 

 

Search & Navigation

search-navigation-components-of-app-satisfaction

According to J.D. Power, ‘Ease of Navigating’ is the key differentiator among top-performing mobile banking apps. If a consumer can find what they need in the app, this often yields a happy customer. This satisfaction can also impact bank operations by reducing calls to support centers with potentially aggravating wait times.

 

Let’s jump head first into some easily-executed ideas to help improve your app’s search & navigation as early as today.

 

Easy Login

 

Biometric logins such as fingerprint, face, or voice can facilitate a client’s access to their account.

easy-login-biometric-one-touch

Personalization Capabilities

 

Some banks give the user the ability to customize their application experience to their needs making each visit one that addresses their specific needs.

personalization-personalize

Using Navigation Icons with Label

 

An icon is meant to be universally recognized, but in many cases, they are not. It’s always a safe bet to provide a label next to the icon to provide clarity.

 

using-navigation-icons-with-labels

Use Plain & Simple English

 

Avoid using branded names that might be intuitive to your company, but not to a user. In short: use plain English when possible.

 

use-plain-simple-english-branded-names

 

Transaction History Search

 

Most banking apps default to filtering transaction history by date. Giving the user the ability to search their account is one more way to facilitate finding that specific transaction they have in mind.

 

transaction-history-search

Appwide Search

 

Few banks offer app-wide search to locate features & information. It might just be what your clients needed to discover new or undiscovered features.

 

appwide-search-my-bank

Clear ‘Back’ Access

 

Avoid using a home icon or cancel in place of a back.

 

clear-back-access-button

Autofill/Type-Ahead Searching

 

We continue to be surprised at the number of banks not make use of this simple yet effective interaction. Your customers will be thrilled to have it implemented.

autofill-type-ahead-searching

Content

 

The content that users access in-app should be concise, easy to find, easy understand, and help them reach their goals—simple right? Here are a few ideas:

 

Key Information Front and Center

 

Some applications give users the choice to view account their account balances before login.

 

key-information-front-center

 

Helpful Services

 

Provide customers with additional services that could help them reach their financial goals.

 

helpful-services

 

Real-Time Alerts

 

Use real-time alerts to keep customers informed on important account updates such as direct deposits, personal information changes, and bill due dates.

 

real-time-alerts

 

Avoid Hiding Information

 

Some banks hide interest rates behind an extra tap or elaborate application process. Be nice to customers and let them know what they need to know.

 

avoid-hiding-information

 

Avoid Jargon-Heavy Content

 

Avoid words such as Debit, Payee, APR — instead use Withdrawal, Recipient, Interest Rate.

 

avoid-jargon-heavy-content

Guidance Part 2, coming soon

Privacy & Security Part 2, coming soon

Appearance Part 2, coming soon

 

Editor’s note: 

We know you’re thirsty for more. Part 2 will be coming very soon! While you wait, check out our latest thoughts on UX Strategy for Banks. 

Have any additional questions or want to discuss what Shockoe can do for you? Click here to connect with us. 

3 Tips to Start Using Motion in Design

3 Tips to Start Using Motion in Design

Motion connects the designers and developers who are working on a mobile application with its users. Scrolling, navigating through screens, and adding or editing content may all be inherent features of an app in 2017, but the app still needs to feel right. UX designers live for the challenge of making an app feel right to the user, and motion is one tool in their arsenal. As Shockoe tackles mastering this tool, here are three tips for how to start thinking about integrating motion into your designs.

Tip 1: Show the Relation

You’ve put in the work, made the sitemap, and even mapped out the flow. You know exactly how to get from Screen A to Screen Z. Do your users? It’s important to make sure your users will be able to navigate the app with the same fluidity you do. Probably the best option for ensuring this is one of the simplest: show your user where the screens are coming from.

Navigating from the leftmost tab to the one on the right? Show that by pushing your current content off-screen to the left, making room for the new content coming in from the right. Google Play Music is a fantastic example of how an entirely new page can originate from a single, much smaller element. It shows the growth of that element into a full page.

Tip 2: Don’t Lose the Users

This touches a bit on the last point, but it is key that you don’t confuse your users or lose them in a complicated motion. If you have too many elements moving in too many directions, or even one element moving too far, you may run into some problems.

An example of what to do and what not to do both come from different implementations of the same feature in different versions of the Android operating system. On devices that ran Android M, there was a hovering search bar at the top of the home screen. This was a great addition, bringing a Google search right to the forefront of the user’s most-frequented screen. As you might expect, the search automatically offered suggestions as the user typed.

On the newest Pixel 2, that search bar has been moved to the bottom of the home screen, just under the app drawer and just above the software buttons. A UX/hardware issue is solved here by allowing users to reach their search bar more easily, but a visual transition issue is created. When the user taps the new bottom-anchored search bar, it acts like before and is now on the top of the screen, populating your autofill search results. This is probably nit-picking and just requires some getting used to, but it makes the search bar feel like more of an “activation” and not a true, transforming element on the device’s screen. That takes away a bit of what made that simplicity in movement so special.

Tip 3: Have Some Fun. Find It, If You Have To

This point applies to everyone in design, but it holds special weight in designing motion as there is so much that can be done. This is more for your own sanity, but it’s very important in every project to have even a little fun, and not nearly enough people value taking a moment to do so. A solid check for this is looking inward and thinking about what you would want to see an app do.

Take 15 minutes, grab your notebook and a pencil, create some sketches, and just … go with it. Look at what’s been done in other apps, what hasn’t, and find what works for you. Don’t limit yourself to the mobile realm for inspiration; consider television shows, video games, etc., as well. The kind of work we’re most proud of is typically the work we enjoy making, so be sure to explore every corner of your creativity when designing motion.

So what are your thoughts?

Hopefully, these tips have helped you start thinking about the ways you can use motion in your designs. In this post, we touched on the basics of motion; we look forward to expanding on these ideas in a future post that dives deeper into the nitty-gritty details on how to make motion work in your apps. As you start integrating motion into your projects, reach out and let us know what you think, if you have any thoughts to add, or if these tips have helped you out in any way.

Editor’s Note: 

Want more tips on Design? Check out our most recent blogs:

10 Commandments of Designing for Accessibility Every Designer Needs to Know

How to Apply Minimalism to Complex Apps

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How to Create Moodboards that Help You Better Understand Your Client

How to Create Moodboards that Help You Better Understand Your Client

For new design projects, blank artboards can strike fear in many designers. Approaching a new task with a blank slate is never easy, especially under a deadline or without a clear objective. That blank rectangle can be the biggest block to any momentum in getting a project moving. But don’t despair! Using mood boards can help kick off any design project and remove the fear of directionless design.

What is a mood board?

A mood board is a collection of style—like color, texture, UI framework, or theme—that visually unifies a set of images. Part of what makes the tool so valuable is how malleable mood boards are to each project. Each board simply needs a cohesive connector that all the elements on the board stem from.

For example, this board shows off monochromatic color schemes:

And this one shows different examples of Google’s material design applied to different screens:

 

Having a theme to draw them together allows design teams and clients to react to different conceptual directions, allowing for different ideas to be explored early and with little time.

When should you use mood boards?

Mood boards should be implemented early. They are a fairly low-investment tool that you can use to get in step with your client/stakeholder/design lead early on. With clients at Shockoe, we use them early in our design process to get a sense of the client’s needs and tastes while also exploring some potential directions without burning too much time.

Potential times to bring mood boards into projects: Early design discussions, design concept pitching, stakeholder exercises.

How to make mood boards:

There are many ways to develop useful mood boards. When planning boards, a great way to start is to define your audience. Is the purpose of the mood board for you to discover tones and feels? Is it to guide a client or stakeholder in a certain direction? Defining your audience and purpose will help shape the direction of boards to create productive discussion.

Want to explore different color options? Group different items of the same color to get a feel for the application.

Want to look into different design systems? Show them together, or back to back.

It really helps to have a log of potential approaches and looks to help influence the direction of the project and discuss options before running with a certain design.

I tend to approach my mood boards in three steps: Think, Collect, and Organize.

1: Think

Starting out, I write down as much information as I can. I try to roll up all my knowledge on the project so far and start thinking of things I want to use for inspiration, like colors, products to be inspired by, people or places that should influence or impact the design, or just cool anecdotes I can recall from earlier meetings with a client.

2: Collect

After the brainstorming step, I create a project folder to store assets. I keep anything and everything I find interesting in that folder that could be used in the project. Pinterest and Dribbble are obvious choices when searching for inspiration, but I also find lots of really interesting ideas by looking at different mediums. Furniture, architecture, and game design blogs have all provided great ideas to consider for potential inspiration.

3: Organize

From here, I use my favorite tool for mood boards to collect and organize the different images designers and I have curated: Google Slides.

 

 

 

 

 

Google Slides acts as a fantastic repo to collect and organize thoughts. The ability to collaborate with other designers makes the tool even more awesome when working on larger design teams.

When laying out designs, I find it useful to pick a lead image and then build out elements around it. That way when discussing the project with a design director or client, you can orient the discussion around that image and define your intent with a style in that direction.

Presenting boards

The last step of using mood boards in design is getting a sense of which way to run when it comes time to start the actual design process. I’ve always enjoyed the candid and open discussion around mood boards. Planning out how you want the discussion to go will really help create a structured conversation that will benefit both you and the client. By knowing the discussion you want to have around the boards, you are able to ensure that the feedback you receive provides clear direction so you are not left with that dreaded blank artboard rectangle.

If you’re ever in a stalemate about which way a client thinks a project should go, or if you want to feel out some new or riskier design directions, mood boards are a fantastic tool to quickly define a style and explore different routes for the project. Don’t stare at blank art boards—go make mood boards!

Notes from Editor:

You can find more design blogs from our team on our blog page.

[INFOGRAPHIC] 10 Commandments of Designing for Accessibility Every Designer Needs to Know

How to Apply Minimalism to Complex Apps

Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality… Confused Yet?

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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.

Resolution:
– 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.

Resolution:
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.

Resolution:
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.

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Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality… Confused Yet?

Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality… Confused Yet?

There are exciting new worlds being created, recreated and explored as we speak. There are digital worlds being developed from the inspirations of Earth and beyond. For those of us not able to travel to places like the polar ice caps, the Sistine Chapel, Rome, the Pyramids of Egypt, Mars, or other places we may not be able to visit in our lifetime, this is our chance. Now, we have the opportunity to visit them from the comforts of our very own homes.

Our mobile enterprise company, Shockoe.com has recently branched out into the brave new world of Virtual Reality (VR). In this ambitious new venture, there are many things to consider. First, let’s break down the different branches of the digital realities.

VR provides the user with a digitally created 360 degree world using a type of headset, whether it’s utilizing Google cardboard, an Oculus or one of the many other options of headset viewers. Augmented Reality (AR) uses our mobile devices and overlays digital images over physical reality (ever heard of Pokemon Go)? Lastly, and my favorite, there’s Mixed Reality (MR).

MR might be such an advanced technology, that we likely won’t see this catch on until VR and AR are more of a regularity. MR is the ability to use virtual reality inside of our physical world. For instance, a doctor performing surgery on a patient could use a virtual magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or X-ray scanner over their patient, providing them with an accurate view inside their patient’s body. Mind-blowing, right?

Now that you have an idea of the different realities being created, let me tell you that there is nothing more exciting than having the opportunity to design the User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) for these exciting realities. When starting the conversation of UX for VR, it’s easy to get a little carried away. The possibilities seem endless (because they are), which is why it’s important to focus on what’s best for the user, what makes the most sense for the user to do in order to see and navigate our experiences. What does the client want to provide their users?

These questions are seemingly simple, yet necessary. A UX/UI designer needs to know what type of VR they are designing for. Is it for a headset alone, headset with camera sensors, or headset with gloves? What are the limitations of this experience? How far can the UX/UI designer push these limitations while still maintaining a fulfilling, yet positive user experience? What can I designer do to keep users returning to their fascinating VR experiences and even share them with others?

shockoe_vr_coneoffocusUsers with solo headsets can only use their Field of View (FOV) or Cone of Focus to make their selection, not their hands. While this might seem limiting, it’s not. Keep in mind that this is VR, where the user can turn in any direction they choose and explore a new world by just putting on a headset. Making a selection through vision is quite simple. A UX designer could use a countdown, various loading animations, or status bars. They can even invent something totally new and intuitive that hasn’t been thought of yet.

Making a selection is one thing, navigating these new worlds is another. There are a lot of different things to consider when navigating in VR. For one thing, it’s somewhat similar to navigating our physical world in terms of our FOV. We all have our own, some of us more or less than others, and the Cone of Focus is how designers segment the FOV.

The UX designer should focus the user’s primary actions within the initial area of vision. When we look directly forward, by just moving our eyes we can see approximately 90 degrees within our central vision. Everything outside of that is our far peripheral vision and should be designed accordingly by placing only secondary and tertiary user actions within these areas of vision, such as motion cues or exit options.

These are extremely important limitations to know when designing the UX for VR experiences. These degrees of vision define how the UX should be envisioned and implemented. Without making the user work too hard to explore their new digital surroundings, the UX designer must take into account the Cone of Focus for all primary actions without taking away from the extraordinary experience of VR. Thus, making one consider the visual placement of UX design by measurements of FOV degrees throughout the app.

While all of this information may seem overwhelming, it is also very, very exciting. Designing UX and UI in 360 degrees is a phenomenal opportunity to learn, adapt and innovate in this amazing new digital age. At Shockoe.com, we are on the edge of our seats with excitement about being able to provide our clients with the intuitive experiences their users want through innovative technology that VR offers.

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From Hardhats to Enterprise Apps

From Hardhats to Enterprise Apps

If you would have asked me this time last year if I was going to be working for a growing application design and development firm serving fortune 500 companies – I would have said, ‘In my dreams!’

Now, I can proudly say that is a reality, and I’m still pinching myself.

A year ago today, I was inspecting residential properties, skyscrapers, factories, construction sites and pipe trenches for asbestos, lead, and mold. Believe it or not, there was a lot of downtime for this type of work in between the hustle and bustle. I’m sure you’ve seen 10 construction workers on the side of the road while two guys are doing all the hard labor. That’s called safety folks!

I was not one to sit idle in my downtime on the job site. I’m the type of person that likes to stay busy, learn and contribute to the world. Through family and friends, I learned about the ever-growing world of UX and UI design. It wasn’t long before I realized that my passion for design worked equally well in the digital world as it did in the real one – and with a couple of art degrees from my past college years, I was determined to find my next venture.

I began studying this new digital world through websites like Udemy and YouTube, which offer great lectures and tutorials. I was also turned onto Mediumspecifically the UX collection, which is full of insightful blog posts that provide a glimpse into the tech world, and some of the pros and cons of the mobile app development industry.

I spent almost a year learning from lectures, tutorials, blog posts, testing mobile apps, studying design and visiting tech fairs. By putting myself out there – I found Shockoe. I was able to get my foot in the door to prove to a fast-growing company that I had something to offer, something to contribute to be successful. 

What I’ve found most valuable working with an up and coming tech company is that they’re looking to give you a shot at succeeding. If you have the right attitude and perseverance to prove that you can contribute to the larger picture, are willing to learn and adapt and believe in high quality apps that are well thought out and intuitive, then you can find great opportunities. This is the core belief in creating enterprise apps at Shockoe. I can tell you one thing, sitting idle and watching time go by will likely keep you out of the tech world and farther from your fuller future. Instead, pull out your phone and enjoy critiquing what you love most about your favorite Android and iOS apps. 

Since I’ve been working at Shockoe, I’ve learned a lot about working as a team and how important transparency is among our peers so our ideas and our skills can be utilized appropriately or improved upon. We are creating positive user experiences by listening to our clients, thorough testing and well thought out designs with the user and their tasks in mind. If you’re ready to be apart of a team of hard workers looking to improve the world, look no further. Shockoe needs great minds like you to bring your vision to the world of mobile enterprise app development.

Start watching videos on YouTube and reading to learn what makes a great UI or exceptional UX (or even what those acronyms mean). Ask yourself, what works well and what might you do to improve them? You could be the one to join our team and create the next best idea.

Energetic designer seeking long-term teammates

Energetic designer seeking long-term teammates

Me: Designer at a fast growing, Richmond-based mobile startup seeking long term relationship with boundary pushing, continuously learning designers.

You: Talented, eager individual looking for an opportunity to design alongside a team that has your back, for a company that thrives on their employees creating innovative solutions to everyday problems without it feeling like the daily grind.

I know you’re out there. I’ve seen your work. Whether it was a pixel perfect website, an awe-inspiring app screen or a sweet icon animation, I recognized your talent and want to work with you. Let me break that down:

 

Daily designer life at Shockoe:

As you enjoy your stroll through Sketch and gaze upon the user interface you have created, relax by nudging an object a few pixels in order to align your content. Let the curves of lorem ipsum fill your thoughts and focus on the best way to apply your layout skills to perfect every aspect of a user’s experience. You may be tapped on the shoulder by a fellow designer and asked for your (sometimes brutally) honest opinion, or pulled into a white board / or sticky note session. All of these moments will culminate in a project that you can be proud of when it goes into development. You get to own every aspect of your projects, from icons to colors, interactions to transitions, from client kick-off meeting to app store launch. You will work with the team at Shockoe to deliver an innovative, amazing product that keeps the user experience at the forefront.

Sounds like a dream, right. While some days may be tougher than others, in all I’ve found Shockoe to be a rare breed of startup that not only has core values but actually encourages their employees to live by them.

While the title UI /UX designer may be intimidating, don’t let that keep you from applying. Our designers have all started as pencil-pushing, layout changing, CSS editing designers. As long as you are willing to expand your knowledge by diving deep into iOS and Android Guidelines, I believe your talents and our projects will be a match made in heaven.