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“Starting Small” with Interface Design

February 10, 2010 Leave a comment

A growing number of people and organizations are changing their approach to user interface design for applications that span web and mobile platforms, electing to focus initial design on smaller mobile device screens, and then adopting the result for use on larger PC & Mac screens.

They are finding that “starting small” with interface design often provides a more consistent user experience and superior results than “starting big” with the full web based version.  They also avoid one of the most common design mistakes of “starting big”: miniaturizing, rather than streamlining, larger and overly-involved web based interfaces, which proves most frustrating to mobile users.

This importance of “starting small” with interface design was reinforced for me recently when I caught up with a person I admire very much – one of the founders of a New York based digital agency I worked with several years ago.  His mantra was always “simple but elegant” when it came to the areas of technology and design, which helped lead the agency to many successes. 

It was no surprise to me, then, when he told me how he has evolved his approach to design interfaces for mobile platforms first, for even the most robust of applications.  “Starting small” supports his proven strategy for creating user experiences that are simple, intuitive, and consistent across multiple platforms.

In my opinion, the explosive growth of mobile devices may have been the best thing to happen to GUI and UX design in years.  The limited real estate on mobile device screens is – or at least, should be – causing designers to reconsider what’s really important.  It reinforces critical notions of clean, uncluttered, basic design, which often produce better functioning interfaces and ultimately improved audience experiences. 

It will be interesting to see how interface design will continue to evolve between web and mobile platforms.  In the meantime, what do you think?  Do you and your organization choose to “start small” or “start big” when designing your interfaces, and why?

– Jim S.

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What’s Exciting in Mobile Marketing? – Augmented Reality

December 31, 2009 1 comment

In this final installment of a multi-part post, we wrap-up a look at three technologies in particular that will have a potentially huge impact on mobile marketing, whether used independently, or in various combinations: mobile barcodes & tagging, location based advertising (LBA), and augmented reality (AR).  This third and final post will focus on augmented reality (AR). 

Augmented Reality (AR)

How does it work?

If you’ve ever seen football games on TV where scores, statistics, first down lines, and yards-to-go indicators are superimposed over the live action, you’ve already experienced a form of augmented reality.  However, the much more interactive world of mobile and the Web allow augmented reality to be taken to new levels.    

In the mobile world, the cameras in our smart phones allow us to view and take photos of our surrounding indoor or outdoor environments (people, objects, signs, buildings, street corners, etc). Augmented reality technology allows for additional imagery, graphics, symbols, and data to be superimposed over this view to “augment” what you see.  Examples of this augmentation includes maps & directions, descriptions, statistics, and more.

The mobile augmented reality content is currently delivered through a variety of different methods, including individual smart phone applications, tools, and mobile browser plug-ins. 

What capabilities does it provide to marketers?

The scope of capabilities and possible applications for mobile augmented reality is truly immense.  In his PersonalizeMedia blog, author Gary Hayes does the best job I’ve seen so far of identifying the types of, and potential business models for, augmented reality:

Nearly all of the models outlined above hold a strong potential for marketers, particularly in a mobile environment.    

Great, but does it have legs?

Yes, definitely!  I believe mobile in particular is an ideally suited platform for the use of augmented reality,  as it comes the closest to approximating how we naturally encounter people, places, and things in the real world.     

The potential applications for mobile augmented reality are further enhanced by how it can be used in varying combinations with other versatile mobile technologies such as GPS, mobile barcoding & tagging, and location based advertising (LBA).

In terms of revenue potential, a recent study by marketing intelligence company ABI Research states that “new handheld platforms will transform the Augmented Reality ecosystem”, forecasting revenue associated with Augmented Reality will grow from around $6 million in 2008 to more than $350 million in 2014, with the bulk of the increase occuring during the latter portion of that time frame.

This prediction of a growth “curve” makes sense to me.  As smart phones continue to evolve into ever more powerful mobile computing devices with a true convergence of capabilities, the prediction here is that the number of tools, apps, plug-ins, browsers, and content providers that support mobile augmented reality will dramatically increase over the coming 1 – 2 years.  Beyond this period of maturation, I believe that revenue generation will really begin to take off. 

Want to learn more?

There are a ton of great online resources and articles on augmented reality and its use in mobile marketing.  In fact, the real challenge in identifying additional suggested reading was knowing when to stop!  Though the focus of this particular blog post was the use of augmented reality for mobile marketing purposes, I’ve included links that cover its use in the web world as well.  Each delves further into the types, models, and potential uses of augmented reality:

Mobile augmented reality builds deep consumer engagement 

16 Top augmented reality business models

10 Awesome uses of augmented reality marketing

Location-based ads come to augmented reality in the US

IKEA uses augmented reality to engage shoppers’ imagination

GPS based augmented reality

There are also some very cool demonstrations of augmented reality apps of all types on YouTube

Got feedback?

This wraps up my first series on what’s exciting in mobile marketing, but based on the explosion of growth in mobile technologies, you can bet it won’t be the last.  It is certain that we’ll be visiting this topic again in the near future.  In the meantime, I’m always interested in hearing your questions, comments, and points of view. Please let me know what you think!

– Jim S.

What’s Exciting in Mobile Marketing? – Location Based Advertising (LBA)

November 29, 2009 2 comments

In this multi-part post, we continue to take a look at three technologies in particular that will have a potentially huge impact on mobile marketing, whether used independently, or in various combinations: mobile barcodes & tagging, Location Based Advertising (LBA), and augmented reality.  This second post will focus on Location Based Advertising (LBA). 

Location Based Advertising

How does it work?

Part of a broader category of Location Based Services (LBS), mobile Location Based Advertising (LBA) takes advantage of Global Positioning System (GPS) technology.  While we have traditionally thought of GPS as a navigation based aid, things have definitely evolved.  A growing number of smart phones now have GPS technology integrated into them, allowing their locations to be precisely tracked by signals sent by the GPS satellites high above the Earth. 

What capabilities does it provide to marketers?

While the science of GPS and Location Based Advertising may not be all that important to us, the capabilities they bring are definitely important.  Marketers and service providers can now make use of the geographical position of smart phones to send very specific, targeted information to their owners.  This information can come in the form of nearby stores & services,  customized ads, offers, coupons, and loyalty-based offerings.  And, as we have seen and heard so many times, the more specific, targeted, and relevant a marketing message can be, the better the results we can expect. 

Great, but does it have legs?

A quick look at the numbers says yes, LBA absolutely has legs.  First, consider the sheer number of mobile devices.  There are roughly 4.6 billion mobile phones out there globally, with an ever-increasing number of them coming with GPS capabilities.  Second is the size of the overarching Location Based Services (LBS) market.  At around 41 million users in 2008, this is expected to grow to nearly 96 million in 2009.  Finally (and perhaps most importantly), there is the revenue picture.  Gartner forecasted in June of 2009 that the global LBS revenue will more than double from just under $1 billion in 2008 to over $2.2 billion in 2009.  You can bet that Location Based Advertising will play a large role in this growth.

The reality is that our smart phones are really becoming powerful handheld computing devices that we’re depending on for a wider variety of daily uses, and are perfectly suited for LBA.  If potential privacy and security concerns can adequately be addressed, the only real question in my mind is how responsive U.S. based consumers will be to LBA and mobile advertising.  However, given that in Spain over three quarters mobile phone owners already receive ads, in France nearly two thirds do and in Japan over half do with relatively high response rates, I believe that the success of LBA in the U.S. is a near certainty.   

Want to learn more?

Admittedly, it was hard to settle on the title of Location Based Advertising (LBA) for this particular post.  While conventional wisdom places LBA within the broader category of Location Based Services (LBS), I’ve consistently been finding that terms like LBA, LBS, mobile marketing, and mobile advertising are often being used interchangably – most likely because this vast set of mobile capabilities is still in its infancy, and there is not a great deal of standardization yet.  Therefore, don’t be thrown by some of the link titles below.  Each of them can help you understand what this technology entails and how it is being used:

2009: The Year of LBS (Location-Based Services)

GPS + Mobile Marketing = Goodness

Mobile GPS Opens Doors to Content, Commerce

New Platform Offers GPS Location-Based Ads

Burger King, Subaru Trial Location-Based Mobile Advertising

Placecast Raises $5 Million for Location-Based Advertising Platform

Got feedback?

I’m always interested in hearing your questions, comments, and points of view. Please let me know what you think!

– Jim S.

What’s Exciting in Mobile Marketing? – Mobile Barcodes & Tagging

November 3, 2009 3 comments
Coachella2In one of my first blog posts, I questioned whether digital marketers were ready to keep up with the rapid adoption of mobile technologies.  After digging deeper into ‘the state of mobile’ over the last couple of months, I’ve become more convinced that we’re up to the challenge.  There is definitely a lot of exciting innovation going on in the world of mobile – particularly by companies that are creatively applying new technologies to provide dynamic marketing solutions.

In this multi-part post, we’ll begin taking a look at three technologies in particular that will have a potentially huge impact on mobile marketing, whether used independently, or in various combinations: mobile barcodes & tagging, Location Based  Advertising (LBA), and augmented reality.  This first post will focus on mobile barcodes and tagging. 

 

Mobile Barcodes and Tagging

How does it work?

See a code, take a picture, and let the magic happen.  The basic concept of mobile barcodes and tagging is that technology advancements now allow the cameras in our mobile phones to act as barcode readers: 

Mobile Tagging Process

This opens up the potential for applications of all types.  The GoMo News article, “Mobile Barcodes 101”, helps shed some light on this:

“The most common use of mobile barcodes is to request information or a service or content from a Web site. It might be details of a promotion, or a discount voucher via SMS or MMS, or to activate a download such as a ringtone, music track or game, or click to call an IVR or human agent, or buy a travel or concert ticket. The advertiser pays the set-up costs as well as its operator partner on a per-click, download, view, redeemed coupon, ticket sale or call, depending on the campaign.” 

Great, but does it have legs?

I think that mobile barcodes and tagging represent a great new addition to the marketer’s toolbox.  Their use is limited only by one’s imagination and creativity.  They can physically be placed in a number of different environments, including online on websites, emails, and social media platforms; and in print in magazines, newspapers, posters, and signs.  They can allow people to connect to all types of information, including websites, videos, games, tickets, and more.  And they are still in their infancy, so there’s still the novelty effect in their favor.  My take is that we will be seeing the use of mobile barcodes and tagging explode in marketing and ad campaigns over the coming months.

Want to learn more?

What exactly are mobile barcodes?  What do they look like?  How are they different from the codes we see on merchandise tags at stores? Who have been the early adopters of this technology?  How are they successfully being used here in the U.S. for marketing campaigns, and why has our adoption been slower?  And, what in the world are QR codes, BeeTaggs, and JagTags? I’ve collected a series of links below to help answer these questions and others that you may have.

Follow these links for extra info on mobile barcodes and tagging, ranging from basic definitions to powerful examples of this technology at work:

Mobile Tagging

Mobile Barcodes 101

Marketers Give Mobile Barcodes Another Go

Nike Breaks Mobile Barcode Campaign at Mountain Dew Event

Personalized 2D Barcodes Suit Marketing Campaigns

Fox Uses JagTag Mobile Barcodes to Promote X-Men DVD Release

Got feedback?

I’m trying a bit different format on this series of posts regarding “What’s exciting in mobile marketing”. Please let me know what you think!

– Jim S.

We’re “Goin’ Mobile”, but are we already behind?

September 2, 2009 1 comment

TheWhoSometimes, an important realization can creep up on you slowly.  Other times, it can hit you like a two-by-four.  Last week, let’s just say one hit me like an entire fleet of lumber trucks. 

Our agency had just completed a successful weekend-long live event activation at several cities across the U.S., where we were able to capture several thousand qualified sales leads exclusively via mobile devices. 

Shortly afterward, I attended a presentation by Abhi Ingle, AT&T’s VP of Mobility Application Solutions, entitled “The Future of Wireless”.  On top of a number of other equally provocative statistics, he cited a forecast that one billion new users worldwide will soon be having their first web experience – on a smart phone, as opposed to a PC. 

Finally, the “trifecta” came at the end of the week, when I encountered this little nugget from the Silicon Valley Insider, forecasting that smart phone sales will overtake PC sales by 2011: 

ChartOfTheDay

What really hit me was not so much the realization that, in the immortal words of The Who, we’re “Goin’ Mobile” – instead, it’s the realization of how fast we’re going there, and what it means to us as digital marketers.   

We are entering a pivotal period where the rapid shift to the mobile (devices & web) will have a profound impact on our digital marketing strategies and tactics.  Nearly everything that we’ve been used to delivering via the “traditional web” will need to be conceived, designed, and executed in a much different way. 

Make no mistake – since our early mobile digital marketing efforts, which consisted primarily of relatively simple WAP sites, forms, and text/SMS based interaction – we are definitely making progress.  However, advancements in connectivity, hardware, and software applications are rapidly making consumer tastes more sophisticated.  We will need to shift our digital marketing skills and approach even more quickly just to keep pace.

I have a strong feeling (not unlike that of another lumber truck barreling down on me) that we’ll be returning to the topic of mobile soon in this blog.  In the meantime, the question remains: How are YOU “goin’ mobile” in your digital marketing efforts?  And, more importantly, how fast are you going there? 

Please chime in with your comments and thoughts.

– Jim S.