Tag Archives: Business

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How the Revolutionary Mechanics of Blockchain Technology Could Serve Your Business

In the last entry in our cryptocurrency series, we explored how to secure your cryptocurrency with the right wallet. This week, we’ll take a look at the mechanics of the Blockchain across industries.

While the debate over whether Bitcoin will become the dominant cryptocurrency is far from over, the mechanics behind Bitcoin are unquestionably revolutionary. Blockchain technology has the potential to disrupt more than just currency, but industries ranging from healthcare to Wall Street.

The Blockchain is a secure ledger database shared by all parties participating in an established, distributed network of computers. The Blockchain decentralizes the process of validating transactions, allocating the duties to computers throughout the network.

Blockchain is revolutionary because it eliminates the need for a central authority, allowing for a real-time ledger that is not dependent on a single entity governing the transactions.

Imagine if in order to make changes to a text document, you had to email a colleague who would then update the document on Microsoft Word and send the updated file out to all relevant parties on the team. The updating of information would quickly become an inefficient process that is heavily dependent on the central entity (the colleague). Blockchain posits a workflow that is more like Google Docs in that it allows updates to be made in real time and shared across the network instantly without the need of a central authority. Blockchain enacts this principle by relying on computers within the network to independently validate transactions through cryptography. Thus, the validity of the ledger is determined by the many objective computers on the network rather than a single powerful entity.

The idea of decentralization can also be applied to WhatsApp, the popular messaging app that revolutionized texting and cut the cost of transactions globally. WhatsApp cut out the central authority of phone carrier companies by building the same functionality on a decentralized network (the Internet).

If you’re still confused about Blockchain, check out this awesome video by Wired breaking it down in 2 minutes:

Blockchain has already found usages in many different industries.

  • SMART CONTRACTS

Smart contracts are coded contracts embedded with the terms of an agreement. They are a method for businesses and individuals to exchange money, property, materials, or anything of value in a transparent way that avoids the services of a middleman (such as a lawyer). Smart contracts not only define the rules of an agreement, they automatically enforce the obligations provided in the terms of the contract.

Smart contracts have revolutionized the supply chain and threaten to eliminate the use of lawyers for enforcing contracts. Smart contracts and blockchain ensure data security that could also lead to the transferring of voting to an online system, potentially increasing voter turnout significantly.

  • HEALTHCARE

Within the healthcare industry, Blockchain has the potential to revolutionize data sharing between healthcare providers, resulting in more effective treatments and an overall improved ability for healthcare organizations to offer efficient care. A study from IBM showed that 56% of healthcare executives have a plan to implement a commercial blockchain solution by 2020.

  • SUPPLY CHAIN

Both within the Healthcare industry and elsewhere, blockchain is redefining supply chain management. Blockchain can provide a distributed ledger that tracks the transfer of goods and raw materials across wide-ranging geographical locations and stages. The public availability of the ledger makes it possible to trace the origin of the product down to the raw material used. For this reason, blockchain has also been applied to track organic produce supply chains.

The boon of the Internet of Things and smart objects means that blockchain technology can be extended to process data and manage smart contracts between individuals and their smart devices or even smart homes. Imagine a world where your refrigerator automatically orders eggs when it senses you are running low based on your egg eating habits. This world will be facilitated by a smart contract run on Blockchain technology embedded in an IoT device.

CONCLUSION

While the first blockchain was created for Bitcoin, applications for blockchain are constantly being implemented across industries. As Harvard Business Review smartly points out, the question in most industries is not whether blockchain will influence them, but when.

Many different cryptocurrencies are utilizing variations on Blockchain technology in order to process transactions—some of which are doing so in a more efficient manner than Bitcoin. Next week, we’ll explore the top cryptocurrencies on the market right now and which ones your business should accept.

How Adopting Cryptocurrencies Could Benefit Your Business

Bitcoin-Trading-featured-898x463Are you missing out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get in on a currency that could continue to dramatically increase in value over time?

Whether or not the recent surge in value of Bitcoin is a fluke, many agree the idea of cryptocurrency is here to stay. With physical cash having already taken a backseat to credit cards, does it stand to reason that digital currencies will become more prominent in the years to come? Many people are betting big on the answer to that question being yes.

Last week, we explored an overview of cryptocurrencies. For businesses with their eyes on the bottom line, the question becomes: Should you accept cryptocurrencies?

Here are the major factors to consider in making your decision of whether or not to accept cryptocurrencies:

THE POSITIVES:

FRAUD PROTECTION

One of the biggest pros of cryptocurrency is the way in which it protects your business from the risk of fraud. When payments are made through credit cards and PayPal, merchants risk these charges later being reversed if they are deemed a fraudulent purchase. With Bitcoin, payments are irreversible, so the bill for fraud is no longer footed by merchants.

INSTANT INTERNATIONAL PAYMENTS

The internet enables the sending of cryptocurrencies overseas to be as easy as sending them across the street. With no central authority to verify transactions, not only do international payments come with no additional cost, they are instant. Cryptocurrencies offer international payments with no extra fees, 0 business days to transfer, and no minimum or maximum transaction amounts, making them an excellent payment option for businesses looking to expand to far-reaching markets.

CHOOSE YOUR OWN TRANSACTION FEES

Instead of paying fees per transaction, cryptocurrencies allow you to pay fees that determine the speed at which money is received. The processing power required to process transactions is distributed across computers on the internet. Network owners make money by allowing merchants and users to use their systems to process transactions. Thus, users can choose their fees based on how fast they require their payments to be sent.

NO PCI-COMPLIANCE NECESSARY

While accepting credit cards online typically requires PCI-Compliance to ensure credit card information is stored safely, cryptocurrencies require businesses to secure their wallets without necessitating the federally-imposed fees that come with processing sensitive information like credit cards. Blockchain technology ensures that cryptocurrencies are secure and that security is cheaper to maintain.

ACCESS A NEW CROWD

As an emerging market with niche followers, the cryptocurrency audience is known for their fervor for all things related to their passion. By adopting cryptocurrencies at an early stage in their development, a business can set itself apart and expand their market to receive visibility from the avid cryptocurrency crowd that has invested in cryptocurrencies at this early stage.

THE NEGATIVES:

MARKET VOLATILITY

Perhaps the greatest detriment to the cryptocurrency movement is the erratic nature of the value of the currency. Bitcoin is the staple cryptocurrency and with its value fluctuating wildly from day-to-day, most cryptocurrency owners would rather save their Bitcoin in hope that its value continues to spike than spend it on consumer goods.

What’s more, retailers may be afraid of accepting something that could lose value fast. When Square announced it was piloting a program to buy and sell Bitcoin through its app, Bitcoin’s price skyrocketed. If a major retailer like Amazon or Target were to elect to accept Bitcoin at their locations, no doubt Bitcoin’s value would spike once again. Thus, the silver lining of the market volatility is if a retailer does begin to accept it early, they could potentially make a large return on their initial investment.

REGULATORY LANDSCAPE

Another major issue for merchants to consider is forthcoming regulations and potential litigation relating to the cryptocurrency markets. With cryptocurrencies still in their infancy, lawmakers are working to enact regulations to govern and tax them. As cryptocurrency becomes more mainstream, merchants that accept cryptocurrencies will have to be adaptable to periodic changes in the laws which govern cryptocurrency.

BOTTOM LINE

While there are some risks in accepting cryptocurrencies, there are potentially massive rewards. Becoming an early adopter of major cryptocurrencies when they are low in value is an investment that could pay off big time if the value of the currencies continues to rise. For forward-thinking entrepreneurs who are ready to adapt to their business environment, the decision to accept cryptocurrency is an easy one. As they say: the early bird gets the worm.

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Should My Business Consider Accepting Cryptocurrencies? An Overview

Recently, Bitcoin has flooded the news cycle, rising in value from about 1,000 per bitcoin on January 1st 2017 to upwards of $16,000 as of December 7th 2017. Square, a prominent payment app, recently announced they will pilot a program that allows for Bitcoin trade. With Bitcoin on the rise, the all-important question becomes: Should your app or website accept cryptocurrencies?

Over the next several weeks, we will endeavor on a series of blogs to answer all of the questions necessary to make that decision, including:

  1. What cryptocurrencies are, how they work, and why they are important.
  2. The pros and cons of accepting cryptocurrencies on your app or website
  3. Choosing your cryptocurrency wallet.
  4. What Blockchain is, how it’s important to cryptocurrencies and its other revolutionary applications.
  5. An exploration of why Bitcoin is the most popular cryptocurrency and of  other prominent cryptocurrencies.

In order to explore cryptocurrencies, we must start at the beginning. The first successful cryptocurrency was Bitcoin, created in 2008 by the still unknown inventor Satoshi Nakamoto. While Nakamoto’s identity is still a mystery, the significance of their invention is not. They initially announced it as a “Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System”. Past attempts at creating digital currency involved a decentralized system, however, Nakamoto attempted to decentralize the currency by mimicking the technique of Peer-to-Peer file sharing networks.

In order for a payment network to function, there must be a ledger to prevent fraudulent double spending—forged transactions. In the physical world, banks function as the central entity which keeps records about balances. With Bitcoin, Nakamoto created an alternate system. Since the network is decentralized, every entity on the network must have a list with all transactions to check if future transactions are valid. Not only that, there must be an absolute consensus about the records in order for them to become a part of an immutable record of historical transactions known as the “Blockchain”.

Nakamoto set in place a rule that only “miners” can confirm transactions. Miners take transactions, verify them in exchange for a token of cryptocurrency, validate them, and spread them in the network so that every node adds them to the database and the transaction becomes a part of the blockchain. The only way to create a valid Bitcoin is for a miner to complete this function.

Technically, anyone can be a miner. Since there is no central authority to regulate mining and prevent a ruling party from abusing it, Nakamoto set a rule that miners need to invest some of their computing power to the solving of a cryptographic puzzle using the SHA 256 Hash algorithm, in order to verify transactions. Without getting too technical, the miner must complete a cryptographic puzzle in order to build a block and add it to the blockchain, the reward for which is a specific number of Bitcoins depending on the difficulty of the puzzle. Miners compete to solve these problems and the first to solve it and validate the transaction receives the reward. This is part of the consensus that no peer can break.

While the system is complex, the use of the currency is ultimately quite simple. As outlined in BlockGeeks overview, 5 properties separate Bitcoin transactions from other transactions:

  • Bitcoin transactions are irreversible.
  • They are not tied to real-world identities but to pseudonymous addresses. This is one of the reasons Bitcoins are frequently used on the black market.
  • Transactions are enacted instantly and are global.
  • Cryptocurrencies are secured by a cryptography, making them extremely secure.
  • Without a central authority, cryptocurrencies are permissionless to use.

Cryptocurrencies often limit the supply of tokens, which is true of Bitcoin. The token supply of Bitcoin decreases in time and will reach its final number sometime around 2140. The monetary supply is controlled by a schedule written in code—in other words, purely through mathematics.

Whereas the statement on your bank account represents a debt owed to you by the bank, Bitcoins are not indicative of debts, they are literal currency with inherent value like a diamond. And the value of that currency has skyrocketed in the past year. Only 10 years after its creation, Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are currently in an inchoate stage, making it all the more important for intelligent citizens to track their progress and global impact.

Next week, we will review the pros and cons of accepting cryptocurrencies through your app or website. Stay tuned!

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The Business of Emojis: How Top Companies Monetize Emoji Apps

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

Emojis have become a staple of text communication in the 21st century. According to Digiday, over 6 billion emoji messages are sent per day. iMessage, Facebook Messenger, GChat, Snapchat & more have all integrated unique emojis into their platforms. Where there is popularity, there is money to be made.

An Emoji is defined as a small digital image or icon used to express an idea, emotion, etc., in electronic communication. Emojis evolved from emoticons, which are pictorial representations of a facial expression using ONLY punctuation marks, numbers and letters. The first intentional use of an emoticon has multiple origins depending on your source. In 1857, historians documented the use of the number 73 to express love and kisses in Morse code. Some credit a New York Times article covering an Abraham Lincoln speech in 1862 with introducing the phenomenon. The first documented use of “:-)” and “:-(”  overtly to express emotion was in 1982 at Carnegie Mellon.

As online chat became popular, so did the use of emoticons. In an era of computer-mediated communication, emoticons help communicate nonverbal cues in digital threads. From emoticons, emojis emerged, eschewing the punctuation and using images to directly convey emotion. The first emoji was created in 1998 or 1999 in Japan by Shigetaka Kurita. Emoji was first integrated with iMessage in iOS 5. Snapchat recently bought BitMoji for $100 million. Messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and G-Chat are all following WeChat’s lead in creating their own visual keyboards. iOS 10’s iMessage App Store pushes stickers, opening up a new visual possibilities for app developers and advertising.

With big money on the line, here’s how top companies are monetizing their emojis:

DOWNLOAD FEE: Some emoji companies sell their apps with a download fee. For a flat rate of $1.99, the user receives access to all emojis. Most users will find it hard to justify paying for an emoji app unless they have a pre-existing relationship with the brand, thus this technique is best for major brands like Kimoji, Amber Rose’s MuvaMoji, the newly released Mike Tyson emojis, etc.

EMOJI PACKS/PREMIUM CONTENT: A more popular monetization method than a download fee is the individual pricing of emoji packs and premium content. Both paid and freemium apps can enact this monetization method. A company may offer one emoji keyboard for free with download of the app, then offer premium content, potentially sponsored by another brand, for a fee. Emoji> is among the top purveyors of this strategy.

BRANDED CONTENT: Perhaps the most effective monetization method for emojis is branded emojis and stickers. Fortune recently profiled a start-up named Swyft that generates revenue creating branded emojis & sticker packs. A sticker pack they created for Gwen Stefani’s album Spark the Fire was downloaded almost a million times and resulted in 41 million impressions in 10 days.

App developers looking to push their own emoji packs can generate revenue with branded partnerships after establishing popularity. BitMoji built up an audience over time with a seemingly endless keyboard of expressions. Upon attaining popularity, BitMoji was able to acquire tons of sponsored sticker packs to generate revenue. BitMoji’s success led to Snapchat’s decision acquire BitMoji and integrate an established brand rather than create their own unique emojis.

RETENTION: In order to build an audience and monetize, emoji keyboards must retain their users. Ads aren’t a popular monetization method for emojis since users like their digital conversations ad-free. Animated Emoji Pro integrated games into their app in order to increase user retention and ascend in ASO rankings. Users get lost BitMoji’s vast selection of icons, increasing usage time.

LOCALIZATION: Localization is another major way of enhancing retention on an emoji keyboard. A study by SwiftKey found radically different patterns of emoji usage depending on geographic location. Creatively utilizing geolocation services to localize the user experience for an emoji keyboard can be a vital tool in building and retaining a national or even global audience.

Succeeding with an emoji app requires innovative thinking, attention-to-detail, marketing & careful consideration of audience. Like TV, print, & web messaging, well-crafted emojis require good creative, and meaningful visuals that convey emotion. With 45 billion messages sent per day in the US alone, there is great potential for a well-crafted emoji app to become profitable business with the right combination of concept, execution, and an experienced app developer.

Nougat OS: Everything You Need to Know Android’s Latest Treat

With all the fuss about iPhone 7, iOS 10 and the new Pixel, it’s easy to forget Android recently unveiled their latest OS: Nougat. In line with Android’s other dessert-themed software titles (Marshmallow, Lollipop, KitKat, etc.), Nougat is a treat. It’s a refined version of Marshmallow with improved UX, specs and a lot more. Both iOS fans and app developers take note, here are Android Nougat’s top features:

MULTI-WINDOW MULTITASKING

Android Nougat Multi-Window Multi-Tasking via Phone Finderr

The most notable feature of Nougat is Multi-Window Multitasking. Unlike iOS, Nougat allows users to run multiple apps on their screen at once, allowing users to watch a movie while they text, view a recipe while they keep their eyes on the timer, or use any number of applications. Multi-Window Multitasking can be utilized with three display options: Split-Screen, Picture-In-Picture and Freeform Mode.

Split-Screen mode splits the screen across the bottom when held vertically, or across the middle when held horizontally.

Picture-In-Picture mode will be optimized for Android TV and will eliminate the controls and interface elements while keeping the content portion to scale.

Freeform mode will allow users to customize the size of each application, like one can with a desktop or laptop computer.

REFINED NOTIFICATIONS SETTINGS

Notifications Settings via How To Geek

Android has always been a major advocate of customizing notifications, and Android Nougat improves their system. Users customize their quick settings to ensure they are only alerted to the top-level notifications. Users can also maintain conversations within the notifications bar to make it easier to chat without having to go back and forth into apps.

Bundled notifications allow users to see what is happening within their apps at a glance without clogging their feed. Simply tap to expand the box and view more info without going directly into the app.

FASTER PERFORMANCE, MORE BATTERY, LESS MOBILE DATA

The best improvements of Nougat OS are not flashy new features, but overall improved functionality. Google’s “Project Doze,” designed to increase phone battery length, was introduced with Marshmallow, but gets a big upgrade with Nougat. Doze shuts down CPU and network activity while the phone screen is off. Previously, Doze only worked when the device was motionless, but now it can operate whenever the screen is off.

Data overages can add up quickly. Google seeks to counter the threat of overages with Data Saver, a program which kicks in whenever the user is on a metered data connection and limits apps and background processes to a set amount of data. Rather than cutting off data usage at a  preset limit, Data Saver makes Android phones more efficient with constant refinement.

Both Data Saver and Project Doze are bolstered by minor technical improvements to Project Svelte, Android’s device optimization initiative, creating a more efficient phone.

SEAMLESS UPDATES

Android isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel. Their Nougat OS functions primarily as a UX improvement over Marshmallow. Android has instilled major security improvements, including file-based encryption. Android has also taken a page out of the Chrome OS playbook by adding seamless updates, which will allow system updates to install in the background.

NEW EMOJIS

Android Nougat Emojis via Tech Hive

On the lighter side of things, Android has installed 72 new glyphs and has revamped their 1,500 emojis to appear more realistic. Nougat is also compatible with Vulkan API, which opens up a world of low-overhead graphical possibilities.

WHEN CAN I GET NOUGAT?

As with any Android update, the real question is: when is it coming to my phone? Nougat is out, but device fragmentation on the Android platform entails a staggered availability based on the hardware. While Google’s Pixel phone could soon alleviate some of these fragmentation problems, Android still cannot move at the speed of iOS—but Nougat’s improved functionality is a welcome addition for both app developers and consumers.

For a full list of Android Nougat release dates, check out this awesome article over at Pocket Lint.

Water Cooler Tech Talk: What iOS 10 Can Do For Your Business

As we detailed last week, the release of iOS 10 marks a major turning point for the software. By opening up internal apps to developers, Apple has offered a major opportunity for businesses to improve and expand the functionality of their apps. Here are a few ways that iOS 10 can help your business.

CISCO INTEGRATION

Apple & Cisco (image via Apple)

While Apple announced their partnership with Cisco in August 2015, iOS 10 introduces the fruits of that partnership. Businesses which utilize Cisco networks and iOS devices will see a major improvement in functionality and compatibility. Companies with Cisco networks would be smart to encourage employees to switch to iOS, and companies which use other networks may want to take note of the new changes as they are designed to improve business processes.

OPTIMIZING WIFI

Finding the right AP can make or break major business processes. As a leading network provider, Cisco understands this issue and has used iOS 10 as an opportunity to address it. Devices with iOS 10 recognize Cisco networks, enabling WiFi optimization and prioritization for business critical apps. So if an employee is walking as they take a WebEx meeting on their iPad, rather than scanning all channels for the next strongest signal, Cisco networks use a 801.11k to provide a list of the top six neighboring APs. This saves time and battery. As iPhones reach the end of a cell, they check the location and create a short list of the next best AP based on signal and utilization.

BUSINESS APP PRIORITIZATION

With the bevy of applications, devices and content constantly occupying business networks, network connections can easily become bogged down, slowing business critical processes. Networks typically give apps the same level of priority, regardless of whether they are business apps like voice, messaging, video conferencing and document sharing, or non-business apps like games, movies and social media apps.

Cisco networks allow users to not only configure QoS (Quality of Service) on company infrastructure, but to control the link from client to AP. Thus, even if a wireless network is congested with different app traffic, businesses can “whitelist” critical apps to prioritize them over noncritical apps. IT managers can even whitelist by SSID, allowing them to customize each user profile so that apps are prioritized by what is critical to the individual’s performance. Users can have different settings for different networks, optimizing connections for apps based on whether they are at their office network, school network, home network or somewhere else.

CISCO SPARK INTEGRATION

iOS 10 also includes CallKit, a new API which allows VoIP apps like Cisco Spark to be built to take advantage of the accessibility of iOS 10. CallKit enables VoIP apps to utilize the native phone app, ensuring continuity of habit with the native iPhone call experience, while allowing for the superior capabilities of Cisco Spark.

TAKEAWAYS

Cisco’s tests on iOS 10 integrated with Cisco networks have yielded the following results:

  • Up to 8 times faster roaming
  • 90 percent reduction in web browsing failures
  • Up to 66 percent more reliable calling
  • Management overhead can be reduced by 50 percent

iMESSAGE FOR BUSINESSES

iMessage (Image via Silicon Angle)

iMessage has opened its doors to developers, and with it, billions of dollars in market potential. Forbes recently commented: “The launch of the iMessage platform will mint a new generation of billionaire entrepreneurs and become the most valuable social platform in the west over the next five years.”

With a billion active iOS devices worldwide, the iMessage app store has 100 times the distribution footprint compared to the App Store when it launched in  2008. The iMessage store allows for Sticker Packs and iMessage Apps for free or purchase. Aside from creating branding opportunities for celebrities and a whole new platform for social gaming, the iMessage app store opens the door for companies to create extension of their existing apps which utilize iMessage. By integrating internal business apps with internal iOS apps, companies can simplify communication by keeping everything on the same thread.

iOS 10 FOR BUSINESSES

Utilizing the latest software will only improve business processes. iOS 10 provides numerous opportunities for businesses to create more efficient business processes and consolidate business communication on personal devices. It also opens the door for a bevy of future possibilities for businesses to take advantage of as the software evolves. Bring it up at the water cooler and you could change your company for the better.

Cashing Out the Smartphone: How Mobile Commerce Is Changing Retail

This week, we wrap up our five-part series on Top App Development Trends for 2016 with an article on mobile commerce! For a recap, take a moment to review our last four articles on cross-platform app development, cloud integration, mobile security and IoT.

Smartphones have brought about unparalleled convenience in our daily lives. We are constantly connected to our rolodex of contacts with a variety of methods of communication. We can access all the information available on the world wide web anytime. We can find the nearest store of choice anywhere we go. For businesses, the mobile platform represents not only a major avenue for advertising, but an opportunity to give customers the ultimate convenience when purchasing products.

According to Internet Retailer, mobile commerce represents 30% of all US e-commerce and rose by 38.7% from 2014 to 2015. According to The Mobile Playbook, the absence of a mobile presence is the financial equivalent of closing a store for one day a week. Suffice to say, mobile commerce is only on the rise in the coming years. Here are the top mobile commerce trends for 2016:

INTEGRATING PHYSICAL WITH DIGITAL

Although the digital world is virtually omnipresent in households, the appeal of immediately receiving one’s purchases remains attractive. Retailers are offering an increasing variety of online + in-store options. Apps like Curbside have partnered with Target & Kroger’s to enable customers to skip the line when picking up their purchases.

PERSONALIZED MOBILE PAYMENTS DRIVE LOYALTY

Although services such as Apple Pay and Android Pay were once hailed as the future, they have had a hard time receiving mass adoption. This hasn’t stopped the impact of the mobile wallet on commerce. Starbucks drives 16% of transactions through its mobile app. Walmart Pay arrived in December 2015, and now Target is next in line to develop their own payment app.

WEARABLES ON THE RISE

According to Arc, there will be a 61% growth in wearable ownership in 2016. App developers and retailers are still plotting on how to capitalize on wearables. Many anticipate a hands-free shopping experience in which one can simply walk out with their purchases and have automatic charges through wearable devices. Wearables represent a major avenue for retailers to create innovative strategies and dictate trends to come.

MOBILE WEB DRIVES PURCHASES

While about 85% of time spent on mobile devices occurs in apps, the mobile web has actually proven to be a more successful in driving website traffic. Consumers spend 80% of their app time on their top 3 apps. The mobile web drives twice the amount of site traffic than mobile apps. With 82% of smartphone users looking to their phones in stores when deciding what to buy, many anticipate the mobile web to surpass apps as the largest revenue driver in the next few years.

This concludes our five-part series on Top App Development Trends for 2016! Follow the Mystic Media Blog for more awesome articles on app development, website design, strategic marketing and more!

Crossing Over: Best Cross-Platform App Development For Your Business

Over the next month, the Mystic Media Blog will be delving into the top app development trends for 2016. Check out our master list in our blog App to the Future and be on the look out for next week’s blog when we explore Cloud Integration.

Since the dawn of the iPhone, smart devices have become omnipresent. With Apple, Google, Microsoft, and more jockeying for position in the device and operating system market, many app developers will be investing in cross-platform development tools in 2016 to ensure their apps function on all operating systems and thus reach the widest possible audience.

Cross-platform development offers an extremely fast, simple and cost-effective method of creating an app. By building apps on a common code which can be easily ported to fit any OS, developers can focus more on a single universal app rather than divide their attention over multiple native apps. Developers also reduce the amount of maintenance necessary since they only have to update one app.

We have previously tackled this subject in our 2013 blog Should Your Company Develop Native Apps or HTML-5-Based Apps?

It’s important to understand that cross-platform app development also comes at a price. Developing for multiple platforms prevents app developers from maximizing the capabilities of any individual OS. Some apps may be too advanced to develop using a cross-platform tool, in which case, developing native is the best and only option. Android and iOS have different design schemes for apps on their respective Operating Systems. Customizing app design to match iOS or Android aesthetics improves ASO in the Apple App Store and Google Play. Apps can also have trouble integrating with devices due to the variety of storage options available on devices. We recommend you always discuss the project with your app developer before committing to developing using a cross-platform tool.

Ultimately, it comes down to a matter of resources. Developing an app natively for iOS and/or Android will yield a better product optimized to the device. While any company would love to be Facebook and have the money to invest in completely different native applications for iOS and Android, some have to be pragmatic about their budget. Once the decision to build cross-platform is made, the all-important question of which app development tool to utilize arises. Here are some of the best cross-platform development tools on the market in 2016.

PHONEGAP 

Adobe PhoneGap is one of the most popular cross-platform development tools on the market. PhoneGap is based on the open source Apache Cordova project, making it free to use. Adobe also offers an enterprise version of PhoneGap – it integrates with Adobe Marketing Cloud to not only focus on app development, but to ensure apps reach their audience and experience success. PhoneGap not only creates apps for iOS and Android, but also BlackBerry and Windows, making it an extremely versatile tool.

XAMARIN

Xamarin recently attracted a great deal of attention when it raised $54 million in its Series C round of investments. Xamarin is utilized by over 20% of Fortune 500 companies. According to IDC, those developers will be delivering almost $5 billion to the marketplace in 2017. Xamarin separates itself from the pack by using native UI components from each platform, allowing users to create their app with the native look app for each platform.

APPCELERATOR TITANIUM

Appcelerator Titanium uses Javascript to create native iOS and Android apps while giving developers the ability to reuse from 60% to 90% of the same code for all apps. Appcelerator is a major time saver. It’s also an open-source tool, meaning hundreds of developers are constantly adding to it and improving its functionality. In January 2016, Appcelerator was acquired by Axway, a software and services company. Axway plans on making it easy to integrate Appcelerator with their existing digital business enablement solutions.

For more great cross-platform development tools, check out these great curated lists by AppIndex and TechBeacon.

Rise to the Top of Google SEO with Responsive Design

When designing a website, web developers have both practical and aesthetic concerns. From a practical standpoint, a website must reach and connect with its core audience. Due to the rise of mobile technology, it’s important for a site to have mobile functionality so that it can reach the multitudes surfing the web on their mobile devices. The most efficient, cost-effective & effective way is to develop a responsive website. Responsive design not only helps reach a mobile audience, it also increases overall SEO so that the website will rank higher in search engines.

For those unfamiliar with responsive design, check out this quick 60-second review:

When it comes to SEO, Google is king. As of October 2015, studies show the massive tech titan owns about 63.9% of the search engine market share. In February 2015, Google announced they will be emphasizing mobile-friendly search results. In their own words: “Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.”

In accordance with their announcement, Google Adwords charges less for a keyword when the landing page is optimized for mobile. Responsive websites represent a major incentive for advertising on Google since responsive design guarantees presentation will accommodate the device regardless of whether it’s a mobile device or a computer.

Responsively designed sites offer a common landing page for all devices, consolidating the amount of links and improving the SEO. If a desktop or laptop user iMessages the link to an iPhone, they can click on it and immediately prompt the same web page rather than a different page optimized for mobile. Instead of duplicating content with separate sites for mobile and desktop mediums, responsive design ensures brand and information continuity with a singular master site.

According to Sociomantic, over half of online shoppers use more than one device. A responsive website not only ensures a consistent UI and brand experience, it eliminates maintenance cost by reducing the amount of websites one is required to maintain. The better a site is, the lower the bounce rate is, and the higher it will rank in Google. For businesses looking to succeed, responsive is almost always the best form of web design.

Mystic Media is a web design and application development company based in Salt Lake City, Utah and specializes in responsive design. For more information, click here or contact us by phone at 801.994.6815.

5 Trendy Web Design Techniques to Modernize Your Website

In the age of digital commerce, it’s vital to have a spiffy website. Even if a business does sell its products online, the first impression customers have of a brand often stems from the website. A messy website brings to mind a messy product. In this post, we will examine how 2015’s upcoming web design trends present ways in which to improve websites to make them look modern.

1.    Nail Your Landing Page

The landing page is the first impression a visitor has of a website, thus it’s a great opportunity to dazzle the viewer. Many websites have landing pages which are not only physically big, with imagery and design taking up most of the screen, but also large in metaphorical scale. Check out the website of Born Group, a creative media company with an extremely ambitious landing page.

Born sells something intangible—creative services. Their product is the ability to provoke emotion. As a creative agency, it’s vital for them to establish that they produce emotionally riveting content. The image of the ape is not only beautifully photographed, it’s powerful. If a prospective customer were on the verge of hiring Born Group, they would indubitably be swayed in the right direction from the moment they hit the landing page.

2.    Video Rules

For some companies, going for a message as big as Born would come off as overly self-involved. Born has an intangible product and sells B2B (Business-to-Business). They need to sell an idea and if they bring in a single project, it will pay for a big-budget investment in their site.

For smaller companies with tangible products, it’s important to put the product itself front-and-center. One way of doing this is to embed a video on the landing page of your site. For example, check out the salivating video on the landing page of Dunwell Donuts, a vegan Brooklyn donut shop.

The video succeeds on nearly every level. It makes the viewer crave donuts, artfully portrays the product, and tells the story of the founders of the business in an extremely intimate manner.

3.    Tell Your Story

The primary accomplishment of the Dunwell video is in the arena of storytelling. The Dunwell video tells the story of the company brand in an intimate way. By the end of the video, the viewer feels like they have a good sense of who runs Dunwell Donuts and what donuts mean to them.

A video is a cost-effective way of telling the personal story of a brand. Storytelling is a powerful medium because it creates an emotional connection between the viewer and the subject when executed effectively. For a business (especially a small business), this translates directly to brand loyalty. We’ve detailed other ways in which one can tell the personal story of a brand in our Parallax Scrolling article.

4.    Flat Design

Minimal web design is in. Apple’s design technique, flat design, is defined as “a style of interface design which removes any stylistic choices that give the illusion of three-dimensions (such as drop shadows, gradients, textures, or other tools that add depth) and is focused on a minimalist use of simple elements, typography and flat colors.”

Flat design is visually sleek and virtually inexpensive way of displaying one’s brand in a modern way. Check out some of the best flat design websites on the internet here.

5.    KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)

A really well-designed landing page with minimal content looks much better than a lot of redundant, visually lacking pages. For an alternate approach to the donut vertical, check out the site for Elsie’s Donut Shop. It’s flat, minimal, sleek and to the point, stressing the products.

With the internet working more and more as a gatekeeper for customers to select which businesses they choose to solicit, modern aesthetics have a direct impact on business. Equipping a business with a sleek, modernized website puts them in the best position to excel in the marketplace.

Mystic Media is a web design and application development company based in Salt Lake City, Utah. For more information, click here or contact us by phone at 801.994.6815.