Category Archives: Mobile

iScotland – following the herd since 2007 / 1707

Last Tuesday (9th September) the world was split into two camps yet again; those who like good phones and those who don’t like Apple. This is a perennial prejudice that arises pretty much every time Apple launches a new product and doesn’t seemed to be based on anything other than an abject dislike of the Apple brand. One of the most perplexing things that has emerged as part of this in recent years is to start referring to those who do like the Apple brand as ‘sheep’. This is a term that seems to be bandied around quite a lot on the social media channels, as a way of poking fun at those who are excited about the launch of the new iPhone 6 models…and to a lesser extent the Apple watch.

The reason that this strange prejudice is perplexing is that the iPhone is the single biggest selling handset in the world. Whilst there may well be more Android users world wide, no other individual device has sold more units than the iPhone has, which means that it is, by matter of fact, one of the most popular devices around.

Apple naysayers clearly feel the need to denigrate the brand, and those who are fans of it, in some vane attempt to gain some sort of moral high ground. But what is interesting is that, by and large, there is no real reasoning behind it, other than simple not liking Apple. The fact is that the iPhone has been one of the leading edge mobile devices for some years. Whether we like it or not, it is almost singularly responsible for transforming the mobile market from the ‘telephone’ market into the ‘device’ market we now know and love. We don’t have mobile phones now, we have devices that are also able to make calls. In 2007, when Apple launched the iPhone, it was without doubt a revolution and they have continued to push the boundaries and lead the market in many ways.

There is justified criticism of Apple; they prefer their own technology to others and therefore don’t adopt things like NFC, other phones might have slightly better tech (for example, the Galaxy S3 had a better phone and video system) but side by side the differences are not noticeable enough to really say that one device far out strips another. And one thing that Apple excels in and has yet been completely unchallenged in, is its user experience. Across the board Apple interfaces are easier to use, have a more consistent UX and have a brand consistency that marks all of their products out from the rest of the pack. It is for this reason that Apple is synonymous with the vogue end of the market…people aspire to have the Apple brand in their hand.

With this in mind, it can only really be the dislike of the brand that people use as an excuse to criticise Apple followers, which seems rather churlish. Calling people who are fans of Apple ‘sheep’ because they like a very good brand, is like saying that if you like chocolate and eat the newest bar from Cadbury’s then you are a sheep. It is quite ridiculous.

And this point is very comparable with another, rather more significant, situation that is occurring literally as I write this. Today, on Thursday 18th September 2014, Scotland are going to the polls to decide if they should break away from the United Kingdom and become an independent country. It is complete coincidence that the launch of the iPhone in 2007 was the 300th anniversary year of the Union Act being passed in Scotland, but the ‘sheep’ description is being used for those wanting to stay with the Union in very comparable circumstances.

Many people will be going to the polling station to vote ‘Yes’, completely based on their pride for Scotland (and most likely their corresponding dislike for England…a long running theme between our two countries) and they will not be swayed for love nor money. It is their right to do this and we should respect it. Scotland, as a country, has the right to decide if it is part of the Union and that is the way it should be. But the worrying thing is that over the past couple of years, as this debate has waged on, a lot of people will have been pursuaded to vote ‘yes’ for devolution based purely on the emotional arguments presented and without any of the key issues being answered.

To date, Alex Salmond and the ‘yes’ camp, have failed to offer a strategy for how Scotland will retain and maintain it’s vast infrastructure, how they will secure a long term future for the country in terms of finance, a currency, political status within Europe and the international community and within the business world. There is a lot of detail up in the air but one thing is absolutely certain, if they vote for devolution then it will be a very rocky short term and the long term is entirely unclear. It seems very worrying that a possible majority of people would vote on such a big decision without any of these questions being answered, especially as the health and well being of them and their country will hinge on this.

Comparing the love / hate relationship the world has with Apple to the very significant changes occurring in Scotland seems, at face value, to be a little absurd. But that is the most worrying thing. Those who dislike Apple don’t really have very much evidence to offer when challenged on it, and when it comes to voting ‘yes’ for Scottish independence, unfortunately at this point the same is also true.

Anti-social people in glass houses…

The young generation today is constantly accused of being anti-social. Indeed, I have previously written about the evolution of communication in defence of those who sit in public with their friends whilst being glued to their mobile phones. But what I think is interesting is there is a hypocrisy at play here, especially when older generations are the ones accusing the younger generations of being anti-social or acting in some way in an inappropriate manner. More so, I put it to you that this “anti-social behaviour” is far from new to this generation and has, in fact, being going on for generations.

Take this scene, which I experienced in the local tax-avoiding coffee shop franchise the other day:

A family of 3 generations, all reading and not talking to each other

The above was a shining light moment on 3 generations and their natural habits. All three have gone out together to a social place, all three have subsequently engaged in their own media and are not engaging with each other. In the case of the grand-mother, she is reading the paper. The daughter is on her mobile and the grand-son is on a tablet device playing a game.

This little scene perfectly demonstrates my point. Three generations, three different media to distract themselves with and all three doing just that, rather than choosing to chat with each other. And this is the key point, we have been doing this for generations and it is merely the media we use to distract ourselves that marks us apart.

For my generation, we were accused of being anti-social because we had walkmans in the late eighties. We would sit with our giant microphone style headphones strapped to our heads, the music clearly audible to those around us. In the mid-nineties of course this had become phone calls and 100 character texts (and for a brief while, rather amusingly, paging). The beginning of the mobile phone era had begun. And in the mid-naughties (2000s) the iPhone changed everything again, enabling us to actually use the internet and social media reliably through a mobile device. The ‘look-down’ generation had arrived, perched on the edge of their seats, leaning over the small screen and typing messages to all of their friends rather than actually speaking to them as they had done before. Now the latest generation of children are glued to their tablet devices as well, playing all manner of app based games or absorbing the latest from the social-sphere.

But whilst our generations have suffered the accusations of the older generations, largely because our distractions were electronic, they were no different in their day and their own parents would no doubt have considered them anti-social little heathens, incapable of any sort of social engagement that didn’t involve pirate radio stations. The quintessentially British concept that you should not, under any circumstances, talk to other people in public unless you knew them has been bred over the generations. As the grand-mother in our picture shows us, she is just as happy to engage in reading the paper as the other two are in using their devices.

Of course, some people would try and say that reading the paper is a much more social thing to do, which is of course nonsense. The simple fact is that in this case we distract ourselves instead of talking to each other. The irony is that those on devices are probably talking to other people over ‘the network’ whereas in the past they were simply reading about the outside world and not actually engaging in anyone. And this irony is well documented. There are plenty of old films that show couples sitting together reading their individual papers or books and not talking to each other.

The reality is that each generation accuses the one after it of being anti-social. This happens because the latest generation use the latest media and the generation before them uses this as the excuse for criticism. The lesson to be learned is, if you’re going to be the one to assess someone else as being anti-social, make sure that you don’t do it yourself first…it is highly likely that you do in your own way!

App-lying the lessons of design

Back to digital stuff this week. We’ve recently been working on a couple of app projects for release in the coming months and so I thought I would share a few of our learnings on the process. I’ve previously written about mobile and apps and specifically about the considerations when thinking about developing an app, but today I thought I would look at the specifics of the next stage – getting it to development.

Having worked in website and application development (in the IT sense) for many years, the process of design – development- test – release is one that is ingrained. But when it comes to app development there are some key nuances that should be considered. In generating the ideas for the two projects we have recently worked on, first we tested the ‘need’ against some key questions:

  • Does the process you are building live by itself?
  • Do your users need to be able to do it offline or do they need internet access?
  • Does it require features from the mobile device / does it require being ‘mobile’ in order to work?
  • Does the app provide a solution for a genuine need?

Additionally, the question that was in my mind is “will it have appeal?” Ultimately is the idea either useful enough or fun enough that people will want to use it? In the case of both our apps I wrote a small mandate and business case for the app, to test the concept. This provided the key foundation for specification as it set out the core reasons why the app should exist – which in turn become the core functional considerations for the app and the design.

In the case of our apps we started by keeping with traditional methods. I wireframed the user journeys and functionality for the app so that we could test the journey. Using the wireframes we created a crude clickable prototype and tested this with a couple of people to see if it not only made sense but that it achieved all that was intended.

App wireframe mockups

Feedback is key in app development, because the general principle for apps is that they should be intuitive. Keeping them as simple as possible is absolutely key if the app is going to be used.

When we were satisfied with the general specifications for the app it was time to apply a graphical design. There are plenty of templates available on line, we opted for a Photoshop based one. Again a key thing we discovered is knowing what the personality of the app is going to be before entering into the design phase. Also, doing research into the standards required for interface design is crucial. Apple have specific interface design guidelines, for example, that should be adhered to if you want your app to be approved. Also, think about the tasks your app is going to allow users to do and design the interface elements to suit this. If you want it to be playful then consider movement and transition, but if you want it to be formal and task driven then make things logical and as simple as possible. Consistency is a key consideration though, if you take an approach on one screen then try to make the rest of the app screens follow the same lines. This will help users to orientate themselves in the app and intuitively understand how it works, without instruction.

For our apps we had two very different personalities. The first is a Christmas related app for a local town so the design needed to reflect this. A nighttime scene with snow effects were the design concept. The second is a comical app related to a well known region of the country and so we created a character to reflect this. In both cases the general approach was then reflected throughout the app for consistency. At this point it is also necessary to make decisions on what platforms you are going to support, as each has different screen sizes. Designing for an iPhone 5 screen could mean that it won’t fit onto a smaller Android screen, so make sure you factor this in when designing. Another thing that it is worth considering is utilizing the existing style for the platform. If the ‘out of the box’ Apple style for certain things works with your design, then don’t over complicate it by designing something custom. Don’t forget, the users are already used to the existing standards so don’t mess with them.

When it comes to development, if you don’t have a resource available to you then planning who is going to do this work for you is something not to be taken lightly. There are plenty of dev houses available all over the world, but knowing you are going to get what you want is the difference between spending lots of money and getting value for money. In our case, we approached 3 agencies and asked them to quote. We prepared annotated designs and non-functional requirements for our app and asked them all to respond accordingly and then made a decision based on the detail, cost, timescales and approach. There are plenty of very reputable agencies based in India, Pakistan and eastern Europe that can supply very cheap development services, or you can get a freelancer. If you do go with a freelancer though, understand you are not protected by a company constitution so try and agree some sort of contract and scope of work to be delivered for a fixed cost. Time and materials will cost you more. Finally, make sure you have some way of tracking progress with them. We use an online tool called Zoho, so that we can see their progress and the tasks they are undertaking.

When it comes to development another key thing to make sure you agree with your development supplier is that you own the intellectual rights and code for the development. You don’t want them to own the right to do anything with the app. Making sure they develop using your Apple developer account / Google App account is also a good way to make sure you have control. Don’t forget that if you are going to charge for you app then it is the account the app has been built with that will collect the money!

So, your app is well thought through, planned, designed and your developers are beavering away. It’s all done surely? No…make sure that once the app is available for testing that you not only rigorously test it yourself in the context it is going to be used, but also get other people to try it out as well. Validating that it actually works for a normal user and isn’t confusing or clumsy will mean you get good reviews rather than bad ones in the app stores. Also make sure that they specification has been delivered correctly and if it hasn’t, get them to fix it. You’ve paid for a job to be done properly so make sure you get what you paid for. This is where dealing with a freelancer can be tricky!

So finally, once it is launched the final consideration is getting it out there. Make sure that you have a marketing plan for your app because if you don’t it will be easy for your app to just disappear into obscurity. A few key things to consider are:

  • Give free promo versions to influential social users and bloggers (and celebs if you can, they have huge amounts of lemming like followers) – Apple gives you 50 free promo codes for each release so use them wisely
  • Support your app with a social media and/or web presence – having a supporting promotional web page and/or social media page will mean getting the message out to those who don’t scour the app stores
  • Tie in additional products – if the app is fun then think about creating additional products to support it, such as t-shirts, mugs and posters.
  • If your app serves a particular type of person or business then target them directly, pushing the benefits. Even go and show them how it works if you can or produce a brochure to sell the product to them.

Last thoughts…allow plenty of time. A well planned app, even a simple one, is going to take at least 6 months to get to market. Also, don’t worry about getting the app 100% right on the first release and certainly don’t fill it with every piece of functionality you can think of. Simplicity is the key so start by just serving the key need you identified. You can then use the users to tell you how to develop the app if it is successful. For me, developing our first apps has been a lot of fun so try and have fun when going through the process as well. Enjoy!

Watch out, it’s the next big thing!

In my last blog I talked about the analogy between our ‘digital presence’ and a tattoo. In a recent article on BBC news, they look at the widely rumoured coming of the Apple wrist watch and ask the question “Do we need watches to tell us more than the time?”, an interesting question to which I think there is a number of answers.

I have talked before about the convenience of carrying your profile around with you as part of your mobile device. This data can be used when you interact with the world around you in order to ‘personalise’ your experience. This could be something as simple as walking into an airport and it automatically checking you in without you having to get to the desk, through to storing your personal setup for your car so that when you get in the seat adjust to your setting, your playlist is loaded on the radio and even the decor is adjusted to your preferred colour palette and styles. So how does this link to a wrist watch?

The major problem people tend to have when they think about a wrist watch in the context of what Apple and others are developing (or at least so it is rumoured), is that they are still thinking of it primarily as a time telling object with some extra stuff added in. And that is the problem. Before the iPhone hit the market people had the same problem when thinking about the concept of using a phone to do anything more than texting and making calls. But Apple changed the world so that now we actually see phones as a digital device which can also be used for calls and instant messaging. The same needs to happen with the idea of the  wrist watch in order to fully begin to comprehend how it could change the world.

For my part, I stopped wearing a wrist watch when I got an iPhone. This was partly because my watch was irritating but mainly because my iPhone acts as my time telling device now because I use it so often and it is so convenient. But it is still something I have to carry around and that is a bulge in my pocket, and something that can be inconvenient. As we all know, getting a modern mobile phone out of your pocket can often result in dropping it and, in the case of the iPhone, smashing the screen.

The beauty of the idea of a device like the iPhone that can be worn on the wrist is the convenience of this in every day (or every moment) use. And that is the key…realising that devices like a wrist watch would move us from “every day” to “every moment” use. What I mean by this is that more and more of our time is now spent using our phones and tablets to make things happen for us. The context of our usage has grown from a desk to almost anywhere, be it on the move or lounging on the sofa. The convenience of not even having to get something out of a pocket in order to use it will only strengthen our hold on these devices.

So imagine a wrist device that allows you to carry around your preferences, user accounts, details, etc. Using the near field communication functionality you could go through the checkout at Tesco and when it is time to pay a push notification to your wrist device would prompt you to select your e-wallet details and then pay for the shopping seamlessly. If someone called the device, you simply unwrap it from your arm (as it would be made from a flexible glass material) and use it as a traditional phone, before replacing it on your arm. You could browse the web or use apps straight off your wrist or unwrap the device to act like an iPhone does now. The possibilities would be huge and arguably replace the need for a separate hand held device like an iPhone.

Of course this is all philosophical at this point. Apple has not even confirmed if it is indeed working on a wrist watch device, although someone is certainly working on something like this. The one thing that is certain is that in 2007 when the iPhone launched it began a revolution in both the phone world and the internet. Whatever comes next in this area will cause another revolution and we are on the tip of that wave now.

So what of the main point in the BBC article? Well they are right; In order for a wrist device to be successful, and not just another Google Glasses style gimick, it will need to cater for a real and relevant need. There have been a lot of people creating ‘visions of the future’, not least the magnificent ‘A Day Made in Glass’ video. What these all seem to have in common is creating a more seamless, more integrated and data driven world. The company that cracks producing a wrist device that can do this sort of thing will be the company that shows just how powerful this sort of device can be…it will be the next big thing in the digital world.

You are the Apple of my eye

Forgive this post as being a bit of a product review. For a while I had been thinking of writing a blog article comparing the Samsung Galaxy Tablet and the Apple iPad (the new / 3rd one), looking at practicalities. For years I have resisted being a Apple fan boy, under much pressure from good friends of mine who are some what blinkered to anything non-Apple. But in recent years I have found myself (and my family) becoming more and more Apple focused and I so I thought it would be more interesting to look at why this has been the case.

UX (User eXperience)

Like it or not, Apple are exceptionally good at creating very usable experiences, which are consistent across almost ever facet of their interfaces. One of the ways this is most noticeable is in the way apps are created for the app store. As Apple have a set of guidelines (both technical and design) that have to be met before an app is approved this means that all the apps in the store are, by and large, easy to use. There are no doubt exceptions that crept through the net, but apps in general feel well crafted and designed. In contrast, the Google Play store doesn’t seem to have the same level of checking and as a result my experience has been that apps on the android simply don’t have that extra level of class and usability.

The way the Apple screen is set out is also incredibly easy to understand. My 4 year old daughter was using it, unaided, to find and play her apps when she was 3 with no problems at all and the consistent nature of icons only on the main screens helps with this. One thing I do like about the Galaxy tablet is the ability to have widgets on the homepage as well as icons, but in a lot of cases they seem not to refresh without manual prompting, which is frustrating.

Above all of this, one of the things I like the most about the Mac system is that it is so customisable. I can set up my tracking pad on my laptop to do thing that I want to do so that I can zip around the programs with ease. Apple seem to have taken the view of ‘let’s put the user in charge’ where as Microsoft seem to have said ‘let’s show the user how it is done’.

Responsive

The Galaxy Tablet lacks the crisp responsiveness that the 3rd gen iPad provides. Both the iPad and iPhone are incredibly quick to respond to touch whereas the Galaxy often lags. Whilst the Galaxy S3 mobile is much better it lacks the edge that Apple have long established in their models.

Cloud

Once you have more than one Apple device then the main selling point is the iCloud. There are, of course, similar services now out their for non-Apple users that do a similar job, but because Apple devices can easily be linked to each other it makes the running of our lives so much easier. We now forego an up to date wall calendar as my wife uses the iPad and her iPhone to keep up with iCal and I use my iPhone and Mac Book to maintain my half of it. We know what is going on all the time so it is easy to make decisions. Sharing becomes much easier as well and photos / videos (the main stay of our record as our children grow up) are backed up automatically. Facetime means that if one of us is away then we can see the other for free and talk to our children, who are too young to really get how to use a phone. Of course there are plenty of non-Apple apps out there that do the same thing, but once you are on the Apple network everything is at your finger tips, so it is just easy.

Cost

One big problem with Apple is the cost. Whilst you could legitimately argue that you get what you pay for, and Apple products are superb, the cost is often disproportionate to the alternatives that other brands can offer. The story of the Magic Mouse is a good example, in that I simply cannot justify spending that much for a mouse when the only major selling point over other brands is that “it is cool”.

Brand

The fact that Apple products are cool is a key selling point. Apple’s biggest asset is that people aspire to own their products. There is a techy class system emerging and Apple is the equivalent of the upper class in many ways. I know a lot of people who own the iPhone simply because it is an iPhone, rather than because it will serve their personal needs better. From my point of view, it was the iCloud which made my decision when actually I think the Galaxy in many ways is a better phone. But the wider Apple package means that for me there was only one choice. And if I am honest, I also think that Apple products are really cool!

Summary

Albeit a very brief overview, one thing I have tried to establish is how easy to it is to get sucked into the Apple whirlpool, probably never to escape. Brand aside, what Apple have done is create a whole suite of integrated products that allow ease of use and convenience in running almost every facet of your technical life. I started out with every intention of staying quite agnostic to brand, but I have increasingly found myself falling in love with the world Apple have created, even if I am not in love with their prices. The biggest change for my family is that now, through Apple devices, we have started to create our family network. And this is quite key, because the world in the future will be like this. We, as family units, will have a network of devices that we need to talk to each other, share information and keep us in contact with one another. So far Apple is the only brand that provides this easily and under one seamless banner, but others will no doubt come. For me, the most significant thing is the consistency of their experience across their devices and software. You don’t need a user manual because you already know how to use them and they are often so  intuitive that a child can do it without instructions. We are an Apple household at the moment because it is easy to be one…although I still have my Samsung Galaxy Tablet to keep me grounded!

2013 – the year of the mobile

Recently E-Consultancy recently wrote about the ‘most exciting digital opportunity for marketers in the coming year’ being mobile optimisation. They are right, there is little doubt about that, and their stats are very compelling. They rightly mention that a wider mobile experience is necessary, considering the whole mobile strategy rather than simply creating a mobile site or making sure content works. But something I feel they don’t highlight enough is the need for a robust strategy that aims to understand the whole perspective, as every business is different and so are their customers.

Having run mobile strategies for large global brands, the importance of understanding the context, appetite and behaviour of their customers on mobile is paramount in approaching mobile optimisation of their digital assets. It isn’t just about making everything work well on mobile, although that is a big part of it, it is about understanding how your customers want to do things on mobile devices, because it is not the same for all customers across all businesses.

The first thing to understand about “mobile” is that it has more than one meaning. In the case of this article I am referring to mobile devices (i.e. the handsets) and also people being mobile (i.e. moving around). Understanding both of these in the context of your mobile strategy is extremely important because thinking about a user journey for your customer whilst they are in the queue at the station, whilst looking at their android phone, is going to be different to to your customer sat at home in the evening on their laptop or desktop computer.

Mindset and context are all important as it changes our expectations of a site and the behaviour we exhibit as users of devices is different because of this:

  • Mobile devices are what we call ‘sit forward’, in that you tend to be sat forward looking at them for a short period of time, whilst on the move. Your ideal user journey is therefore short, involves browsing by flicking quickly through things at pace and is often shallow. As a user you make a decision about whether the content is what you want very quickly and you expect the page to be visual rather than text based. The most important thing is that as a user they are often on the move so are time poor and want content quickly.
  • Tablet devices are what we call ‘sit back’, as usually we have a little more time to think about what we are doing and are also slightly more relaxed. Users therefore expect more on the page as they are more willing to spend a little time engaging with the content, but on touch screen devices it is important to make sure the experience is engaging, visual and information and intuitive otherwise it simply won’t fit the medium. Often these are ‘browsing’ journeys as people tend to ‘free wheel’ around content as their whim takes them.
  • Desktop (or laptop) computers are more ‘premeditated’ and often involve some amount of thought before engaging. For example, it might be a research task being undertaken and therefore a user is more targetted and focussed on what they are looking for. These journeys tend to require more information, more text (although still not too much) and longer periods of time on pages. Often multiple tabs would be open on the browser and users will keep pages open and flick between them. This is the detailed information journey that takes more time and really needs to make sense in terms of linking between content.

Although there is no 100% rule on how people use one device over another, the above is a good way of thinking about it as a start point and needs to be considered as part of planning a mobile strategy. It is important to understand what the key ‘must have’ points are and make sure they are facilitated in the mobile journey. But understanding that there is a different mindset to how we consume content depending on the device will ultimately lead to planning the content to be suitable for each channel.

Creating and understanding your personas is another key consideration. There are no hard and fast rules about how an audience behaves so one business cannot assume that their mobile website can work in the same way as another’s. In strategies I have managed we have spent a considerable amount of time understanding exactly how and when an expat would use his or her mobile and therefore what they would want to know at that time, versus when and where they would use a desktop or tablet. This was key in understanding the rapidity at which they not only want but need to access content and therefore how we make it available to them.

Another consideration that comes out of this understanding is the technical approach to take with optimising for mobile. Do you go for a mobile website, a responsive site or an app?

  • Mobile websites are separate sites, often with m.website.com as their URL. They exist as separate sites to the desktop site and they recognise that a fundamentally different experience is needed for mobile devices than for desktop sites. If your content needs to be detailed, in depth and very different on a desktop site to a mobile site then it is worth considering this approach, but remember that it requires additional maintenance, a whole different build and a different set of content.
  • Responsive websites are the new buzz word in digital, even though they have been around for a while. This is when you have a single website that dynamically changes itself to suit the resolution of the device being used to view it. A key consideration is ‘responsive experience’ rather than responsive design as it is both technically possible and often required (from a UX POV) to radically change the user experience depending on the device being used. The key thing about this approach is that it is one website for all and therefore the planning of this is quite key. Often starting from mobile first and building up is a good way to make sure that the mobile site has everything that is needed before working out how to pad out the desktop, rather than being left trying to work out how you would fit all the content from a desktop site onto a mobile screen.
  • Apps are the other main option. Everyone wants an app but there are key questions that you should ask yourself before building one; does the process I am building live by itself? do my users need to be able to do it offline? does it require features from a mobile device? does the app provide a solution for a genuine need? There are other questions as well, but if the answer to all of the above is ‘no’ then you shouldn’t have an app. Apps are designed to be ‘pockets’ of functionality, serving a specific need and allowing users to do this without needing regular connections to the internet or other resources.

Often a mobile strategy will include one or more of the above and I have excluded web apps from the list as they are arguably mobile websites. Understanding where your business sits and where it aims to sit in the future on the spectrum of the above is quite important. If your user-base is unlikely to use an app then focussing your effort on that area is really not the best course of action. However, if your research shows your future market will be interested and actively using apps then having it on the long-term plan is important.

Which leads me to my last major point; create a road-map. It is another one of the corporate buzz words but the concept is important. I like to think of a road-map as like looking down a lens. The stuff in the foreground (i.e. the next few months to a year) should be crisply in focus. You should know what you are doing in the next year and you should be planning in detail and working towards delivering it. The further away you look the less in focus it is, meaning that the further along your timeline you look the less defined your work is. This recognises that the further down the line you look the more uncertainty there is about what might change in the wider world. Setting an exact plan for the next five years would be silly as you are unable to respond to unforeseen changes, but also not having a general direction to work in would be equally silly because you can’t work towards anything and you can’t build the foundations for the bigger picture now.

And this brings us full circle, because without doing the robust planning and research for your strategy up front you can’t start to formulate short and long term goals, because you don’t know what your targets are. But with good planning and research you can predict, with reasonable certainty, what your future userbase is, how they will behave and in what way they will engage with your business across devices. Using this information you can plan your immediate actions and make sure they are working towards the long term picture, whilst making sure that the long term plan is clear but flexible in case things drastically change.