HTML5 Canvas for Dummies
  • HTML5 Canvas For Dummies
    HTML5 Canvas For Dummies
    by Don Cowan

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    A New Android Market App

    Google is rolling out a new Market app that will allow them to compete more effectively with stores such as those provided by Amazon and Apple.


    Smartphone Apps for Android Tablets

    There is speculation that an upcoming version of the Google Android platform (possibly 3.2) may have better options for displaying apps on tablets that are sized for smartphones.

    Apps would have both stretch and zoom options. Zoom would be a new mode that would simulate a smartphone display and then fill the tablet screen with it.

    The purpose is to give Android tablet users greater access to Android Market apps, the majority of which are designed for smartphone screens. Since smartphones greatly outnumber tablets, this seems to us to be a great idea. Some smartphone apps incorporate a mixture of screen size optimizations. For example, our QuickClick Locales series of apps use a smartphone sized screen for user query input and mapping function that is optimized for both smartphones and tablets. 



    How Many Smartphone App Clicks is Too Many?

    At what point will the user of a smartphone app just give up and move on to the next app? It's an important question for app developers. 
    Although it's difficult to come up with an exact answer, we can understand at least something about the factors involved and how we might improve that chances that an app user will have a satisfying, non-frustrating experience.

    First, there are factors that are out of the control of the developer:
    Situational Pressure.
    Smartphones are generally used in a higher pressure environment than is the case with a PC. People are one the move, busy and anxious to get results as fast as possible.
    Information Needs.
    How badly the user needs the information provided by an app will be highly variable. If they're late for a meeting and need a phone number or address quickly, user tolerence for clicking through multiple screens and waiting through delays in displays will be quite low.
    App Knowledge.
    All app developers would like users to take the time to completely understand every aspect of how to use their app. This usually is not the case. Users learn only the minimum they need and want apps to respond quickly.
    Given this challenging environment, app developers need to focus on what they can control to make an app as usable as possible:
    Apps need to be understood quickly and easily. Navigation, layout, colors, text, images, buttons ... all the elements of design play a role in creating a good user experience.
    Information Load.
    Is the user presented with just the right amount of information necessary to get the job done? Too much or too little can lead to an unsatisfactory experience and poor app ratings.
    Click Sequences.
    Can the user get to what they need directly? Having to click through long sequences of screens can frustrate users. People are impatient. 
    In summary, app developers need to focus on what they can control and not assume favorable conditions for those factors that are out of their control.

    Re-tooling for the Information Age

    The internet, web sites, smartphones, tablets, social networking, cloud computing ... the Information Age is getting into full swing. Just as the U.S. transitioned completely to the Industrial Age in the 1930's, we are now completing our move into the Information Age.
    Whether as an individual or business, it will become increasingly difficult to compete without using Information Age tools and processes. Emerging markets, with their lower cost base, will take most of the remaining Industrial Age jobs and opportunities. Manufacturing in the U.S. won't disappear, but it too will have to adopt Information Age ways.
    Some, often those of older generations, regret the popularity of new, fast paced tools such as social networking. It would be more productive to give them a try and leverage their value.
    The rapid spread of smartphones is accelerating  the use of tools such as social networking. They offer a great way to take the plunge into a new world.

    Smartphone App User Interface - Lessons from Websites

    Apps are relatively new compared to websites.  There's a lot of hard earned knowledge about website user interfaces. It might be useful to take some lessons from websites and apply them to apps. Here are a few starters:
    At a glance understanding.
    People skim computer based interfaces, they don't read them like you would a book. It's important to get people's attention and convey meaning quickly. Use elements such as images and symbols in addition to text.
    Obvious navigation.  
    People want to know where they are as they pass through an application. Give them hints about where they are and how to move around easily.
    Appealing graphic design (colors, placement, font,...).  
    People have visceral reactions to the look and feel of what they see on a screen. You may not be able to judge a book by it's cover, but if the cover isn't appealing, the content may never be seen.
    Important elements above the fold.  
    Don't make people scroll to see critical information. Put the important elements on the first part of the screen to appear.
    Importance of names, symbols, etc.

    Naming and creating symbols for your app, tabs, sections is important as an aid in remembering where users have been and where they want to go.



    Ranking Sticky Apps

    Apple and Google are changing the way they rank apps in their markets. Although the exact formulas are kept secret, there is talk and news that they are moving away from basing rankings on downloads and now using a formula based on the "sticky-ness" of apps.

    The sticky formula is based on the ratio daily active users to monthly active users. So just getting users to download an app no longer gets a high rating. Users need to actually use an app to move it up in the ratings. Seems to make sense. After all, they are called "users" not "downloaders." 


    Android Ice Cream Sandwich

    That's the name of their upcoming Android release due out in the fourth quarter of 2011. A major component of the release  will be a "run anywhere" set of features that will allow Android apps to run on all Android devices regardless of the exact phone configuration. Looks tasty.


    Cloud Computing and Smartphones

    The news is full of stories about interest in and growth of cloud computing ... relying on services hosted on servers owned, operated and maintained by others. Some get nervous about having their information located in places they don't control. The growth of smartphones should, however, accelerate the move to cloud computing and gradually ameliorate those fears.

    Relying on cloud computing with a smartphone, or tablet, isn't an option. It's all controlled "in the clouds." Faster and more reliable networks will also help. Over time, whether computing is done on your device or in the cloud should become a somewhat meaningless distinction.


    Check-in Becoming Popular

    A new study has shown that nearly 20 percent of smartphone users in the U.S. use check-in services. The study was conducted by researchers from ComScore. Check-in lets visitors take advantage of special offers and discounts and, if they choose, let friends know where they are.


    Android for Control of Real World Objects

    Google has just announced a group of hardware and software platforms for using Android tablets and other devices to control real world objects. Developers are being invited to create applications for these platforms that could control anything from lighting to heavy duty equipment. Android@Home is part of the initiative and will let Android software apps discover, connect and communicate with devices in the home. Below is a photo of the hardware controller used to interface Android with objects.