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Tips & Tutorials

iPhone & Android: How to Optimize Your App for Both

By Tips & TutorialsNo Comments

The battle between iPhone and Android operating systems has long led software developers to ask the question: which system should we consider when designing an app?  Depending on budget restrictions and monetization goals, the answer could be one, the other or both.  Industry leaders tend to vary in their opinions of which system to start with when designing. Also, once an app becomes successful, it is very common that the app becomes “native,” meaning there are completely separate teams developing for each operating system. With Bytelion’s help, you can start to develop your app through a cross-platform approach.

The Android Approach

There are times when it makes sense to work with the Android operating system first.  The platform allows you to focus on key features, test their functionality and produce several iterations before moving onto iOS.  Android is considered to be less expensive as well, due to the fact that it relies on an open source software and allows more lenient standards for submission requirements. Typically, apps developed for Android as freemium models, meaning the download is free but additional benefits may require payment.

Nearly 85% of mobile devices worldwide use an Android system, making it a dominate player internationally.  Unlike iOS, however, there are multiple Android operating systems that run over 24,000 unique devices.  A Google device may not perform efficiently on a system that is ideal for a Samsung or LG device.  Because of this, we must test apps across multiple devices in order to account for multiple Android systems.  We look for fragmentation issues in order to prevent them from interfering with the user’s experience.

The iPhone Approach

Although Android has a global edge, iPhone remains dominate in the US.  If your target market is in the US, building an iOS friendly app first may be more beneficial.  iOS apps are considered to be more stable than their Android counterparts, because they all run on a unified operating system. iOS  offers better opportunities for revenue through features like in-app purchases. iOS users also tend to have higher spending habits, making flat-price apps more successful on this platform.

The downside to iOS is higher related startup costs for development.  The high quality and consistency that users expect from iPhone products comes at a price.  It is crucial that the design of your app looks and functions to its highest ability before releasing it to the public. If you don’t take the time to properly test the product, the app could suffer costly setbacks down the road.

Optimizing for Both

The need to introduce your app for both iPhone and Android simultaneously is becoming increasingly common. In this case, working with an experienced design firm like Bytelion can make all the difference.  It is important to understand that the two operating systems have very different design patterns, which can cause the platforms to not align perfectly.  This is where an experienced developer is crucial to make the necessary adjustments. Depending on the business development stage the company is in, cross-platform development can cut cost significantly which is a huge advantage.  We have experience in the research, development and optimizing of apps across multiple platforms. Cross-platform accessibility can be used in a multitude of scenarios, whether you are targeting a large network of users or working on an enterprise software. Enterprise software is typically designed for internal use, therefore cross-platform accessibility is appealing to users that access information on a wide variety of devices.

If you are interested in building an app that is optimized for iPhone and Android, contact us today to learn more. Learn how our outcome-driven solutions can set you apart from your competitors!

Pros And Cons Of Building Your Website With WordPress

By Development, Marketing, Mobile, MVP, Security, Startup, Tips & Tutorials, Tools, WordpressNo Comments

WordPress as a web building tool has built its reputation as providing amazing features specifically in the world of CMS, powering over 75 million sites and almost 23% of the World Wide Webs’ sites. However, despite its popularity, WordPress has drawbacks as a website development platform that you should be aware of before jumping on the bandwagon. Being informed is one of the most important factors in deciding where and how to build your site.

 

A few of your options for building and designing your website:

 

Website Editor

(Wix/Squarespace or similar solution)

Website editor, easily learned, drag and drop designs, less customization, small sites

WordPress

Website builder, edit and manage content through admin access, customization limited to WordPress support and technical capabilities, learning curve

App development

Full development team/developer, Fully customizable, Supports large, complex sites with high user traffic

Some Things To Consider

 

Typical WordPress use

WordPress is largely known for its CMS (content management system) capabilities, but it supports models for blogging, eCommerce, and forum websites as well. Sites that differ from this will most likely need customization.

Cost

Building a site can be expensive, you need to make sure you’re getting what you need, rather than trying to opt for the cheapest solution. Custom website development can cost anywhere from $5,000 to upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on your needs.

Time

Building a site takes time. How much time do you have? Most web projects take an average from 12 to 16 weeks. However, the time is always dependent on several factors, such as the complexity of the project, scope of work, number of people involved, etc. Always be sure to set a realistic timeline when looking at website building solutions.

Resources

How big is your team? Do you have any technical skills? WordPress maintenance requires a learning curve and dedication to the site after the initial build. To keep your site up to date, make sure you are prepared to learn or are willing pay someone for maintenance.

Security

WordPress is a great resource because of its popularity, but that popularity leaves sites more vulnerable to hackers and information leaks. What type of content are you providing? Does it need to be secure? Developing your own website or mobile app can provide more security.

Mobile

WordPress does not support mobile app development but does allow for you to have a responsive mobile version of your site.

Users

Does your website require a large number of users to log in and out of your site? Depending on your business, WordPress may not be able to support the high volume and data storage that your site requires. Consider building a customized application with a development team.

 

Benefits of WordPress

 

Ease of Use – For non-technical folks

WordPress is great for non-technical users who want to be able to manage their content and make minor adjustments without getting knee deep in code. The content builder enables you to design within a set framework BUT does not allow for much customization. If you are looking for customization, you will have to get your hands dirty and add in some code.

Plugins

WordPress has over 45,000 plugins that you can upload that increases new functionality options. This is great for you, it means you can do more than just make a basic blog! However, they require a lot of updates and may need customization and code to get them working properly with your site.

SEO Friendly – Kind of

WordPress is wonderful because it bumps up your site on web browsers from the built-in SEO(Search Engine Optimization) system, however, if you are a novice with SEO, you may need some coaching. Too much tagging and repetition can kill your SEO rating and send your website to the bottom of the page. Luckily WordPress has a wide range of plugins to help with this, including our favorite, Yoast, which helps by rating your pages on readability, keywords, and more!

Open Source – Faster Development

Open source code is great for speeding up development time. All of the code is shared and used between developers all over the world. This means your developer doesn’t need to make everything from scratch, cutting down on development time. However, this is a catch 22, as open source also means less security. Be sure to you weigh the importance of development time over site security.

Professional Themes

There is an endless source of pre-built design templates from which you may choose to use for the foundation of your site. Themes include one or more demos which you can activate. This provides you with an appealing, pre-designed site that requires minimal effort to get up and running. Keep in mind that these can be pricey and limit your site’s capabilities and customization, as not all plugins work with every theme.

Overall Lower Cost

Typically WordPress is a cheaper option than hiring a software development team. Since it is open source and widely used, you have many options for designers and developers. You also have the option to maintain the site on your own – if you have the resources and time to do so.

Mobile-Friendly

WordPress makes it easy to transition your site from desktop to smaller screens such as tablet or mobile. This may require some customization to make it just right, but it can beat building a mobile app or an entirely new mobile site. Make sure a responsive mobile site is a right option for you as Hackernoon reports that in 2018 mobile users spend about an hour on the mobile web, while almost 3.5 hours on mobile apps.

 

 

WordPress Negatives

 

Open Source – Security

Open source is great for fast development, but it can leave your site vulnerable to attacks from hackers. This can lead to problems down the road, either legally or with development constraints. Are you going to be handling credit card information? What about users’ personal info? If you do, you will need extra security, make sure WordPress can secure your info or pick a developer/development team that is knowledgeable and can successfully secure your data. Have questions? Let us help you feel safe about your site’s security.

Customization Needs Coding

WordPress was built for blogging, CMS, forums, etc. This makes breaking that model to build a restaurant site, for example, with online ordering, slightly more difficult. Most WordPress themes aren’t built for any models besides the typical ones mentioned above, which means more customization and less flexibility for the overall design of the site. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but it does mean less access to content without digging into the code base.

Frequent Updates

WordPress is constantly trying to improve and update their structure to better serve their large user base. Because of this, updates occur on a regular basis and could impact your site’s performance. At times, you may need to update plugins, which could result in your plugins no longer functioning correctly or not being supported by the new version of WordPress. It is very important to save a backup of your site before updating, just in case something goes wrong while converting to the new version. As you can imagine, this process requires some technical knowledge and the ability to fix bugs that may occur as you update your site.

 

Pro tip: WordPress doesn’t offer support!

 

Learning Curve

No matter whether you are a coder, a designer, or someone with no technical knowledge, WordPress requires time to learn the ins and outs of building and maintaining a site. If you think building a WordPress site is as easy as dragging and dropping elements on a page, you’ve got it wrong. WordPress is a very robust solution that is constantly updating and changing, it takes time and dedication to keep your site up-to-date.

Slow Speeds

WordPress has a reputation for having slow loading times and speeds for users. This is a big downfall as research from Hobo shows that users quickly get disheartened by slow loads times. Users will leave your site to find what they need elsewhere within 2-10 seconds of waiting on content to load. Even more concerning, eCommerce users will leave only after 2-3 seconds without content loading.

Not Easily Scalable

Unless planned well in advance, WordPress is not the best at scaling businesses. Most models are built with the intention that the site will stay relatively at the same size, volume, and structure. Modifying your WordPress site structure later down the road can lead to some sticky situations with plugins, content, and speed.

No Support Service

Building a WordPress site on your own? You’re Brave! Although WordPress has a massive following and plenty of answers that are just a google away, WordPress does not have an official support service. This means no one can get into your account and help you solve those more difficult, niche questions. Website editors typically have lots of support, but if those solutions don’t serve your needs, consider hiring a developer or development team who will only be a call away to give you unlimited support to solve your issues ASAP.

 

 

Conclusion

WordPress is great for some websites, specifically for smaller sites that don’t require tons of functionality and serve as a source of information rather than supporting large amounts of user data. Making sure you understand the capabilities and constraints of using WordPress will allow you to make the best decision for your business. If WordPress doesn’t seem like the right solution you may be better off using something more accessible like Wix, Squarespace, or even hiring a development team to build a customized solution. Sometimes the answer isn’t clear, and you’ll need to sit down and map out all of the pros and cons of each solution available to you. Feel free to reach out to our team for some expert advice. Good luck!

 

Have questions? Ask an Expert!

Our team of experts is always available to talk through your concerns and guide you in the right direction for your business, even if that option doesn’t mean using our team. Talk now.

image recognition

Image Recognition of Basic Shapes | Google Vs Amazon

By Tips & Tutorials, Tools

This article was written for an individual or company that is looking to conduct image recognition of basic shapes in their operations. 

The Problem

Bytelion was recently approached by a client seeking to ID basic shapes via image recognition. The premise being: A computer takes a snapshot of a shape, validates its ID and provides validation. There are many options and tools out there, so we wanted to see how Google and Amazon stacked up each other.

How Does Image Recognition Work?

Image recognition is a form of machine learning designed to recognize patterns in data. Once an image is digitized it is just another form of data. Therefore, attributes that are present in multiple sets of images of one thing can inform us that an element of those images always remains consistent.

For instance, multiple pictures taken of a dog from the same angle but in different lighting conditions would still retain the basic ‘outline’ of the dog, if not the same coloring/shading etc. Labeling this set of graphics ‘dog’ informs the computer that these are images of dogs and that similar images presented are also ‘dogs’. The more images of dogs you provide initially, the better the computer is at guessing whether other images have dogs in them.

Google vs Amazon

There are numerous services available for image recognition, but we decided to test the two leading options: Amazon’s ‘Image Rekognition’ and Google’s ‘Vision API’.

Note:
Each services has its own pros and cons. It is best to fully flesh out your use cases before choosing which service to use.

Testing Conditions

Studio

Bytelion’s high-tech photography studio

We conducted rounds of testing in both Amazon and Google’s platforms using each of their default image comparison libraries.  All of our records are stored in AWS in this s3 bucket.

For our ‘photo studio’ we set up a camera mounted and angled above several books (6 inches high). We took images of 7 different shapes, each image taken against a blank background twice in different positions and twice again against a mesh background. We kept consistent light conditions throughout the process (average Lux count of 360, using this meter).

Definitions:

ConfidenceThe degree/percentage of probability the image recognition system associates to its given result.

NAThe resulting output does not match the shape presented. That is, the input image did return other results but they are not relevant and therefore have been redacted from this article.

Test Results:

Circle

circles

4 variants of the same circle

 

Image Google Vision Confidence Amazon Rekognition Confidence
Circle Against White Background 1 72% NA
Circle Against White Background 2 66% NA
Circle Against Mesh Background 1 52% NA
Circle Against Mesh Background 2 NA NA

As seen by the data presented above, Google Vision is the clear winner. While the confidence wasn’t strictly high, Amazon Rekognition was unable to determine that a circle was present in any of the images.

Note: NA means the results didn’t contain a circle in the listed guesses. Also, just because there is a match, does not mean it was the only match, or most likely match.

Triangle

4 variants of the same triangle

 

Image Google Vision Confidence Amazon Rekognition Confidence
Triangle Against White Background 1 69% 63%
Triangle Against White Background 2 63% 96%
Triangle Against Mesh Background 1 NA 95%
Triangle Against Mesh Background 2 NA NA

This round went to Amazon Rekognition. Not only did it identify the triangle in one more image, it also detected a triangle with greater confidence.

All Other Shapes

The following shapes were also tested in both systems in the same format as above:

  • Oval
  • Ring
  • Semi-Circle
  • Octagon
  • Bracket

Unfortunately, neither platform was able to find comparable imagery within their libraries for these shapes. Ranged from having no matches at all to having some matches but none of them the correct shape.

Summary & Conclusion

We cannot say with much confidence that the standard services provided by image recognition services are suitable for detection of basic shapes with out of the box configurations. Default libraries have proven better at identifying abstract imagery (e.g scenery, mountains, animals, people etc) for categorization rather than explicit identification.

Even with the best recognition models in imaging AI, at best there is a 96.54% chance of having a correct match in the top 5 guesses (ref: benchmarking). Maintaining this level of accuracy requires consistent training. Large data sets may require further training time as well as multi-thousand dollar machines. Re-training the same (base) system for a specialized use (such as our case above) can be done in far less time with regular computing power.

Moving Forward

If you really want to identify basic shapes, you will need to conduct your own machine training.  A five minute video on how to do this is here.  Note, it will take you a little longer than 5 minutes.  :- )

Bytelion is a Software as a Service Company.
Have questions? Feel free to contact us at info@bytelion.com

What are Customer Personas? And How can they Help my Business?

By Marketing, Tips & TutorialsOne Comment
So you are starting a new business or maybe a new product line for your company. You know that time is ticking and you need to get your product out in front of customers soon. It’s a pretty daunting task that requires answering some challenging, time-consuming questions. You wonder, Where should you sell? Who should you sell to? And how will they find your product?

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There’s a strong likelihood that these questions have been tormenting you, and you probably have completed a little research on competitors to find these answers in your branding strategy. I understand how hard it is to come up with a concrete solution when there are so many variables. But you need clarity to make your business successful, so how do you find the answer to these questions? Research, research, research, and more research! More specifically, user research. To discover who your customers are, where they will buy your product, and how they will find it, you need to know what your customers like, what kind of lives they lead, and what drives them to purchase.

So what’s the solution?

Customer Personas! They help you define and target the right audience for your product or business so you can focus on what matters to your clients. This will lead to a better product, better sales, and a bigger profit!

What are Customer Personas?

Customer personas are made up of research of various attributes of actual individuals which are condensed into a fictitious representation. It may seem odd that a persona is a fictional representation of a person to rather than a real person, but it allows you to empathize with your whole demographic instead of only one customer.

Benefits to Using a Persona:
  • The Customer’s needs and wants become clear
  • Provides a benchmark for your team to fall back on when questions arise
  • Marketing content can be relatable to the goals and needs of our customers
  • When going to design and build your product or business, you know what your customers desire from a product
  • It can tie into the why or what for any aspect of your business

What to Research:

  • Demographics
  • User Behavior
  • The User’s Goals
  • User Needs
  • User Frustrations
  • Related Skills

Those are the main points of what you need to know about your customers, but you may want to know more, depending on your product. For example, if your product is a mobile app, you need to understand not only the technical skills of your users but the phones they use and how often they use them. To learn how to research and build a customer persona, Hubspot has a great article with a template you can download.

Customer Persona Example:

screen-shot-2017-07-27-at-10-46-37-amConclusion

Brainstorming valuable ideas can only truly happen if your team understands the customers and the problem you are solving.  If you put in the time to research your customers and figure out what motivates them, you generate incredible insight. Customer Personas will give you and your team the ability to answer questions about your business because you will have a better understanding of your clients. When it comes to customer personas, it really is the more you know.

If you wanted some expert help with generating your personas, contact us at info@bytelion.com for help!  

Halie was featured as a mentor in our Intern Blog check it out!

Providing enterprise solutions with the Raspberry Pi

By Tips & Tutorials, ToolsNo Comments

In the business world, it’s common to hear “think outside the box” when tackling a new problem, yet most companies are still throwing old technology at the issue. What if I told you to forget the box and start thinking inside the Pi? That’s right; we’re talking about a Raspberry Pi. This microcontroller has over 10 million units sold, yet it remains underutilized in the business world.

Let’s talk about a few enterprise uses for this awesome micro-computer and share some example projects that you can accomplish as an entrepreneur!  

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Why Pi?

Aside from the fact that Pi’s are incredibly affordable and energy efficient, there are an unlimited number of projects that users can create using their Raspberry Pi. For more reasons why the Raspberry Pi rocks check out this blog by ZDNet.

raspheader1

#1 In the Warehouse – Bridging the Gap Between Actions & Data

Raspberry Pi’s excel at bridging the gap between physical, human tasks and the need to collect and analyze data.

Collecting Data

Imagine your company has a warehouse that performs repetitive tasks. Day after day, workers create hundreds of batches of the same product. There are many problems inherent in an environment like that. For example, if the operator of the warehouse wanted to know how many batches a worker creates, as well as how long each batch takes to complete, then he or she would need to have each employee maintain a tally for the completion of each batch and record the start and stop time. By forcing the worker to shift focus momentarily, it could slow down their productivity.

Now, add a long day and a late night to the employee’s shift and see how easy it is for an employee to forget to tally, or write the incorrect time on the log. The metrics are completely skewed. Even considering a perfect employee who never makes mistakes, those metrics still have to be manually entered into a spreadsheet to perform analytics, adding to your company’s overhead and wasting precious time.

warehouse-raspberry-pi

A Raspberry Pi solution could involve a simple button for each set of batches.  Workers could press a button when they start making the product, and again upon completion. Now there are electronic records for how many items created, and how long it took to make each batch. The workers no longer need to concern themselves with keeping track of time or tallies or continue to enter data manually. By utilizing a raspberry pi, the operator does not have to worry about a decrease in productivity. Instead, the data is immediately available for analytics.

Many warehouses use Raspberry Pis. Check out this story Book-Wrangling at Wordery with a Raspberry Pi to see an excellent example of how a Pi can change your business!

raspberry-pi-blog-photo

#2 Thin Client:

Does your company rely primarily on cloud computing? Save costs on powerful machines by using a Raspberry Pi as a thin client to access your cloud servers! Similar to a website, which acts as a user interface for a server that handles the intensive computation, a thin client can reduce the cost of hardware that your team needs if your company utilizes cloud computing to do the heavy lifting.

raspberry_pi_b_2_0_0

#3 Server monitoring:

Set up a Raspberry Pi to monitor your web servers! Most web-monitoring services just make HTTP requests to the URLs you specify and look for that sweet, 200 status. Why can’t you do the same? You could make a request to each server once an hour. Then use IFTTT to send your team an email when a server responds to anything other than a 200!

raspberry-pi-pie

Creating Your Supply and Talent Chain

If you are going to implement a Raspberry Pi-based (or an equivalent such as an Arduino board) solution, it is important that you understand what this investment includes.  You should be aware that your company will need to purchase various supplies to support this development.  Those purchases include tools, training, and most importantly, spare parts!  In addition,  you need to invest in the training of your team. The training should be in both Linux and any programming language you need to build your applications, though Raspberry Pi prefers Python.  The barrier to entry is relatively low to prototype, but when it comes to production, you need to approach the task in a controlled manner.

Final Thoughts:

These are just a few examples of Raspberry Pi projects that you can use for your enterprise. Maybe your company isn’t ready to go into full on production with Raspberry Pis. Nonetheless, these projects present interesting, yet enriching team-building exercises that could unite your staff. If you have the time, allow your developers to get down and dirty into the world of microcontrollers. They will love it, and most importantly,  it could bring tremendous value to your business!  

Do you need help getting started with programming or building a Raspberry Pi prototype?
Feel free to reach out to us on twitter:@bytelion

 

What should you do when your IIS server is hacked?

By Security, Tips & TutorialsNo Comments

Maryland Government Site Hacked By ISIS

On July 25th, 2017 multiple government sites were hacked by friends of ISIS according to Bloomberg’s Mark Niquette. It turns out that Maryland’s Howard County Website server was hacked.  The site was running IIS and had some critical vulnerabilities that were exploited. Ref: https://www.howardcountymd.gov/

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First Things First… Don’t Blame Your Team

Your site was hacked.  The first thing you naturally want to do is get angry.  We agree with you that you should be angry, but not at your IT staff. The actors taking your site down are making your life difficult and have every tool in the world available to them. The deck is stacked against your in-house team who have to juggle multiple issues, including the side job of training to maintain a cutting-edge cyber defensive capability on a limited budget.    The “hackers” of the world that are running scripts to break into your computer 24/7, looking for any vulnerabilities that could creep up over time.  Don’t blame your IT staff!

Move Fast

The first thing you should do is re-route your domain to a safe domain, like the fail whale. For more about the fail whale, please see this.

fail_whale

The Famous Fail Whale – What you show when your website is down

With a temporary down page on display, you aren’t promoting ISIS’s propaganda, and you are free to get your site back online. Your other option is just to kill the DNS name complete or shut the server down.  This is exactly what Howard County did.

screen-shot-2017-06-25-at-6-05-35-pm

Restore

Hopefully, you have a decent recovery system in place and can restore your site from a previous backup.  We recommend a full server rebuild (or imaged) and then reload your content. It starts with a clean server, with a trusted OS configuration, loading IIS, and then your content.

Inspect

Review your logs to see if you can see how people are accessing your site.  We recommend publishing your IIS logs to an offsite file storage location as the records are created so you can see how potential hackers are entering your site and what commands they are running.

Open Ports

Also, review your firewalls and look to see what ports you have open. There is a chance that you left a port open that could be bottled up. You should only have 443 and 80.  All HTTP traffic should be forwarded to https.

Plan

The best way you can solve this problem is by building up your infrastructure enough so you could throw it away and restart in a few minutes.  Hacking happens, so you should plan for the inevitable.  Your solution should include building out a separate database from your CMS solution, a decoupled server, backed up file content, and of course a separate copy of your code on a server.  Your downtime should be in minutes, not hours or days.

Outsource

Get this off of your plate.  Many hosting providers and service companies can handle your website extremely efficiently and at scale.  Website hosting is a commodity and should be framed out to keep your team focused on what it does best, like providing incredibly helpful information to your clients. Sites like liquidweb.com  or azure.microsoft.com can take a huge burden off your team.

 

Branding your Company: Part 1 What you need to know before jumping in

By Marketing, Startup, Tips & TutorialsOne Comment

Part 1 of 2

Your brand is your company’s identity; it’s completely original and unique to you and your business’s mission. The message it portrays will fill the minds of both current and potential clients; it separates you from the rest of the pack. If done correctly, branding your company will help define yourself as a leading force in your sector, but where do you even begin?

 

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Start Soul-Searching:

To brand yourself successfully, you need to spend some quality time figuring out who you and your team are. You need to be honest with yourself in order to figure out what makes you great. Get out a pen and paper and jot down any answers that come to mind. Consider what particular factors of your business shine and in what ways these factors separate your company from the competition. What are the core values and long term goals that you wish to share with the public? What elements of your team’s personality should be represented in the brand? In what ways will you ensure that the message of your brand is shared with your audience?

Most importantly ask yourself, why. What is the reason you get out of bed every day? What is the purpose of your company, why is your business unique and why do consumers need your product? This Ted Talk, featuring Simon Sinek, sums up this concept of asking why nicely and how asking the right questions can lead to successful business.

Focus on who matters:

Of course, branding also needs to appeal to your customers and to please them in the best way possible; you must do your research. It is important to gather information about your industry and your business, who are your consumers? What do they enjoy? What do they do in their free time? How do they communicate with their peers? What makes them happy? And most importantly, how can you help them solve their problems? It is crucial to discover what information can aid customers so they can actualize their vision.

season-1985856_1920Connect with your Customers:

An article on HubSpot recommends that companies should find a way to connect with your customers on a deeper, more emotional level. The article asks: “Do you give them [your clients] peace of mind?” By discovering both the physical and emotional needs and desires of your customers, you can adjust your efforts to help them be successful.

Answering these questions can provide an accurate representation of your customer base. To create a simple overview of your clientele, you must group your current customers and record the characteristics of optimal clients that your business interacts with frequently, this is creating the coveted list of Customer Personas. Before publishing a blog, picking up the phone or promoting an advertisement, checking the list of customer personas can ensure efficient communication and a pleasant interaction for both parties.

In the quest to please your customers, do not forget who is essential to the entire process: you and your team. In order to create the best experience for your client, it is essential to assure that the brand is represented accurately across all fields of your company. The branding should include a consistent, congruent message which is recognizable across all sectors: from customer service, to social media to your website. If you are looking for inspiration, check out this great article by Muzli.

inboundvsoutbound

Share Your Knowledge: 

If you appear open, friendly and genuinely concerned about the needs of your clients,  you are creating an inviting environment for your customer while simultaneously establishing trust. By offering advice, you have created an excellent opportunity to promote your brand and showcase your company’s values and personality. It is important to remember not to force your product or services upon potential customers, it could create a barrier between yourself and them. Offering advice and consultation makes you genuine, positioning you as an advocate for your customers.

Study your Competition:

After some deep contemplation, turn outwards and start analyzing your competition, ask: What works well for them? What makes them successful? How do their strengths and weaknesses rank against yours? After compiling all of this information, take note of the recurring ideas, feelings, and emotions which are conducive to your business.

Furthermore, the advantage of taking these steps before developing a branding program is that it provides a benchmark. As you implement your new strategy, over time you will be able to measure improved conversions and customer loyalty. All in all, research allows you to measure results using objective metrics.

Concluding Thoughts:

At Bytelion, we wish you success as you start developing your brand.  We sincerely hope we can help you. What kind of blogs would help your business? We would love to hear from you, and if you have any questions please comment below and subscribe to our blog here.

Stay tuned for part 2 on how to begin building your brand.

 

Additional Links:

Want to find out more about customer personas? Click here

Make Your Content More Compelling With Embedded Twitter Searches

By Development, Marketing, Tips & Tutorials, Tools

Twitter has made it easier and easier to select content out of their daily feed to help you track items are you interested in. For example, if you were interested in knowing what was happening in the twitter sphere of influence for new environmental projects like the Dakota Access Pipeline Protects, you could simply embed the search on your page like. The steps you need are to:

Step 1

Create a twitter account (if you don’t have one) and log in.

Step 2

Go to the widget page:  https://twitter.com/settings/widgets

Step 3

Select Create new search widget.

Search Widget

Simple Twitter Search Page

Step 4

Configure your widget.

Configure the widget according to the specifications you have set.

Configure the widget according to the specifications you have set.

Step 5

Copy text and paste example into your WordPress blog.  Similar to this.  See below.  And, that’s it! You now have content that is far more compelling with live data.


Wireframing for Startups and Corporations

By Design, Development, Estimation, MVP, Software Lifecycle, Testing, Tips & Tutorials

It’s Cheaper!

If you are interested in building bad software with bugs and lots of mistakes, then this article isn’t’ for you.  If you are interested in moving your development team along faster, saving money and building a better product for your user, please read on.  When Bytelion wireframes, it allows us to see the application.  The final wireframe summarizes all of the thoughts held in people’s minds and ensures that everyone not only understands how the application solves your problem but more importantly, it quickly and easily helps others understand what you are thinking.  Wireframing is critical to all lean departments and especially technology start-ups.

How does wireframing save you money?  Simple, it ensures that you have the right workflows up front. In this hypothetical, imagine if you omitted an essential feature on a page that was pushed to production.  To find the bug  for this feature, you have paid for:

  • UI Design (8 hours)
  • UI Implementation (8 hours)
  • Backend Implementation (12 hours)
  • Quality Assurance  (4 hours)
  • Total=32 hours

If you had wireframe the issue, the bug would have cost you

  • Wireframe (2 hours)
  • Total=2 hours

Stealing off of NASA’s slides and making some slight modifications, the blue arrow indicates where wireframing is in the bug detection value stack.  Used early, it is an awesome tool.

 

Value of catching bugs in wireframes.

NASA value of catching bugs in wireframes.

If you are a startup, every dollar you is extremely expensive and must be spent wisely.  Why focus on fixing bugs in production when you can solve most of your problem in the first two weeks?

To read more about NASA and bugs, check out.

Too Many Wireframe Tools… Which One Should I use?

There are many tools on the market. We have used all of them. I could write pages upon pages of why some systems are better, but here (in no particular order) are some of the tools that are best.

MyBalsamiq – The desktop was by far the best user experience, but its ability to not sync with an online version make this not as usable because customers and team members email different versions of the application. Because we work in a distributed environment, this didn’t work for Bytelion.

Gliffy’s integration with Atlassian’s JIRA + Confluence suite makes this tool amazing.  However, it is so inflexible that maintaining a working wireframe falls apart.   Sorry Atlassian, I still love you.

Azure – Bytelion loved the framework, and it was our primary for years, but found the product confining regarding our on online integration needs.  It slowly came out of favor and was replaced by…. our new go to.

Pidoco – Yes, this is the wireframe company that you probably didn’t hear of.  We didn’t either until we scoured the internet and tested everything we could.  This tool is our new standard.  There are three simple reasons by we love it:

  • Single Page App (SPA) is super fast and responsive.
  • Extremely flexible Workflow System…. THIS IS THE BIG ONE….  If you want to change a workflow, you can configure a workflow in a few minutes and keep different versions of the workflow.  This is ideal for rapidly testing different UX interactions.
  • Pages can be templated.  If a designer changed the header in one location, the header modified for the entire app.

Note, we have no association with the Pidoco company at all.  They did, however, chose to engineer their product well and didn’t take shortcuts.  We respect that and think that they will come out on top of they can build enough market share.

Selecting Red Routes First

Now that you know what tool you are going to use after testing them all :- ) you have to build your wireframes.  For an application, you have different use cases for what a user needs to do.  For example, if you are creating a recipe app, you would need a user to do the following:

  • A user needs to create an online profile
  • The user needs to buy other recipes from other people.
  • User needs to be able to generate their custom avatar online
  • The user needs to be able to post recipes to their Facebook account.

Of these use cases, you only want to select the most critical to making the application work. We call these red routes. In our scenario, we would only want to use these:

  • The user needs to be able to post to their Facebook account.
  • The user needs to buy ABC product.
  • A user needs to create an online profile
  • User needs to be able to generate their custom avatar online

We keep it simple and only wireframe the stuff we need.

Don’t be Lazy – Keep Your  Wireframes Current!

Once you create a set of wireframes that accurately reflect what you are trying to do, it is critical to keep it.  These wireframes will come up over and over. For example, if you are designing an aspect of a project that you have not touched in 6 months, having your wireframes current with the design make this is a snap.  Thankfully, Pidoco makes this easy to do.    It takes discipline to do this… keep up the discipline.   It is cheaper, better, and more fulfilling for you in the long run!

wireframes_keep_current_v2

 

I Quit Full Stack Development

By Development, MVP, Tips & Tutorials

I quit full stack development because, in many senses, it never seems to work out.   In spite of this, the mythical promise of a full stack developer solving the world’s software development problems is alive and well.  Why shouldn’t you become (or use) a full stack developer in most cases? The best analogy that I can think of is in the medical field.

Imagine you want surgery… would you go to a specialist or a general practitioner?  I don’t believe that you need me to answer that question for you.  Why would you want to do the same thing with your software development needs?   If you want to develop code, for example, a mobile app, where do you go?  Software development has many different disciplines, tools and experience requirements.  You need to understand the difference between someone who knows Objective C and Visual Basic.  Hiring a full stack developer is like saying “I want to hire a general doctor and have him learn about heart surgery one week and then brain surgery the next.”  Can they hire a doctor to do that?  Yes, they could, but the results would most likely be unpleasant.

MVP – Full Stack  = Win!

One size doesn’t fit all.  For prototypes of MVPs, full stack developers are the best!  They execute quickly and get the product in front of users in record time.  If you need to scale out a real product, peccadilloes of an MVP tend to be noticed more often and require more attention to detail.  This is something that a full stack developer will typically run out of time to do.

Product – Full Stack =  Loss!

We have utilized full stack development many times, but as professionals, we strongly advocate bifurcating these efforts into full-time backend, full-time front-end development. This allocation allows each developer to focus exclusively on their area and work quickly and efficiently.  It also forces users of the API (for example, the front end team) to develop to well-documented standards.  Writing UI code is hard.  Writing backend code is hard.  Let people focus instead of thrashing due to rapid context switching. When initially rolling a product out, developing to standards slows development considerably.  Once a product is in use, however, developing to standards that actually move your development along faster and decreases errors.

What do developers think?

If the project is large enough, most developers will quickly agree. While everyone wants to be an expert across all disciplines, the tools aren’t there yet to allow for it.  Let the backenders be backenders and leave the front end up to the UI guys/gals!