The Future of iOS

Now that 2014 is upon us, it’s time to peek into our crystal ball to see what the future holds for us with iOS. iOS has already earned developers more than 15 billion in revenue, but this is still just the start. What new developments can we look forward to this year and next, then can help us sell and market our apps to even more users?

Over the years, iOS has grown from being a new, emerging platform to being a developed one now. In the early years, each annual refresh of iOS saw big new features being introduced, like multitasking, copy and paste and better notifications. These improved usability in a big way.

We are getting to a stage now where all the major features are already there. With iOS7, the biggest new feature was the new look and feel. So where do we go from here?

When iOS first allowed third party developer apps in 2008, development was strictly for the iPhone (and iPod Touch). In 2010, the iPad was announced and developers could now choose whether to develop just for the iPhone, just for the iPad or both.

Since then, while additional models of the iPhone and iPad have been released, with different screen resolutions, development is still limited to these two platforms. Will this change this year?

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New platforms

If this year’s CES is any indication, the mobile battleground is about to expand from cell phones and tablets to a plethora of other devices, including TVs, smart watches and other wearable technology. There are already hints, that Apple will expand into a few of these categories in coming years. Each of these new platforms seem like they could benefit from support for 3rd party apps. Will you be ready when they do?

Apple TV

airplay_gamesThis one seems logical. Airplay functionality already allows users to mirror apps from their iPhones or iPads to an Apple equipped television. Some apps detect this and allow you to use your iPhone / iPad as a second screen, while viewing the main app on a television.

One of the new features of iOS7 was support for MFi – meaning 3rd party hardware control devices could be created. A few of them have already started to come out.

Or perhaps Apple is planning to release their own branded TV, with Apple TV functionality built in.

Either way, all that’s left now is for Apple to turn on a switch and allow developers to create custom apps for the Apple TV. While console type games seems to be the type of app that can benefit the most from this type of setup, perhaps developers can find other creative app ideas in this space.

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Samsung, Pebble and others have had some limited success with their smart watches. Signs point to Apple releasing their iWatch this year or next. Will there be app support when they do? Apple has already allowed developers to take advantage of the M7 chip in the iPhone 5s that provides step counting and location tracking – features that seem logical on an iWatch.

If your app already offers M7 support, then keep an eye out for what new features and capabilities the iWatch may offer you.

Auto Vehicles

Siri Eyes free

Another new mobile battleground is emerging inside the vehicle. Many newer cars from the last few years have come with their own screens, usually for GPS navigation. However mobile phone map apps tend to be more up to date with additional features and integration than car GPS systems. Wouldn’t it be great if you could run apps from your phone on the screen of your vehicle? That may be coming soon.

Both Google and Apple have been wooing car manufacturers to support direct integration with their mobile OSes. The day may come when you’ll be designing apps that will be displayed inside the car’s own GPS navigation screen.

The good news is that these will all be opportunities to reset the playing field. By being one of the first apps out there to support these new technologies, you have the change to get noticed, before competitors come rushing in. So keep reading the news, think outside the iPhone / iPad and prepare to cash in on the future!

8 Tips to Manage your Habits – Good and Bad

One benefit of being an entrepreneur is that you don’t have a boss telling you what to do. However a downside of being an entrepreneur is that you don’t have a boss telling you what to do. Which means you need to know what to do each day. Is what you are doing now the most important thing you could be doing for your business?

It is very easy these days to get overcome by meaningless distractions and come home at the end of day without having been very productive at all. There are tasks we know we should be doing but yet find hard to do. Maybe it’s cold calling clients. Or going to a networking meeting that you don’t feel like attending. Or perhaps just doing more reading in your field.

What steps can we take to increase our productivity by replacing bad habits with good ones?

Recognize the Pain versus Pleasure Factors

Every decision we make is governed by pain or pleasure. All the small decisions you make either move you towards pleasure, or move you away from pain. Your mind is constantly evaluating which factor is greater in order to make the best decision.

For example, if I place a cookie in front of you, you need to evaluate whether the pleasure of eating that cookie is greater than the pain of gaining weight from it. Overweight people obviously value the pleasure more than the pain.

What about smoking? Those who smoke value the pleasure of smoking greater than the pain of any health side effects.

By recognizing this decision process, you can evaluate how much weight you are giving to certain priorities, which should help you make better decisions.

Keep in mind also that what is pleasure to one person can be very different for someone else, so it is important to recognize what kinds of things motivate you to work harder. Some people are more motivated by moving away from pain than they are by pleasure. Some people work better under a lot of pressure, whereas others can’t compete in such situations.

Once you know which type of person you are, you’ll be better equipped to get things done!

Create Lists

When it becomes to big projects that look overwhelming, you can make things a lot more manageable by breaking the project into small, manageable tasks. So take a 3 month project and figure out what needs to be done each month. Then break down those tasks further into weekly and daily tasks. Now the pressure of completing your daily tasks should be a lot less than trying to complete the entire project all at once.

Create Barriers for Bad Habits

Are there bad habits you have that are killing your productivity? Perhaps you check Facebook too often. Or maybe you take one too many smoke breaks. What can you do to reduce these bad habits?

One method is to create barriers for your bad habits.

If you have Facebook constantly open in a separate browser tab, or if you have your phone set to automatically notify you of incoming Facebook posts, then it becomes very easy (too easy) for you to become distracted, since it’s always just one click or glance away. What if you didn’t have it in a separate tab? What if you shut off your Facebook notifications.

Now, all of a sudden it becomes harder to check Facebook since it involves extra steps. Maybe now the pain of these extra steps becomes higher than what pleasure you may gain from checking Facebook.

So figure out all the bad habits you have on a daily basis, and erect barriers to make it more difficult for you to do them. If you’re a smoker, then maybe buy smaller packs of cigarettes. Perhaps the pain of having to go to the store each time to get new cigarettes becomes greater than the pleasure of having a quick smoke.

You can use the same approach to keep junk food out of your house. This way it becomes harder to satisfy that midnight craving.

Decrease Barriers for Good Habits

Want to read more in your chosen field? Have your book ready, in the right chapter sitting right on your desk. Now it becomes much easier to pick it up and start reading.

Want to eat more healthily? What if your fridge was always stocked with healthy food. Now the pain of having to go to the store to buy junk food is more than the pain of eating a carrot stick from your fridge.

See how this works?

Use Carrots and Sticks

The idea here is to reward yourself for reaching certain goals and potentially punish yourself for not doing so. For example, if you make 5 sales call this week, then treat yourself out to dinner. If you don’t send out all the emails you were supposed to, then no beers for you next week.

Obviously you’ll need to be honest with yourself about whether you’re meeting or not meeting your goals and whether you actually follow through on the punishments or not. Depending on your personality, you may find that you respond better to rewards than to punishments.

Create Deadlines

For more important goals in your life, create a deadline for when you want to achieve it. Make sure you know when that deadline is, and and as stated above, create consequences for not reaching that deadline. Some people work better when they have clear targets with clear deadlines to hit. Without a deadline, you may find some tasks languishing forever.

Add Peer Pressure

If you find yourself not able to give yourself enough pressure to meet your productivity goals, then you can add pressure on yourself by making your goals public. Let your coworkers, employees, family or friends know what your goals are. You may find that this added pressure of not losing face to them is enough to boost your productivity.

Follow Up

At the end of the day, you can make all the lists and deadlines you want, but it won’t mean anything if you’re not following up on them. What tasks did you complete and which ones are still not done? Did you meet the goals you set for yourself? If not, did you follow through with the punishment you set for yourself?

As mentioned before, you’ll find yourself responding better to some aspects of the above than others, so experiment to see which techniques produce the best results for you, then implement them as a regular part of your routine.

Imagine how much more you could accomplish in life if you were able to increase your productivity by even 10% or 20% per day, then extrapolate that tothe rest of your working life!

How to Handle Information Overdose

Over the past few decades, the price of information has dropped very quickly.

Book prices have dropped as eBooks have gained in popularity. Magazines are going out of business and switching to online versions with free articles. Pricey encyclopedia sets have been replaced with the free Wikipedia. Many people get their news from social media now. You don’t have to turn on the news anymore – the news will find you (whether you want it to, or not).

In one manner, this is great, since all the information you could ever want is just a Google search away. And if you can’t find it there, there is probably an expert out there who can answer your question.

But can too much information be a bad thing?

There is a term called information paralysis that suggests that if we have too much information in front of us, it affects our ability to make a decision and move on ahead. This is especially the case when you’re given conflicting advice or too many options to choose from.

So what do we do in such cases?

Know what you want

In order to find answers and solutions, it is important to know exactly what it is that you’re looking for, and to be as specific as you can. If you were looking for ways to make money for example, you would have a lot of answers to choose from. How to make money online would be a better question, but it’s still too vague. The more specific your question is, the more direct of an answer you can hope to get in return.

Avoid Distractions

Thanks to information overdose, it’s very easy to find additional information outside of what you are looking for, or receive answers to problems you don’t have, that can distract you from your main focus. Where possible, eliminate distractions like social media, and file away information from unrelated subjects, that you can consume at a different time.

Exercise Due Diligence

It’s very easy to start a blog these days, which means it’s also easy for anyone to claim to be an expert on any subject. If you’re going to take advice from someone, check the credentials and source of the advice. Also compare your situation to that of the advice given. A lot of answers to problems start with “It depends”.

Following these steps is crucial to help you manage and – more importantly – benefit from the vast amounts of information that are available to you. Use information to increase your productivity rather than paralyze it!


4 Usability Lessons Startups Can Not Learn from Windows 8

Today is the official launch release for Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system, which is one of the (if not the) most significant upgrades of the company’s flagship product. I find it interesting to view such launches from big companies, and see what lessons I can learn for my own experience of designing products from much smaller startups. In this case though, they seem to be breaking a lot of common usability principles.

Despite the rise of post PC products like mobile phones and tablets, which people are increasingly using these days, Windows continues to dominate the overall market share of devices that people use to connect to the internet. All new Windows based PCs and laptops that are purchased from today on, will come with Windows 8. So needless to say, a lot of people will be using Windows 8 over the next few months.

Unlike previous upgrades of Windows however, there are some significant differences with Windows 8.

  1. The operating system has been significantly overhauled to now integrate a new modern UI view, that provides a better experience with touch enabled devices.
  2. There are actually two versions of the operating system being released – Windows RT and Windows 8. Users must decide whether they want the full version of Windows 8, or the tablet specific version, Windows RT.

1. Don’t try to Be All Things to All People

One of the taglines that Microsoft has used to compare this new version of Windows, with other operating systems like Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android was no-compromise design.

From the start, our approach has been to reimagine Windows, and to be open to revisiting even the most basic elements of the user model, the platform and APIs, and the architectures we support.  Our goal was a no compromise design.

The problem with this approach is that right from the beginning, they have set the standard and expectations too high. By trying to combine elements from tablets and mobile devices with a desktop environment, they are trying to be all things to all people, which is an impossible task.

Here is an example of what greeted me the first time I launched Windows 8 on my desktop computer. I expect others to have a similar experience.

Windows 8 Welcome ScreenIt looks great, but it’s now waiting for my input. Normally I’d expect a login screen where I enter my password, so why am I seeing this screen instead? If I click on the screen, I see a little bounce effect, suggesting there is something underneath for me to see. Using my mouse pointer, I found that I was able to drag the desktop up and out of the way to reveal a login screen underneath.

Each time I boot up my computer now, I have to go through this extra process to access the login screen. The reason for doing so makes sense if you were using a tablet or device with an exposed screen. Exposing the login screen up front may trigger spurious inputs when moving the device. I.e. I might accidentally brush up against the device, causing the tablet keyboard to show and start inputting characters that I didn’t want. By having this extra screen “protection” they make me go through the extra step of dragging the screen away (which would be harder to do by accident), to make sure I really want to login.

However, I’m not using a tablet – I’m using a desktop. So this extra step is wasted.

2. Figure Out What People Want to Do, and Make it Obvious

Next, let’s look at what screen is shown to me after I enter my login details.

Windows 8 Start Screen

This screen obviously looks a lot different than the traditional Windows desktop that people are used to. It provides a summary of different aspects of the system, such as new emails, photos, access to music, finance etc.

The problem again is that, this may look great on a tablet, but on my desktop, the first thing I usually do is launch my Chrome browser. How do I do that from this screen? (I see an icon for Internet Explorer, but no Chrome – wonder why?).

It is possible to scroll further right, which has some frequently accessed applications, but not all of them are there. In the old Windows, you had a Start menu, and you could then click on Programs to find all the programs on your computer. That option does not seem to be here. So what to do?

The answer is that you can return to the old desktop by clicking on the bottom left or top left corners. I found that out by randomly clicking on different areas of the screen. I’m not sure how a typical user would know this. You can also press Esc to… escape from this screen.

3. Don’t Remove Basic Functionality from Previous Versions

The good news for loyalists of previous versions of Windows is that the old desktop is still there, and most of it looks fairly similar to how it looked in Windows 7.

Windows 8 desktopExcept for one small thing that is missing. The start button on the bottom left. The button that was probably used the most by users to find and access programs, files and settings on their computer. It’s now gone.

I remember how much trouble Microsoft went to educate people on how to use that button. It was the only button you needed to know to use Windows!

Now though, when you press that corner… nothing happens. Fortunately, if you overreach that corner and click the bottom left corner tip of the screen you are back at the previous modern UI screen.

Windows 8 Start Screen

Oh, there’s the Start button. Let me click that (since that’s what I’ve been trained to do for the past 17 years). Oh, nothing happens again. They are just toying with me now. 🙁

4. Don’t Make Users Jump Through Hoops

So how do you find programs that are not on the opening screen? Simple, move your mouse to the bottom right corner, and wait for the new Charms menu to open on the right side. Then move your mouse pointer up to the search button. Make sure you don’t stray to the left, since the menu will disappear if you do so.

How do you shut down the computer? Open the charms menu, click on Settings, then click on Power. So previously, what took two steps (Start / Shut down) now takes 3. Similar to the extra steps required to login to the computer.

Being in the tech field, I consider myself experienced when it comes to using new technology. Heck, I like being an early adopter when it comes to using new devices. However, with so many issues that bother me here, I’m curious how laymen users (who probably make up the bulk of Windows users) would react to these changes.

How to Stay Focused and Be Productive

Have you ever had a day where, although you stayed busy, you ended the day feeling like you didn’t get anything done? Each day, we are presented with a lot of choices of what we want to do and accomplish, but we have limited time to do them all.

We are a lot more distracted today than we have ever been before in the past. Tools like Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media all demand little bits of our attention, which add up quickly through the course of a day.

It is also a lot easier for people to interrupt you now, than it has been in the past. In addition to email, there are now lots of free instant messaging apps that make it even easier for people to contact you.

Browsers (even mobile ones) all have tabs, allowing us to switch back and forth between multiple websites with ease.

The end result is that it’s very easy to spend a lot of time doing a lot of small things, without getting anything important accomplished.

So how do we stay focused?


Start at the beginning of each week (or plan ahead at the end of the week) and make a list of all the goals you expect to accomplish that week. Then split up these goals into a list of tasks that need to be accomplished each day of the week, in order to hit the weekly goal.

As you complete tasks, check them off. It is a very satisfying feeling of accomplishment to check off tasks that are completed, as you can now feel real progress being made. There are many free task management programs available to help you do so. Teux Deux is a popular web-based one to get you started.

Keeping a system like this allows you to track how much progress you want to make in the next one month – three months and six months, and then split that up into manageable chunks, so that each day you have something meaningful to do.

You can now go home feeling much better, knowing that you are one day closer to reaching your goals.


How to Build a Viral Product

Viral Marketing

Having a great product is just part of the equation. Being able to market it successfully is an equal, if not more important part of the puzzle. As a new startup, you probably don’t have a very big marketing budget to begin with. Ideally, you would like your product to market it itself, by having people automatically recommend it to others. So how do you get people to talk about your product and make it go viral?

1. Have a great product.

Purple Cow

This goes without saying. No matter how much you spend on marketing, if your product isn’t very good, then people aren’t going to want to use it, leave alone recommend it to others. People only talk about remarkable products. Is your product remarkable? Is it that much better than anything else out there?

2. Don’t make users login to try out your product.

Many users (myself included) get turned off when they can’t even try a product, without first having to provide personal information. Let them try out your product first, and if they like it, then they will login. Otherwise, expect many users to close your product before they have even tried it.

3. Make it really easy for users to login.

Login with FacebookAssuming that users like your product enough to want to login to use it, make sure it’s really easy for them to do so. They should not see any of the following:

  • Unless your product involves any type of public forum where the user might not want to be identified with their real name, then don’t ask them to create a username, that they will then need to remember just to use your site or app. The days of username based accounts should be long gone.
  • Where possible, offer a one click Facebook login option. It’s easier for you, and easier for the user.
  • Don’t ask for any more information than is required. Don’t ask for birth dates, addresses, phone numbers etc. unless you have a good reason to need it.

4. Make it work well, even if you’re the only user.

The flip side of adding social networking tools to products these days is that some of them only work if your friends are also using it. Unless you have a proper launch strategy in place to fix this issue, you’ll end up with a chicken and egg problem. The product is useless without users. And users won’t be attracted to the product because it’s useless. So make sure the product has functionality in place even if you’re the only user – but make it work better if your friends are also using it.

5. Make it work better, when friends use it.

Social networking products like Facebook, Foursquare etc. are almost useless if none of your friends are using it. However when your friends come on board, then the product becomes a lot more useful. Facebooks’ developer tools make it easy to integrate Facebook login and friend lists into your product, so users can invite their friends. Create features that genuinely add functionality to your app when users’ friends are using it (as opposed to spamming your friends with no benefit to you).

6. Make it really easy for users to share / invite others.

Assuming you have a great product that users enjoyed using, and you have convinced them to share it with others, then make it easy for them to do so. There should be a one click share or invite button for them to use. Make it any more complicated than that, and you risk them losing the motivation to do so.

Facebook Share

 7. Bribe users to invite their friends

If your product doesn’t really have any social features built in, you can try bribing your users to invite their friends. Dropbox made a big success of this through their referral program. Offer users credits towards paid features for friends that they invite and start using the system.

There are many users out there who are used to not paying for things. By offering such a program, you can gain benefit from this crowd as well.

8. Sign your Product

Another way to make your product is to let users share it without realizing it. YouTube does this by letting you embed videos onto your site, with a prominent YouTube logo in the corner. Even Apple does this by inserting “Sent on my iPhone” text into emails you send. Can you piggy back on usage of your product by adding a signature somewhere?

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