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Melanie Grano

Melanie Grano
Melanie is a contributing writer for AppSheet. She covers mobile computing, storage as well as the good and bad of tech. Trained as a tech journalist and copywriter, Melanie has loved technology for most of her life and is passionate about the written word.

Recent Posts

The 9 Best App Analytics Tools

Ever wondered why the number of people using your app suddenly dropped? Or why your app isn’t generating as much revenue as you thought it would? Blind guessing will not help. But if you implement an analytics tool in your app, the answer could be revealed to you quickly and effectively. Just like analytics tools for websites, app analytics solutions track a huge number of metrics that help you to understand the behavior of your users and to improve your app accordingly. But with so many available, it can be difficult to know where to start. We take a look at nine of the top app analytics tools.For ease of use, we will only be looking at analytics platforms that work for both iOS and Android apps, and that are available to use without paying hundreds of dollars a month. 1. Firebase Firebase is Google’s free, unlimited mobile app analytics solution which provides all the tools you need to improve your app and grow your user base in one place. Once installed, it will automatically start collecting data on insights such as who your users are, how much time they spend using the app and how much revenue they have generated. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Google includes 500 distinct events that you can use to drill down into your users’ behavior which will help you to improve your app as a result.Price: Free for unlimited use 2.  Fabric Fabric is a real-time mobile analytics platform that combines an intuitive dashboard with events tracking, crash reporting, payments tracking, growth reports, user segmentation and more to deliver an all-in-one solution. Acquired by Google in January of this year, Google will continue to run the platform alongside Firebase.Price: Free 3. MixPanel MixPanel is another great, all-in-one option that lets you easily track assigned events, create user funnels so you can see the journey of your users at a glance and carry out A/B testing to help you improve the performance of your app. All of this data can be displayed in dashboards and in charts which can be as simple or as detailed as you like. The platform comes with a free mobile app that sends custom alerts to your smartphone.Price: Free to track up to 25,000 data points per month 4. Flurry Flurry is the analytics solution from Yahoo! that is used by over 800,000 apps. Like the previous platforms, you can track events, create user funnels, segment your audience by demographic and interests, and track ad performance. It can be used on apps for Blackberry smartphones, as well as Android and Apple phones, and has unlimited free use. With this free app, all of your app’s metrics are available on your own phone anywhere, at any time.Price: Free 5. Countly Countly provides a 360-degree view of your customers’ journeys through your app. Similar to the other solutions, it offers a suite of tools that will enable you to track events, user retention, advertising performance, user journeys and crashes. The only downside with this solution is the price tag. It is free to use for non-commercial apps, but using it for any business-related app will require you to purchase the Enterprise Edition which starts at $250 per month.Price: Free for non-commercial use / $250 per month for Enterprise 6. Amplitude Amplitude’s analytics offering focuses on user behavior to help you to improve your app, rather than other vanity metrics. It is easy to install and will let you track things such as drop-off points in your conversion funnel, retention drivers and detractors as well as customer journeys.Price: Free for up to 10 million monthly events 7. Apsalar Unlike the other apps discussed so far, Apsalar focuses on improving the return on investment (ROI) of your app through effective advertising. It still provides all of the tracking features you’d expect, but the focus is on making your advertising and marketing campaigns as profitable as possible. Unfortunately, Apsalar puts a two-year cap on data retention, so it may not be the best choice for long-term projects.Price: Free 8. Appsee Appsee is another all-in-one platform that lets you track a huge range of events, understand your audience better, and optimize your A/B tests. What separates Appsee from the other solutions listed here, however, are some of the features provided. Appsee lets you record users and provides touch maps so you can understand exactly how your users use the app and the problems they are experiencing. Unfortunately, these extra features mean Appsee is not available for free. Still, there is a 14-day free trial that will give you a taste of the platform.Price: 14-day free trial. After the trial, pricing will depend on number of platforms and estimated number of events per month. 9.  Localytics Localytics provides all of the user insight data you could need (session tracking, retention rates, funnels and user profiles) but the focus here is on marketing. Localytics lets you reach your users with highly target campaigns that utilize push notifications, in-app advertising, personalized messages and A/B testing. Price: Free for up to 10,000 eventsSo, use one of these tools to optimize your app and expand your digital footprint. If your app is live, every second you waste without analytics is costing you data that could be used to improve your app. If you don’t know which to choose, start by installing Firebase and go from there.

The 6 App Development Best Practices To Follow When Using AppSheet

AppSheet gives you all the tools you need to create an awesome app. Unfortunately, hooking up your data to our online software and clicking deploy is rarely going to result in success. There’s still a bit of work needed on your end to create an app that you and your users are going to love. In this post, we’re going to talk about the six app development best practices to follow when using AppSheet and what you should be doing before, during and after app development to make sure your new app is a success. Plan Before Development Every great app starts with a great blueprint. This doesn’t just mean how it is going to work; you also need to know what you want to achieve with your app. After all, there’s no point hooking up your data to AppSheet if you don’t have a clear plan in your mind of why you need the app, what you want the app to look like, how you want it to work and how you are going to attract users. Before you start using AppSheet, sit down with a pen and a pad or device and work out your game plan. Sum up in one line why you need the app and what your goal for it is. Keep this sentence in front of you throughout the development journey. It will help to keep you focused on your goal. Next, brainstorm ways of attracting users. Who are you creating the app for? How are you going to bring the app to their attention? Again, sum this up in one line and keep referring to it when you start creating your app as it may help guide your decisions. If you can only think of one or two ways of getting users, check out this article on how to boost your adoption rate. Know Your Audience In order to help you to plan, identify your audience and get to know them. Are you creating the app for employees or colleagues? Is it meant to help clients? Who are your target users? Once you’ve defined who your users are, consider the app from their perspective. Are they technical? Will a particular color scheme appeal to them? What do they want to achieve by using the app? Answering questions like these will help you to design the app in a way that is as beneficial as possible to your users. Make It Clear During Development All of the best apps on the App Store and Google Play have one thing in common: they are all incredibly simple to use. Follow their lead if you want to create an awesome app, too. When it comes to creating your data and customizing your app, always be guided by one principle: KISS. Keep it simple, stupid. That means keeping the purpose of your app simple, don’t try and achieve too much. Keep the layout clean, don’t add a lot of clutter. Make sure you include clear instructions where necessary. In short, don’t make your app so complicated that your audience won’t want to use it. Get User Feedback The beauty of using AppSheet is that you can create an app in hours, not days. This enables you to get feedback and make changes much faster than if you were to use a developer. Don’t worry then, about making your app perfect straight off the bat. Create a minimum viable product and then conduct a limited release to see how well the app will work for your target users. Once feedback is received, you can rapidly tweak the app and iterate whilst you scale. AppSheet makes this process easy by including a feedback form to collect feedback from users. Ultimately, this process of getting feedback and tweaking your app shouldn’t stop if you want it to become as useful to your employees/clients as possible. Incorporate App Analytics Make sure you install an analytics platform in your app before you send it out into the world. There’s no point going through all of the effort to plan and customize your app if you are not going to track its success. It’s not just a case of tracking how popular your app is, either. Analytics platforms can help you to improve your app for your users and identify any bugs or issues that may be causing users to delete it from their smartphone. As a Pro customer, you get app usage analytics included free of charge. If you aren’t a pro customer consider upgrading or use a free app analytics solution such as Firebase. Test After Development You’ve created your app using AppSheet. It looks sweet and works on your phone. Now what? Test it. Test it again. And test it some more. Test it on different phones with different screen sizes. Test every journey through the app you can think of. Try and break your app. Before you tell anyone about your creation, you should make sure that it works without a hitch. It’s impossible to guarantee that it will work perfectly every time, of course. But the last thing you want to do is to notify your clients of your new app, only for it to crash as soon as they start using it on a different phone. Take action Knowing the best way to develop your app is great, but it’s no use if you don’t put it into practice. Take the first step by reading our comprehensive guide on rapid mobile app development. You’ll learn why no-code citizen developers are changing the way they live, work and play. Discover best practices for rapid mobile app development and find some real world examples of how apps built with AppSheet have transformed businesses. Download the guide for free here.

How UI Design Can Make or Break Your App

Gone are the days when customers would visit stores to inquire and to buy products and services. Thanks to the internet revolution, customers are now able to visit stores virtually to view items and to purchase them from anywhere, at any time. This transformation has been expedited in part by the mobile movement. With smartphones, tablets, phablets and mobile devices, e-commerce and e-business will continue to thrive. For this reason, mobile app development will be on the rise. The Mobile App Market According to market intelligence and analytics company App Annie, in 2016, the mobile app market is projected to expand 24 percent to reach $51 billion in gross revenue (the amount consumers spend on mobile apps via stores) across all app stores. Growth projections indicate that by 2020, the global gross revenue across all app stores will exceed $101 billion. In addition, KPCB insights reveal that the average time spent by a user on the internet is 5.6 hours per day with mobile devices taking up 51% of this time. The growing number of mobile users spells new revenue streams for enterprises. This means that an effective mobile app can engage the user, build traffic, build brand reputation and invariably, generate revenue. Key to engaging the user,  the app design must be able to create a fluid user experience (UX) which explores how an app looks and how the user interacts with it.   UI Design is Key to the User Experience (UX) As the mobile app is the gateway to an online business, first impressions count. To deliver a rich and favorable user experience, an app should come with an aesthetic, high quality, functional UI design. When an app looks good, the user tends to spend more time on it. Central to this is the choice of colors for the interface. Colors can be used to display visual hierarchy and to elevate the design while grabbing the user’s attention. When choosing colors, make sure to maintain uniformity and to keep these to a minimal. Too many colors may result in a design being gaudy. Getting the right mix of dark and light colors can be tricky and may require some trial and error.   Also, an app should be easy to navigate. The user should be able to do what he wants to do quickly and efficiently. The simpler the process, the more appreciative the user will be. Satisfied users bring traffic, revenues and fosters customer loyalty. A good example of intuitive interactive design is the Yelp app which is very clean, with nice, big buttons that clearly state their purpose. The buttons’ labels are easily understood by just about any user: for example, the toolbar at the bottom is a pattern in many native apps. Make It Simple To Use Make it easy to download and use. This seems obvious but if your app is not easy to use, then it will not be downloaded. A well designed UI involves understanding user requirements and helping users to do what they need to do with ease. An intuitive UI will enable users to do what they need to do in a few simple steps. Even a first time user should be able to open an app and to start using it without detailed instructions or guides. The interface should be easy enough for the beginner to use without boring advanced users. Focus on clear, clean designs. When elements are placed at the right places on the interface, app visitors could easily become customers. Large ecommerce companies design mobile apps where the checkout process is minimal and hassle-free. Take for example, the Walmart App. With a simple checkout process that doesn’t frustrate users by asking for unnecessary information, Walmart is making huge conversions and reaping the benefits. Users who don’t want to register with Walmart.com can access the app as a guest and make purchases. With a guest login option, Walmart has everyone covered. Similarly, a registration screen can have multiple signup options such as email and social network login. The Quora app follows this hybrid approach to encourage signups. Easy to Understand and Navigate Mobile app users come from different backgrounds which means that not all users are tech-savvy. When the UI is confusing or not easy to navigate, using the app may seem daunting and deter the user from continuing to spend time on it. If users are unable to find the information they need to do what they want to do, then there would be no reason to keep using the app. This impression may stay in users’ minds and results in negative branding for the company. A well-designed mobile app should be easy to navigate, easy to understand and provide help wherever required. Progressive onboarding is the new strategy implemented by many companies where the user is provided with instructions as they use the app. On each screen, they are prompted with instructions to move to the next step. When an app contains complicated procedures and hidden functionalities, progressive onboarding comes to the rescue. Twitter Birdhouse App has achieved success with this approach. Make Information Precise and Relevant When creating an app, it is important to consider the size of the mobile screen. Smart-phones come with smaller screens, so place precise information that is relevant to the user clearly. The amount of functionality and content should be limited to user requirements. Users do not have the time to read through miscellaneous information or navigate through unwanted features. Delivering the right information in the shortest amount of time (and clicks) is critical to the app experience. Make the interface  familiar to users. A good idea would be to choose designs and functions within the Android and iOS systems as these are familiar to users. Adopted designs drive immediate engagement. A Good UI is Responsive Cloud computing and virtualization technologies are enabling organizations to centrally host resources and securely publish them to any device. People connect to apps from all different types of devices. This means a mobile app has to deliver  rich and consistent UX on all form factors. A good UI design incorporates this responsive design. Technology is constantly evolving and what is ‘hip’ today will be left behind tomorrow. A good UI design should be flexible enough to support different modular functions. By incorporating drag and drop options, app developers can change the backend structure without the need to create the app from the scratch. This flexibility facilitates continuous delivery as well. Build Your Own App The ‘build an app’ phenomenon is taking the world by storm, with users electing to build their own app to solve problems in real time. This has given rise to an environment where we are able to create, personalize and customize apps to help us fulfill a purpose or to network with other users. Bear in mind that when you build your app, UI Design is important because app making is not just a technology trend. It is fast becoming a way of life.

The Best Corporate Apps And Why They Work

With mobile devices now a focal point in business, our professional lives have been invaded by the ever present smart device. The emergence of utility and productivity apps, tools, games and endless types of pursuits, have unleashed a generation of workers who are inclined towards a digital lifestyle. It always helps to learn from the best in the business. Enterprises are capitalizing on the mobile app phenomenon by building innovative apps to communicate with their staff and to enable them to work anytime, anywhere. As more and more businesses use enterprise mobility apps to complement their core business, the use of corporate apps will continue to grow. This means more opportunities for mobile app developers and cross platform mobile development experts to test their ideas, skills, and creativity to find their niche in this thriving marketplace. According to research firm Gartner, by 2017 the demand for such development will increase five times faster than companies and IT departments can keep pace with. With mobile phone sales expected to reach 2.1 billion units in 2019, it will fuel demand for enterprise mobile apps that are just as useful and popular as consumer apps. We look at reasons why. Customized to business needs Corporate apps are customized to an organization’s core business needs and there are several use cases, for example, such as helping its field sales and marketing teams effectively present solutions to customers. They also enable staff on the go to access the latest product brochures or information where document management and distribution platforms make sure that employees have up-to-date information when they need it. There is no need to share multiple versions of files and to look for misplaced documents. Staff can gather information from customers and prospects and enter this data into the corporate or customer relationship management databases efficiently. This saves workers time and ensures that they stay in the loop. Train and develop anywhere, anytime Such apps deliver learning content to their workers on the go. They are interactive, up-to-date and enable workers to sign up for courses online. This way, employees can learn anytime, anywhere and at their own pace. Workers can also keep up to date with company news and industry developments. Employee engagement Employees are already having to pay attention to the emails they get on a daily basis from their co-workers and external customers. A corporate app should not add to this burden. Do keep in mind the following suggestions when building a corporate app: Consider the group of employees you are designing the app for. When creating a product for the public at large, the first step is to consider your audience. The same goes for the corporate app. Talk to your staff and find out about the culture of the department, get their feedback and find out what they actually need. It may sound simple to say but until you actually talk to the people who are actually doing the job day in and day out, creating an app you think may help them, may not actually address their needs. Build engagement with your employees. If your staff find the apps useful and understand that these will help to make their lives easier, they will want to adopt this into their daily work routine. The lives of employees hang on their mobile devices. A good suggestion, at this point, would be to incorporate location services and image capabilities to connect staff and share information more efficiently. Include a variety of media such as interactive, videos and embedded documents. This level of interactivity engages staff, enabling them to be more productive. The best corporate apps work because they enable organizations to engage their employees and to bring productivity increases and faster business processes. The bigger picture is that the organization gains insights (through analytics and such software) into the work habits of its employees, which in the long term, will enable it to fine-tune business processes for greater productivity and rewards. Do your employees work in the field? Give them offline access. Keep apps up-to-date so that the latest information and documents can be distributed to the work force so as to ensure that everyone is working on the same digital page. Nothing is more frustrating than spending time working on outdated documents or data.

Wearable Technology Presents Unique Challenges to App Developers

Analyst firm IDTechEX predicts that the wearable tech market would reach $39 billion by the end of 2016 and $150 billion by 2026. CSI Insight reports that a total of 411 million wearable devices valued at $34 billion would be sold in 2020. MarketsandMarkets also predicts that the wearable technology by 2020, would grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17.8%. Today, fitness tracker devices alone are worth $700 million and hold 61% of total wearable devices. Looking at these numbers, it is evident that the wearable technology is making inroads into our lives. The cloud computing revolution has brought a variety of devices into the network. Developers are now using innovative techniques such as responsive design to ensure the user experience is constant across all devices. However, wearable technology poses different challenges and demand extra caution and consideration. These are a few factors to consider. Make it easy to use Wearable devices come with smaller screens and in different shapes and sizes in comparison to regular mobiles and tablets. Designing the right interface for these devices presents a challenge. The interface should be quick and easy to navigate and contain minimal elements. There is no space for flashy icons or detailed navigation. App developers should adapt an alternate approach to ensure that a consistent user experience is delivered across all devices without losing focus on ease of use and mobility which are the key functionalities of a wearable device. Dependence on Tethered devices As wearable devices come with smaller sizes and limited functionality, they are normally tethered to larger devices. It means these devices always depend on the larger devices they are tethered to for accessing the full functionality of the application. When the battery of the larger device drains out, the tethered devices lose the connectivity. Wearable devices that are connected through blue tooth should always operate within that blue tooth range. Lower battery life In addition to smaller screens and limited functionality, wearable devices have a lower battery life. In fact, the limited battery life is the biggest pain point in the wearables right now. With this limit, developers may be tempted to design slow apps, unattractive designs or non-critical software. For instance, Q Dreamer activity tracker comes with five days of battery life and Under Armour fitness tracker also gets five days of battery life. Fitbit claims that the fitness wrist watch Blaze would run for 5 days without charging it. However, the fact is that it doesn’t run GPS and other apps to compensate the battery life. With all the functionality of the device, the battery would only last for one day. However, the technology in processors and sensors are constantly innovating to enable them to consume less power and deliver more functionality. Cross platform solutions are the need of the hour The successful adoption of a wearable device depends on its cross-platform capability. The more devices and platforms it supports, the higher its success rate. Designing apps for a specific device or platform will be less successful. A notable example is Google Glass. The developers weren’t clear if the device should be worn all through the day or if it is to be used for specific tasks. In addition to its low battery life and unattractive design, the tool didn’t provide any useful information for its users. Obviously, apps that work with multiple devices are sure to stay in the longer run. Moreover, the rapid advancement in technology brings new devices and technologies into the picture. Apps should not only be cross-platform enabled but they should also be easily updated and pushed into new platforms and devices. Data Security issues When a wearable device becomes a part of a network, it means data is shared with that device most of the time. With limited functionality, these devices lack the ability to setup opt-in privacy settings. App developers should take extra care to ensure that the app only accesses required data and securely processes it. Appropriate security measures that are specific to wearable devices should be applied. While developing apps for wearable devices is a challenge, it can prove to be rewarding and lucrative. With changing platforms and tools, developers need to proactively align their strategies to meet changing demands which means that ease-of-use and adaptability are the keys.

Five Mobile App Development Trends You'll Need to Know in 2017

Getting the latest news, entertainment, games, banking, paying bills and collaborating with colleagues and associates -- there are all kinds of apps out there enable us to perform all those functions and more. Analyst firm, Gartner, Inc. projects that by 2017, the number of mobile app downloads worldwide is expected to reach close to 268 billion times. The app development industry is mushrooming with total mobile app revenue growing from $45.37 billion in 2015 to $76.53 billion in 2017. This will make mobile apps one of the most popular computing tools in the world. The truth about all this is that we have not even scratched the surface of mobile technology’s capabilities. To put the massive number of downloads into perspective, if we compare these figures with the approximate world population of 7.1 billion, it means that by 2017, each person alive on this planet would have 37 mobile apps. In 2017, Mobile App Development will see five key trends.  Location Based Services Mobile app developers are extending the usage of a product beyond what it was meant to be when it first left the factory. A few years ago, it was games that dominated, then it was social network apps and now it is the utility app. This year saw the debut of augmented reality-based games such as Pokemon. Expect to see more of such apps in 2017. Many of us use an app for our day-to-day activities such as project organization, contact tracking, ordering groceries, or calling a repairman. Many of these apps check your location and present you with recommendations for say, restaurants, government offices, retail shops and gas stations  near you. Competitive Advantage Enterprises will step up efforts in mobile app development to gain a competitive advantage as users become reliant on apps for engagement with a brand. Companies are investing in rapid mobile app development platforms and working with their non-technical users to quickly develop useful one-to-two function apps. As users come up with more ideas for beneficial business apps, IT teams can work with them to develop a backlog of future projects and develop these on low-code platforms together. Internet of Things (loT) Apps Internet of things (loT) applications will be very important to the development of mobile apps. Undoubtedly, in a 24 x 7 world, users want easy access to information and data whenever they need it, and expect the same user experience anytime, anywhere and on any device such as wearable devices, tablets, smartphones and phablets. The increasing popularity and choices available in e-business and e-commerce apps has made clicking away (and uninstalling) all too easy. This makes the mobile app a key consideration for enterprises in their development efforts especially if it (the app) promises reduced costs and increased productivity. We have all visited a company’s glitzy website with large amounts of web-based content only to find that the browsers can perform sluggishly.  Add to this, the problems that come with small form factor devices and the experience may become a turn-off. Similarly, if an enterprise wants their staff to rely on mobile devices to do their job from anywhere, on any device, management must consider the importance of information access, design and meeting platform to screen size. New Mobile Payment Apps Mobile payments will rise spurred by new innovative payment apps. Of course, the good old fashioned web can still be a way to access websites to pay your bills but by 2017, half of all online transactions will be conducted via mobile devices or even wearable devices. Innovative payment systems such as Loop Pay, Tilt, Google Wallet, Venmo, Android Pay and Square Cash are leading the way. User Experience Is The Key To App Success The cloud is driving mobile app development and user experience is key. In the cloud, the size of mobile apps is small which reduces bandwidth and memory issues. The single purpose app has everything to do with speed and user experience. Cloud compatibility makes it possible to sync apps across multiple devices. No-code apps are fueling a social phenomenon of sorts by making it possible for us to create an app -- for personal productivity, for our social network and for utility. We no longer have to wait for IT to help us tailor it (an app) to our needs. We can build an app, change it, customize it to our own specific needs and share this with our friends and associates. In just a few steps, we can change the dashboard layout, add a new field to a chart or insert a column. The advent of the no-code app has given rise to an inclusive environment where everyone can take part. The ease with which we can make an app tailored to a specific need and deployed within seconds makes it all the more appealing. For example, we can build an app for client management, for construction calculation, for productivity, or to monitor medical appointments. The possibilities are limitless. Keep Customers Coming Back In this respect, Gartner advises vendors to focus on retention strategies since customers want real value and high quality solutions. A recent 451 Research survey shows that by 2017, 50% of companies in the US will be using at least 10 mobile apps to manage business processes and to keep in touch with their customers. As small form factor devices continue to evolve, the possibilities for no code apps to change the way we live, work and play are limited only by our imagination. Mobile app development will expand into new dimensions where new types of app development will take place. With the IoT, mobile apps are the tools that promise to connect everything and everyone. Exciting times are ahead. Get prepared for launching your business apps by downloading our latest white paper, Mobile App Trends: What You Need to Know in 2017. 

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