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AppSheet Smart Assistant: You Can Now Talk to Your Apps

Have you ever wanted to just talk to an app you were trying to use? Bypass the interface and tell it what you were looking for or what you wanted to do? And then, magically, have the app do what you told it to do? Me too and I am happy to report that our latest feature, Smart Assistant, does just that. There's no magic here—Smart Assistant is a natural language interface that empowers users to bypass an app's interface and directly query the underlying data. By simply checking a box in our platform, creators can activate Smart Assistant across all apps deployed for their business. Users can then simply type or use voice commands to access data immediately, whether they are in an office or in the field. Pretty cool. Even cooler: this type of functionality, although incredibly useful, is also incredibly hard to implement! Normally, an app feature like this would take months to develop, require a senior developer with a background in machine learning and natural language processing, and, at minimum, a six-figure investment. But with the AppSheet platform, an automatic conversational UI is built out for an app in minutes. Yes, in minutes. I suspect you may be asking "how is this possible?" Well, AppSheet is a no-code, intelligent platform. Unlike code-driven platforms, our platform is intent-driven—able to derive the intent of the app being built. As a result, rich AI-forward features like Smart Assistant can be automatically created for any app built with our platform. So, instead of app users having to adapt to technology, technology adapts to the users. Check it out in the video below.     Essentially, Smart Assistant is the Siri for apps. And, of course, the more users use Smart Assistant, the more it learns and the more it learns, the more personalized the experience. Like I said: That's because technology should adapt to you, not the other way around. To learn more about how to enable Smart Assistant in your apps, go here. And for all the app users out there: Yes, you can now talk to your apps. Just tell your creators to turn on the option!

We’re Making App Creation Even Easier: Introducing Spec, a Natural Language Interface for Anyone Building Apps

Have you ever wondered when all this natural language stuff would migrate to the business world? I mean we can tell Alexa or Siri to do lots of things that make managing our personal lives or running our homes so much easier. But we spend most of our lives at work—why isn’t someone simplifying that? This has always been our focus. Of course, we equate easier with useful, empowering, and productive. We think of our platform as both easy-to-use and powerful when it comes to app creation. And those apps help the folks, teams, and organizations that use them to digitize and automate their processes, becoming more productive and efficient in the process. Everyone should be able to make apps. That’s our mission. It is the thing that drives us when the days get long and we hit a platform roadblock. It’s what inspires us to be better, to do more, and break down barriers. And Spec breaks through one heck of a barrier. Have you ever thought of what it would be like to type a simple sentence or phrase into a Google-like search box or simply say it (hello Alexa and Siri) to create an app? Then the app is built based on that simple statement—kind of like how Google Search works. And when I say app, I mean an app that works out-of-the-box. That, in a nutshell, is what Spec can do for you. When we started the AppSheet journey, our platform could build apps from your data. In other words, the platform deduced the structure of the app you wanted to make from your data and built out an app. Soon after, you could copy an app from our sample apps library and start your app creation journey with a working version of the sample. And today, Spec can build an app from just your idea. Everyone should be able to make apps. Easy to say but hard to do because instead of you conforming to how our platform works, we are making the platform conform to how you work. As the platform evolves, so will the switching of roles. The more you work with Spec, the smarter Spec becomes. Today, Spec is learning from the wisdom of the crowd—everyone who tries to Spec an app is helping Spec to learn. But we have even bigger plans for Spec: what if it could learn generally about apps AND understand your specific requirements? For example, when you say “My app has contacts,” Spec knows your specific requirements and builds out that app module based on what it knows about you. Yes, Spec and our entire platform’s future is very bright so stay tuned! We remain committed to making our platform more intuitive and easier to use while ensuring that its features and capabilities are powerful and technology-forward. When you have some time, take Spec for a test drive and let us know what you like and where we could improve. And as for Alexa and Siri, it’s time to move over. There’s a new Spec in town.  

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.

Manage Projects Like a PRO

Project management is a limited endeavor if your team needs to be mobile but your data isn't. That's why thousands of AppSheet app creators use AppSheet to transform the data in their Google Sheets, Smartsheet, and Excel spreadsheets into powerful mobile apps. We recently held two webinars that showed how to get started with AppSheet and build project management apps. The apps we used during the webinar are available for you to copy them and see how they were created. Check the two videos and find the link to the app at the end of this post! Project Management 1     We covered the basic structure of a project management app and how to arrange its tables.  1. Connecting multiple tables and using libraries. 2. Adding images to your app 3. Changing the layout of the app 4. Having a hierarchy of initiatives / projects / tasks / and comments. in a 1-to-many fashion Project Management 2     We covered: 1. Actions 2. Notifications 3. Formatting rules 4. Distributing the app Get the app here   

5 Reasons Why You Must Have Your Own Business Apps

Making your own business apps may have crossed your mind but the expense, effort and not knowing where to begin may have quickly doused that dream. However, the benefits of a customized app and the convenience of a  mobile app maker have taken any negative arguments off the table. Here are five reasons why you need to have your own apps: Customer Convenience - It’s common knowledge that keeping a returning customer happy is much more cost effective than trying to acquire new customers. With an app, the convenience and accessibility of service can greatly improve customer satisfaction. For example, if you own a restaurant you may want to create an app that has a listing of your menu items, a “Find Me” tool that provides a Google Map, daily specials, tracks loyalty incentives or provides a text or phone number link to place an order. If a customer is on the go they would be able to place their order with the app and swing by the restaurant to pick it up on their way home. Rise Above the Competition - According to a report by marketing intelligence agency Mintel, “Americans not only use the internet to stay connected to work, family and friends, but 69 percent seek out advice and opinions on goods and services before purchasing.” Furthermore, B2B research firm Clutch found in a recent survey that only 54 percent of small businesses have a website. Here’s where the dichotomy lies: most people are researching products and services online but a surprising 44 percent of small businesses don’t have a website. Now what does this have to do with an app? Well, there is even a greater discrepancy in this category: consumers spend 85 percent of their time on their smartphones using apps but just a fraction of small businesses have one.   What does this mean for small businesses? Let’s say you own a boutique that caters to teen girls (and we know how they love their iPhones). Imagine making a catalog app where you can meet them where they’re at by sharing new products, fashion tips, celebrity sightings showing what’s trending, highlighting customers wearing your clothes and sending alerts for sales and events. If a large percentage of your competition is neglecting using a website and a majority of your rivals don’t implement an app, then you have a much better chance of appealing to a wider market and securing loyal, interactive customers. Build Your Branding - “A mobile app is like a blank billboard sign. You can do what you want with it; you can make it stylish, hip, functional, shocking, or informative. But what you really want to do is create an app that has features your customers will love, while at the same time is well branded and beautifully designed,” explains Melanie Haselmayr on Forbes. “The more often you can get customers involved with your app, the sooner they will be inclined to buy your product and/or service.” The potential that you have with your own app is limitless. It goes beyond age, gender, location and financial earnings. It is a chameleon that conforms to your needs and voice. Empowered Workforce - Happy workers equal happy customers and the convenience and scalability of apps allow employees to be more successful at their jobs. “Over 50% of chemical, pharmaceutical and biotech firms are using mobile apps to change their business practices, while 58% of construction, mining and oil companies are doing the same. Logistics-centric companies are integrating mobile apps to automate existing processes, with 50% of people saying that mobile first is now the preferred option,” found Red Hat’s Mobile Maturity Survey 2015. Even if your customers aren’t hands-on with your app, they will definitely feel the positive impact it has on your business practices. From locating inventory not found in the front of the store to placing orders sent in from a mobile workforce app, an app allows your workers to interact with customers without being tied to a checkout counter or bulky computer. Guaranteed ROI Customized apps used to be expensive, time consuming and complicated. Now free app builders allow you to create your own customized app from a simple Excel spreadsheet. Without the high cost of a developer or the huge time investment making an app from scratch using Java or Visual Studio, you can create an app for your specific needs in as little as half an hour. With minimal investment, you have a greater chance for a profitable return. If your results aren’t as successful as you had hoped, you can easily make changes to allow for employee or customer suggestions and requests. A business app can help you to grow your business and help your employees to become more efficient with minimal time and financial investment. With all of the benefits of an app, why not try one out today?

Tips for Making Your App Look and Function Properly on Any Mobile Device

We’ve all come across web pages or apps that just didn’t perform quite right on a mobile device. Maybe the download time took way too long or the buttons were incredibly small making it difficult to click to the next function. The software could have been designed for an iPhone but you own a Samsung Galaxy (or vise versa) so the formatting was off. If you are creating an app for your workforce to use, chances are your employees have different brands of smartphones along with various models to complicate things. Here are some tips to help your app look professional while functioning properly regardless of what device it’s used on. Simplicity is Key…In Both Design and Function It is better to have three separate apps on your phone that each complete a specific task rather than cramming in various operations into one app that makes it slow, requires multiple click throughs to get to the right page, or has cluttered actions that you don’t really use. For example, if you’re an ecommerce store, you could have separate apps for  sales reports, inventory lists, and product catalogs. And speaking of product catalogs…simplicity of design is also a critical factor. Regardless if you are using an iPad or smartphone, those screens are quite small so the product pictures should be taken and uploaded using high resolution settings, photographed individually (as opposed to taking a picture of an item in multiple colors in one shot), and on a simple background. Jason Lawrence of Practical Ecommerce states, “I like to shoot products in front of a continuous background — often white or neutral grey. It’s a simple and professional look that is often used by major online retailers.” Additionally, consider shooting by a large window for natural lighting. “Avoid harsh backlighting and other setups that cast shadows on the surface of the object. Keep the lights on the same side of the object as your camera, or slightly off to one side,” suggests Lawrence. For good and bad examples, grab your smartphone and randomly search through items on eBay, Pinterest, or Etsy. You’ll get tons of ideas plus see what stands out and what looks amateur. Minimize Text Input While most teenagers have the freakishly amazing skill to text a hundred words a minute, it’s likely that many of your employees lack this unique skill. The less that has to be entered, the better…not only for the sanity of your employees, but for faster progress onsite. Let’s imagine that you have a construction company and you are sending a worker on location to complete a field survey. Consider creating your spreadsheet app with a form addressing the vital information needed. A simple checklist requiring a  “Y” or “N” answer can ensure that the job is thoroughly completed in an efficient way with minimal unique entries. “On most phones and tablets it's perfectly possible to type out a few sentences or paragraphs with relative ease, but it's not exactly a fun experience. It's also a pretty interruptive process on modern touch-screen devices as the virtual keyboard pops up over the web content,” explains design company Creative Bloq. “To reduce user frustration, aim to minimise the amount of text input you require in web forms, and where it's really necessary make sure that you consider the practicalities.” Test It Out for Functionality and Formatting While this may seem extremely obvious, the last thing you want your employees to do is  go out in the field only to have your app not working properly. Here is a brief checklist that you might consider adopting with suggestions from Ministry of Testing: ❑ What mobile devices will you use to test the app on? ❑ Does the app accommodate all sizes of text?  ❑ Does the full list of touch device options work?  ❑ How large can on-screen buttons and navigation be?  ❑ Is it worth considering audible, visible and vibrating alerts? ❑ Can I update the app when there are multiple updates available? What happens if I don’t update? ❑ Is the UI appropriate for the form factor? For example, phone versus tablet, screen size, resolution, and existence of hardware buttons or keyboard. ❑ Will the app perform the designed tasks? ❑ What happens when it can’t sync or update because the device is...  ❑ Offline ❑ Connected but with no Internet connectivity ❑ Connecting through a paywall and haven’t yet authenticated (Wi-Fi in Starbucks, an airport, or a local pub) ❑ Change the device settings around. What do you notice? ❑ Test camera, if applicable. Creating your own app can help you to construct an invaluable tool for both you and your employees. When it works properly and is easy to use, you’ll start to wonder what type of app you should make next.

What You Can Learn from the Best Consumer Grade Applications

Consumer grade is the new enterprise grade, according to a recent survey that revealed that consumer apps are faster and more reliable than enterprise apps. The study also found that consumer apps provide greater visibility.“It is clear that consumer grade is the new enterprise grade,” said Justin Barney, president and CEO of ScaleArc. “IT decision-makers who build enterprise apps recognize that they, and the general public, have a better experience on their personal apps than their work apps. We’ve all lost patience with websites and apps that don’t offer optimal performance.” The ScaleArc survey of nearly 600 IT decision makers found that 78 percent of those polled agree that consumer grade is the new standard for apps, providing better user interface, less downtime, less sluggishness, and less likelihood of crashing. In fact,  IT decision makers say that performance requirements are higher for consumer apps than for enterprise apps. From Lightweight to Heavyweight One reason for this shift is the emergence of the Cloud era of technology. The use of new data fabrics with custom-built infrastructure means that businesses ca now give customer what they want, when they want it, where they want it. While “enterprise-grade” traditionally was associated with heavy-duty, industrial settings and “consumer-grade” was associated with lightweight technology not suited for a professional, high-performance environment, current capabilities of today’s technology have turned those definitions on their heads.  As Paul Maritz asserts, “the former lightweight is the new heavyweight. Consumer-grade will become the new benchmark.” Best Practices Modern enterprise apps are leveraging the best practices of consumer-grade mobile apps by including functionality such as recommendations (like Netflix, Amazon, and Pandora), easily adding or integrating additional data (like Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn) and crowdsourcing the validation of existing data (like Innocentive, iStockphoto and Mechanical Turk). “By the very nature of the mobile app delivery platform, the best apps:  1) clearly and concisely present the information you need to complete transactions, and 2) optimize the engagement process to make completing the transaction as easy and natural as possible. There just isn’t a lot of extra real estate on your mobile device for any of the extraneous stuff,” asserted Chief Technology Officer of EMC2 Bill Schmarzo. Giving Consumers What They Want Businesses need to turn to consumer grade apps to answer the demands of today’s consumers. According to InFlight, they want: Mobile access to everything. Simple, online self-service at work or play. Elegant, effective apps for all the things they do online. Engaging, user-friend interfaces that offer a modern UX and a clean, task-oriented focus. Apps that require the smallest number of clicks and the least amount of data entry as      possible with no extraneous data on screens to accomplish the desired task. An optimized experience across all devices, from desktop to tablet to smartphone. Popular Apps With Attractive Features The Chipotle app is appealing to the eye with clear colors, fonts, and an uncluttered interface and includes a productive use of maps and other mashups to make information more actionable.               Starbucks has combined their loyalty program with their convenient mobile order and pay capabilities. The app is attractive and easy to use, and uses some gamification techniques that allow users to track their status and unlock new levels of benefits.                   Concur provides a simple format to easily complete necessary functions to keep track of travel expenses and expense reports. It also is appealing to the eye and is easy to learn, use, and navigate.              Whether your business is large or small, you need to make your systems easy to use on a personal phone in order to compete in a consumerized environment. Consumer grade apps should be easy to use, appealing to the eye, and functional. AppSheet can help your company create user-friendly, consumer grade apps to meet your unique needs, keep your customers happy, and boost revenue.

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