Archive for the ‘ Interactive ’ Category

Your Augmented Reality Guide to Holiday Shopping

It’s that time of year again – time to break out your wallets and spend your hard earned cash on loved ones, and maybe even some not so loved ones. And as much as we all love this season of giving, let’s face it, holiday shopping can be a nightmare. Thankfully I’m here to help make this year’s holiday shopping not only easier, but also fun and futuristic. All you need is your iPhone!

So what is Augmented Reality? AR occurs when the line between what’s real and what’s computer generated is blurred because what we see, hear, feel and smell are being enhanced by technology. Engineers are able to pull graphics out of your TV or computer and integrate them into real-world situations. Developers of mobile applications have been using this technology for a couple of years and have exponentially advanced the levels of AR available to consumers.

Here are my favorite AR mobile apps to help get you through this year’s holiday shopping madness:

Heads Up Navigator Pro – Get the absolute most out of your location. Use your phone’s built-in camera to find a central shopping destination that allows you to get all your shopping completed in one area. Or use it to easily guide you to the store with the must-have gift of the year. Overlapping floating 3D labels are directly displayed on the environment around you. ($.99 with no advertisements or Free with some advertisements / iOS 3.1 or later)

Acrossair – Walking from store to store, carrying tons of bags and fighting over the last “it” gift of the season can be really exhausting. Need a cocktail or a bite to eat? Use this app, which is integrated with Yelp, Stella Bar Finder and Wikipedia to find the perfect spot to take a break from shopping. Set your search range with the user interface and this app will give you information about all the locations near you. You can even share with your friends via email, Flickr and Twitter! (Free / iOS 3.1 or later)

Quick Writer – Need to answer an email or send a text but you’re worried about bumping into a store display or the mob of people walking about the mall? With this AR app there’s no more worry – you’ll be able to walk and type at the same time without ever taking your eyes off the screen! This app actually lets you see the view beyond your phone while typing. Whatever your built-in camera sees, you will see. ($1.99 / iOS 3.0 or later)

Car Finder – Never lose your car after hours of shopping again! This app is a must for anyone who has ever forgotten where he or she parked, or has been issued a ticket for going over the parking time limit. With this app, your camera viewfinder can see an overlay of your car’s location, the direction and the distance you are away. It even keeps a timer that will send you meter alerts. ($.99 / iOS 4.0 or later)

SnapShop Showroom – So a woman is out shopping and sees a Lay-Z-Boy that her husband would love for his man cave. At the same time, this other guy is shopping and sees a vanity for his daughter’s new room. With this app, shoppers will never have to guess again whether or not a piece of furniture will fit and/or match the receiver’s space. You simply take your phone to the room in question, launch the app, choose a piece of furniture from a catalog and tap your screen to use the menu options. The AR technology will let you visualize the furniture in your real world environment. (Free / iOS 3.1 or later)

As this technology grows, Augmented Reality will open many new doors for marketers. Imagine being able to point your cell phone at any product at any store at any point in the world, and you’re instantly shown information such as a sales sheet, demonstrations, customer reviews, competitor pricing, alternative products, and one-click purchasing ability. To say the least, mobile AR could change the way we shop just like the Internet changed the way we communicate. Who knows, maybe it will be the game-changer of the 2012 holiday season! Is your business ready?

Tips for Conducting a Successful Webinar

Is distance preventing you from disseminating information to a large audience? If so, I highly recommend conducting a webinar. The term webinar is short for web-based seminars or presentations, also known as web conferencing. It’s simple. Attendees can log on straight from their computers to join a one-way conference or an interactive meeting between the audience and the presenter. You and your audience will never have to leave your desks to be able to communicate valuable information. Just think about all of the time and travel costs that can be saved.

Here are a few tips to assist you in successfully creating a webinar:

CONTENT – This is the most important component to consider when preparing for a webinar. Educate and inspire – know your target audience and create a presentation with graphics and interesting content that will keep them engaged. When you begin, make sure to briefly address the material that will be covered during your presentation. Limit your webinar to an hour and make sure to leave time at the end for Q&A. If you have any content that may take more than 45 minutes to address, break it up into different webinars so your audience doesn’t get bored or run out of time. If given enough warning, most people are willing to spare an hour to learn something new.

MARKET YOUR EVENT – Social media and email marketing are an easy and effective way to get the word out. Consider including a guest speaker to help entice people to participate. Make sure to include this information in your invite along with a summary of the content that will be presented during your webinar. Providing a clear understanding of what your webinar will include will prevent hesitation. If you notice people aren’t responding to your invite, invite them again about a week later and remind them of the opportunity to participate. Let participants know there is limited availability, this allows you to gauge how many people will be attending and make sure the program can handle all of the participants.

POLL YOUR AUDIENCE, before, during and after – if you know exactly who your audience will be, find out what information they are interested in learning. At the conclusion of your webinar, provide a quick survey to receive feedback and make improvements for your next presentation. Always follow up with your audience.

PLAN – Preparation can make or break your event. Know what you are going to say ahead of time – practice makes perfect.

SERVICE PROVIDERS – Many different service providers offer webinars. Go To Meetings – http://www.gotomeeting.com/fec/webinar is one of our favorites. Some other providers that offer a free trial are:
http://www.webex.com
http://www.instantpresenter.com

Still need help with your webinar preparation? Contact evok advertising at 407-302-4416.

Apple & Microsoft vs. Android. What Does This Mean for Consumers?

It’s clash of the titans in the mobile, tablet computing and mobile OS arena. With the crowds screaming for blood and mass confusion in the marketplace what is a consumer to do? As an advertising agency we constantly have to have our fingers on the pulse of the industry to see what emerging technologies and software are coming center stage to making sure we maximize our clients dollars while keeping them relevant. There is still no viable ecosystem in the mobile/tablet market place. Giants are emerging in the arena and some are even teaming up with long time foes to gain market share. Because of this, you are left with fragmentation, an over-saturated marketplace, way too many choices to make and compatibility issues.

Apple has created a niche for themselves and are the dominant force in hardware and software. But if Apple sours your stomach and you are feeling brave there are some sure bets to satisfy your computing needs. Google has shaken the Apple tree and Android has emerged as the forbidden fruit and a significant player while allowing other hardware companies to enter the battleground. The difference is that you can’t really compare the two or even the other players (Rim, Blackberry etc.). Apple’s hardware is only sold with their software where Android is purely software running on other manufacturer’s hardware. Even with Google’s recent purchase of Motorola I don’t think full integration will be seen in the marketplace until mid 2012. There are also so many flavors of Android that even getting apps to run on all machines cross-platform is an amazing feat.

Google was also tag-teamed recently by Apple and Microsoft when they purchased certain patents making it more expensive for anyone using Android and not Windows Phone OS. So obviously you can see who are the marketplace giants.

“But I just want to check my email and update Facebook and maybe play Angry Birds!” I feel your pain, in order for the market to unify we need to create an ecosystem and uniformity across a small group of dominant systems. The profitability of apps has been unparalleled and the shift in the way society has integrated into technology is amazing. So when it comes down to brass tacks and you the consumer have to make a decision what should you do? What goes on behind the scenes should not really influence your decision too much. Here is what you should consider:

1. Choose a device that will accomplish your basic needs.
2. Pick a reputable company that has made a commitment to their product line.
3. Look at the amount of applications available/compatible for your device.
4. Read the consumer blogs to see what your peers think of the device.
5. Look at Youtube for product reviews.

Now that we’ve covered that, let’s talk about what is on the horizon. If you purchase an Android device there is a new App store in the mix. Amazon is popping it’s collar with its own app store and right out-of-the-box are offering a ton of great applications. They are even giving one “Paid App” away everyday. I hope Google is ready for another throw down because this will seriously affect the Google Marketplace (their current app store). Not to mention, Amazon is gearing-up to enter the Tablet war with two new tablets code named “Coyote and Hollywood” with very low price points. I am sure this is directed at Apple so the rest of the year should get very interesting.

(Stay educated and happy shopping.)
Christopher LeBlanc – Creative Director @ evok advertising
Follow me at @chriskleblanc or @evoklarry to get info, tips and relevant news.

How Has Technology Affected Communication?

Laptops, iPads, cell phones, the Internet, Google, Twitter, wifi…how has technology affected people’s ability to communicate?

Communication using technology, referred to as mediated technology is used more for business communication than any other kind, even more than the outdated form of communication called…”talking.”

At the time of this being published, 60% of the world’s population own a mobile phone and over 449 million of those are “smart” phones.

Sure, all the technological advances have many advantages. For those of you old enough to remember, there was a time when you sent ads to a “film house” to be produced or scanned and actually had to send them to the publication via snail mail or Fed-Ex. We used to have to factor in the time that it would take to rip the film and send to the pubs to meet our deadlines. Now, ads due today – no problem we will have it uploaded to the FTP in a jiffy.

Mediated technology has definitely made business communication faster and cheaper, but has it also diminished the ability to establish relationships? How many times have you read an email and misunderstood the tonality? Or how many times have e-mails crossed in cyber space? What about the dreaded “Reply All” mishaps that everyone has heard about when you intended to only reply to sender?

I remember a time when my phone (land line that is!) rang off the hook and I had conversations with clients all day long. Not so much anymore – now it is all via e-mail and texting. And when I do have a conversation with a client, 9 times out of 10 it is on my iPhone.

There was also a time when it was considered rude to bring a cell phone or computer to a meeting and now it is expected. How many of us have sat in a meeting and texted someone who is in the same meeting? Home phones…have one, can’t tell you why, what the number is, or the last time it rang.

I joke with the 20-somethings in the office that they sit at home on the couch next to their husbands/boyfriends/friends and text instead of having a conversation. One of my colleagues told me that she and her husband were sitting in their family room together the other day playing Words with Friends on their iPhones – poor Scrabble.

So, do you think mediated technology has “dumbed” us down? Shortcuts for words on Twitter such as UR, GR8, etc are the norm so tweets don’t exceed 140 characters. Messages sent from mobile phones often have typos – and strange wording thanks to auto-fill and predictive text. It’s “for,” not “fir!”

Of course there was a time when the calculator first appeared on the scene and people were concerned that it would diminish the ability to do math in ones head. With the exception of my boss, when was the last time any of you did math in your head?

It has also been said that Socrates feared the impact writing would have on people’s ability to think. However, Einstein didn’t commit anything to memory and chose instead to write everything down.

I can’t think of a way to end this and I need to get back to work, so I think I will just Google another phase for “In Conclusion.” How about “The end”?

Why Flash Marches On: The Secret Life of Actionscript 3.0

A web developer friend of mine recently sat down with me at a very fashionable counter in the first Starbucks licensed to serve wine. Naturally this experimental venture is in Seattle, the home of the original Starbucks coffee shop and a city forever pushing forward with the latest internet technology. As he frowned at the limited selection, he ordered a Pinot Grigio and said, “Flash, yeah… I don’t see much call for it. Companies see it as a ‘nice to have,’ but with the iPad and the iPhone blocking Flash, I just don’t see that it has much of a future.”

“Ah,” I said, ‘then why am I getting so many calls about Actionscript 3?”

There is nothing lacking in my friend’s technical expertise or his awareness of the latest industry trends. The evolution of Actionscript-based Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) is the Internet’s best-kept-secret, a progression so under the radar that most of its users don’t know that they see it every day. Coders who dabble in Flash might see Actionscript 3.0 as the next version of the language that will replace Actionscript 2.0, therefore they must learn it, and all the while not know how much it’s being used for, or how. “How” is a significant point, because although Actionscript is the native tongue of Flash applications, the latest generation of Actionscript developers may never see a timeline. They are developing in Flex.

Adobe’s website describes Flex as “a highly productive, free, open source framework for building expressive web applications that deploy consistently on all major browsers, desktops, and operating systems by leveraging the Adobe® Flash® Player and Adobe AIR® runtimes.” Flex is a developer’s environment, a playground for programmers with ready-made classes and libraries that create a visual product without attaching code to any visual elements. In terms of object- oriented programming development, Flex is a powerful tool that lets code think like Java and behave like a desktop application. In terms of influence, it’s the engine behind the persistence of Flash in spite of bad press and bloating media moguls.

Social media games and online gaming communities led the way. An enormously popular family multi-player role-playing game called Club Penguin launched in 2005 and grew to 12 million users by 2007. According to their website, Club Penguin is a “virtual world for kids… In the form of a colorful penguin avatar your child can join the community, engage in a variety of fun activities, chat and play games with friends.” Purchased by Disney in 2007 for $350 million, enhancements and maintenance for the game are developed in Bellevue, Washington where Actionscript 3.0 programmers are in high demand.

Zynga, the best-known producer of social networking games and the company behind Farmville, Yoville, Cityville and Frontierville, works almost exclusively in Actionscript 3.0 from their headquarters in San Francisco. To say these games are developed in Flash would be misleading, as the only thing they share during the development process is the language and the end result: the Flash Player, Adobe’s plugin for browsers. Actionscript and Flash go hand in hand, so as the language gains increasing adoption, the software that accompanies it persists.

The greatest threat to the near-monopoly AS3 holds on social network game development is HTML5, as Facebook leaders evangelize its cross-platform capabilities. Trouble is, HTML5 isn’t ready to play; its features are still hazy, its performance, inconsistent. As Apple relented on third-party application development and relinquished its ban on Flash-based development for mobile apps last year, the future of development looked more fragmented than ever. Technology spokesmen always prefer simplicity, with a single solution to rule them all, but programmers are in the trenches, accustomed to allowing for divergent platforms. Actionscript may not always dominate the development landscape, but it has enough clout now to remain a significant option for many years to come.

After finishing off a Starbucks Merlot that was pleasant but not memorable, the afternoon ended in a trip to the local bookstore. I hastily snatched a book on Actionscript 3.0 to peruse on the plane flight back home. Hours later I opened it up, and after a few chapters detailing the concepts of object-oriented programming, I finally found the code examples. Not surprisingly, it assumed I would be trying it out in Flex.

Stepping up Your Use of Web Analytics

You’ve taken the first step, you’ve applied a web analytics solution to your website. You’re familiar with the basics, but how do you make real use out of the numbers? Here are 10 tips for getting more out of your tracking:

 

  1. Hits should be discarded from the conversation.
    Everything on your website is stored on a server somewhere. Each time a request is made from the user’s computer to your server, it registers as a hit. A hit is counted when the page is loaded, when each image is loaded, and when the rest of the content is loaded. Hits were a common term to use in the early days of the world wide web when images took a long time to load and were therefore used sparingly, but a modern website might be composed of hundreds of images and other content types. One visit from a single user would register so many hits the resulting number is meaningless, but the term ‘hit’ has become so common to our vernacular that less experienced website owners might refer to a hit when they really mean a single user visit. Make sure you don’t read or refer to these two statistics interchangeably; it confuses the discussion for those that know the difference.
  2. Views vs. Visitors: It depends on your website
    A visitor is calculated by your analytics software as a request from a unique IP address generated by an individual’s computer. Whether you’re looking at “uniques” per day, per month or per year, a visitor is counted once. A visit, on the other hand, can be generated multiple times by a single user. One person might go to your website multiple times per day, and each time this is added to an overall count of total visits to your website by multiple users. Which of these statistics should interest you more depends on the type of website you manage. On a promotional website for a single item that you only expect someone to buy or sign up for once, you would benefit more from knowing the number of unique visitors, but for a large e-commerce site offering multiple projects, you would most value visits from any number of buyers who might shop many times over.
  3. Incorporate your search terms
    It’s easy to forget that your audience is not like you. Chances are, the public you are marketing to is not nearly as informed about your product or industry as you are. Undaunted, website managers attack this problem by providing a wealth of information and instructive materials on their websites. This approach is very helpful once consumers find your website, but what if they can’t find it in the first place? Analytics offers insight into the keywords that are bringing people to your site, and it’s vital to pay attention to these cues. Users may not be using the same terminology or jargon so familiar to insiders, and a more colloquial term, used more frequently throughout the copy, might draw more visitors. Take advantage of both your analytics program’s capabilities to show what keywords brought traffic in and what phrases they searched for once they arrived at your website.
  4. Be aware of how your traffic is calculated
    Analytics, one way or another, is triggered by code placed somewhere in the coding language that generates your website. Google Analytics, for instance, requires a small piece of Javascript to be placed before the end body tag, and most programmers insert it into the footer code to ensure that it is included on every page. The website analyst should therefore keep in mind that any page that doesn’t have that code will not be counted. Page views of a PDF, for example, will not be incorporated into overall website page views, nor will views of the RSS feed. Websites such as blogs that are highly dependent on RSS views should supplement with a method of tracking RSS statistics.
  5. Visitors from different sources have different behaviors
    Referring URLs is arguably the most valuable statistic that analytics programs offer. General visitor traffic provides much less insight about the type of user wandering your content than knowing where that user came from and what his additional interests are. Once you start noticing a surge of traffic from a particular source, add that referring URL to a segment and let your analytics program show you what users from that source did once they reached your website. You might find that some campaigns convert more sales when targeted to the audience of a particular website, or that they show more interest in some pages than others.
  6. Set conversion goals
    This is an additional step to any analytics program: telling the software what counts on your website as a conversion. For e-commerce websites this might be a page view of a purchase confirmation, for a corporate website, it could be the view of a confirmation after subscribing to the company newsletter. Whatever your goal is, it should be reflected in your analytics program, and most solutions will even give you the option to set a dollar figure to each conversion.
  7. Studying browser statistics is time well spent
    Time is money, so time should never be wasted. Website managers who insist that their development team spend equal time accounting for every browser type back to 1997 may find their programming team putting a lot of man hours into very small segments of your audience. You may have three users looking at your website on WebTV every month, but is that a significant portion of your audience? The internet has advanced too far to design for the lowest common denominator anymore.
  8. Bounce rate should be kept in perspective
    The bounce rate for your website is calculated by determining the number of visitors who go to the home page and then go somewhere else on your website, rather than “bounce” right out again. That doesn’t mean that it makes sense to strain resources in pursuit of 0%. There will always be some percentage of users who reached your site by accident. If someone got to your website looking for information about cats and you build catwalks, that traffic is not useful to you anyway. There are even some websites that offer all of their important information updates on the home page, negating the need for returning users to go anywhere else. Set a realistic percentage for your website and try to stay at that rate.
  9. Technology moves slower than you think
    Everyone’s talking about mobile devices with Internet capabilities, but not everyone has one. More importantly, they probably aren’t using it to browse your website. Across nearly any industry, your analytics program will most likely show that visits to your website from mobile devices accounts for under 3% of your traffic, perhaps much less. Rather than jump to the conclusion that this is because your website isn’t optimized for mobile devices, consider instead the behavior of Internet users. The most dominant period of day, in which a business website will experience a high volume of traffic, is Monday through Friday from 9 to 5, when the American workforce is at the office. Users browse business websites on their computer at work, they play with apps on their phone. You may have an audience in the mobile market, but you may also serve them best by leaving your website alone and developing an app.
  10. Embrace change, but make it an informed decision
    You may like blue, but that doesn’t mean your audience responds to it. Weigh the time it takes to make a change across your website against its performance by testing it on one page and tracking how it affects your conversions. Testing is ultimately the most powerful capability your analytics program will give you.

Best Uses for Flash (not Gordon)

It’s been impossible to miss the storm of controversy in the tech field over Adobe Flash. By blocking Flash content on the iPhone and iPad, Apple has single-handedly inspired clients and advertisers alike to shy away from an industry standard. Under the barrage of ad campaigns and open letters, it’s easy for a marketer or advertising executive to be left wondering which way to turn, especially when so much of the debate is dominated by developers throwing around highly technical jargon. Ultimately, that decision should come from a thorough analysis of what you’re trying to accomplish and who your audience really is.

When marketers refer to using Flash, they are frequently thinking of it as a video compressor, and this is where some of the most vocal opposition to Flash comes from. The complaint is primarily poor performance in regards to CPU usage, but how accurate is that complaint? Flash performance is based on the plugin’s ability to access hardware acceleration, and Apple is not giving Adobe access to the tools they need to reduce the load.  It’s not difficult to conclude that Apple’s block is more about pushing mobile users to buy videos at their store than it is about doing them a service by blocking video readily available for streaming all over the Internet, but the bottom line is the iPhone won’t use it anytime soon. Is the alternative Apple offers in HTML5 a viable option?

According to YouTube software engineer John Harding, the answer is no. HTML5 falls short in dynamic quality control, buffering, the ability to play full-screen and as uncompiled code and suffers from the ultimate shortcoming: no protection for copyrighted material. It’s also far from being an industry standard. HTML5 has yet to adopt a standard video format, and browser inconsistencies will continue to plague HTML5 for years to come.  Video is not its only downfall either. The “canvas element” for HTML5 has been prematurely lauded as a rival to the interactive aspect of Flash. Since current experiments are crude, only sophisticated browsers support it, and few knowledgeable Flash developers would be willing to give up the wide scope of what they can already accomplish to learn it anytime soon. Flash is by nature a compiled application, something Flash game developers rely on to keep their work protected. HTML5 for games would not only require an excessively lengthy amount of coding to do the same job, it would expose it to the world.

There are alternatives to Flash that can accomplish some of the same purposes with fewer drawbacks and higher cross-platform compatibility. JQuery is quickly becoming a replacement for Flash slideshows because it is commonly supported and does the same job – a simple web effect that can take longer to replicate with Flash in terms of load time and future adjustments. Very few websites are built entirely in Flash anymore and shouldn’t be, not only because of compatibility issues and the time it takes to edit, but also because nothing beats the ease of establishing good relationships with search engines like text that lives outside of a compiled application.

Flash continues to have no reliable competition when it comes to interactive games, activities and animation, as the protection it offers and the breadth of its capabilities have yet to find an equal. Offering this kind of rich media should be something your website does as an enticement to engage, but it should not be a cornerstone of your content. This way, search engines and visitors averse to plugins will still find plenty to explore. Javascript is readily available for your developer to include, and will show alternative content should your visitor arrive without the plugin installed. But what about all of the buzz around mobile devices? Who knows who might be looking at your website and what their capabilities are…shouldn’t you leave Flash out of the mix completely just to be safe?

It’s important to keep your audience in perspective. For the average website, between 75 and 85 percent of visitors are on a PC using Internet Explorer, and in spite of the hype, those visiting on a cell phone or iPad will be less than 1 percent. Consider this: are your friends with iPhones using them to browse business websites or do you more frequently see them using applications developed specifically for their device? While the number of users visiting websites on mobile devices will surely rise, analytic trends from the last five years show that these numbers have hardly budged up to this very week, and any change is likely to be slower than you might think.

Although the direction of Internet development is always bright and exciting, it’s also certain to be a vast hodgepodge of alternate technologies, for nothing in the world of competing browsers has ever been consistent. Keeping a close eye on your analytics will guide the Internet developer to the right tool for the right job, and Flash will continue to be one of those tools for the foreseeable future.