Talk #5: Moment Design

August 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

The Audience

Last night, Shannon & Alexa from Moment stopped by to talk about a framework they devised for thinking about user behaviour when designing mobile applications. « Read the rest of this entry »

Talk #4: Designing For Android

July 22, 2011 § 1 Comment

Chris Haseman

This week Chris Haseman stopped by to talk about designing & developing Android applications. Chris has been writing mobile software in various forms since 2003, has written a book called Android Essentials and is a contributing technical writer for DevX.com. He currently leads Android development at doubleTwist which has most recently seen him working on AirSync, making Android & iTunes play nicely together. « Read the rest of this entry »

Google’s Golden Thread

July 18, 2011 § 3 Comments

Many opinions have already been voiced about where Android is going and what Google’s master plan is. The majority of these seem to agree that search is the core thread that is being sewn through every product Google builds – with Android being no exception. It’s something that Google are at the forefront of and so it makes sense for it to be in as many places as possible.  What hasn’t been looked at as closely however, is how we’ve been able to propagate this golden thread by using their mobile OS.

An interesting study carried out recently found that most people now recall where information is located as opposed to the actual information. A search if you will. It seems our years of Googling (a bona fide dictionary word) has shifted our patterns of behaviour at the most subtle levels. An example cited by the authors illustrates the point perfectly. Ask yourself the question “How many countries have flags with only one colour?”

Was your first thought to think about the actual countries and flags? Or did it involve a visit to that omnipresent answer, Google?

The way we think about things like these has been both caused and affected by the way we now use search. Google completely gets this and has carried on exploiting it by putting that immense power in our pockets. Android has been built around this core thread and is hugely effective at applying it. Instilling search into the OS at the most fundamental layers has two major effects. One is time-related. We always have access to any information we want – I would guess very few reading this post do not have their phone within touching distance right now. The other is location. By feeding this data directly to the Android OS, it has a very good idea of where we are and preferentially uses this when we search for anything; augmenting our physical world. If you were to fire up your mobile browser right now, chances are your homepage would be a mobile version of http://www.google.com (time – available within seconds), and the GPS icon at the top of your phone would magically appear (location). And yes, these both also occur on iOS but the integration at other levels of the OS aren’t as tight. For example, searching straight from the Android homescreen leads to Google web results. iOS on the other hand requires you to go to the browser to do the same thing.

Larry Page recently said that they were now “computing answers” instead of links. Our mobile engagement is one of the reasons this is happening and Android has played a major part. Data usage by Android users has been seen to be up to double that of iPhone users. It’s been argued that this is partly down to the “aggressive hardware choices” made by handset manufacturers. Things like higher resolution cameras leading to larger file sizes. Widgets that are easily accessible from Android homescreens are another reason and another example of a deeper threaded search mechanism.

Instantly accessible widgets allow us to search for anything we might need but remembering how to find something is becoming much more important to us than the content itself. By looking for any sort of information using our phones we are propagating that golden thread. The information is out there but we’re constantly asking ourselves, how do I get there? It seems the answer to that, right now, is via our pockets.

Talk #3: Once More With Feeling

June 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

Demonstration

Last Tuesday Russ Maschmeyer stopped in to tell us about his latest project, MOTIV.

“MOTIV is an open source project that uses Xbox Kinect to give digital musicians direct control of emotional expression by interpreting their physical gestures in real-time.”

After an entertaining demonstration, the presentation turned into an insightful conversation on the potential of gestural interfaces in digital music. Here are three things I took away from the discussion:

« Read the rest of this entry »

Performance in your pocket

May 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Mobile web development is a paradoxical craft. It offers cutting-edge, Jetsons-esque technology, but resurrects last-decade, we-might-as-well-be-Flintstones nuisances. Websites can use geolocation and support multi-touch input, but at the same time, must contend with small screen dimensions and unreliable network speeds.

Much of this can be covered during a mobile website’s creative phases: the user experience can be designed to take advantage of geolocation and touch-based interactions, and a responsive design can make it look natural with any screen size or orientation.

What about slow network connections? Improving every user’s connection is a bit too much to ask. Instead, effective server-side optimization can mean the difference between “I’m going to view this on my phone” and “This is taking ages to load, and I have better things to do.”

AssetHat logo

At Mint, we’ve researched and implemented many techniques for optimizing a website’s page load time—in particular, how to make CSS, JavaScript, and images load as quickly as possible. To help make the web a slightly faster place, we’ve open sourced our results as a Rails gem called AssetHat. This gem is currently accelerating all of our websites in production, and has yielded some fantastic results. If you use AssetHat in your own Rails websites, we’d love to hear your story.

Mobile is Job One

May 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

Shoshi and Ron ventured up to Boston for An Event Apart last week and returned with a smattering of wisdom worth passing on to the readership (that’s a shout out to you, Richard).  Shoshi, a recent addition to the Mint team and an enthusiastic pocketmints contributor, has written an excellent post over on the Mint Digital blog about how designing for mobile has become the first step in the process.  Here is a taste of the goodness:

“In Q4 of 2010, smartphone sales surpassed desktop sales…. The average user visits up to 24 sites per day on their phone,” (Luke W) proclaimed in his presentation at (An Event Apart Boston). In short, more people will be visiting your site on their phone than on a desktop, and it’s happening faster than we think. We’ve heard about the growth and importance of mobile, but this makes mobile the first priority, right now.

Certainly worth a read for those that were not in attendance.  Find the full post over at the Mint blog.

Speaker Series Kicks Off

April 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

The Front Row

Last night marked the debut of our monthly speaker series. Mari Sheibley kindly came to talk about iPhone design and some of the lessons she’s learnt during her time heading up design at Foursquare.

« Read the rest of this entry »

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