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How to Create an Intuitive Interface

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When someone refers to an ‘intuitive interface’ they really mean a program that they intuit easily. Computer programs can’t intuit anything. The widespread use of the term reflects an appropriately anthropocentric view of the technology that we did, after all, design and build in the first place. So now we’ve thrown some grist into the pedants’ mill, let’s concede that ‘intuitive interface’ is the commonly understood expression. But what does it refer to, exactly? How can we measure which interfaces feel intuitive to users and which don’t?

The key questions to ask of the people using your interface are:

 

  • What do they already know?
  • What do they need to know?

Imagine someone comes to use your interface for the very first time. If what they already know is all they need to know – job done, your interface is intuitive. If a user doesn’t know all they need to know, but the design helps them without them being aware of receiving any guidance – congratulations, you too have an intuitive interface.

How to Do It

Developing your understanding of what users generally find most intuitive takes a methodical approach to testing. The easier an interface is to use, the more people will use it.

A good example of a popular intuitive interface is Ez Texting’s SMS marketing service. Ez operates on the notion that a mobile marketing campaign should not be difficult. The clue’s in the name, kids. Ez Texting’s software is incredibly simple to use, and avoids any industry jargon or technical language. The choices available will be familiar to anyone who’s ever had an email account; choices like ‘send text message’ and ‘scheduled and sent texts’. 

What Ez Texting have done right is foster a sense of knowing what you need to do as soon as you see the screen. Want to add a new group? Guess what – click the link that says ‘add a new group.’ That’s intuition. It works wonders in terms of keeping people on your site.

How Not to Do It

There are plenty of examples online of decidedly unintuitive interfaces. You’ve probably used one – or at least started to use one before giving up. For an all-time classic intuition fail, we must turn to one of the oldest electronic communication tools there is: the hotel phone.

I’m sure you’ve been there. Sitting in a hotel room, you go to make an outside call and hit ‘9’. Only this hotel felt that ‘5’ would be a much better choice. More original, perhaps, but not the intuitive choice.

The most intuitive interfaces favor familiarity over originality. Just because you have discovered an impeccable logic in doing things in a new way doesn’t mean your users will prefer it. Intuition doesn’t work that way. Improve your understanding of what the majority of people prefer and you are close to creating a truly intuitive interface.

Mobile Keywords: How They Work and When To Use Them

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In the context of mobile marketing, a “keyword” is not merely a search term, as it is when one thinks of Google and how potential customers find a commercial website on the internet. Rather, the use of  mobile keywords, by contrast, is a simple and highly effective strategy for engaging with consumers who have mobile phone access – by persuading such consumers to “opt in” to your consumer database (for future marketing), while simultaneously allowing consumers to take the lead in a conversation with you about your products or services.

Texting Keywords to Shortcodes

Here's how mobile keywords work: A company specializing in hair care products, for example, runs an advertisement for a product that aims at making hair more shiny and bouncy. One thing that this particular advertisement does is to invite consumers to text the keyword “shiny” to what is called a “shortcode” phone number, using their mobile phones (texting the keyword to, say, the phone number 12345). In return, the customer is told that she will receive a mobile coupon, which she may redeem simply by showing the message she's received to the cashier at the point of purchase. Thus, thanks to the mobile keyword campaign, not only has the consumer made a purchase; by initiating the text exchange, she's also agreed to “opt in” to the database of customers who have given permission to receive future promotions from the company. 

What the Consumer Gets

When employing a mobile keyword campaign, the text response that the customer receives can be a coupon, as in the previous example. However, it could also simply be a message that gives more information about some aspect of the company's services or products that connects to the chosen keyword – which should be a maximum of 25 alphanumeric, non-case-sensitive characters.

For instance, some colleges and technical schools have found it useful to get the attention of interested individuals by running ad campaigns asking prospective applicants to text a word like “info” or perhaps even just the name of the school to a shortcode. In return, potential applicants may receive information about a location-specific recruiting event—since automated responses may be customized by geography, for example, using GPS—or a link to a website that contains information about programs of study and how to apply.

The Return on Investment for Companies

One of the greatest things about mobile keyword marketing campaigns is the long-term return on investment that such campaigns offer. By waiting for consumers to respond to a specific invitation to initiate dialogue, businesses eliminate the risk of offending potential customers through more intrusive techniques, such as telemarketing, and thus lay the foundation for a positive rapport.

Once a consumer has “opted in,” his or her phone number is available not only for future marketing campaigns but also for ongoing follow-up, which may, for instance, involve sending the same customer a series of related messages after a certain number of days or months have passed. In much the same way that people today keep their mobile phones always nearby, thanks to mobile keyword marketing campaigns, your business need not ever be far from a customer's mind, either.

Mobile Apps: The Lifeblood of the ‘Always On’ Employee

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Back in January, Frost & Sullivan published their analysis of the state of mobile enterprise in 2013. The results bore great news for mobile marketing managers, forward-thinking businesses and, most of all, developers of mobile applications. 

The data showed that 48% of decision makers reported their companies used between one and ten mobile apps for employees. Compare that to ten years ago when hardly any workers even had company phones and you start to get a perspective on the exhilarating pace of change in the workplace.

In the year 2014 – or 7AS (After Smartphone) – nearly every white collar job is geographically flexible, and companies expect their staff to be constantly ‘on’. Likewise, most employees prefer to be kept in the loop, and those that are constantly incommunicado are considered a hindrance to getting things done.

For this geo-flexible omni-availability to work, a range of mobile apps are absolutely essential. Mobile workers are, by definition, constantly on the move, which is why mobile devices are chipping away at tasks once reserved for desktop and laptops. From the economic perspective, app-centric devices increase in value as the number or useful apps installed rises. The smarter the phone, the more productive the person holding that phone becomes. 

It’s not just fancy new apps that make mobile workers more efficient. SMS messaging is playing a huge role in the interaction between company and staff. After all, it’s far easier to respond from any location with a text.

The growth of mobility in business has only been possible since the technology has grown more sophisticated. Today, there are three main app functions helping companies work smarter:

  • Notification
  • Input and response
  • Instant action

With mobile, these attributes are more streamlined, more efficient, less glitch and just… well, better than their desktop counterparts. Businesses, employees, customers, mobile marketing managers – they all want to get stuff done more quickly and easily. If they can have an enjoyable experience at the same time, all the better. 

Eliminating steps from both sides – customer and business – is the key to succeeding. Well-designed apps achieve this step-elimination So do workers who can do their job whether they’re at home, in the office or on a plane. The message of an increasingly app-centric workforce is clear. If you’re looking at ways to pare down your operation, trim the fat and boost ROIs: go mobile.

 

 

Text Marketing: Short Codes Vs. Long Codes

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When employing mobile marketing tactics, one must choose between using long codes and short codes. There are “pro”s and “con”s for each, regardless of which you use for your mobile marketing campaign:

Benefits of Long Codes (Some Questionable)

While long code per message fees are higher, the set-up and monthly costs make them ultimately more affordable. Messages can be sent internationally, and messages and calls can come from the same number. Their most appealing features, though, are also their biggest downfall: because no customer opt-in is required and set-up is quick and easy (due to the lack of a vetting process), abuse of long codes for spamming purposes runs rampant. Long code use over a U.S. carrier network is actually considered stealing because carriers are paid for the right to send texts via their networks.

Drawbacks of Long Codes

In addition to the problems already named above, long codes are hard to remember, don't support video or picture messaging, can't be used for billing, and are limited in speed to the number of messages per second that can be sent. There's also no option to make these free to end users. While short codes include an option to pay the cost up front instead of charging the consumer for use, this is yet another thorny issue that makes long codes problematic. 

However …

What it comes down to it, any message sent to a U.S. long code requires that the parties must be actual people. In theory, therefore, it's conceivable how, in an age when mobile devices are employed in ways once seemingly unimaginable, long codes could be used legitimately for applications involving more personal business exchanges, such as for financial, gaming and dating sites.

Short Code Drawbacks

This is not to say that short codes don't carry their own sets of problems. First, short codes, for some companies, are prohibitively expensive, with set monthly costs hovering around $500. Short codes must be individually activated for each country, as well as approved by each carrier. Short codes also cannot be called.

Short Code Advantages

Just as the assets making long codes convenient also make them problematic, the features making short codes a hassle are simultaneously what they have going for them. First, they require a vetting process that can take weeks – which also means they are less susceptible to spam and thus offer consumers better protection. The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) and other regulatory bodies have put consumer protection rules into place requiring companies using short codes to ask permission before making contact. They must provide, in exchange, a certain amount of value. This benefits not only consumers but also businesses, since it establishes a much better rapport with consumers. It also doesn't hurt that businesses can – and do – make this exchange free to end users. Short codes are also more memorable, allow for thousands of messages to be sent per second, and can be used for billing.

The full advantages and disadvantages of short and long codes is a complicated issue, further complicated by the fact that carriers often change their capabilities and rules (as well as the fact that companies lack resources to keep track of – and test – each update).  Short codes, with a few noted exceptions, are the way to go in the U.S., however; and the very miniscule amount of text spam that most of us receive is a true testament to their efficacy.

Client Retention Through Text Marketing

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Mobile marketing strategies that include SMS messaging are a great way for spas, hair salons, doctors' offices and other enterprises that rely on a steady stream of appointments to retain clients between visits. As many professionals who have embraced the practice can already tell you, despite the fact that SMS text messaging can be fully automated, the truth is that patients, guests, and clients will still walk away with the feeling that you personally took the time to reach out to them. Therefore, automated texts are an effortless way to generate great feelings of customer loyalty (and to help keep that feeling alive).

Boosting Appointments

One of the most obvious types of automated text messages to send to clients in order to keep them thinking about your brand outside of time spent in store or office is the reminder or appointment confirmation text. The added bonus is that this thoughtful correspondence will also lead to fewer missed appointments. Twelve weeks, for instance, is an awfully long time for a loyal customer not to visit her hair salon; therefore, an automated text reminder (perhaps with a special promotion attached to it) sent to someone you haven't seen for a few weeks could be just exactly the nudge such a client needs. Such a moment is also the perfect opportunity to offer your guest the option of texting or emailing an appointment request, further boosting the efficiency of how your company runs and potentially filling up your calendar with profitable business. 

Other Occasions for SMS Texting

Additional reasons and occasions to send out promotional texts are all around, if you just pay attention. SMS messaging can be used for special holiday promotions (Mother's Day, Valentines Day, etc.) In addition, they can be used to remind customers how much they love your business, while also extracting key information from them through customer surveys that give you insight into ways to improve service (and also give you some buzz-generating rave reviews to re-post on Facebook – with customer permission, of course!)

You don't need a holiday in order to celebrate a special event. If your staff members have created their own walking team, for instance, for an upcoming fundraiser, then automated text messages to your customer base are the perfect way to solicit donations and put your small business in a really positive light among members of the local community. You can also keep things light by engaging customers with fun survey questions.

A Few “Don't”s

With all of that said, what you want to avoid doing is overwhelming clients by sending automated texts to the same individuals too often (i.e., more than twice a month at the very most). Also, be certain that those receiving the texts have opted in; never spam, hack, or buy phone numbers. All you'll get in return is a some terrible publicity and potential legal ramifications.

Also, keep messages short. Remember: these are text messages, not the great American novel. Last but not least, do respond to direct questions that your texts generate from those clients receiving the message. After all, hearing back from clients is great because it means they're engaged; you've reached them! Don't go to all of that trouble just to turn right around now and ignore them.

Use SMS texting to engage with and retain customers in an appropriate way that creates value for your clients.

What do Consumers think of SMS Marketing?

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Mobile marketing tactics like SMS messaging and smartphone-optimized websites are a relatively new phenomenon. Mobile marketing campaigns are revolutionizing the way in which commerce reaches out to consumers. And yet so many companies still don’t have a mobile marketing strategy in place.

There are a number of reasons for corporate hesitance to move with the times. A common canard is that consumers don’t want to receive text messages. All evidence says this simply isn’t the case.

A 2012 study conducted by the UK Direct Marketing Association (DMA) found that a third of Americans said they would rather receive offers such as mobile marketing coupons in a text. Emails were favored by 21%, with mobile apps – somewhat surprisingly – preferred by just 11% of people. It’s not just the US public that’s becoming increasingly attracted to SMS messaging. In France, 60% of consumers prefer to receive offers via text, according to the research. 

Many of the misconceptions about mobile marketing campaigns are informed by the email marketing era of the 90s and 00s, when spam was clogging up inboxes all over the world. Some CEOs (wrongly) believe that consumers are sick of receiving offers and ads from companies.

But mobile marketing works in a completely different way. It’s bound by federal legislation which obliges businesses to ask customers for explicit, opt-in permission before sending text messages. Companies are also required to clearly explain the opt-out process, and make sure it can be completed in a hassle-free way. So if you’re worried about irritating your customers with unwanted messages, don’t be.

As we’ve seen, concerns about whether consumers will sign up to receive texts are unwarranted. If the DMA figures are correct, more than half of your customers would be interested in opting in to receive mobile marketing coupons and other info via SMS messaging. The beauty of mobile marketing tactics like this is they’re relatively cheap to implement. You can just dip your toe in and see if you like the results before committing more of your budget.

Consumer attitudes to SMS messaging are shifting. As smartphone adoption continues to rise, more and more people are conducting all their online activity through mobile devices. Devising mobile marketing tactics is no longer a luxury for the tech-savvy entrepreneur – it’s an absolute essential for businesses of every kind.

 

 

 

5 Apps for Helicopter Parents

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Remember the old days? When kids were free to run wild without their every move being micromanaged by anxious parents? Growing up in the 80s, the best a worried mother could hope for was a call from a public telephone – if the mood struck her child.

Those days are gone. Between SMS messaging, smartphones and GPS, app developers have all the tools they need to help anxious parents keep tabs on their offspring. Kids, you might want to stop reading now. Grownups, check out our top 5 apps for making sure little Johnny is as safe as houses – and your house is safe from little Johnny!

iCam

Featured on Today, CNN and Good Morning America, iCam provides you with live feeds from any room in your house, direct to your mobile device. Each room must contain a running computer with webcams and the app installed. Probably unwise to use it instead of a babysitter, but it’s ideal for people on vacation who can’t shake that feeling that the house is burning down being broken into.

Kitestring

The ultimate in overprotective app, Kitestring can be programmed to track your whereabouts and ensure you arrive safely at your intended destination, at the intended time. Just like a worried parent, it checks up on you by requesting a response at a certain time. If you fail to respond, the app alerts your pre-programmed contacts via SMS messaging.

FBI Child ID

Created by the FBI, this app allows parents to store ID information and photographs of their children. The stored information can be quickly access in the event of the child disappearing. Crucially, it only stores info on the iPhone until parents need to send it to the authorities. The app includes shortcuts to 911 and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Find My Kids – Footprints

In the same vein, this app gives parents real time updates on their kids whereabouts. GPS has been applied to everything from vehicle navigation to mobile marketing solutions, but this is a world-beater in terms of providing parental peace of mind. Find out if your child is travelling alone and whether they’ve arrived at a specific destination.

Txt Shield

As kids grow up, concerns about sinister abductions begin to lessen. But parents of newly-driving teens have a whole new set of concerns. Txt Shield is one of a number of apps on the market aimed at preventing accidents caused by distracted driving. The app sends automatic replies to any incoming text messages based on how fast the mobile device is moving. 

Neglect Text, Neglect Success: The Benefits of Mobile Marketing

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If you keep your eye on the latest mobile marketing solutions and SMS messaging strategies, you’ll be familiar with the statistic that’s often bandied around, but for the benefit of the uninitiated: 95% of all mobile users open and read SMS messages within three minutes of the text being sent.

It’s certainly a compelling piece of data. And yet, so many businesses are still failing to employ SMS marketing as part of their overall strategy. Some are afraid of anything relatively new and stick to what they know, others have never bothered to give it a good go. But the advantages of text marketing are manifold, and you ignore them at the peril of your business. Here are a few of the key benefits to creating a comprehensive mobile marketing strategy:

  • Speed. At 160 characters or less, your average text doesn’t take long to create (or to read). Use this fact to your advantage by turning your mobile marketing campaign into a masterclass in brevity.
  • Directness. Most email inboxes are checked once or twice a day, and commercial messages are filtered out automatically, manually or just mentally. Compare that to an SMS inbox, which is frequently checked multiple times in a single day – often as and when each message is received.
  • Affordability. For small businesses, the sheer affordability of text marketing is one of its key assets. Far cheaper than real-world billboards or television ads, you can usually buy in bulk to get an even better deal on an SMS package.
  • Eco-friendliness. More and more businesses are adopting greener practices. Apart from being ethical, it makes good business sense – most customers want to know the brand they’re dealing with has at least some environmentally-friendly credentials. In the world of advertising, SMS marketing is as green as it gets.
  • Interactivity. Engaging with your customer base is easy with SMS. Issue polls, surveys and questionnaires. Not only will they encourage consumers to visit your social media pages and website, they can provide invaluable data on personal preferences and buying habits.
  • Trackability. Monitoring metrics is crucial to understanding the success of any advertising campaign. With text, it’s a lot easier to track these metrics. Some companies offer a tracking service as part of their SMS messaging package. Use such services to review a detailed analysis of each text and you will start to understand more about how your business is functioning as a user experience.

As you can see, there are huge potential sources of untapped business out there, just waiting at the end of a cellphone to receive your latest offer – so climb on board with the text revolution!