Keep up to date with the latest SMS Marketing news, tips and guides.

Ez Texting provides refreshingly simple, surprisingly affordable SMS Marketing services.

Try Ez Texting for free - it only takes 60 seconds to get started.

Developer? Use Our SMS API

← Return To Blog Home

Must Reads

Edited By for Ez Texting

55 posts categorized "Tech"

April 18, 2014

How to Create an Intuitive Interface

Depositphotos_10562744_xs

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.

April 15, 2014

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

Depositphotos_38300039_xs

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.

 

 

April 09, 2014

5 Apps for Helicopter Parents

Depositphotos_4823056_xs

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. 

April 07, 2014

50% of Workers Will Be Required to Use their Own Smartphones by 2017

Depositphotos_11605416_xs

Employees across America will be required to use their own mobile devices for work within three years, according to a new study. Data from research company Gartner indicates that the current practice of employers offering their workforce smartphones, tablets and fully paid-up network contracts will soon become a thing of a past.

The study claims that 38% of all companies will cease providing mobile devices to workers by 2016. Instead, workers will be expected to use their own phones and tablets.

‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) policies have increasingly found favor among business owners looking to reduce costs. Another upside is the ability to leverage the power of employees’ social media networks and unaffiliated connectivity. 

As a mobile marketing strategy, disseminating information from personal accounts not associated with a brand name is a lot more trustworthy to an increasingly sophisticated web audience with a knack for spotting corporate shills and charlatans online.

But there is a great deal of confusion among employees regarding their company’s stance on personal device usage. A survey conducted by GLOBO suggests companies that do have a BYOD policy often fail to communicate this to their employees. The report claimed 68% of people used their own mobile device for work purposes, but only 29% of them knew whether their employer even had a BYOD policy in place. More than 90% of people said they didn’t know if their company planned to instigate a BYOD policy.

Furthermore, cutting costs on cellular data, SMS messaging and mobile devices may be a false economy in the long run. Although initial savings may impress Financial Directors, the long-term implications of employees using their own devices in and out of work can be expensive. One of the biggest pitfalls is security breaches – although these can be mitigated by imposing VPN, remote lock and cloud computing software on devices.

But therein lies another problem. Can employers really ask their workforce to not only use there own devices for work, but to use up space with a multitude of security software and applications? After all, recent research shows that 48% of decision makers use between one and ten mobile apps as part of their infrastructure. The use of mobile apps is increasing, and whether that will be compatible with a demand for BYOD policies remains to be seen.

 

 

 

April 04, 2014

Apple Patent 'Transparent Texting'

Depositphotos_3083667_xs

This is undoubtedly weird. Created by Japanese mobile firm NTT Docomo as a public service announcement, the aim is to demonstrate the dangers of texting and walking at the same time. While Americans are campaigning for legislation to stamp out texting while driving, it seems Japan is more concerned with the potential problems caused by pedestrians not looking where they’re going.

For those of us who can’t read Japanese script, the text claims that one out of five people who text and walk wind up injuring themselves or others. According to a study conducted at Aichi University of Technology, only 547 out of 1500 people who look at their phones while crossing an intersection would reach the other side without colliding into someone, tripping over, or dropping their phone.

With 7.25 million iPhones sold in Japan during 2011 alone, it’s hardly surprising that the country’s number one smartphone is working on a solution to the problem of ill-timed SMS messaging and web browsing. Last week, Apple filed a patent that aims to provide customers with a live video feed of their surroundings while texting. The objective is to give text addicts a better chance of avoiding street lamps, pedestrians and cars.

The inbuilt camera will be able to continuously capture the immediate environment while texts are being written and communicated. It’s a pretty far-out notion, and says much about the compulsive phone habits of many smartphone users.

There is no indication of when we can expect to see the technology in action; there are already some apps that allow transparent overlays, but they currently require users to copy and paste a text into a relevant application. The live editing function is what’s missing – Apple hopes to change all that.

For SMS marketing purposes, the technology has some exciting implications. With the use of geo-targeting, stores could wait until consumers’ cameras are within range of their outlet before sending a text. Imagine reading a text as you walk down the street, and being able to see the retailer in the background. Creative minds in charge of mobile marketing campaigns will be waiting for this patent to bear fruit with great excitement – and Japanese pedestrians could be a whole lot safer as they walk busy streets. 

March 28, 2014

Messaging Apps: The Carriers Bite Back

Depositphotos_11508133_xs

A capitalist economy is all about competition. Each company strives to get your dollar before the other guy does. AT&T is trying to do just that. With technology advancing, it is becoming even harder for traditional carriers and SMS texting providers to compete with the advantages offered by free and cheap one-time-buy mobile apps. Mobile phone providers are attempting to fight the loss of their customers with new mobile marketing solutions and a new SMS marketing campaign.

AT&T’s New Benefits

Just last month AT&T advertised that they will allow contracts for LTE roaming in many different areas internationally. They also announced their intention to make international SMS texting free for their customers. Not only will this support text messages globally, but it will also support picture messages and video messaging. On the 28th of February, AT&T started their Mobile Share and Mobile Share Value plans. These plans were created to have the same capability of third party apps, thus diminishing their value and rather increasing the appeal of AT&T. AT&T says that their SMS service will be available in 190 countries, and their MMS in 120 countries. Unfortunately these new mobile marketing solutions do not support tablets or laptops; all messages must be sent from one phone to another phone.

The new mobile marketing campaign also includes the new feature of international calling at a rate of one cent per minute. This feature is allowed in 35 countries. These new mobile marketing solutions really have users’ interests peaked. Previously, phone customers had to pay extra money to send picture and video messages, or even for every individual text. Often users would turn to mobile apps to allow them to text more when their SMS limit had already run out.

T-Mobile’s New Benefits

On March 23, 2014, T-Mobile will have a launch improvements of their own. Their new mobile marketing solution allows some users to double their amount of data for the same price. It also allows mobile customers to have unlimited SMS to 120 countries internationally. Because of the size of T-Mobile’s customer base it can not provide as widespread benefits as AT&T, but it shows that they too are wising up to the staggering appeal of mobile messaging apps. 

The Competition

Back in 2012, researchers found that the collection of messaging apps sent a total of almost 19 billion messages every day. That vast number passed up text sent by traditional SMS carriers by almost 1.5 billion. In the spring of 2013, it was projected that 2014 would be the year that application messages would pass SMS messages at a ratio of more than 2 to 1. There are fewer app users than SMS users, but the affordability of free in-app messaging is of course enormously appealing.

WhatsApp, Kik, Viber, WeChat and MessageMe, are taking the mobile market by storm, and AT&T would like to do something about it. Keep your eyes open for more benefits from traditional mobile carriers. The phone companies are fighting back, and you might just get a great deal because of it. 

March 27, 2014

New App Aims to Combat Distracted Driving

Depositphotos_25694125_xs

Texting while driving is a special kind of faux pas, a social no-no usually committed when the perpetrator thinks they are all alone. Like singing ‘My Heart Will Go On’ at the top of your voice, or picking your nose at a red light, it’s amazing how far people will go when sealed inside a metallic cocoon.

Of course, people can see you, and they will judge you. For a transgression as serious as ‘twitting’ (Texting While in Traffic), some people even go as far as publicly shaming the guilty.

It’s hard to feel much sympathy when you look at the distracted driving statistics. According to data from the DMV, distracted drivers are the leading cause of car accidents, with 80% of crashes and 65% of near-crashes involving some form of distraction. Anyone who thinks they have time to send a quick response can think again – most distractions occur within three seconds before the accident.

The most at risk group is teenagers, and app developers have responded with all sorts of clever ways to prevent or minimize the effects of distracted driving. The latest to hit the market is Txt Shield, launched this month by two Florida brothers, and aimed squarely at worried parents.

The app puts control in the hands of parents by sending automatic replies to incoming text messages based on how fast the device is moving. It’s available for $1.99 as a Lite Version, which activates as soon as the device is moving above 10mph, but cannot be disabled (if, for example, the teen is travelling as a passenger in someone else’s vehicle). For more flexibility – and a text alert to other pre-set numbers should the app be uninstalled – users must opt for the Gold Version. Still, at $3.99, it’s surely worth it for peace of mind. But how does it compare to similar products on the market? Let’s take a look at the top three distracted driving apps out there…

  • At $29.99, Android’s Textecution isn’t cheap. It works in a similar fashion to Txt Shield, preventing the ability to text if a phone is travelling faster than 10mph. Passengers can override the app – though any such requests must be authorized by an administrator, which begs the question: what if the administrator is driving?
  • Compatible with most smartphones, tXtBlocker provides a neat customizable option allowing users to set certain routes and times – like the daily commute – when phone calls and texts aren’t accepted. Again, it’s not cheap, costing $6.99 per user per month.
  • AT&T’s DriveMode is a winner for the company’s brand image, sending auto-replies for no more than the cost of an ordinary text message. It certainly suggests a caring, safety-first attitude, although in this case, the function doesn’t kick in until the device is moving faster than 25mph, which may not be quite enough peace of mind for some parents.

The slew of distracted driving apps on the market point to a real need for safety awareness among businesses. If you are currently devising a mobile marketing strategy, it’s worth considering the inclusion of an opt-out that only kicks in at certain times. If you can avoid sending a text message while someone is driving to work, it’s another way of keeping customers onside. 

March 25, 2014

HTC One M8 Goes on Sale in UK

Depositphotos_25180327_xs

HTC’s new smartphone went on sale today at several stores in London, ahead of a general release on March 27. International consumers will have to wait until April 11 to get their hands on the device.

The HTC One M8 was officially unveiled just one hour before it became available to shoppers at six Carphone Warehouse and three Phones 4U stores. A few handsets were also released at a press conference in New York.

The HTC One is being heralded as one of the best designs to hit the smartphone market to date. According to a press release published on the T-Mobile website, the HTC One has “the brainpower of a true superphone… [and] stunning hardware design.”

The device has two cameras on the back, allowing photographers to take shots capable of mimicking the depth-of-field control that was once the sole preserve of DSLR machines. Another winning feature is Motion Launch, which lets users quickly deploy their device without having to first unlock it. A phone call can be taken by putting the device to your ear; the camera can be activated simply by upending the phone and hitting the volume button. 

Despite all the bells and whistles, HTC’s new offering faces an uphill battle in terms of marketing. The company aims to make high end products capable of competing with iPhones. To a certain extent, they’ve achieved that with the HTC One, but they lack two key things that Apple has in spades: a fanatic, loyal customer base, and an app store that rules the roost.

That’s not to say HTC doesn’t have potential. For every hardcore Apple fanboy, there’s an open-source devotee who wouldn’t go near an iPhone if their house was burning down. And they’re precisely the same people who care more about design than market ubiquity. In that context, HTC has a place in the hearts of the anti-Apple brigade who don’t want to slum it with a Samsung device.

Whether there are enough of those people out there remains to be seen. In marketing terms, probably not. Few mobile marketing tactics include a pressing urge to reach out to HTC users – and their SMS messaging glitches are documented across the web. But for individual users with a taste for good design, and an antipathy towards good marketing, the HTC One could be the answer.

March 17, 2014

Secure Text Banking? It’s All About Checks and Balances

Depositphotos_9659887_xs

SMS messaging provides one of the fastest, easiest ways for consumers to stay in touch with businesses. Banking is no exception. Virtually every major US bank now offers some form of text banking.

Text banking is proving popular with a small number of customers who like to stay on top of the finances – and like the fact they don’t need an internet connection to do it. Nonetheless, as many as 51% of cell phone users think mobile banking is not secure, and the number of bank customers who prefer using cell phones to view balances and transactions stood at around 8% in 2012, when the most recent ABA figures were published. 

This reticence to engage with text banking is understandable. Fears about sending account details via text messages are not unfounded. And even just using text as one part of mobile marketing tactics that make no specific reference to an account will make some customers jittery. When it comes to personal finances, some people will always prefer the real-world transactions they’re used to.

For people more concerned about convenience than worst-case scenario cyber-fraud, SMS messaging is one of the best things to happen to banking. Apart from the improved customer service texting can offer, it’s also – whatever detractors tell you – potentially far more secure than other typed of banking. 

In response to security concerns, most banks have recently designed a whole host of precautions enabling them to minimize fraud and identity theft. Customers are now assigned a PIN they must enter to begin any particular SMS messaging session, as well as nicknames for account numbers.

Leading the way in providing greater security for text banking is Wells Fargo, who were the first bank to make the service available to all customers, even those not enrolled in online banking. Their research indicated customers want to check their balances while on the move, so they implemented a number of codes that customers could text to perform certain transactions. ‘BAL ALL’ lets customers check their balance.  ‘ACT’ tells them if a check is deposited. ‘ATM’ points them to the nearest cash machine.

The bank does not send account numbers or passwords, and their Online Security Guarantee promises 100% insurance if unauthorized activity is reported within 60 days.

Other banks have gone further. Both USAA and BOFA allow customers to deposit checks using an iPhone. Not everyone will be comfortable performing such high level transactions remotely. But for those who want that choice, SMS messaging and mobile banking is making life a whole lot easier.

February 21, 2014

What Augmented Reality Means for Mobile Marketing

Depositphotos_34687629_xs

As smartphone ownership reaches record levels, it’s hardly surprising that apps of all stripes are experiencing a boom. One of the hottest varieties right now are augmented reality (AR) apps, which combine live, real-world environments with supplementary computer generated input.

AR is one of those futuristic technologies that you can’t quite believe is really upon us. It provides a Terminator-like view of the physical realm, with live events such as sports games augmented by statistics, graphics, sound or any other digital data.

Not only is AR a reality, it’s already big business – and growing fast. In 2013, revenue from mobile augmented reality was around $180 million. A recent Juniper report predicts AR apps and services to generate a staggering $1.2 billion by 2015. The contributions it can make to existing mobile marketing solutions are manifold, and major brands including Unilever, Nestle and Heinz have already cottoned on to the potential of AR as a driver of consumer engagement.

The mobile industry itself has helped power interest in AR apps, as more and more companies are adopting mobile marketing advertising and outreach strategies as a necessary part of their overall business. AR promises to be a huge part of the future of mobile marketing applications. Juniper’s report pointed to the impending launch of ‘smart wearables’ such as Google Glass – due for launch later this year – as potential platforms for apps that use AR technology.

In the here in and now, AR is being used to great effect by mobile marketing teams all over the world. In Canada, Volkswagen used AR-interfaced billboards enabling iPhone and iPad users to view virtual Beetles performing stunts above the streets of Vancouver and Toronto. The launch video generated over 100,000 views in the first few weeks and created a hell of a buzz of Volkswagen in the process. Starbucks pulled off a similar trick using cups, giving coffee lovers something to entertain them while drinking.

So far, campaigns like this have been perfunctory gimmicks – showcases for the possibilities of AR technology. But they are nevertheless very exciting, and point to a new kind of mobile marketing advertising. As the technology improves, more developers will jump on board, each with a fresh angle on the potential of AR. Juniper’s report predicts a 200 million-strong AR app market by 2018. If that figure is borne out, mobile marketers, game developers, and anyone involved in the creative arts will make AR apps part of the digital fabric of an increasingly plugged in society.