Google Bots Getting Human Touch in Indexing Interactive Content

According to a Vancouver-based developer, Googlebot just got some human eyes. Well sort of. It was observed that Google’s search bots have been apparently trained to act more like humans to mine interactive site content. This allows the bots to process whatever JavaScript exists on the pages that are crawled and see what results get brought up, similar to how the JavaScript runs when a user clicks on the objects that activate them. The finding would make the content hidden in databases and other sources indexable and searchable by Google.

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RIM Reveals Blackberry 10

RIM has finally shown off the long awaited (and delayed) Blackberry 10 and the interface looks like a mix of a little Windows Metro, a little WebOS, and even a little Facebook thrown in for good measure. Overall it looks like there are some solid ideas and a heavy reliance on gestures, but based on the limited reveal it’s hard to tell how well it’s all coming together.

Check out a video overview of Blackberry 10 from The Verge below:

It’s still a ways from launch but right now the home screen tiles, messaging, and phone calls all have different feeling UIs and seem like they could each be from a different operating system. The camera app certainly has a lot of “wow factor.” The reliance on gestures is also interesting, as a tech geek it appeals to me but studies show the average user has an incredibly difficult time with gesture based interfaces and gesture discoverability is low.

From a development side of thing, Blackberry 10 will support apps developed with C/C++ but is also pushing their WebWorks SDK hard. WebWorks will allow devs to build apps that integrate with core Blackberry functionality using web technologies such as HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript. If WebWorks works as advertised it could lower the barrier of entry and help bring app developers aboard that would otherwise ignore the platform.

Blackberry 10 is awfully late to the party. With WebOS already dead and Windows Phone struggling to make a sales dent, will BB10 be able to be keep up at all with iPhone and Android? It’s going to take great software, hardware, app and media ecosystem, and a whole lot of marketing to spur renewed interest from either consumers or app developers. They’ve got a long way to go and good interface ideas won’t be enough.

Mobile Design Strategies, in Podcast Form

The next Breaking Development conference gets underway next week in Orlando, but you don’t need to travel to the most magical place on Earth to get access to some of the top minds on mobile. Audio of the great talks from the Breaking Development in Nashville last year are now available for your listening pleasure (and education) on Huffduffer. You can download individual talks as MP3s or grab the iTunes feed to get all of them as a podcast. Breaking Development is a great resource on mobile design, development, and marketing so it is definitely worth listening to every single one of these.

Link: bdconf on Huffduffer

Creating Wireframes for Mobile Apps

Wireframes, also known as page schematics, are a staple of website development. They provide direction on the functionality of navigation, the priority of content, and can include detailed technical notes regarding forms and dynamic content, as required by the project.

As clients expand their presence to mobile devices, wireframes have become even more significant. While website wireframes and mobile app wireframes are similar in the nature of the information they present, there are some significant differences.

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Measuring Android Version Fragmentation

Comparison of Android versions

Comparing Android version market share and adoption rates over time.

Android fragmentation is a dirty little buzzword you’ve likely heard everywhere from Angry Birds to Steve Jobs and probably in strategy meetings with us here at MarketNet about that big app idea your company has.

Just what exactly is fragmentation and how big of a problem is it for Android and your project? Chris Sauve at pxldot has done a great job summarizing and charting the issue on his blog post Android Measuring Stick.

One of the best things about Google’s Android operating system is that it’s open source and available for other developers and device manufacturers to pretty much do whatever they’d like with it. That means we can get cool things like fitness accessories and Fossil watches powered by Android, but it also means that there’s no one true version of Android out there that to develop for.

Right now there are three versions of Android still out there in numbers large enough to require support, and that’s ignoring the brand new Android 4.0 (also called Ice Cream Sandwich) that was released in November and is currently running on about 1% of Android devices. It’s easy to predict that in just a month or two there will be four versions of Android out there, each with huge numbers of users. Even if version 2.1 (Eclair) is “only” at a 7.6% share, with the number of total Android devices out there numbering in the hundreds of millions that is a lot of potential customers you could be turning away if your site or app doesn’t work with that version. Add in the diversity of screen sizes available and you’re starting to understand what a difficult and important issue market fragmentation can be for a mobile project.

Cross Platform Mobile Development with Titanium and PhoneGap

Cross platform mobile development allows you to target multiple devices while being able to write minimal source code. This provides a couple of benefits. First, you have a lower barrier to entry, since typically HTML/CSS/JavaScript is easier to develop in than Objective-C or Java. Second, you reduce the number of required skills for your development team. Using cross platform development you only need to be proficient in one language/skillset, rather than Objective-C for iOS, Java for Android, Silverlight for Windows, etc. Finally, you reduce development costs and long term maintenance. Typically you just have one single codebase, which speeds up initial development. You also don’t need a large staff for each platform when it comes to long term maintenance.

And if you are involved with cross platform mobile application development, you know there is a continual debate with which platform to choose, Titanium or PhoneGap? Both promise native application development using tools front-end developers are familiar with: JavaScript, HTML, CSS. Recently I was able to use both on projects here at MarketNet, so I can give a you high-level comparison based on my experiences.

Titanium

Appcelerator's Titanium

The main selling point of Appcelerator’s Titanium is the fact that you are building a mobile application with a truly native user experience. From their website:

The Titanium Mobile SDK leverages over 5,000 device and mobile operating system APIs to create native applications that perform and behave just like they were written in Objective-C (iPhone and iPad) or Java (Android phone and tablets).

If you are comfortable with JavaScript, Titanium will be a breeze to pick-up, closely following the CommonJS mobile specification for structuring code. And with their newly released Titanium Studio, you have just one development environment to write all of your code. Titanium then translates this code and compiles it into native application code for both iOS and Android. The obvious benefit here is performance, native application elements will perform faster than using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript in a browser instance.

Another great feature of Titanium is the ability to extend native functionality with custom modules. They have an active Marketplace with dozens of modules for integrating PayPal, Dropbox, Urban Airship, In-App Purchases, and much more.

PhoneGap

PhoneGap is perfect if you are looking to embed an existing mobile site into a mobile application, with the ability to load it with extra features only available in native applications. Here you are using HTML and CSS to style and structure your app to display in a browser instance, not native components. From their website:

PhoneGap is an HTML5 app platform that allows you to author native applications with web technologies and get access to APIs and app stores.

One advantage is you can use one of the many mobile web frameworks out there, such as jQuery Mobile, to build a mobile site. Then just wrap it with PhoneGap, and voila, you can deploy to iOS, Android, Blackberry, and Windows Mobile.

The main disadvantage that I came across is that once your mobile site is complete, typically your integration has to be done directly in the underlying SDK’s IDE, such as Xcode for iOS or Eclipse for Android.

Summary

In short, Titanium utilizes JavaScript to compile directly to native code, giving you a truly native look and feel. PhoneGap gives you a native application wrapper for your mobile web site, and has a wide range of deployment options. Both have their purpose and are great ways to efficiently build cross-platform mobile applications.

Mobile Users Don’t Do That

There are many common misconceptions about mobile web and app design. The most pervasive of these usually center around assumptions about where, when, and how people use mobile devices. Making any assumptions about what your visitors will or won’t do just because they’re on a mobile device will have you headed down the wrong path.

“Mobile users won’t want to do that, they’re ‘on the go’ and will be in a hurry or want a quick distraction.”

Mobile user experience expert Stephanie Rieger has written a great blog post busting some of those myths about the “typical” mobile user. People don’t just use their smartphones while on the go. They use them throughout their daily lives. They use them in quick bursts and for long stretches of engaged reading. They use them while distracted by the TV, traffic, the kids, or by nothing at all. Assuming your mobile visitors will always want to do less on your site just because of the device they’re using is a huge (and common) mistake.

Of course a good number of users will be looking to get in and back out accomplishing their task as quickly as possible. Your mobile experience (and your desktop site too by the way) should feature these common tasks and make them as easy as possible to use. But that doesn’t mean you should remove content or features that some of your best users are interested in.

As Stephanie puts it in her article, if a user is willing to suffer through a complex or broken feature on their tiny screen they’re either desperate or one of your power users. Two groups that have higher conversion rates than most. Don’t prevent them from doing what they want to do by removing the complicated feature from your mobile site, make it easier to accomplish.

MarketNet and Hillwood launch redesigned AllianceTexas.com

MarketNet is pleased to announce the launch of the new AllianceTexas.com site. Alliance Texas is a full scale city offering inland port transportation via one of the nation’s largest intermodal yards along with Class I rail lines, multiple residential communities, premium retail/office/industrial space and the world’s first industrial airport. Hillwood Alliance Services partnered with MarketNet to create an online hub that would service a wide variety of needs including companies looking to relocate, current tenants, real estate professionals, future and current residents, and job seekers.

AllianceTexas.com

This robust website caters to multiple target audiences with varying needs and highlights the world class facilities and services that Alliance Texas has to offer. It includes multiple layers of interactive maps detailing everything from available office space to residential areas and employs a complex information architecture to meet the needs of a wide range of users. This best-in-class web presence will ultimately drive more business to Alliance Texas and enhance the brand image online.

Google Chrome Coming to Android Devices*

Google Chrome is finally coming to Android phones and tablets. A beta is available for download now if you’re one of the lucky few already running Android 4.0/Ice Cream Sandwich (hence the asterisk* in the post title.) No word on when (or if) Chrome will come to other Android versions or become the operating system’s default browser.

Check out the video below for a look at the fit and finish of the new mobile browser:

In general the user interface looks very intuitive and clean, particularly the tab view and tab switching functionality. Chrome for Android will also reportedly bring improved performance and better rendering of pages. Plus if you’re signed in with a Google account you can sync things like tabs and bookmarks across devices (phone, tablet, and desktop.)

Get more information and some hands-on impressions over at The Verge.

Update: Chrome for Android won’t support Flash. From Adobe, “Adobe is no longer developing Flash Player for mobile browsers, and thus Chrome for Android Beta does not support Flash content.”

MarketNet Cares – Spinning to Make A Difference in the Fight Against Ovarian Cancer

A quote from Tom Brokaw sums it up nicely; “It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference.”  Some will argue whether it is really that easy to make a buck but as a business owner making money isn’t something that you consciously focus on.  You have to make money to survive.    It’s like breathing or eating.  Stop doing one of them and you won’t stay alive.

Making a difference on the other hand requires commitment.  It isn’t something that you have to do to survive it is something that you choose to do.  When choice is available, many times we choose not to step forward and participate.  Team MarketNet Cares was formed to give MarketNet employees and their families the opportunity to make a difference through organized volunteer activities.

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