Using Push Notifications to Increase Web Application Usage

How to Increase Web Application Usage

We hear it all the time from our clients, “I have a great web application but my users don’t come back to using it regularly.”  It’s a common problem with web applications and mobile applications.  How do you get users to go back regularly and use your online application?  People are extremely busy.  They might have downloaded your mobile app to help them solve a task, they liked it, they intended to use it again, but they forgot about it.  You’ve tried to send them online alerts that read “Our mobile app is great, come back and use it again.”  But that isn’t working.  A great solution is to get users to check your application by regularly pushing them data.

Setting up a Relevant Push Email to Users of your Web or Mobile Application

I’m a Google Guide.  If you don’t know what that means I basically rate a lot of companies, restaurants and post a lot of pictures of places to Google.  If you want to see one of the awesome web development companies (Shameless self promotion 🙂 ) you can see some of the content I’ve created as a Google Guide.  What’s really neat about how Google get’s me to keep using their application is that they send me regular updates via email and mobile phone push notifications to keep me updated about how my content is doing.  See the image below for an example.  They don’t tell me how great their app is, or try to tell me why I should use it, they just push me regular information that is personalized to me.  

Web Application Data Pushes

 

Things to Include to your Application Users in a Push Email

1. Information that is new since the last time they used your application

2. Information that is built around their last interacting with your mobile application.  For instance (Last time you used our mobile app you looked at Resturant X, here is information about Resturant X).

3. Some type of number that shows that your application is changing and that they should therefore use/check it often.  For instance on the image above Google tells me that I have lot’s of users that view my photos.

 

Welcome New Switchbox Employees

Switchbox is excited to announce that we’re growing by two! Meet Michelle the new Executive Assistant, and David our newest Full Stack Web Developer.

Michelle came to us as a Graphic Designer and Marketing Coordinator with previous experience working with car associations, and doing freelance design work. With her background, and intense love of organizing, she’ll help Switchbox elevate the office work environment as well as our marketing and social media presence. Michelle likes to spend time outside (when it’s not too hot), watch Star Wars, and check out the newest art exhibits at Columbus Museum of Art.

David comes to us with previous experience as a Full Stack Web Developer, having his latest work be for a lighting fixture e-commerce company in New York City. With David’s talent, he’s a great addition to the Switchbox Developer teams, helping to give our clients the best project experience. One of David’s favorite projects that he’s worked on was a web application called PottySpot, which is designed to show on a map the locations of all publicly available restrooms near the user! Some of his hobbies include cooking, weight training, playing competitive trading card games, and watching anime.

Welcome to the team Michelle & David!

RightTrack Infusion Pump Software and Web Application Launch

Check out the press release for our newest business process management workflow and tracking application.  All custom built by our development team here in Columbus.  It’s nice to work with local companies and RightWay Medical was great to work with.

https://rightwaymed.com/right-way-medical-launches-infusion-pump-tracking-application/

Why do Small Businesses out Innovate Large Corporations?

What does it take to get a large company to become innovative around web applications?

Before we answer that lets look at why small companies are so innovative when it comes to IT projects.  First, small companies don’t have the same fears around security.  A small company can ignore the possibility of it’s confidential client information being stolen because they probably don’t have any.  Of maybe they do but it’s all housed in an online application like Quickbooks online.  A large company has to make sure that everything it controls is completely protected.  So when their internal innovation team comes up with a new idea for a web application the IT department has to make sure that that one tiny new web app doesn’t create a security threat that will compromise all the other IT systems in the company.

Another reason small companies can innovate faster is that they make decisions faster.  As a recent example with a large company here in Columbus, Ohio I met with an internal innovation team to discuss an idea they had to automated the tasks they were using an Excel spreadsheet fo.  The ROI on the idea was huge.  They needed to manage over 100 facilities across the US with multiple issues that changed based on the location, time of year, weather, and government regulations.  That is a tasks way too complicated for Excel.  After speaking with them and laying out an idea for how we could move forward they realized they needed to do the following to get their web project moving…

Ways Corporate America Kills Innovation within their Company

These are the steps they had to go through before they could even figure out if the company would fund their idea(the idea with a clear ROI).

1. Ask coworker for the form they had to fill out to start their Innovation Project (TPS form maybe?)

2. Fill out cumbersome form

3. Send form to unknown boss (they were not sure who this was)

4. Setup meeting with boss (not easy to do in a big company)

5. Bring Vendor out for second meeting with boss

6. Refill out Innovation Form based on new information boss wanted

7. Meet with IT (By the way this is the kiss of death for most web projects because the non-IT people don’t know how to work with their IT department)

For more information on these types of projects see our other blog post (Handling Backlogged IT Web Projects)

8. Assuming IT let the project move forward go back to boss for funding…

You geth the picture.

How do small companies build innovative web applications?

1. Talk to boss about idea

2. Bring in 1-2 web application companies to talk about project

3. Decide if pricing the development firms gave you is worth it.

4. Sign contract.

How can large companies innovate more like small companies?

1. Innovation has to occur at the small department level not the corporate level.  If you want to empower your teams to find creative ways to build a new web application or a mobile application to solve their departments problems you need the department to innovate, not the company.

2. Build in small rewards for everyone (including IT and finanance) for launching a new web application or mobile application.  Employees are afraid of what will happen if they fail and quite frankly there is no reward for success.  Build success into the process.

3. Create a time every month for employees to meet with their Innovation Boss so that meetings are easy to schedule and are expected to happen.

If you need help getting your online application moving call us.

 

Custom Product Configurations and Javascript

Custom Online Product Configurators

In case you were wondering, “Configurator” isn’t actually a word but WikiPedia defines it as an online tool.   With that out of the way… we are all familiar with online configurators like what we see with shopping cart websites.  Typically in a case like Shopify, Magento or even WooCommerce you see simple product configurations like changing the color or an item or the size.  Typically these require the owner of the website to upload different images for each configuration.  So if you have coffee mugs for sale on your website and you want to sell them in green, red and black you would need to upload three images.  The site displays the correct image depending on what the user selects.

Common Problems with Online Product Configurators

So the example above works okay if you only have a few variations you need to create unique images for.  What happens if you have a product with lots of variations.  Say, 25,920 unique options?  We had a client with just such a challenge and the answer was to use so javascript trickery around overlaying images, image transparency and some other magic.  Check out their online product configurator and you can see what we mean.  The solution was to have a seperate image for the “Trim” at the top, and seperate image for the bottom.  We then used javascript to do image overlays to change the colors, add the appropriate shadows and ultimately piece the image together into a single image.

Browser Compatibility

Let us know if it doesn’t work in your browser but we used Browser Stack for some quick testing and the javscript compatibility with modern browsers seems to work flawlessly.  We are currently working on another custom tool for CAPSA for their online medical cart sales and will blog about that when it comes out to the public.  If you have a product that you want to display online and it doesn’t work with a standard shopping cart give us a call or fill out our Contact Us to contact the best web development company in Columbus.

10 Ways to Tell if your Organization Procrastinates on IT Projects

How does my organization rank on the IT Project Procrastination Scale?

Preamble

We work with a lot of clients and this is a lot of what we hear regarding starting their web application projects.  To our clients we say… “We totally love you all but some of you have some big problems getting things moving.”  Please don’t take it personally but you need a little help.

 

Answer the questions below and count the number of “Yes” answers to get your score.

1. I’m required to fill out some type of multi-part form to show business value for my IT project.

2. After my last IT project meeting my boss told me to “Provide a revised business case for the project based on new information that was ‘uncovered’ during the meeting?”

3. The term “ROI” was used more then 10 times during my last meeting to discuss my project.

4. My boss blames his/her boss for not approving the project and says that “My boss will need more information before they will let me approve this project.”

5. Everyone on your team agrees this project has tremendous value, completely agrees on the need for the project, wants the project, and is excited about the project but… it still isn’t approved yet.

6. During the last meeting our “IT Guy” blamed “security concerns” as a reason to slow the project down but was unable to state specific concerns or next steps to address the concerns.

7. You heard the phrase, “I think we made great progress here today…” and “… so let’s discuss this again at our next meeting” with 5 minutes of each other.

8. Your IT project costs less then your last company party, will be done before the end of the fiscal year, and will require fewer internal resources then the last “sales brainstorming session” and everyone still has some reason they don’t want to start the new web application project.

9. You are still tracking mission critical data for your company on an Excel spreadsheet and your boss thinks that is a good idea.

10. You still use an IT vendor that screwed up the last 5 projects, always comes in over budget and never gets the work done on time and you still won’t fire them and try out a new company.

 

Your Score:

0-3: You lied! Just kidding.  Your company is great at embracing change and willing to try new things.  You are in the top 4% of companies.

4-6: You need some help.  You are still using Excel to run your business but you’ve decided the internet is not a fad and you are trying to move into the modern era.  Good for you.

7-10: Give up.  Stop using technology and buy some papyrus, a big stone tablet and a chisel…  Or call Switchbox.

When big companies use bad UI (User Interface)

How Big Companies Make Bad Website User Interface Decisions

The bank shall remain nameless but I came across this question…

Notice how instead of using a drop down for education they ask the user to enter a number?  Why on earth would I enter a number for my schooling instead of using a drop down to select (High School, College, or Graduate).  Also, what happens if I enter 19?  Does that mean I went to graduate school but didn’t finish?  Again, I’m not trying to be negative here but really?  Web developers and web designers have been using the drop down box since HTML was invented.

Later in the online form I was asked for my “Relationship Status”  I answered “Married.”  So the site asked me for my wife’s information.  It then asked me “Spouses marital status?”  Seriously, you are asking me for my spouses Marital Status?

Yes this was a bit of a sarcastic blog but for those of you in the web or application development industry please do not repeat these mistakes.

 

 

If you want to be a web developer in Columbus please follow these simple tips

How to be a great web application developer in Columbus, OH

Why did I include Columbus in this blog?  Because Columbus is different then a lot of other cities for developers.  If you live in Silicon Valley you need to sleep in your car, work at an IT startup, be willing to learn the latest and greatest technology.  I’m referring to stuff that is even newer then Angular.JS or React or even some of newest database tools like Hadoop or NoSQL.  Columbus is a great tech town.  We love to work with new technologies but again, if you are looking for a job here you need to understand that most jobs are in more practical application development.  Yup, that means knowing Java, ASP.Net (Webforms and MVC), PHP and Ruby on Rails are all great.  You will find a ton of companies looking for those core skill sets.  I can’t tell you how many developers have been pulled into the newest technology stack(I once interviewed a developer who said CoffeeScript was going to take over the world) because they read a blog that said that it was great.  If you want a job learn a solid language.

Spend time mastering a core language and then build out.  We love hiring web developers who are solid in one of our core development languages but who have also become proficient in Angular.JS or native iOS development or even who have learned to write solid SQL queries.  At the end of the day what companies in Columbus and even suburbs like Dublin and New Albany want are core software developers, not people who know some micro niche language.

 

What if I want to do bleeding edge development?

Columbus has awesome jobs for you.  Please just realize that just because you love a brand new untested programming language doesn’t mean there is a job opening for it.  Columbus is awesome for tech but my experience has been most companies want to use new technologies but not the stuff that just got released last week.  We have tons of jobs for augmented reality, GIS data visulization, etc. but most companies primary development language is something tested.

 

What Web Development Language is Most Popular?

I found a great chart here so instead of trying to tell you I’ll simply embed the link.  This is a list of how often different programming languages are used in 2017.  Ruby, Java, and .Net all rank really high.

 

Should I send a boring resume to the HR department?

No.  That is what morons do.  Sorry, just being honest.  If you want to stand out build your own website, show so cool stuff, link to your GitHub account, or do something that shows us employers that you are not some random unemployed developer that is just like everyone else.  Do something.  Anything.  But show us that you actually know how to build a website.  I can’t tell you the number of resumes we get where someone claims they know how to setup a web server but they haven’t even built a page on GoDaddy.  Please show us what you can do instead of putting it in text.

 

What Else?

 

Web and Mobile Application Developers are getting tons of job offerings right now.  Why should I waste my time doing this?

True.  If you want to work in a cubicle for the rest of your life, get minimal raises, work on projects that are totally unfulfilling, and get placed on projects by years of experience instead of how good you actually are then by all means, don’t waste your time trying to find a good job and impress people.  🙂  Seriously, if you want a unique job you need to be unique.  If you want to make money being a software developer you will get lots of job offers.  Our advice there is don’t get comfortable.  Keep looking for your dream job.  If you want to work for the best development company in Columbus, Ohio apply today.

Sitecore Web Application Developers in Columbus, OH

Sitecore CMS Development

 

A few years ago all we were asked to do was WordPress CMS development.  Then we started doing Sitefinity and DotNetNuke CMS systems.  Today it seems we are getting a lot of requests for Sitecore CMS web application development.  While I’m sure a new trend in web development, especially for CMS systems will happen in the next few years we are happy to ride the current trend.

 

Where do I find Sitecore Web Developers?

The answer to that is simple… right here at Switchbox.  Seriously, we have a Sitecore certified developer on staff as well as several other developers who are very proficient with Sitecore CMS as well.  Just give us a call or shoot us an email.

 

Who uses Sitecore CMS in Columbus, Ohio

We get asked this question fairly often and it seems that more and more companies are using it.  Sitecore is a pretty heavy, meaning enterprise grade, CMS system.  It requires a fairly high initial cost as well as annual cost for licensing and you need a pretty strong web development team to get it up and running but we are finding more and more Columbus based companies are using it.  In particular we are seeing membership organizations, local and state government agencies, and larger corporations (think Inc 50 and above).

 

Why should I use Sitecore instead of WordPress?

This question came up in a web development meeting in Dublin a few weeks ago.  So a brief summary is probably needed.  WordPress is a cheap easy to use CMS system.  There are lots of large companies using it as their core CMS system but it is not built for heavy use.  It also has a huge number of security issues as it has become a favorite target for hackers.  Sitecore is built for Enterprise clients and therefore is not cheap but generally speaking you get what you pay for.  If you need a good stable CMS system WordPress is fine.  If you need something to run your corporate web presence on and it needs an extremely solid framework.  Consider using Sitecore.

How to evaluate a legacy software application for purchase

Buying a software business can be tricky because you can’t actually see software.  The web application might look good, might function as expected but be so poorly built that it is likely to fall apart right after you take over.  Buying a software based business, especially a SaaS, requires an inspection, just like buying a house.  Below are a few thoughts that we passed along to me from my friend at Dive Create (A Columbus, Ohio based UI/UX firm).

 

Information Technology
·         Census of backoffice systems including current contracts, spend and term for accounting, support, marketing, sales, R&D, etc.
·         High level overview of all application software – provide description and key functionality area
·         Inventory of technical infrastructure – Hardware, Software, Databases, Network / Communications Equipment
·         Network diagrams – Internal & SaaS systems
·         Disaster recovery plans
·         IT organization chart – with roles & responsibilities
·         Policies and procedures documentation
·         Systems data backup policy and process (Frequency, format, rotation, storage, testing)
·         Key IT vendor contracts
 
Application Development
·         High level architectural diagram
·         Database documentation (database names, purposes, and schema)
·         Full technology stack used (.net/java, sql server/oracle, knockout/angular, etc.)
·         Description of any external system interfaces
·         Operations manuals
·         User manuals
·         Development methodology documentation
·         Testing methodology
·         Current issues log
·         Application enhancement roadmap
·         3rd party tools/systems used along with current contracts/agreements for them
·         Open source software used

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