Controlling my App using Voice

October 15th, 2017 by Heather Maloney

Adding voice recognition to my mobile app
In order for the apps on your smartphone to be voice controlled, they need to be specifically programmed that way.

Some of the more common voice-enabled apps you are likely to find on your smartphone are:

  • Calendar – ask your smartphone the time of your next / first appointment, on a particular day, and it will tell you the answer and automatically show your calendar appointments for that day on screen
  • Phone – tell your smartphone to call person X, or send a text message to person Y, and it will take care of these tasks, prompting you for the details as required
  • Alarm – set an alarm to go off at a particular date and time
  • Search – ask your phone to search for a topic, and it will display a clickable list of search results

Voice recognition technologies have improved significantly over the last few years, providing numerous options with regard to voice enabling mobile apps, including:

  1. The Android operating system for wearables (e.g. Galaxy watch), smart phones and tablets includes in-built voice control actions for carrying out commonly used tasks such as writing a note. It also comprises the ability for an app to include its own “intents” which listen for voice activation once the user has launched the app. Finally it includes methods for allowing the user to enter free form text for processing by your app.
  2. Google Voice Interactions API – a code library provided by Google which allows an app to be triggered via the Google Now interface – that’s what you’re using when you say ‘Okay Google’ and then say a command.
    okay-google
  3. Apple devices (iPhones, iPads, iWatch) are built on the iOS operating system. Native iOS apps are written in either Objective C or Swift (a more recent language). With the launch of iOS 10, the Swift programming language included a Speech framework to allow developers to more easily implement listen for voice commands, and manipulate voice into text for use within apps.
  4. SiriKit was released in 2016, providing a toolkit for iOS developers to add voice interaction through Siri into their iOS 10 apps.

    What-is-my-heart-rate-voice-interaction-with-mobile-app
  5. Cross platform apps need to use 3rd party libraries to interface with the native speech recognition functions.

It’s important to know that the speech of the user is processed by Apple’s servers or Google’s servers, and then returned to the mobile device, so some lag may be noticed particularly when dealing with longer bursts of voice. It may also have privacy considerations for your users.

3rd party APIs exist which are completely contained within the mobile device, meaning that the user doesn’t need to have an internet connection to use them, and the privacy issues are reduced. An example of such a 3rd party API is the CMU Sphinx – Speech Recognition Toolkit. The downside of using such a library is that you can’t avail yourself of the amazingly accurate voice recognition the large players have developed over time, including for many different languages.

Obvious apps which provide the user with significant benefit from the use of voice control include:

  • An app which improves or assists the job of a hands-on task e.g. chefs, surgeons, artists, hairdressers …
  • An app which is needed while a person is driving e.g. navigation, finding locations, dictating ideas on-the-go …
  • An app needed by a person with disability.
  • An app which involves the entry of lots of text.

We expect to see more and more support for voice in all sorts of applications in future. What would you like to be able to achieve through voice commands?

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Can voice input be added to my web form?

October 13th, 2017 by Heather Maloney

power-of-voice-newsletter
Given the recent proliferation of ads about Google Home, it’s now common knowledge that you can easily talk to electronic devices and instruct them to do things such as search the web, play your favourite tune, give you the weather forecast, call a friend, or tell you the time of your first appointment on a particular day. Google Now is the technology that enables voice control of Google and Android devices, and Siri powers voice control on Apple devices. Windows 10 provided Cortana to do the same.

When you are using a smartphone to interact with a form on a web page, then you can usually fill in a form using voice … how easy or hard that is depends on your device. On an iPhone (and an iPad) when you bring up the keyboard in a form, there’s an additional ‘microphone’ icon that you simply need to tap in order to speak your entry. If you are using an Android Samsung Galaxy phone, you can switch your entry from keyboard to voice by swiping down from the top of the screen and choosing Change Keyboard, and then choosing Google Voice … yes, that’s 3 steps :-( .

When it comes to using a PC or Mac, filling in a form usually relies on typing. Now that I am getting used to talking to electronic devices, I find myself looking for more ways that I can use my voice to control the device rather than having to type everything. Talking, even for me as a very fast touch-typist, is quicker than typing. Plus, speech control enables you to control your device when you need to be using it hands-free.

What about my web form?
In answer to the question posed by this blog article, yes! voice input can be added to your web form even when you are entering text on a PC or a Mac. To demonstrate, we’ve added a very simple voice entry capability to the enquiry form on the Contactpoint home page. Please note; this example only works in the Chrome web browser, and of course you must have a microphone on your PC or Mac in order to speak to fill out the form. To use the voice input:

  1. click or press on the microphone icon beside a field
  2. click to Allow access to the microphone (you will only need to do this the first time)
  3. talk to complete the field!

As you are speaking you will see that there’s a red recording icon pulsing in the browser tab. When you stop talking, the recording will also stop, and then what you said will appear in the box.

From a programming point of view, there are several ways to implement voice input into a web form. The example on the Contactpoint home page uses a very simple method involving Javascript and the webkitSpeechRecognition which is an API for Google Chrome, giving the browser access (after the user has specifically allowed it) to the microphone and then handling voice input very nicely. Google’s team has spent many years refining speech recognition, and the webkit gives you quick and free access to their powerful functionality.

Other Javascript libraries have been developed to enable much more sophistication in the manner in which you can use voice to interact with a web form. Annyang is a great example, whereby specific parts of your web form can have tailored voice interactions enabled so that whatever you say has context e.g. choosing from a drop down list in a form will know about the allowed options, and match the voice input with one or more of those options. Due to the additional sophistication, there’s obviously more effort involved in using this library. Another benefit is that Annyang functionality works in any web browser.

If you would like to improve the usability of your web forms by enabling speech entry, feel free to get in touch!

Handy Hints for voice entry of text:
If you speak your text message without including punctuation, paragraphs and the like, it can be a lot harder for the recipient to understand your message. But have no fear, the following list will have your test messages reading just like you typed it!
“full stop” – if you pause and then say “full stop” Google Now and Siri will type in a ‘.’
“exclamation mark” – if you say “exclamation mark” Google Now and Siri will type in a ‘!’
“question mark”- if you say “question mark” Google Now and Siri will type in a ‘?’
“new line” – if you pause and say “new line” Google Now and Siri will move the cursor down to the next line.
“comma” – if you pause and say “comma” Google Now and Siri will type in a ‘,’

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Top SEO Issues – Why isn’t your website highly ranked in Google?

July 13th, 2017 by Cameron Collins

search-engine-optimisation-tips

In the digital marketing department of Contactpoint, I work with a diverse range of businesses and organisations to enable their website to rank higher for relevant Google searches. Those whose websites rank high on the first page of results reap the rewards of increased website traffic from their target market, an increase in sales or enquiry, and the ability to decrease spending in other areas of marketing such as paid advertising.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), the practice of optimising a website for higher search engine rankings, takes time to learn and implement, and at times requires technical skills. Without any prior knowledge of SEO many business owners or marketing managers are under the impression that if they build a website and write a few pages of content, Google will automatically rank it on the first page of results and traffic will flow. In our experience, it’s rare for a website that hasn’t had optimization applied to achieve good ranks.

In the majority of searches, Google has to sort through thousands, sometimes millions of search results to select the best results for a visitors query. This is important for Google – if they frequently display unhelpful results, people would have no reason to use their search engine.

These are the two factors which all top-ranking websites are successful at doing:

  1. Providing a great user experience
  2. Making it easy for Google to interpret and understand the content on their website

I will now elaborate on 6 of the most common SEO issues which I frequently identify and rectify for clients, enabling them to reach the first page of search results.

1. Search Terms
Many businesses pursue SEO as they operate in a competitive industry, therefore having relevant search terms which allow you to stand a realistic chance of ranking highly in Google is crucial. For example, let’s pretend you are a builder. If we type ‘Builder’ into Google 331,000,000 search results are displayed:
selecting the best search terms for your search engine optimisation

‘Builder’ is a word that could apply to many situations, and is what we call a ‘broad term’ in SEO parlance. If we try something a little more specific, such as ‘Builder Melbourne’ 952,000 results are listed. We can search even more specifically and try ‘Extension Builder Melbourne’ we find that 536,000 results are displayed.

As much as possible, we look for search terms for our client’s websites in which less than 500,000 search results are displayed. Of course, that’s not always possible, but we have enabled many of our clients to push through the crowd and emerge on the first page of results by swapping broad search terms for something more specific.

Another consideration is the type of websites you are competing against. Do searches on the search terms you are targeting return many .gov or .edu websites? Google deems these websites to be highly trustworthy and authoritative in a specific category, so if your domain name ends in .com.au or .com, you will likely be better of pursuing different search terms.

2. H1 Headings
What is a H1 Heading? For most websites it is the first and largest heading on each page in their website. For example on the Contactpoint Search Engine Optimisation page, the heading is, of course, ‘Search Engine Optimisation (‘SEO’)':
using headings to support search engine optimisation
Google uses the H1 Heading as a key determinate of what your web page is about, therefore we recommend inserting 1-2 search terms inside this heading. Common mistakes we see regarding the use of H1 Headings in websites include:

  • No search terms
    This is especially common on the homepage of a business, with headings such as ‘Welcome to *insert business name here*’.
  • Multiple H1 Headings on the same page
    using headings for optimising for SEO
    This often arises as the website owner prefers the style of the H1 Heading and wants to use it throughout the page. The downside of this is that your headings lose their effectiveness.

3. Thin Content
Thin Content – that is, only a small amount of content, including little use of the target search terms and perhaps just in bullet point form – is a common and easy mistake to make when launching a new website or redesigning an existing one. Weeks, even months are spent focusing on achieving the right style and functionality, and the text is sometimes given a lower priority or left to the last minute.

Thin content can hurt your search engine rankings in two ways. Firstly, Google deems pages which are lacking text to provide a poor user experience, therefore they are unlikely to be ranked highly. Secondly, Google relies upon text to interpret the contents of your page, and therefore for which searches your page should be suggested. We find that clients who have approximately 500 words of relevant text, written in natural language, on each main page see significant improvements in their search engine ranks.

4. No Redirects & Broken Links
Allowing previously functioning hyperlinks to become detached from a live web page is another common mistake which can occur if a new website launch isn’t properly managed, or when changes to pages and products are made over time without considering what may have been linking to that page. What happens to those who stumble across your old page through Google, links from other websites and social media, or previous visitors who are returning? Instead of seeing the appropriate page, they will be presented with an error page, which is basically a dead end. Most people who stumble across an error page will simply return to Google and visit one of your competitors.

The correct practice is to add a 301 redirect which ensures that anyone who uses an old URL ends up on the replacement page, or whichever page you allocate as being the best alternative. This type of linking also passes on the ranking power of the old page to the new page and removes the impact on your standing with Google that can occur if you have many broken links.

Keeping track of all the dead end links which have been created over the years can be difficult – we help website owners to identify these links and redirect them to appropriate areas of your website.

We also recommend a custom error page, in the event that you miss implementing a re-direct on an obscure barely visited page. The custom error page will include a general message about your services pointing the visitor to the main navigation of your website, which will also be included. This way they are much more likely to keep browsing around to find what they were looking for rather than to return straight back to Google.

5. Demonstrate Authority & Trustworthiness
As part of Google’s commitment to displaying the best quality search results and providing a great experience for their users, Google seeks to display websites which can clearly demonstrate authority and trustworthiness in their chosen field.

One way that a website can demonstrate this is through high-quality backlinks. A backlink is when another website incorporates a link directing traffic to your website. Google judges a websites backlinks in a very similar way to how humans judge each other – if you associate with intelligent, honest, and trustworthy individuals, it is often assumed that you also possess these characteristics. If you associate with liars, criminals and other untrustworthy individuals, then it is often assumed that you also possess these traits.

We help clients to create a backlink strategy and gain recognition from the best sources in their area of expertise.

Trustworthiness can also be demonstrated through an SSL Certificate – meaning that all of the content of your website is transmitted encrypted between the web server and the person viewing or submitting information to your website. You may notice that some websites will have a padlock and the word ‘Secure’ displayed to the left of their URL. Google is starting to show preference for websites which serve all content over SSL (“secure socket layer”), and like many other ranking factors, we expect the importance this will increase over time.

We routinely arrange the purchase and implementation of SSL certificates into our client’s websites which are attached to the website domain. Generally SSL certificates are renewed on a yearly basis.

6. Duplicate Content
One of the most common SEO issues is duplicate content. ‘Duplicate content’ refers to the situation where the same content is available from multiple URL’s. Common instances of duplicate content include:

Faceted Navigation
This is particularly common in e-commerce websites where products are placed in categories to enable visitors to navigate a large product range with ease. For example a shirt may be found in the multiple categories such as:

  • men’s shirts
  • business shirts
  • on sale

Ideally, the product page of a particular shirt would have the same URL no matter what category it is located in. However, some websites fail to do this and will show the same product page under different URL’s such as:

  • www.fancyclothing.com.au/mens/mensshirts/red-shirt
  • www.fancyclothing.com.au/mens/businessshirts/red-shirt
  • www.fancyclothing.com.au/mens/onsale/red-shirt

The Same Text on Multiple Pages

You may want to ensure that whatever page your visitors enter your website from; they can always find out about the core product/services your business offers, or the key reasons why you’re the best at what you do. Even though the pages contain different URL’s this can still cause problems. For example, if you’re trying to rank for the term ‘business consulting’ but you have the same text describing business consulting on 10 pages, which page is Google supposed to display in their results?

www, no www, https / http

It’s not entirely necessary to enter the exact URL of a website for it to be displayed. For example the Contactpoint website can be accessed by typing different combinations such as:

  • https://www.contactpoint.com.au
  • http://www.contactpoint.com.au
  • www.contactpoint.com.au
  • contactpoint.com.au

You will notice that whichever URL is used, it will always direct to https://www.contactpoint.com.au. This has been implemented as our preferred URL, and it is easy for Google to identify.
We find that some websites do not direct to a preferred URL, simply retaining the URL which was entered. Website visitors won’t notice a difference, however Google sees this as four duplicate websites instead of one unique website.

When performing an SEO review, we search for any possible duplicate content issues which may be harming your search engine ranks, and implement solutions which improve the ranks without harming your visitor’s ability to navigate the website with ease.

By now you can probably gather that search engine ranks are influenced by a vast number of factors. By helping clients to overcome these factors and implement strategies to reach their target market, we create what is in many cases a business’ number one marketing channel. Contact us now for an obligation-free discussion about how we can assist your website to rank higher in Google searches.

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The Importance of User Testing

May 31st, 2017 by Kaveh Saket

image-user-testing

With the imminent soft-launch of Activeperform, the Contact Point designed and built software platform for the health and fitness industry, user testing is top of mind. Of course, it’s far too late to begin user testing on the launch of your software; user testing must start at the very first mock-up of your potential product. However, once you launch your app, user testing takes on a different form. Your app is now out in the wild and being used by real people to fulfil real world tasks. There’s nothing hypothetical about it.

User testing is vitally important because app users have become very fickle … it’s so much easier now to install and integrate a new app with your other systems, so if your users aren’t delighted, they will readily move on when the next app in your space is launched.

The purpose of user testing is to ensure that the user:

  1. Can carry out the task they need to do, quickly and easily,
  2. Gets exactly the result they expect, and
  3. Enjoys carrying out the task using your app.

User testing is not a once off process. Every time you decide to add a feature to your product, you need to test again to ensure that the new feature has damaged the flow of existing features, and of course that the new feature also meets the 3 objectives stated above. Feature improvements similarly require user testing.

The earlier user testing can be done, the better. Sometimes product owners (the person charged with directing the features of an app) can believe that their customers want a certain feature, only to find that adding that feature, after spending considerable time and money to design and build, makes little or no difference to the success of the app. An example of a user interface change that actually reduced the performance of an app is the introduction of infinite scrolling into Etsy in 2012. With the benefit of hindsight, the product owner has since admitted that they could have tested their hypothesis- that introducing infinite scrolling would result in more purchases – by making smaller, quicker changes to the app and measuring.

There are now many tools available to assist with user testing, making it much more accessible without large amounts of resources (people and money). For example, within Activeperform we will be utilising Flurry to track how our users utilise the apps.

If you would like to help us out by testing the new Activeperform app, please get in touch!

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Why not offshore my app development project?

April 17th, 2017 by Heather Maloney

onshore your app developmentOkay, you’re going to think I’m bias – I own a web & mobile app development company based in Melbourne, Australia, so of course I want to discourage organisations from offshoring the development of their apps.

However, fact of the matter is that I’ve heard countless war stories of offshored developments that have gone wrong … either the whole development has been thrown in the bin due to a poor quality result, or a project that was meant to be delivered by a particular date for a specific cost has escalated in both time and cost. My organisation has been the beneficiary of such malfunctioning projects, but not before the organisation has been through months of pain and disappointment prior to arriving at my door.

Apart from the issues of getting what you actually want, in an appropriate time, and for the low cost you expect from offshoring, there’s a third concern – security of your intellectual property. How do you really know that your solution isn’t being re-used for other foreign organisations to achieve the same or similar outcomes in their local market or the global market? If you needed to pursue a competitor for theft of your IP, doing that in a foreign country is going to be exponentially more difficult than locally. The risk of reputational damage to a local provider also provides you with additional leverage if an issue arises.

So why do off-shored projects so often go wrong? Anecdotally it would seem that the following issues are the primary reasons:

  1. Communication – first and foremost, effectively communicating your requirements is best done with the person/s carrying out, or at least overseeing, the development in the same room. Offshore developers try to overcome this with business analysts in Australia preparing vast documents on the required solution, adding time and cost to the project. Because the analysts are primarily in Australia, passing on of the information usually relies on the developers reading the vast amount of output and then following it … again inefficient, and developers aren’t known for wanting to read long documents before they start coding.
    Offshore developments usually require additional management in order to manage the offshore teams and co-ordinate communication, reducing the benefit of the lower developer hourly rates.
    Agile methodologies require close proximity of the developers and the clients to be successful.
  2. Time Zone – the effect of working in different time zones almost always adds to the project timeline. Someone has to wait until the start or the end of the day to communicate with the team, and when one team is working, the other isn’t, making asking a quick question in order to keep progressing down the right path either very difficult, or adverse for the work-life balance of team members.
  3. Cultural Differences – written English is heavily subject to interpretation. Cultural differences can increase the likelihood of incorrect interpretation. Trying to achieve a solution that feels like it was built for the Australian marketplace is also less likely from an offshore team, which is why design (UI & creative) is rarely carried out offshore.

From time to time I am asked to manage an offshore team in order for a client to get the benefit of lower cost developers. I always politely decline. We are able to develop great solutions, in a timely and cost effective manner because we have our developers in the same room, can have efficient discussions and decision-making about the developments if a difficulty arises, and because our clients are also close to the developers when the need arises. We also bring to our clients many years of experience, industry knowledge and of course cultural understanding.

There are times when you can’t get the resources you need, when you need them, locally such that offshore is the best option. But perhaps you should instead consider breaking down your development to smaller chunks so that a smaller, local team can meet your requirements. Smaller developments of shorter durations are also more likely to be successful, cost effective and deliver value to your customers and organisation more rapidly.

If you require a web or mobile application to be developed, I’d love to discuss the potential opportunity with you, so don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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Why Rebrand?

March 27th, 2017 by Heather Maloney

image-rebranding-squareThe visual identity (aka ‘logo’) of the Contact Point brand has just been updated, so the reason why businesses rebrand is top of mind. We are rebranding and have updated our logo for several reasons including:

1. To communicate our purpose more clearly
2. Modernise
3. Be more memorable

The Contact Point brand was established nearly 11 years ago. The visual identity of our brand comprises a hand-drawn asterisk; the idea was that if you were looking at a list of suppliers, you’d mark the one you wanted to contact with an asterisk. My Gen Y colleagues look at me blankly when I talk about written lists, and marking one with an asterisk. And let’s face it, we’re a technology company, so what place does written lists have in that? Time for a refresh!

Our business aim is to partner with our clients to help them be the contact point in their industry, by using the best technology solutions and digital strategies.

Our new logo contains a C, a dot / point in the centre, and a circle surrounding it which work together:
- To be easy to recognise.
- The outer circle reflects both the global nature of our work, as well as the team it requires to deliver.
- The overall logo is also reflective of a target. Our clients have goals that we assist them to achieve, and we are about making them the target – the contact point – of the right customers.

We would love your feedback re: whether you feel that our new visual identity successfully achieves the above goals. Stay tuned for our new website design which will better incorporate the new logo, as well as bringing the user experience up to date.

Other common reasons for rebranding include:

4. Change in purpose
Often such a change means that the brand no longer supports the organisation’s purpose.

5. Reaching new markets
New markets usually comprise people with different demographics, pain points, ways of communicating, and perhaps culture. A new brand may be required to better engage with that new target audience.

6. Consolidating multiple brands
Mergers and acquisitions usually combine brands that clash with one another. A rebrand in this situation will help the organisation to present a consistent message to the market.

7. Changing the name
A new name obviously requires a new brand when the visual identity is tied to or incorporates the original name. Imagine if Coca Cola changed their name (not likely given its value!). Their brand would most definitely need to change.

We regularly assist our clients with creating new brands, or refreshing their brand or visual identity. Feel free to get in touch if you would like to discuss this for your organisation.

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Use of Animation in Websites

March 3rd, 2017 by Chris Torralba

headline - website animation
The use of animation in web design is a current trend, although thankfully we haven’t returned to the days of flaming logos. Animations in websites work best when they serve a purpose and enhance the users experience. Adding animation to a website can bring a design to life, even if the motions on the page are subtle. Websites without any animation at all may run the risk of looking outdated. This blog post is going to look crazy busy, and you’d never combine so much animation in the one page, but below we describe the various ways animation can be employed to give websites that extra visual appeal and improve usability.

Attracting attention
Animations can direct the users focus to any point on the screen. As long as there are not many other competing elements on the screen, even the smallest amount of motion will grab attention. This can be used to influence what the user sees, or establish a visual hierarchy pointing them to important points on the website. Visuals like a slow fade, a box crawling in from the side, or a tile spinning to reveal more information are more preferable than the content suddenly appearing out of nowhere. In the example below animation is used to reveal the products tagline followed by a shop now call to action button.
animation to attract attention

Engaging the visitor
Animations can be used to point out possible ways for visitors to engage further with your website. The right animation in the right place can help get your message across and engage users. Animations as simple as changing the look of a button when the mouse pointer hovers over them can make your pages feel more alive and prompt visitors to select press or interact with your content. A good example of this would be an animated call to action button. Such buttons need to be displayed prominently on your website. Adding [restrained] animations make them more obvious and will let users know that they are interactive. In the example below when the mouse is hovered over the button not only changes shape and colour but produces bubbles as well.
Button hover effect

Web Forms
Animations when used correctly allow designers to produce faster, easier to use, and more productive web form experiences. Animating web forms is a great opportunity to add some subtle and interesting effects to a web page. Web forms are elements that your user will interact with and making them fun to use can enhance the experience. Because animated visuals can teach more effectively than words or static images animations can also be used to show a user how to fill out a web form, subtle animations can guide user interactions and make form filling less confusing. In the example below animation is used to let the user know when his details have been correctly processed.
Web form animation

Visual Appeal
Whilst animating for the sake of beauty can be easily overdone, making the user experience that bit more enjoyable or sophisticated will help to bring your visitor back, and help to encourage sharing of your website. Below is an example of a very subtle animation that just adds some class to the design of the image link.
animation for visual impact

What’s your favourite example of animation?

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Implications of the new Privacy Act on Email and SMS Marketing

February 13th, 2017 by Heather Maloney

privacy act changes and email and sms marketing Okay … this may seem a little dry, but hang in there; we will get to the nitty gritty as quickly as possible.

Email and SMS marketing in Australia is not only impacted by the Australian Spam Act 2003, but also the Privacy Act 1988 (as amended by the Privacy Amendment (Enhancing Privacy Protection) Act 2012). The Privacy Amendment Act came into force on the 12 March, 2014 and created a single set of Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) applying to both Australian Government agencies and the private sector, with some special situations for the medical profession. Whilst the Privacy Act does not apply to small businesses (those with an annual revenue of less than $3,000,000), it is best practice to adhere to the legislation regardless of your size.

As I see it, the most important change in the Privacy Act was more stringent disclosure about where your data can be stored, and ensuring that government agencies do not store their data offshore except in some very specific situations. NB: if you do provide your data to offshore organisations, you are responsible for ensuring that they do not breach the Australian privacy principles.

When undertaking email and SMS marketing, in order to comply with the Privacy legislation we recommend that you:

  • Use eNudge, because your data is stored on Australian servers, not off-shore and because eNudge makes it easy for people to un-subscribe (this requirement is now included in both the Privacy legislation as well as the Australian Spam Act).
  • Only store in eNudge the information that you absolutely require in order to be able to personalise your messages and analyse your campaign results.
  • Do not store or personalise on government identifiers e.g. tax file numbers and the like.
  • Document and follow your privacy policy, and have it easily accessible via your website.
  • Include a link to your privacy policy within your email message – your email footer is the best place for this.

What should be in your privacy policy?

  1. The kinds of personal information your collect & keep.
  2. How you hold it e.g. with eNudge you might say that your information is stored in a secure online database, within Australian servers, and only accessible by appropriate employees.
  3. For what purpose you collect, store, use and disclose the personal information, and most importantly, identifying where the disclosure may take place overseas including identifying the country.
  4. How a person can view & request correction of the personal information you are storing about them.
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Design-centric Application Development

December 6th, 2016 by Kaveh Saket

Design-centric application development

A design-centric approach to application development (that’s web applications and mobile applications – is there any other sort these days??) differs from customer-centric or technology-centric approaches which have been more common of recent years. A design-centric approach focuses primarily on ensuring that the user experience is perfect – or perhaps more accurately “nearly perfect”.

There is always room for improvement – another revision, a new update – and users want continual improvement to make their life easier. User experience has been made king because research shows that organisations which focus on design significantly outperform those who don’t.

In a customer-centric approach the customer is asked what they want, and then the designer will set about delivering to their requirements. In a technology-driven approach, the technologists build the best algorithm or new solution to solve a particular problem and then look for a customer who values the technical solution. However, following a design-centric approach the designer will research the best current solutions in the problem landscape, put themselves in the customer’s shoes, and determine to provide the simplest way to achieve the desired goals. Gathering feedback on the design from a variety of potential users of different levels of expertise follows, and leads to iterative refinement until the first version is achieved. The developers – the people who turn the design into reality – are then directed by the design team to ensure that the intended outcome is achieved.

The Uber mobile app is a great example of design-centric application development, which is a significant factor in its amazing success. Anyone who has used the Uber App will agree – from being able to see where the on-approach vehicle is on the map, along with the number of minutes until it arrives continuously updated until arrival, to seeing a photo of the driver and vehicle, one press to make a call to the driver, and immediate payment upon arriving at the destination without needing to handover a credit card. I could go on and on about the ease with which you can hail an Uber, and receive a brilliant experience of private transport…

One of the challenges of current application design is dealing with content. Having little visible content is a very quick way to send users heading for the hills … imagine Instagram with no photos when you launch it, or Twitter with no tweets to read, or Facebook with no posts. However, masses of content with no simple way to navigate it, can be just as off-putting. Requiring a user to search has been the standard approach for many years. Filtering and other ways of helping the visitor to easily drill down to the content they are most interested in, have developed more recently.

At Contact Point we have been embracing SCRUM methodology across our organisation, which also readily supports a design-centric approach. Starting with our client’s goals and objectives within their particular competitive landscape, and their customers’ wants and needs, we will:

  • undertake research into common solutions to the design problem at hand,
  • brainstorm other potential approaches with trusted and experienced colleagues,
  • wire frame the potential solution, getting feedback along the way,
  • apply creative design to the wire framed solution,
  • carry out user testing of the design, iterating as necessary to refine the solution, and
  • finally develop the solution, taking care to ensure that the essence of the planned user interaction is achieved

The above steps will be undertaken for each logical entity that collectively forms the solution, at the same time ensuring consistency throughout the solution as appropriate. After the development of each component, real user testing of people across a broad range of skill levels, will then lead to further refinement. Programmatic A/B testing will allow two or more potential solutions to be tested head to head to ensure the best solution evolves.

The successful execution of a design-centric approach involves many steps, and requires an appetite for iteration, well beyond the launch of a new solution. However, the results are impressive, and for all but the simplest of tasks, likely the only way to achieve raving fans of your solution. Design-centric doesn’t mean that the customer is ignored. In fact the opposite is true with a greater focus on experience combined with needs and wants. Neither is technology ignored – utilizing the most up to date and elegant technology is also paramount to ensuring a great user experience.

What is the best user interface you have experienced from a web or mobile application?

 

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Consumer Decision Journey – throw out the Sales Funnel model!

November 8th, 2016 by Heather Maloney

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As the creator of a broadly used email and SMS marketing solution (eNudge) for the Australia marketplace, I thought that over the years I would see a general improvement in the way email marketing campaigns were constructed and delivered. I’m sad to say that on the whole, nothing much has changed. eNudge provides a myriad tools to help you segment, target, automate, measure and analyse, but it’s in the execution where many people fall down. Business owners and marketers get busy, and then just flick off a quick email to get a spike in sales. They are content with a spike and move on.

However, I know there is a better way … there always has been. Many marketers refer to it as lead nurturing, and email campaigns (including the eNudge Message Series functionality) are an excellent way to nurture your leads. For many years, marketing personnel have been working with a Sales Funnel model in mind – a linear movement of a potential buyer through awareness, interest, desire and finally action (buy). Lead nurturing refers to understanding where your lead is in the sales funnel, and give them the next piece of information that they need to take them to the next step in the journey; the next step closer towards being ready to buy.

I could be placated if I saw email marketing being used more for lead nurturing … more value and information being supplied, in a logical flow, engaging with potential buyers and taking them down a path to understanding and trusting you. However, thoughts even on lead nurturing have moved on …

The changing landscape of information availability via the internet including the impact of social media, and more recent research into buyer behaviour, suggests throwing out the sales funnel model and replacing it with what is being called by McKinsey as the “Consumer Decision Journey“. McKinsey research revealed that far from systematically narrowing their choices, today consumers take a much more iterative and less reductive journey of four stages: 1/ consider, 2/ evaluate, 3/ buy, and 4/ enjoy, advocate, bond. During stage 2 (evaluate) where the Sales Funnel approach says the the options get narrowed down, this in reality is where the brands most active online often replace the brands that were in the original consideration list (perhaps added to the list because of traditional advertising). The consumer’s options actually expand during this phase and the originals often get thrown out where there isn’t enough information online or customer reviews to support them.

Even more critical in what is being seen now in consumer behaviour, McKinsey discovered that during the 4th stage (enjoy-advocate-bond) more than 60% of consumers conduct online research about the products after purchase – a touch point entirely missing from the sales funnel approach. It is during this after purchase where your customer will advocate for your product or service by word of mouth, and produce online content to help future consumers in the consider and evaluate phases.

Other recent research by the Harvard Business Review team has shown that achieving the “full” sale to a B2B client is best achieved by providing the opportunity for that client to purchase small prototypes or incremental products along the buying journey i.e. as part of the evaluate stage. For more about this read: “To Increase Sales, Get Customers to Commit a Little at a Time“.

It was no small task, but the Harvard Business Review article describes an example implementation of changing the view of marketing to that of the ‘Consumer Decision Journey’ lead to a new TV becoming the top seller on Amazon.com and the company’s best performer in retail stores, far exceeding the marketers’ expectations.

To ensure that your product or service is not thrown out by prospects during the Evaluate phase of the consumer journey, and to help new customers to Enjoy, Advocate and Bond:

  1. Make sure your product or service is present online, not only in your own website, but also in comparison sites and marketplaces (for B2C) and online communities (for B2B)
  2. Foster online reviews of your products and services via social media and 3rd party websites
  3. Provide rich and easily accessible information online for people who have already purchased your product or service to help them get the most out of it
  4. Introduce new ways to inspire existing customers to refer their friends and colleagues to you – think DropBox who give away additional storage space for referring business

Your email marketing activities should assist you with with each of the above. Email campaigns should be created specifically for new customers and should point to additional online resources, and specifically ask for reviews or feedback. Email campaigns to your wider database should reference case studies and additional information available to help prospects in the evaluate phase.

If you need help with:

  • creating incremental or prototype products to sell to your clients as they evaluate,
  • creating additional online content,
  • making your online content more engaging,
  • ensuring you have a vibrant social media presence,
  • ensuring your product or service can be found easily online (SEO), or
  • creating email marketing campaigns that engage,

don’t hesitate to get in touch.

We are passionate about helping businesses to grow using online technologies.

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