Mobile devices are rapidly becoming the go-to choice for internet access for consumers.  Reading takes place on a wide range of devices, from a small smartphone to a large computer monitor. A design that works well on one screen size may not be readable on another. The user’s experience with your mobile app is paramount, and should be the outcome of significant thought, design, investment, testing, and refinement. It’s easy to discuss the need for an interface to be simple, usable, and concise. It’s surprisingly difficult to create an interface that fulfills those needs.

As designers, developers, and UX practitioners who strive to achieve business success through designing mobile experiences, we face many design challenges.

  • What is the right interface solution for my project (responsive design, adaptive design, native app, etc.)?
  • How do I choose the right navigation?
  • What is the right layout approach for maximizing the use of the screen real estate?
  • When and how should I use the various patterns/ screen elements available across mobile operating systems?
  • What are the interaction and visual design considerations across device types?
  • What are the best methods for prototyping and usability testing a mobile project?

Creating mobile user experiences that engages user’s forces us to rethink a lot of what we have taken for granted so far with desktop design. It is complicated in part by mobile-specific considerations that go hand in hand with small screens, wide variations in device features, constraints in usage and connectivity, and the hard-to-identify-but-ever-changing mobile context. Read More…

Intranet 101: If your employees still use email to request information that’s on your intranet, your intranet is failing.

Maybe it’s too hard to update, so everyone simply assumes the information there is outdated. Maybe the search functionality consistently returns irrelevant results. Maybe it’s not accessible from a smartphone or tablet.

Whatever the reason, the result is the same: poor user adoption has doomed your intranet.

For over 30 years, we’ve been building complex intranets for businesses and organizations of all types and sizes, leveraging the latest technology platforms to create beautiful, usable intranets that solve business problems and eliminate common user pain points.

Our latest whitepaper, Building the Intranet Your Employees Expect, walks you through the building blocks required to design an intranet that not only incorporates today’s capabilities and features, but will also be an essential system that gets adopted, used and loved by your employees. Download your copy today!

We’ve recently worked on several mobile app development projects for tablets and phones running iOS, Android and Windows. Thanks to these projects, we’ve identified some key do’s and don’ts for managing your product backlog requirements for mobile application development efforts.

Here are some of the common business features and technical requirements/constraints for both consumer-facing apps and corporate internal apps that could show up in the product backlog:

  • Responsive UX Design (screen size, orientation, device features, etc.) – for this you will need to identify a limited set of target device configurations for acceptance
  • Required corporate branding/corporate style guides
  • Choosing between a native app style UI that is device specific vs. a common style cross-platform UI
  • Stringent speed/performance targets for initial app loading, screen navigation, response to user actions
  • Connected vs. Disconnected Operations requirements – you need to clearly define what features work when there is no connection
  • Data security and Personally Identifiable Information (PII) protection
  • Support for multiple OS and multiple versions of an OS
  • Support for multiple types of mobile browsers
  • Integration with companion apps on the device
  • Cloud/web service integration to access corporate systems of record
  • App Store submission requirements (i.e. Google Play, Apple App Store and the Windows Store). Each store has its own unique sets of UX requirements, minimum performance, storage management, legal/copyright, privacy notification requirements, content age appropriateness designation, etc.
  • App version management
  • Code-sharing across device and OS platforms
  • Graceful degradation of the app functions in case of failures
  • Process improvement support, especially for corporate vs. consumer apps that are targeted for mobile workers
  • Security and device management for corporate apps

The items in the list above may all need to be considered when you first start working with the product owner to both build the product backlog for the mobile app and help define the overall scope and timeline for the project. For consumer apps deployed through app stores in particular, the timeline for publishing to the stores — and factoring in the review and acceptance process — needs to be considered up front. Read More…

2013 was a great year for AIS — we worked on exciting projects for our terrific clients, built some cool apps and won some cool awards. We were honored with the 2013 Microsoft Mid-Atlantic Cloud Practice Award and are among the first Amazon Web Services partners to earn a “SharePoint on AWS” competency. And throughout the year, we wrote and blogged about our passion for cloud computing, SharePoint, going mobile, and doing “more with less” for our government and commercial clients.

Here’s a round-up of 2013’s most popular posts and series, in case you missed them:

We have big plans for the blog for 2014 — more posts, more events and more compelling content from the entire AIS team. Stay connected with us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and check out our Events page for details on our free presentations and webinars.

Happy holidays, and thanks for reading!

The mission was critical, and the task complex: Ushering a print publication like Rolling Stone, a Bondi publication, into the digital age by providing them with a turnkey solution to present their print magazine archives online, for viewing on high resolution-connected devices of all shapes and sizes. Unlike other digital versions of magazines on the market, the new platform would allow the publisher to monetize its own unique brand through the years.

The Challenge

AIS needed to address multiple technical areas to provide the most viable solution for Rolling Stone and other archives.

  • Speed
  • Scale
  • Security
  • Continuous Delivery
  • High-Definition Presentation

Rolling Stone’s existing solution (‘print to digital’) only supported 100 issues, and AIS was challenged to multiply the output tenfold while reducing management costs and allowing Rolling Stone the freedom to design their interface in a way that matched and enhanced their other digital presences.

Solution

AIS implemented a multi-tier solution in the creation of the Bondi Archive Platform. The platform we built consists of a flexible, scalable website architecture using HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET MVC and SQL Azure. The system allows viewers to see exact replicas of the original print issues, something not offered by any other platform. Users can navigate using a mouse, keyboard or touch and can zoom in or conduct complex searches. Bookmarking inside the archive is available as is print, based on the publisher’s preference.

Results

The new archive platform has allowed Rolling Stone to join the online revolution and bring their print content online in its original format and context, thereby retaining copyrights. By serving the content directly from their own website or from the cloud, the company can avoid content restrictions and fees imposed by third-party aggregation platforms and app stores. The project and platform has been an unequivocal success. Rolling Stone chose to enhance its print subscriptions by offering the full digital archive at no extra charge. By tightly integrating their online content with the digital archive, a deeper level of interaction with readership has been realized.

Given the widespread use of the Android operating system running on today’s mobile platforms, Android development has become an excellent choice for enhancing a developer’s skill set. Fortunately for the seasoned .NET developer, learning Android development is not a huge stretch. While there are several avenues for .NET developers looking to break into the world of Android application development, currently the most popular options are made possible by utilizing any of the following technologies:

  • Xamarin platform
  • PhoneGap framework
  • Native Android development via Java

The Xamarin platform provides the ability for .NET developers to harness their C# knowledge, create cross-platform (iOS, Android and Windows) applications, reuse existing code and perform development within Visual Studio. The greatest advantage of utilizing the Xamarin platform is a reduced time to market while supporting multiple platforms. However, due to the additional Xamarin runtime contained within the final application, the footprint tends to be larger — this could be an issue, especially for some Android devices.

The PhoneGap framework is another option for writing Android applications.  The PhoneGap framework is a client-side web application comprised of HTML5 pages using CSS and JavaScript. While it’s possible to utilize Visual Studio to code and test the application, ultimately the code will need to be packaged into a real Android application. This will require an IDE such as Eclipse or JetBrains’s IntelliJ IDEA.  The PhoneGap Build service may also be used to accomplish the application packaging. While the PhoneGap approach will provide multiple platform support, the application type should be given consideration because the PhoneGap framework relies on JavaScript, which may have performance limitations compared with native Java Android applications.

While Xamarin and PhoneGap certainly have their merits for creating Android applications, native Android development via Java provides an opportunity to take advantage of a device’s full feature set with fast execution, all wrapped in a smaller package for more rapid downloads. For a complete discussion of the various mobile platforms’ benefits/drawbacks, please read Eric Svendsen’s excellent article where he provides plenty of depth on the issue.  For now, the remaining content of this post will be to provide valuable insight for .NET developers looking to expand their language set by utilizing native Java for Android development. Read More…

Mobile solutions are already transforming the way we do business and interact with customers, partners and colleagues, but many organizations are still struggling to fully embrace the changes and opportunities. Today’s workforce wants mobile technologies that allow them to work when they want, how they want, and from where they want. (And not to mention using whatever device they want.) Here are 10 reasons to rethink your current mobile strategy and fully embrace the concept of enabling a true mobile workforce.

1. Your workers want lightweight, handheld devices.

Slim and lightweight tablets are making it possible for mobile workers to carry them virtually anywhere without burden. Who wants to carry ruggedized bulky laptops anymore?

2. Tap into tablet innovation.

Innovations are happening at a breakneck pace in the tablet world. Even warehouses are now manufacturing tablets. Fold-up, roll-up or paper tablet, anyone?

3. Simplified app acquisition.

The app economy is expected to grow to $150 billion by 2017. Users simply love the ease of acquiring (and disposing) apps. Most of them already rely on a collection of apps to get their jobs done everyday.

Read More…

AIS developed a prototype web application that leverages open standards for real-time data sharing and geospatial processing. It’s highly suggested you read our first two blog posts on this application, part one and part two.

In this post, we are going to discuss three areas of improvement for the application. We wanted to improve collaboration, improve management of events by adding a search capability, and improve the edit capabilities. Read More…