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Archive for September 2011

SoupMobile: Our September 2011 Charity Selection

 

The mission statement of the SoupMobile consists of 3 simple words spoken by Jesus himself: "Feed MY Sheep." We believe He meant more than just food. He also meant love, caring, compassion, and shelter. In order to fulfill the words of Jesus, the SoupMobile has 3 main missions:

  • Feed the Homeless

  • Shelter the Homeless

  • Celebrate Jesus

Founded by David Timothy a.k.a. The SoupMan in 2003, the SoupMobile is a 'mobile' soupkitchen that began feeding the homeless. Unlike a regular soup kitchen where the homeless come to you, the SoupMobile is mobile and we go to where the homeless congregate to serve them. In our first year of operations we served 5,000 meals. At the time we thought it was a lot...

Now the SoupMobile serves an incredible 200,000 hot, nutritious, tasty meals per year to the homeless on Dallas' South side.  More than just food, we serve LOVE to our homeless friends.

With 10,000 homeless in Dallas and only 2,000 shelter beds, simple math tells us there is not enough "Room at the Inn." Without a place to sleep, keep their belongings (including clean clothes) and practice proper hygiene, it is almost impossible for a homeless individual to obtain a job and escape the pit of homelessness.

In 2009, SoupMobile launched its supportive housing mission: SoupMobile Village.  Unlike some shelters that are just a bed for the night, and against the common prejudice of "not in my back yard," the SoupMobile has created a cost-effective and innovative model for not only housing the homeless, but also returning them to contributing members of their community.

The Village consists of a series of group homes located in the Dallas area which are designed to be 'supportive housing' for the formerly homeless.  Supportive housing is a combination of housing and services intended as a way to help homeless men and women lead stable, productive lives.  Our supportive housing is coupled with partner programs that provide social services such as job training, life skills training, counseling services and mentorship.  That's the goal of SoupMobile Village — to teach them to fish and get them back on their feet as productive working members of their community.

One of our Senior Android Developers, Josh Ehlke, nominated SoupMobile for our monthly charity selection.  Josh says, "They try to tackle a big problem at a local level.  And, they do it by involving the community right here in Dallas.  In addition to serving hot meal's, they regularly recruit dozens of people on the weekend to help make sandwiches that can be distributed throughout South Dallas.  I've helped out on the weekend several times, and its always a great feeling to know I'm helping out those in my own community."

The SoupMobile and the SoupMobile Village are giving a "Hand Up," not a "Hand out."

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And now, a few of our words...

Here at Bottle Rocket Apps, we are ALL about the user when we begin our Strategy, Creative and Design process for our clients' iOS and Android mobile apps.  With that in mind, we offer a peek under the hood at our inner workings with a random collection of UEX, Marketing, and Brand terminology.  To us, it is important we all have a similar understanding when using these terms.

Audience Segmentation is used to for more specific targeting and providing the user greater relevance.  As an example, Pizza Hut segments it's consumers into three audiences. The Eating Machine (college age males that view food as fuel, eating pizza multiple times a week), the Families (family consumers that consider the pizza meal a family event once a month) and the Adventurist (not loyal to any pizza brand, eating pizza only a couple times a quarter).  In this case, a mobile app for the Pizza Hut Eating Machine might be designed very differently than an app for the Adventurist.

Brand Equities are the brand characteristics that positively set the brand apart from their competition and is partially responsible for their financial successes. mBrand equities for Apple would be beautiful design, usability, and different.  The apps we develop should exploit, extend and reinforce existing brand equities.

Exception Path is used to refer to a user story or screen flow that identifies an error path or paths outside of the Happy Path (see below).

Happy Path is used to refer to a user story or screen flow that identifies the path the majority of users will experience.  It does not include all the alternative paths, exceptions or alerts.  Usually a Happy Path is fleshed out and then a second iteration of the experience fleshes out the alternative paths, exceptions and alerts.

Key User Tasks are the actions the user is most likely to take.  Usually for an app, there are only a few.  Greater emphasis of experience design should be put on these tasks over other less likely user tasks.  Having only a few key user tasks also helps to keep the app focused and of value for the user.

Lo-Fi is short for Low Fidelity.  Low Fidelity techniques can be used to move design along quickly.  Pencils would be considered a Lo-Fi technique.  Photographing white board ideas and texting them to a client would also be a Lo-Fi technique.

Marketing-Centered Design is an approach to design that emphasizes business goals and marketing strategy.  It is more about the messaging being pushed to the consumer than what the consumer might truly desire.  Marketing-centered design in a casino forces you walk past hundreds of slot machines on your way to the bathroom.  A user-centered design would have put the bathroom in a convenient and easily accessible location.  Marketing-centered design is more common in heavily branded apps.  User-centered design is more common in more utilitarian apps.  Usually, we design for a delicate balance of both to satisfy both our clients and their users.

Production Value is used to describe the level of craftsmanship and polish put on something.  For example, one might claim Star Wars had a higher production value than Plan 9 From Outer Space.  It is usually in reference to aesthetics, it does not refer to how something works or if it is "buggy."  For purposes of a common understanding across the Bottle Rocket team before designing something, we discuss the production level for which we will be designing.  The production level is influenced by time available, budget, and client expectations.

Reason to Believe is a branding term referring to the end consumer's belief that a company can deliver on its brand promises.  This belief is often related to brand equity.  If I hear that Apple will be releasing an automobile, my reason to believe that it will be a good automobile is that they have a exceptional track record for beautiful design, usability and thinking different about the products they produce.  If our client puts an app in the app store and is asking me to pay $5 for it, as a consumer I will reflect upon my reasons to believe that company will put out an app worthy of the $5.

User-Centered Design is an approach to design that puts the user's desires and actions above all other design considerations.  It is an approach that greatly values user input and user testing.  Key user tasks are defined and heavily influence the design.  The chief difference from other product design philosophies is that user-centered design tries to optimize the product around how users can, want, or need to use the product, rather than forcing the users to change their behavior to accommodate the product.

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Bottle Rocket Apps launches both TBS and TNT for iPad

                      

For any fan of TBS or TNT who LOVES great TV, our brand new iPad apps are now live in iTunes App Store.  Featuring shows like "The Closer" and "Falling Skies" on TNT and "The Office" and "Seinfeld" on TBS, both apps allow you to watch full episodes of their shows and TNT offers full length movies.

With the TBS very funny iPad app, you can have access to your favorite comedies wherever and whenever you want. Watch full episodes of Conan, Tyler Perry's House of Payne, and more after authenticating through your cable or satellite provider. You can also check out episode guides, watch clips and behind-the-scenes videos, set schedule reminders and more.

Get the most dramatic app you'll ever need for complete access to your favorite TNT shows wherever and whenever you want.  With TNT for iPad, check out episode guides, watch clips and behind-the-scenes videos, set schedule reminders and even watch full episodes of The Closer, Falling Skies, Rizzoli & Isles and more after authenticating through your television provider.  Every life needs a little drama--now, you can take it with you wherever you go, for free.

For more details, see TNT.tv and TBS.com to watch videos describing these entertaining and awesome apps.

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Gaming: Not a Spectator Sport

Today, according to the Mobile Marketing Forum's 2010 Annual Research Report, one out of every four entertainment dollars is spent on games.  Rabid, hardcore gamers bring in big dollars (ex. the game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 grossed $401 million the FIRST DAY!

However, increasingly, it's not just hardcore gamers bringing in the money.  The assumption that the average gamer is a socially isolated teen-aged boy is inaccurate.  Gamers are 57% male and 43% female, and the advent of social media gaming has greatly diversified the gaming audience.  Gaming is a nearly $20 billion market.

As the gaming market moves forward, the balance of revenue between hardware and software is bound to shift.  The iPhone- and Android-based devices are attracting developers, and as the number of mobile gaming applications and the sophistication of smartphones grow, the market for portable devices and user expectations will increase.

While serious gamers make significant investments in hardware and accessories, the casual gamer keeps things much simpler and cheaper.  Large gaming companies like Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft have focused primarily on the hardcore segment, often to the exclusion of the gamer who doesn't want to dedicate hours upon hours with a headset and complex controller to reach the next level of a game.

What the iTunes App Store games have taught gaming companies is that there is a large untapped opportunity for casual, social games that may not command the same $40 price, but they also require less money and effort to develop.  At the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in March 2010, the evolving emphasis was clear.  For the first time, there was a separate event just for the iPhone, the iPhone Games Summit.  The emergent part of gaming now is next-gen mobile led by the iPhone.  The focus is on $250,000 games, rather than $25 million.

According to smartphone applications analytics group, Flurry, Apple's app storefront has already emerged as a serious gaming platform.  Its social gaming inventory draws a daily audience of 19 million who spend more than 22 minutes per day with the applications.  In terms of reach, that places the size of this audience somewhere between NBC's Sunday Night Football and ABC's Dancing with the Stars and only 4 million pairs of eyeballs shy of the top show in American primetime television, Fox's American Idol.

Gamers have grown up from the Atari generation of the 1980's.  This activity is no longer for the socially isolated.  In fact, gamers are among the most socially connected 2.0 enthusiasts.  They have a passion for their pastime and a willingness to pay for their addiction.  They are also more sophisticated in caring for their support needs.  Finally, their acceptance of in-app advertising that does not disrupt the gaming experience creates yet another revenue stream to tap into this lucrative market.  So, if you haven't considered servicing gamers, perhaps it's time to get off the sidelines.

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Mobile Design Imperatives

As the web evolved over the years, companies pursued a basic mobile strategy that could be summed up as follows:  Cram all the content you can onto a website, and then adapt it for mobile use by lopping off a few pieces.  Trimming down content to fit on a smaller screen may have made the presentation more “mobile friendly,” but it didn’t really focus on what mobile users wanted, and how to truly engage them.

To structure the customer interface and integrate all of the company's touch-points (i.e. a physical store, customer service phone lines, a web site), the company must address three key issues when designing a user-focused mobile experience:   the right mix of essence and flexibility; the right mix of style and substance; and time in relationship to the interface.  It's not specifically about smartphones, tablets, apps, or wireless... it's about enabling friends, family, prospects, customers to enjoy 360-degree engagement.

Start by understanding your users and design an experience with their priorities in mind.  Unlike desktop and laptop users, who multitask between work, play and casual research, mobile users are focused.  Smartphone users are transaction-oriented.  Then, account for the newest users in the mobile camp — those equipped with tablets. They’re focused on a broader and more immersive experience.

User-experience focused design (digital branding, interaction design, and content) combined with technology (platforms, processes, and integration) drives the marketing messages for acquisition, retention and growth leading to complete engagement on mobile, social platforms and search.  Put the user in the driver's seat... Mobile is the most personal of digital devices, and consumers are being trained to expect mobile experiences that are personalized, device-appropriate, location-aware and available but not intrusive.

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