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Android Evangelist Luke Wallace speaks at Mobile+Web DevCon

Our lead Android Developer, Luke Wallace, recently attended Mobile + Web DevCon in Chicago - a semi-annual conference focusing on both native & mobile web development, Luke has spoken several times on a variety of Android topics. This time, he focused on Building a Compatible Android UI, describing how Bottle Rocket builds apps that work on thousands of different devices, without being burdensome to designers or developers.

When asked his thoughts on trends he’s saw at the conference, he had these words:

"Mobile is really getting personal. It’s no longer appropriate to just build an app that checks the boxes of functionality. You need to make a connection with the user, and fit in with their life, not try to conform them to your vision of how to use the app. This can really take a functional app to the next level, resulting in more downloads, more usage, and more satisfaction from the user."
 

Luke’s presentation aligned with this thought by giving attendees tips on how to personalize their Android apps to look great on all sorts of Android devices. He split his talk between discussing design and development, giving attendees tips on how their apps could look, as well as how to do the implementation. A few of the key takeaways included:

  • Use dp, not px - Pixel counts are not as important on Android due to the various densities of different displays. Use the built in metric of dp to make your app look consistent across devices.
  • Group devices into buckets - Although there are thousands of devices, there are four big groups that most of these fall into: small phones, large phones, 7” tablets, and 10” tablets. Think about the design on those four, and you’ll handle nearly every device well.
  • Squash & Stretch & Scroll - Much like web design has changed to handle various browser window sizes, Android apps can be built to handle small variations in screen size. Think about screen elements in terms of relative placement, and decide which areas would stretch on a slightly larger screen.

Bottle Rocket strives to follow these best practices, and bring a personal experience to every user of our apps. With help from great Rocketeers like Luke, we’re able to push ourselves, our clients, and our users to the next level of great user experiences.

Luke Wallace

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Meeker Releases Annual Report

Mary Meeker  - a juggernaut in the venture capitalism world known to some as the “Queen of the Net” – recently released her latest report on Internet Trends.

The report, released by Meeker’s partner VC firm KPCB, has been an important reference in Bottle Rocket’s back pocket when it comes to discussing the leading edge of mobile innovation.

Some important points from the 2014 report:

  • 30% of all mobile users are now equipped with smartphones

One of the most important considerations we make is where eyeballs are moving and how we can follow them. With the percentage of mobile users on smartphones climbing every year, it means more and more eyeballs are on iPhone and Android screens.

  • Tablet shipments increased 53% over the last year

Tablets changed the landscape of mobile app development by providing a completely new layout and altering how users play with apps.

  • People spend 20% of their time consuming media on mobile
  • 84% of mobile owners use devices while watching TV (second screen)

Bottle Rocket has strong experience developing for second screen experiences – such as Showtime SYNC. Second Screen experiences bring the user into their favorite shows with interactive content and social media integration.

According to Meeker the tech boom we are currently experiencing does not have the same valuation risks as the “dot com” bust. With the continued increase in mobile screens there are new market opportunities that will utilize these devices to extend brand capabilities in new ways. Meeker also points valuation of Chinese companies as a foundation for continued strength in technology. 

Another interesting stat from Meeker’s report references the explosion of screens across the globe.

A decade from their inception, mobile devices are already 4-5 times greater in unit volume shipments than TVs and PCs.

Previously we’ve referenced Meeker’s 2013 report to discuss the massive potential for advertising on mobile.

Calvin Carter, our Founder and CEO, leveraged the same content during a talk in Austin last May:

"Mobile is an underutilized channel. That might seem like I'm overstating things because there is so much conversation about mobile. CMO's are likely saying "Are you kidding me, it seems like all we talk about is mobile". But take the time consumers spend in a channel compared to the amount of money spent advertising in that channel [see picture above]. In 2013, we spent about 4x more on ads in print than people spent time looking at print. TV is on balance. Internet and radio could actually nudge up a little bit in their spending relative to the time consumers spend there. But there is 4x as much usage on mobile than we are spending on mobile.  While it seems all we do is talk about mobile, it could be argued that advertisers and brands are not fully leveraging time spent in that channel.”

Mary Meeker’s work has helped us to analyze important trends in digital and mobile, and we’re looking forward to fully digesting KPCB’s latest findings.

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Bottle Rocket welcomes Epic Games

Bottle Rocket opened its doors to Epic Games last night for their “Dallas is Unreal” Indie Developer meet-up.

From 6-9 p.m., representatives from Epic Games hosted members of the community at our offices and showed off demos of the new Unreal Engine 4.

The new engine boasts “new workflow features and a deep toolset” that allow developers to iterate on ideas quicker, all while providing complete C++ source code access.

“We want this to be as widely available as possible,” Epic Evangelist Andy Hess said. “By making the tools available to everybody, amazing things happen.”

Hess and his team gave live demos showing off new post-processing effects and animation previews – all aimed at making developers’ lives easier.

We’re excited to see what local indie developers do with Unreal 4 and are looking forward to seeing the guys from Epic Games again!

Check out the Unreal Engine 4 website for more information. 

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Six-year-old dazzles with app idea

Those close to Bottle Rocket know our story started with a few sketch pads from Office Depot and the passion to build something amazing.  We keep that tool close, by always having sketch pads around our office to get our ideas down on paper!  We have iPad and iPhone versions that we have passed along to many of our clients and partners.  

Recently we heard an amazing story from our friend Richard Smith at IBM.  Richard’s 6-year old son Cole is a MASSIVE Star Wars fan and had an idea to create his own iPhone game!  Cole used Bottle Rocket graph paper to sketch out his ideas.  

It is evident by his designs, he had a clear vision of what he wanted and was heading in the right direction! In Cole’s game, players choose a good guy and a bad guy to fight.  Check out his sketches:

 

Cole was to share his project at his school’s science fair and enlisted Bottle Rocket’s Partner Channel Manager for a bit of advice before submitting.   After talking to Darin about the idea, Cole felt a boost of confidence and entered his game into the contest.

Out of 80 entries, Cole’s game was one of fifteen projects displayed around town!

We’re expecting more great things from Cole. Give it a few years and he may just turn into a Rocketeer.

It’s always great to see the things we are most passionate about extend beyond a glowing screen and inspire others… especially children!

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What if you could hit restart on your UX department?

The ever changing approach to UX 

Four years ago, I assumed building mobile user experiences would simply be another form of digital experience. Each digital medium has some unique considerations, but for the most part, the learning curve was not that great. I have found that is not the case for mobile, the learning curve is significant and it has pushed us to examine the work, the way we work, and the people doing the work. What old assumptions are we working under that may not work or could be improved? 

Some things never change. Communication, collaboration, and working iteratively still apply, but it is the way in which we do those things that could be improved. Here are three things we are doing to build a better mobile experience in the UX group.

Working publicly 

We highly encourage people to work big, and on a white board near their team. This is different than working on a screen or drawing on a piece of paper. If someone is drawing out an experience on the wall, it is an unspoken invitation for others to view. Every time someone asks what they are doing, a conversation is had and it is a form of iteration. Those simple iterations strengthen and vet the idea before any code is written. It also creates an interesting short cut to team alignment on things. Even after the white board is erased, team members will reference an idea by pointing to the spot on the board where the idea used to be, quickly gaining an understanding.

No more Art Directors 

Same people, just a different name. The actual “art” aspect is getting smaller.  Photoshop used to be the primary tool for an Art Director, but mobile experiences include so much more. In mobile, screens are expected to crack open, flip over, and morph. Transitions and animation require an understanding of motion and timing. Much of the layout and design is done programmatically by tweaking code. As we move to wearables and the Internet of things, screens are minimized or may not exist at all, who will design haptic feedback? So, it’s less about visual design and more about holistic UX design.

Iterate good ideas, not bad 

Too much reliance on process can create a false trust that the process and iteration will evolve a mediocre idea into something better. That’s not true and stops us from continuing the search for a good idea. The UX team needs to fly fearlessly, willing to trash the only idea they may have in search of a new one. It’s easy to recognize a good idea, but hard to recognize a bad one. The moment you suspect an idea may be bad is the same moment you may want to step back and rethink the problem that you are attempting to solve. I have seen UX teams spend way to much time and effort attempting to fix a bad idea.

Prepared by Michael Griffith 

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Recent News

Bottle Rocket App’s new 49,570 square-foot space, not only almost doubles the size of its current offices in Addison, it provides it with a more-conducive environment to a fast-paced tech company, founder Calvin Carter said.

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