Apps World NA 2015: Making the 5% of Successful Apps

Apps World North America 2015

Mike Schneider is the VP of Marketing at Skyhook. Skyhook is one of the big three location network services (alongside Google and Apple), and the only one that focuses on location as its core product. He gave a great talk on using context and location data to create dynamic apps.

The difference between an everyday and a ‘vital’ experience is that vital experiences satisfy a need for users that supersedes functionality. Mike recommends creating dynamic states in your apps to increase the frequency of those vital user experiences.

Dynamic states can be incorporated into the app using contextual or location data. Mike split these into two camps:

  • Designing for Place sets the app to a particular mode when the user is at a location they frequent.
  • Appticipation uses contextual information to display functionality just before or just in time for the user to want to undertake the related action.

There are also two types of contextual data that he recommended drawing from:

  1. Location data
    Typically, the user device will pass longitudinal and latitudinal data, along with the device unique ID. The app should at least be able to draw on semantic information, such as the address, venue name, venue categories, and perhaps any events that are occurring at the location at that time or in the near future.
  2. Historical data
    If a user repeatedly goes to a location over a period of time, then you could develop appticipation states for when the user is at that location.

Drawing from Robert Scoble and Shel Israel’s Age of Context (2013), Mike also pointed out that there are actually five types of data that apps could draw on for an even more dynamic UX:

  1. Device data
  2. Sensors – speed, elevation, and the like 
  3. Social – such as links to various social profiles
  4. External Data – for example, weather or stock trading data
  5. Location

I had a brief chat with Mike after the session. We discussed the fact that none of this is particularly new information, but that the technology to implement it has finally caught up with the visions that he and others (including many people I’ve worked with) have been spruiking for years.

One of the questions we discussed was why a mobile app conference didn’t include more contextual and location based technology on the floor – you’d think there would be iBeacons set up with every stand, as people registered, and the like. It seems the implementation of these technologies is still lacking, even if the ideas aren’t that new and the tech is available.

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