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Best Apps for Dealing with Isolation during the Coronavirus Outbreak

phone app for elderly couple

Once the preserve of long-distance relationships and those working away from home, messaging apps are now a lifeline for those self-isolating due to the coronavirus outbreak. Many families and the elderly are now using these messaging services to keep in touch. In fact, being able to communicate with each other is vitally important now more than ever, as human touch is forbidden and human interactions pared down to speaking through a pane of glass at best with those most vulnerable to the viral outbreak. Many families and elderly are not only searching for the best messaging apps but also the best game apps to keep them occupied at this time. In this post, we’ll focus on messaging apps, and look at the best ones available today to help you stay in touch with loved ones.

1. Link-Ages

When it comes to selecting the best messaging app for keeping in touch with loved ones, especially elderly relatives who may not be as tech savvy as younger family members, safety, security and ease of use are all of vital importance. Link-Ages is a messaging app that delivers on all three fronts. It allows family and friends to stay in touch by voice calls, texting and by video and is available on the most popular devices – smartphones and tablets. It’s simple and is ad free, so no more pesky pop ups during your calls, which can be distracting and confusing for those not so confident with new technology. In fact, Link-Ages was created specifically for care organisations, allowing them to share updates with family members in a secure, closed network, so you can be sure it’s been created with those most vulnerable in mind.

This messaging app also features built-in photo sharing, so you can create digital storybooks that can be looked back on when you’re apart. As quarantines lift, you can be sure that the children will be out and about before shielded individuals can easily be visited, so you can share an important calendar event to keep family and friends up to date and then easily share captured moments with them, keeping them in touch with the outside world. When it comes to ease of use, Link-Ages not only features large easy to read buttons and an uncluttered interface, but the app allows a nominated family member to assist a Hub user remotely; at a time when frustrations are building, knowing you can easily help everyone stay in touch makes all the difference. Finally, as this is a subscription service, unlike other social media platforms you can be sure that you’re talking on a safe and secure platform.

2. WhatsApp

Another incredibly popular messaging service, WhatsApp allows users to connect and communicate via instant messaging, audio and video calls. It’s a free service and uses your phone’s cellular or WiFi service to connect with others, so it’s a great option if you’re scattered all over the world. In terms of security, it offers end to end encryption, and works across a number of platforms, including Android smartphones and iPhones. What’s more, unlike Facebook Messenger, you don’t need a social media account to set up this service. You can communicate one-to-one or create groups, so it’s good for families, although there are no special features to assist elderly family members to understand the technology.

In terms of staying in touch with elderly relatives, one of the biggest drawbacks is accessibility. It’s only available as an app on smartphones; in order to access WhatsApp via an iPad or desktop/laptop computer, you have to log in via the WhatsApp website. As many elderly people will prefer to use these larger screens, this can make the user experience more problematic. Also, your profile picture is visible to everyone who has your contact number and anyone can get hold of your profile picture and status if they have your phone number; so while the messages themselves are encrypted, it’s not as secure as it seems.

3. Skype

We know that there are a plethora of newer messaging apps out there, but when it comes to staying in touch with elderly relatives, Skype is still a firm favourite. Available on smartphones, iPads and computers, this free service specializes in video chat and voice calls.

Skype has long been popular for international calls, and like WhatsApp uses cellular or WiFi data to make connections, so it won’t eat into your call plan. This is a great option for calls, but messaging is more complex, so its ability to fulfil communication needs at times like these is limited. It’s also a voice over internet provider (VoIP) so relies on a good internet connection and if your connection is slow, you’ll struggle to maintain a good connection. Another drawback is the security aspect; Skype users are more vulnerable to hackers, personal data breaches and downloading viruses and malware. If your family members are all computer literate then this is a great option, but when it comes to elderly relatives who are isolated at home or in a care setting, this probably isn’t the best option.
We hope that in these trying times, this article helps you decide how best to stay in touch with your elderly relatives. We will come through this, we will again be able to give them a hug, but in the meantime the most we can do for those who are isolated is to see them every day via the virtual world. The best way to do that will always be the least stressful way, and by using a service that’s easy for them to understand and brings the whole family together in a fun and enjoyable way.

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The Knights Foundation Teddy Bear Appeal

Raise Funds for Children

What is the Teddy Bear Appeal and What does it do?

The Teddy Bear Appeal raises funds for children within the community to have a family break in “The Knights Foundation Lodge”, absolutely free of charge.

It gives children with disabilities or terminal illness, along with their families, the opportunity to have some downtime in the luxurious 3 bedroom accommodation.

The lodge includes state of the art equipment and monitoring systems, all while in the centre of all of the parks amenities and close to the beach.

How can I support the Teddy Bear Appeal?

You can get involved with supporting #KFBearAppeal by creating a standing order for just £10 per month – the price of 2 costa coffee’s for the day!
This means your donation will put a child and family in the lodge for a day, equipped with all the entertainment passes and access to the park’s facilities.

It has currently got 62 donators which has raised £7440, this is constantly updating with the increase of supporters who join. You can follow the progress by downloading “The Knights Foundation Teddy Bear Appeal” App on Android and “KF Bear Appeal” on iOS.

We have helped contribute to this App by developing it for The Knights Foundation, and signed up to the Teddy Bear Appeal as we are passionate in supporting these families with holidays they so desperately need.

The App has also been sponsored by Paris Smith LLP, who have specialist lawyers who can help with any concerns or hopes you may have regarding the future of your child.

You can download the app and keep up to date by clicking a link below:-

Android

iOS

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App Store Optimisation – What Works and What Doesn’t Work

App Store Optimisation

Recommendations for App Store Optimisation

We read a lot of recommendations for App Store Optimisation. Some, in our experience, are valid – but many are not.

Obviously the most effective promotion comes from outside channels – advertising, social media, PR, etc. But how can you get app stores to rank you more highly and promote your app over others?

Keep Posting New Releases

App stores like new, fresh content. Newer apps will start to supersede your app if it hasn’t been updated for months. Rather than 2 or 3 large updates a year, release little and often. Try for once a week. It’s completely fine to post a new version with nothing more than a few wording or graphics tweaks. Apple and Google respect the fact that your app is in regular development. 

As a bonus, your users get notified when your app updates. This acts as a little advert, and drives usage.

Solicit feedback

Ask your users for reviews. Give them a couple of days’ usage before asking – the ones still using it after that time are the ones who like it, so you’ll get higher marks.

Respond to reviews

Respond to every review. Both Google and Apple allow you to do this, and they’ll boost you up when they notice you’re interacting with your community. It’s all about customer experience.

Your First Month Really Matters

App stores form first impressions pretty quickly. If after a month or so your app hasn’t been well received, your listing will be buried. We’ve been brought in to rescue apps in this state – and it’s a near impossible task. Keep on top of your app in the early days. When you get negative feedback, react quickly and fix problems urgently. Respond to your critics. Regularly post new releases.

Create an App Video

Whether you like it or not, app stores promote apps with videos above those without. A simple screen recording showing your app in use is all you need. No need for fancy effects or editing.

Tweak your Description and Keywords

As with search engine optimisation on the web, keep tweaking your app’s description and keywords. Try also changing the category. Google allows you to simultaneously test two versions of your listing to see which users respond to best.

Don’t Bother Creating a Web Page

I keep hearing people advise others to create a web page for their app. This is worthless advice. There is no correlation between having a web page describing your app, and your ranking in app store searches. There are sometimes other reasons why you might want to create a landing page – for example as the target of an advertising campaign – but don’t think that it will make your app more visible in the app stores. It won’t.

Don’t Add Fake Reviews

Don’t get all your mates to review your app. It looks a bit sad when an app gets 20 five-star reviews days after launch, then nothing more for weeks. App store spot it from a mile off, Google / Apple will demote you, and your mum wouldn’t be impressed either.

Ditto services which offer to post hundreds of reviews. Avoid.

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Launching a Successful App: What you Need to Think About, but Most People Don’t

How to Launch a Successful App

We’ve helped many new ideas find funding and grow into profitable businesses through our Incubator sessions (www.appsinthesky.com/incubator). These are the areas we find most often need our guidance; the most common things people need to think about, but don’t.

Selecting Launch Features

Almost every startup gets this wrong. If you’re seeking investment for an idea, your minimum viable product (MVP) is one that has only those features necessary to test the market. Include only what you need to show a user how it could one day work. Once you receive positive affirmation, you can expand it to a fully working product.

If you’re already funded, or self-funding, then you need to carefully consider what one single key value the user will get and provide no more than this. Superfluity here will cost time and money, and can also distract the user from what you actually want them to do.

What is Your Product?

The “product” is what you earn money on. In practice this can become obfuscated – but commercial success is dependent on a clear understanding of it.

Say your app is a game which is free to play but supported by adverts. Your “product” is not then the game, but rather the adverts, because you get paid whenever someone clicks on one. And the game must therefore be designed to maximise the number of clicks you’ll get – eg by making the ads relevant and very visible, but not annoying (because that will lose users, causing fewer clicks).

What does The App do?

You get 20 seconds or less to explain what your app does, or it gets removed. Don’t assume people will have studied your store listing, either.

Avoid anything that’s a barrier to getting started. No menu screens – get them started by making the decision for them. If setup is needed, work out what is the absolute minimum information you need and guide the user through entering it. Apps which start with a “nothing to see here” screen and expect users to work it out themselves won’t be successful. Games which don’t explain the rules, or require users to read the rules in one go, also won’t work.

How will People Find It?

The app stores are well frequented but their search functionality is terrible. Unless people search for almost exactly your app’s title, you won’t be found. There are tricks to optimise your listing (similar to SEO), but as a strategy for finding users it will seem naive to an investor.

What kind of person would be most likely to use your app? Really try to get into the head of your user. What websites do they read, who do they follow on Twitter, what will they Google to find you? Carefully targeted content marketing can be really effective. PR is another effective means, though often expensive.

These are the most common conversations we have with customers during our incubator sessions, and therefore in our experience the areas that people most need to consider when creating an app business. A knowledgeable investor (ie, the type you want to attract) will expect you to get these things completely right.

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5 Things To Look For in a Mobile App Developer

Mobile App Developers

The Characteristics to Look For in a Mobile App Developer

Mobile app development is a tricky, tricky thing. Some of our competitors get it right, but (and we’re not just saying this) many of them do not. There are a lot of poorly-developed apps around. We thought it would help to put together a list of what you should look for in an app developer.

To declare the elephant in the room: obviously, we’re app developers ourselves. If you need someone to develop an app for you, we’d love to help. But if you want to go elsewhere, that’s fine too. We’re writing this just to help you identify the good guys from the not-so-good guys.

1. Find Someone who Really Understands the Platforms

Each app store publishes a long list of dos and don’ts for apps. These are the rules for the platform, and they are very comprehensive. Here are the rules for Google Play, Apple iTunes, the Windows Store.

Some of them are hard-and-fast (such as not being allowed to use in-app payments for real-world goods), and some of them are guidelines (such as how the app responds to user interaction).

There are some rules that, if broken, your app will be immediately rejected. Conversely there are some guidelines which, carefully and sparingly, should be broken otherwise your app just won’t stand out from the crowd. A good app developer

2. …And Be Able to Tell You What Each Platform’s Users Expect

For example, both Android and Apple users expect to be able to share content (eg: post a link for what they’re looking at onto Facebook, or send a picture to a friend on WhatsApp), but the Android share icon looks like this: and the Apple one looks like this:. Put the wrong icon in, and users won’t know what it means, so your content won’t get shared.

As another example, Apple users expect their affirmative Next/OK button to appear in the top right hand corner of the screen. Android users expect it at the bottom. Put it in the wrong place and your users will probably find it, eventually, but the app will feel slightly odd and alienating to them.

If your app developer designs your app to look and feel exactly the same on each platform, it will feel wrong to your users, and potentially give an impression of poor quality. A good app developer will talk you through all the platform differences relevant to your app.

3. Someone Who Will Post the App to the Stores

Posting an app to the app stores is a complex business. There’s a lot of information to provide, a lot of hoops to jump through and, unfortunately, a lot of red tape to work against.

A specialist app developer will have done this a thousand times before and know exactly what to expect. For example they will know the sizes of all the screenshots needed, and they will know which export declarations to sign if your app uses encryption. They will also be able to advise on writing a good app description which is attractive to users.

4. …And Who Will Manage the Relationship with The Stores for You

The app stores can be very demanding – particularly Apple.

App store rules change all the time, and it can affect your store listing. When rules changes, you will receive a technical description of the updates your app requires. A good app developer should receive these notifications on your behalf, and explain what needs to be done to keep your app live. Without this your app could be removed from the store.

Sometimes (though rarely) an app is removed from the app store without warning. Your app developer should be able to find out why this has happened and what the solution is.

5. They Should be Able to Make the Most of Push Notifications

When managed properly, push notifications are fantastic – they are a great way of sending highly-targeted messages to individuals or groups of users. They can be very effective at engaging users and providing calls-t0-action without being intrusive.

Your developer should also be able to advise how to use push notifications for maximum effect. Sending too many, or saying the wrong thing, for example, will be a turn off to your users.

Push notifications require a particular, relatively complex, back-end system. A good developer will have created this for their clients, and it should allow you to send targeted messages to single users, and broadcasts to everyone.