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5 Things Learned From Business Awards

The last 7 months have been a whirlwind of award submissions, creative writing, social media shares, interviews, shortlisting and finalist dinners, finally slowing down now in preparation for Christmas (YAAAAY!!!).

So, now’s the perfect time to take stock of what we’ve learned from our first awards season.

Awards Are Fun…
The interviews, the finals, the people you meet; sharing, learning, collaborating.
All fun, all worthwhile – have a go and see!

Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously…
So many of the professionals who came to interview us told us how our submissions stood out, for our passion and humour. As we stated in one submission, “Life is a rollercoaster, just gotta ride it”
(Ronan Keating, 2000).

Music Is Essential…
Unpicking the essence of who we are, what we do and what we wanted to demonstrate has been an emotional process, but music helped every step of the way. From initial discussions with our CEO, singing Duran Duran (A View To A Kill) at the top of his voice, to the more muted, chilled tones of Passenger aiding the 3am creativity spurt for our final submission drafts: Music holds the key (pun intended!).

Everyone Enjoys A Good Story…
It’s not all about numbers, though by all means use them to back-up your working vision.
The best feedback we received was that our creative elements really stood out as bright spots against some of the more typical submissions. Sponsors have really enjoyed reading about our badger, our mage and our story-weaver – if you’re passing sometime, come round and see if you can work out who is who!

Be Yourself…
We are all better than we realise, and being yourself is the most important thing – you won’t earn respect by pretending to be something you’re not, so take a deep breath, let go of your fears and give it a go.
You might even win!


For further information about apps and app development,
or to hear more about our awards adventures, get in touch at hello@appsinthesky.com or talk to us on 01256 274108.

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App Store Optimisation – Mobile App Marketing Tips

In December 2017 we wrote an article on app store optimisation. A lot has changed since then, particularly in the Google camp, and App Store Optimisation (ASO) techniques now follow entirely different patterns. Read on to find out what our CTO, Tom Colvin, has to say about it now…

“In the web world, any half-intelligent search engine optimisation consultant will tell you there’s no gaming the system any more. Your website will rise to the top of the search engine listings only if it’s actually the most useful match for the user’s query. The site has to be high quality and well respected. Well, the same applies to apps in the app store.

“In my view Google Play is the best app store on any platform because it naturally promotes the best quality apps to the top. Users get the best apps with very little searching, and the best app developers get rewarded for their efforts. But how specifically does Google measure the “quality” of an app?

“Right now, it’s all about retention. Google believes that if a user is still using an app after a month then they’ve had a good experience. So your app is rated – almost exclusively – on how many new users are still using it days/weeks later.

“It used to be about updates, ratings and reviews (inc responses to reviews). These things are no longer all that important. Sure, they’ll probably feature somewhere in Google’s formulae, but retention trumps them all. Even, perhaps counter-intuitively, star ratings.”

So, how do you improve retention?

Make it EASY to use

This is in many ways fundamentally obvious advice. But how to go about making software easy to use is a massive topic. Suffice to say a good UI/UX which makes it totally clear how to use the app will reduce drop-off in retention.

A common mis-step is to provide a couple of initial instructions on how to use the app. If your app needs instructions, you’ve designed it badly. If you really, really have to tell your users something then use tooltips or similar, but only at the point at which the information will help them.

 

Set the right EXPECTATION for first use

Users will give your app listing very little time; mostly looking at pictures (screenshots) rather than what you’ve written. They usually have a very specific task or experience in mind and will give your listing a very brief glance. If it suggests your app will meet their needs, then they’ll give it a go.

But if your app doesn’t immediately provide what the description tells them to expect then it’ll get uninstalled or never used again. (For the sake of retention figures, these two outcomes are equivalent).

 

Keep it FRESH

If your app is content-based, for example a level-based game rather than a utility, then keep adding new content. Users are more likely to revisit apps when they expect to see something new each time. You can visit the BBC News app 5 times a day and it’ll show something different every time; this drives reuse.

 

Improve USER EXPERIENCE on first use 

If you need users to sign up, ask as little as possible from them. If signing up is complex, or if it feels buggy or asks too many questions, your app will get dumped. Some of our most significant gains in ASO have been had through small tweaks, making processes more straightforward and removing complication in first use.

INVITE users back

Use push messaging to re-invite users back to your app. Keep push messages personal rather than generic – so for example if I’ve bought a product from you before, tell me when there’s a special offer on something that goes with it. Don’t tell me you’ve started stocking a new brand of cat food, because I haven’t got a cat.

 

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Once Upon a Time: Becoming an Employee of the Year Finalist

One of our star team members, Liam Smith, has been nominated for the Eagle Biz Employee of the Year Award 2019 and made it into the final three! We sat down for a chat and asked him to tell us a bit more about how he got to where he is today…

The Liam Smith Story

When you look at this quiet, fairly unremarkable young man sitting before you, hunched over at his desk, head down, tapping away at his keyboard, pausing momentarily to check something then tapping away again, you could easily be fooled into thinking that he’s nothing special. This is where you’re wrong. Liam Smith, or Leebo as he’s known around the office, is our SECRET WEAPON.

Understated, but never underrated. Always pushing himself to do better, learn more, code faster, be the best at everything he turns his hand to. Leebo doesn’t shy away from the unknown, he tackles it head on, full throttle. Unsure of something – our CTO reports that Liam is a smart researcher, canny and adept at using all the tools available to him to find the information he needs to move on further in the game – that is the game of app development, where one false move could result in more than just an ego tumble.

Long long ago Liam came to us, a wizard’s apprentice with a lot of untapped potential, searching for an opportunity to shine.  He immediately took to our office of nerf wars and nerds, quickly becoming an integral part of our family. Described by some as quirky and tenacious, Liam’s infectious enthusiasm is fuelled by all things technological, fantastical and the occasional McFlurry (crunchie please!).

Read on to find out more about the mage behind the rainbow keyboard… 

How did it all begin?
“When I was younger, I did a bit of programming at school and found I enjoyed it, especially the balance of creativity and problem-solving. I had a dream of doing video-gaming, and that is still a some-day goal of mine.
Following school, I spent a couple of years at college, studying IT Software. Then 3 years ago, I found myself working in my local supermarket, fed up and frustrated. I kept thinking back to my gaming ambitions, but I realised that I needed to further my skills to get potential employers to give me a chance. After a long conversation with my Dad one night, I researched apprenticeships online, found out the information I needed – funding, options, how to apply and went for it; everything else just followed on from there.”

How do you end up working for Apps In The Sky?
Apps In The Sky (AITS) was the first company I clicked on, and they gave me what I needed – the confidence to believe in myself again and the opportunity to learn and grow.
It was challenging work to begin with. Starting out on the Android development team, I pushed myself relentlessly to master the commercial software languages, the stuff that wasn’t covered in my college classes. I think I’ve proved myself a hard worker, and now I’m learning how to become a specialist in iOS development too.”


What challenges did you encounter?

There were periods when it was really tough; I found it tricky learning how to manage my time and develop the discipline required to balance college assignments with real-life apps that I was working on. Fortunately AITS were fantastic, supporting me to complete my apprenticeship with flying colours and pushing me to succeed at something I love.”

So what now? 
“Being part of the AITS team is brilliant. I feel like I have come a long way in such a short space of time. I’ve also written a few computer games, 2D platform and puzzle games, and AITS have given me encouragement all the way. I love coming to work now – the sense of achievement, and skill required. The fact that every day brings something different is what keeps me motivated and hungry to learn more.”

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Expos – Why We Bother…

Next week, we are heading to SME 2019 in Farnborough, which got us thinking about why we like going to expos, why expos matter, why they’re a fantastic platform for business activity….


Everything is mobile-influenced. We live in a mobile-first world.

Technology is rapidly advancing. Attending exhibitions is more than just a way to find new leads. We can experience for ourselves the hottest and most innovative devices, be on the front-line for pioneering demonstrations, and discover what the latest gadgets are.

Last year we came away with the usual pens, coasters and assorted treats, plus 3D printed plastic models of our best-looking (😉) team members – how cool is that?!


Check out some other reasons we go to expos……

To Make Friends
Walk in with an open mind, a happy face and inquisitive self. Your fellow exhibitors are under the same pressure as you to deliver an ROI. Say hello! Have a chat, share a joke. Give them a wave and impart your challenges, visions and passions – who knows where the journey will lead? Their best client might be your ideal prospect.
To Encourage Ideas
At exhibitions we talk with like-minded people, value contrasting opinions, partake in energetic discussions. We make the most of this opportunity to meet a diverse group of companies and individuals, forging new connections, which often lead us to discover exciting new concepts!
To Showcase Fun-Tech
We like to create a reason for attendees to come and talk to us – stop, take a look, have a chat, grab their attention and have some fun in the process. We love having a thought-provoking talking point to enhance our company visibility, something that demonstrates our impressive manufacturing App skills……

And we created a robot to do just that – he’s called Uncle Bob.

Uncle Bob isn’t much of a conversationalist, but he’s a natural show-off and demands attention. He’s a robotic arm with his own personality – come along and find us at Southern Manufacturing Exhibition 2019 (Stand L195) and see if you can bend him to your will!

To Sell Ourselves
Unlike many businesses we don’t rely on selling a physical product. At an exhibition, we can showcase our expertise to a primed audience of motivated individuals. We want them to believe in our team; our awesome coders and talented development crew.

An Expo gives us exposure and helps establish our place on the tech-scene. Our solutions are unique; the applications we create are bespoke. We make app dreams a reality.

So that’s just a few of our favourite reasons we attend expos…
What are yours?


Don’t forget to come and check us out at SME19 – 5th, 6th & 7th February 2019, at the Farnborough International Exhibition and Conference Centre, Farnborough. Stand L195.