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TikTok announces first data center in Europe

August 6, 2020 No Comments

TikTok, the Chinese video sharing app that’s found itself at the center of a geopolitical power struggle which threatens to put hard limits on its global growth this year, said today it will build its first data center in Europe.

The announcement of a TikTok data center in the EU also follows a landmark ruling by Europe’s top court last month that put international data transfers in the spotlight, dialling up the legal risk around processing data outside the bloc.

TikTok said the forthcoming data center, which will be located in Ireland, will store the data of its European users once it’s up and running (which is expected by early 2022) — with a slated investment into the country of around €420M (~$ 497M), according to a blog post penned by global CISO, Roland Cloutier.

“This investment in Ireland… will create hundreds of new jobs and play a key role in further strengthening the safeguarding and protection of TikTok user data, with a state of the art physical and network security defense system planned around this new operation,” Cloutier wrote, adding that the regional data centre will have the added boon for European users of faster load times, improving the overall experience of using the app.

The social media app does not break out regional users — but a leaked ad deck suggested it had 17M+ MAUs in Europe at the start of last year.

The flipside of TikTok’s rise to hot social media app beloved of teens everywhere has been earning itself the ire of US president Trump — who earlier this month threatened to use executive powers to ban TikTok in the US unless it sells its US business to an American company. (Microsoft is in the frame as a buyer.)

Whether Trump has the power to block TikTok’s app is debatable. Tech savvy teenagers will surely deploy all their smarts to get around any geoblocks. But operational disruption looks inevitable — and that has been forcing TikTok to make a series of strategic tweaks in a bid to limit damage and/or avoid the very worst outcomes.

Since taking office the US president has shown himself willing to make international business extremely difficult for Chinese tech firms. In the case of mobile device and network kit maker, Huawei, Trump has limited domestic use of its tech and leant on allies to lock it out of their 5G networks (with some success) — citing national security concerns from links to the Chinese Communist Party.

His beef with TikTok is the same stated national security concerns, centered on its access to user data. (Though Trump may have his own personal reasons to dislike the app.)

TikTok, like every major social media app, gathers huge amounts of user data — which its privacy policy specifies it may share user data with third parties, including to fulfil “government inquiries”. So while its appetite for personal data looks much the same as US social media giants (like Facebook) its parent company, Beijing-based ByteDance, is subject to China’s Internet Security Law — which since 2017 has given the Chinese Chinese Communist Party sweeping powers to obtain data from digital companies. And while the US has its own intrusive digital surveillance laws, the existence of a Chinese mirror of the US state-linked data industrial complex has put tech firms right at the heart of geopolitics.

TikTok has been taking steps to try to insulate its international business from US-fuelled security concerns — and also provide some incentives to Trump for not quashing it — hiring Disney executive Kevin Mayer on as CEO of TikTok and COO of ByteDance in May, and promising to create 10,000 jobs in the U.S., as well as claiming US user data is stored in the US.

In parallel it’s been reconfiguring how it operates in Europe, setting up an EMEA Trust and Safety Hub in Dublin, Ireland at the start of this year and building out its team on the ground. In June it also updated its regional terms of service — naming its Irish subsidiary as the local data controller alongside its UK entity, meaning European users’ data no longer falls under its US entity, TikTok Inc.

This reflects distinct rules around personal data which apply across the European Union and European Economic Area. So while European political leaders have not been actively attacking TikTok in the same way as Trump, the company still faces increased legal risk in the region.

Last month CJEU judges made it clear that data transfers to third countries can only be legal if EU users’ data is not being put at risk by problematic surveillance laws and practices. The CJEU ruling (aka ‘Schrems II’) means data processing in countries such as China and India — and, indeed, the US — are now firmly in the risk frame where EU data protection law is concerned.

One way of avoiding this risk is to process European users’ data locally. So TikTok opening a data center in Ireland may also be a response to Schrems II — in that it will offer a way for it to ensure it can comply with requirements flowing from the ruling.

Privacy commentators have suggested the CJEU decision may accelerate data localization efforts — a trend that’s also being seen in countries such as China and Russia (and, under Trump, the US too it seems).

EU data watchdogs have also warned there will be no grace period following the CJEU invalidating the US-EU Privacy Shield data transfer mechanism. While those using other still valid tools for international transfers are bound to carry out an assessment — and either suspend data flows if they identify risks or inform a supervisor that the data is still flowing (which could in turn trigger an investigation).

The EU’s data protection framework, GDPR, bakes in stiff penalties for violations — with fines that can hit 4% of a company’s global annual turnover. So the business risk around EU data protection is no longer small, even as wider geopolitical risks are upping the uncertainty for global Internet players.

“Protecting our community’s privacy and data is and will continue to be our priority,” TikTok’s CISO writes, adding: “Today’s announcement is just the latest part of our ongoing work to enhance our global capability and efforts to protect our users and the TikTok community.”


Social – TechCrunch


US beat China on App Store downloads for first time since 2014, due to coronavirus impact

July 17, 2020 No Comments

The U.S. App Store’s downloads have surpassed China’s downloads for the first time since 2014. According to data from Sensor Tower’s Q2 2020 report, out today, the U.S. App Store saw 27.4% year-over-year growth in the quarter, compared to the 2.1% growth for the China App Store. During the quarter, the U.S. App Store generated 2.22 billion new installs compared with China’s 2.06 billion downloads, to regain the top position. This then translated to the U.S. beating China on App Store consumer spend, as well.

Contributing to the shift was the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on both China and the U.S.

The U.S. surpassed China on installs beginning in April and lasting all the way through June, the firm found.

China in Q2, meanwhile, was coming down from its own abnormally high number of downloads in March and April, due to COVID-19. But as its download figures began to normalize, the pandemic was wreaking havoc in the U.S., where it hit slightly later.

This led to the U.S. to see a surge in downloads, as suddenly the population was forced to work from home, attend school from home and entertain themselves at home with apps, games and streaming services.

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Sensor Tower tells TechCrunch there was particularly significant growth in U.S. business and education apps in Q2, as a result. These categories were the largest contributors to the U.S. surpassing China’s installs.

Business app downloads grew 133.3% in Q2, followed by education (84.4%), health & fitness (57.7%), news 44.9%) and social networking (42.4%).

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Video conferencing app Zoom, in particular, had a breakout quarter and even shattered the record for App Store installs, with nearly 94 million total downloads in a single quarter. The prior record had been set by TikTok, which had in Q1 2020 seen 67 million downloads in a single quarter. No other non-game app has ever surpassed 50 million installs in a quarter, Sensor Tower noted.

TikTok still had a strong Q2, with nearly 71 million App Store downloads in the quarter, representing 154% year-over-year growth. Its top two download markets were both the U.S. and China — the latter where it’s known as Douyin.

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Mobile gaming was also a big hit in the U.S., as people stayed home under government lockdowns. Top mobile games by App Store downloads included titles like Save The Girl, Roblox, Go Knots 3D, Coin Master, Tangle Master 3D, Fishdom, ASMR Slicing, Call of Duty: Mobile and others.

On this front, Roblox had a stellar quarter as kids stayed at home and went online gaming, due to being disconnected from school and their playmates in real life. Roblox’s gaming app shot up the U.S. rankings from No. 11 in Q1 2020 to No. 2 in Q2, and achieved a new high of 8.6 million downloads in the quarter.

Rollic Games had two hits in the quarter, Go Knots 3D and Tangle Master 3D, each with over 5 million App Store downloads. Its Repair Master 3D title also came in at No. 20.

Both Zoom and Rollic Games were the only new top publishers to find themselves in the top 10 on the App Store in Q2, the report found.

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Though the U.S. surpassed China in the quarter for the first time in years, the rest of the top five — Japan, Great Britain and Russia — remained the same as last quarter, though growing on a year-over-year basis.

Related to the surge of new downloads, the U.S. also surpassed China on consumer spending on the App Store for the first time since Q4 2018 — but that was only by 1.6% (around $ 53 million). In Q2 2020, the U.S. surpassed China by 14%, or about $ 717 million.

The U.S. also saw more significant quarter-over-quarter growth in spending during the COVID-19 outbreak, growing 20% between Q1 and Q2. In China, the consumer spending growth on the App Store was just 5% between Q4 2019 and Q1 2020, when it felt the full impact of the virus.

Mobile – TechCrunch


How startups close their first big sales

December 18, 2019 No Comments

No matter what your startup sells or who you’re selling it to, companies that survive — and grow — need big customers and lots of them. But how do you land million-dollar deals with limited resources and no credibility?

In more than 20 years of building companies and products, I’ve learned that in the grand scheme of the startup lifecycle, while you scale your way through growth to eventual sustainability and success, acquiring your first customer is relatively easy. Any good salesperson can sell a good product to the prospect of their choice. Hell, any mediocre salesperson, even when they’re hawking complete crap, can get lucky once. Your first customer is a great signal, but it’s just a signal, not a savior.

What actually matters is what we learn from that first signal and all the signals that follow.

Aggregate value to target prospects

The process starts way before the first sales pitch. Your chances of closing your first big sale are going to be directly related to how well you’re targeting your prospective customers. So let’s begin with a discussion of aggregation and targeting.

All product and service sales come down to usage and aggregated value. It doesn’t matter if your target customer is a consumer or a business. It makes no difference if your price point is dollars or thousands of dollars. It doesn’t matter if your transaction is completely frictionless or requires a six-month hand-hold by your sales team.

If your customer is a consumer, they’re going to have limited usage with your product or service and the value needs to be tightly wound into that small usage window. If your customer is a business, they’re likely going to have multiple users and almost continuous usage of the product or service, so the value will be delivered over time.

So a “lot of customers” for your product or service might be 100, or it might be a million. Either way, you’re offering the same value per dollar based on usage. You’re aggregating that value into the sale, so you need to be targeting those customer prospects with the highest expected usage.

A classic rookie mistake made by most entrepreneurs is spraying and praying at large prospect audiences for the sake of their largeness alone, hoping that those shards of value surface for the right people at the right time.

Don’t do that. Instead, for B2C sales, you’re going to need some intelligence about your prospect list, which means more than Facebook ad demographics — it’s being able to predict the usage based on the source of the prospect. For B2B sales, you need to determine the optimum type of business to sell into: their size, their industry, their appetite for innovation, and anything else you can use to narrow your focus.

Figure out who is going to get the most aggregate value for their usage and target them.

Targeting customer prospects based on value aggregation is not only going to increase the chances of closing, it’s also going to dictate the near future in terms of the growth of your startup. A targeted, good customer is going to make your life a lot easier. A random, poor customer is going to fill your world with complaints, support requests, change requests, feature requests, and ultimately severe changes to your product roadmap.

Consolidate and find a champion

When you’re a startup, your customers are buying innovation. The tricky thing is, no one needs innovation. Rather, they need the derivatives of that innovation  —  time, simplification, throughput, security.

In order to close a big sale, in other words, the aggregation of many, many units of that usage and value, you’re going to have to consolidate that usage and find a champion of value on the customer side.

So the question becomes: Who benefits the most from the derivatives of innovation brought about by maximizing the usage of your product or service?


Startups – TechCrunch


In a first, Amazon launches a battery-powered portable Echo speaker in India

December 9, 2019 No Comments

After launching nearly a dozen Echo speaker models in India in two years, Amazon said on Wednesday it is adding a new variant to the mix that addresses one of the most requested features from customers in the nation: portability.

The e-commerce giant today unveiled the Echo Input Portable Smart Speaker Edition, a new variant in the lineup that includes a built-in battery. The 4,800 mAh enclosed battery will offer up to 10 hours of continuous music playing or up to 11 hours of stand-by life, the company said.

“Portability has been one of the most requested features in India,” said Miriam Daniel, VP of Alexa Devices. “You want to be able to carry Alexa with you from room to room within your homes. So we have designed something just for you.”

The company said the Echo Input Portable Smart Speaker Edition (which remains a mouthful) shares the same “hardware architecture” as the Echo Input, a device it launched last year that does not feature a speaker.

The battery-powered Echo model, designed exclusively for India, is priced at 5,999 Indian rupees ($ 84). Users can currently purchase it at an introductory price of 4,999 Indian rupees ($ 70) and the device will begin shipping on December 18.

Other than the built-in battery pack, the new speaker model offers an identical set of features — access to some 30,000 Alexa skills, compatibility with a range of home devices and, of course, support for Alexa voice assistant — as other Echo variants. (The new model additionally carries an array of four LEDs that light up when a user taps the power button, to show battery level.)

Amazon has never disclosed how many Echo speakers it has sold in India, but it has noted that the country is one of its most important markets. At a conference in September, Rohit Prasad, VP and head scientist of Alexa AI at Amazon, said the “adoption of Alexa in India has been phenomenal.”

Over the years, a number of companies, including LG, Motorola and Sony, have added support for Alexa to their headphones and smartphones.

The e-commerce giant, which has invested north of $ 5 billion in India, is among many international firms that are currently betting to turn the nation of 1.3 billion people into one of its biggest markets. Winning that market means customizing many of their products and services to align with local conditions in the nation. In September, Amazon announced Alexa was adding support for Hindi language to broaden its appeal in the nation.

Gadgets – TechCrunch


Your First Google Ads Campaign: Everything You Should Know

May 20, 2019 No Comments

This article goes over the very basics of getting started advertising with Google Ads for someone with little to no experience.

Read more at PPCHero.com
PPC Hero


Life-size robo-dinosaur and ostrich backpack hint at how first birds got off the ground

May 5, 2019 No Comments

Everyone knows birds descended from dinosaurs, but exactly how that happened is the subject of much study and debate. To help clear things up, these researchers went all out and just straight up built a robotic dinosaur to test their theory: that these proto-birds flapped their “wings” well before they ever flew.

Now, this isn’t some hyper-controversial position or anything. It’s pretty reasonable when you think about it: natural selection tends to emphasize existing features rather than invent them from scratch. If these critters had, say, moved from being quadrupedal to being bipedal and had some extra limbs up front, it would make sense that over a few million years those limbs would evolve into something useful.

But when did it start, and how? To investigate, Jing-Shan Zhao of Tsinghua University in Beijing looked into an animal called Caudipteryx, a ground-dwelling animal with “feathered forelimbs that could be considered “proto-wings.”

Based on the well-preserved fossil record of this bird-dino crossover, the researchers estimated a number of physiological metrics, such as the creature’s top speed and the rhythm with which it would run. From this they could estimate forces on other parts of the body — just as someone studying a human jogger would be able to say that such and such a joint is under this or that amount of stress.

What they found was that, in theory, these “natural frequencies” and biophysics of the Caudipteryx’s body would cause its little baby wings to flap up and down in a way suggestive of actual flight. Of course they wouldn’t provide any lift, but this natural rhythm and movement may have been the seed which grew over generations into something greater.

To give this theory a bit of practical punch, the researchers then constructed a pair of unusual mechanical items: a pair of replica Caudipteryx wings for a juvenile ostrich to wear, and a robotic dinosaur that imitated the original’s gait. A bit fanciful, sure — but why shouldn’t science get a little crazy now and then?

In the case of the ostrich backpack, they literally just built a replica of the dino-wings and attached it to the bird, then had the bird run. Sensors on board the device verified what the researchers observed: that the wings flapped naturally as a result of the body’s motion and vibrations from the feet impacting the ground.

The robot is a life-size reconstruction based on a complete fossil of the animal, made of 3D-printed parts, to which the ostrich’s fantasy wings could also be affixed. The researchers’ theoretical model predicted that the flapping would be most pronounced as the speed of the bird approached 2.31 meters per second — and that’s just what they observed in the stationary model imitating gaits corresponding to various running speeds.

You can see another gif over at the Nature blog. As the researchers summarize:

These analyses suggest that the impetus of the evolution of powered flight in the theropod lineage that lead to Aves may have been an entirely natural phenomenon produced by bipedal motion in the presence of feathered forelimbs.

Just how legit is this? Well, I’m not a paleontologist. And an ostrich isn’t a Caudipteryx. And the robot isn’t exactly convincing to look at. We’ll let the scholarly community pass judgment on this paper and its evidence (don’t worry, it’s been peer-reviewed), but I think it’s fantastic that the researchers took this route to test their theory. A few years ago this kind of thing would have been far more difficult to do, and although it seems a little silly when you watch it (especially in gif form), there’s a lot to be said for this kind of real-life tinkering when so much of science is occurring in computer simulations.

The paper was published today in the journal PLOS Computational Biology.

Gadgets – TechCrunch


A first look at Twitter’s new prototype app, twttr

March 13, 2019 No Comments

Yesterday, Twitter rolled out its much-anticipated prototype application to the first group of testers. We’ve now gotten our hands on the app and can see how the current version differs from the build Twitter introduced to the world back in January. While the original version and today’s prototype share many of the same features, there have been some small tweaks as to how conversation threads are displayed, and the color-coded reply labeling system is now much more subtle.

“Twttr,” as the prototype build is called, was created to give Twitter a separate space outside its public network to experiment with new ideas about how Twitter should look, feel and operate. Initially, the prototype focuses on changes to replies, with the goal of making longer conversations easier to read.

However, the company said it will likely continue to test new ideas within the app in the future. And even the features seen today will continue to change as the company responds to user feedback.

In the early build of the twttr prototype, the color-coded reply system was intentionally designed to be overly saturated for visibility’s sake, but Twitter never intended to launch a garish color scheme like this to its testers.

The new system is more readable and no longer color codes the entire tweet.

Below are a few screenshots of what the public Twitter app looks like when compared with the new prototype, plus other features found in twttr alone.

Feedback

Above: regular Twitter on the left; twttr on the right

Before digging into twttr’s key features, it’s worth noting there’s an easy way for testers to submit feedback: a menu item in the left-side navigation.

Here, you can tap on a link labeled “twttr feedback” that takes you directly to a survey form where you can share your thoughts. The form asks for your handle, and what you liked and disliked, and offers a space for other comments.

Reply threads

Left: Original Twitter; Right: twttr prototype

This is the big change Twitter is testing in the prototype.

In the photo on the left, you can see how replies are handled today — a thin, gray line connects a person replying to another user within the larger conversation taking place beneath the original tweet. In the photo, TechCrunch editor Jonathan Shieber is replying both to the TechCrunch tweet and the person who tagged him in a question in their own reply to the TC tweet.

In twttr, Shieber’s reply is nested beneath that question in a different way. It’s indented to offer a better visual cue that he’s answering Steven. And instead of a straight line, it’s curved. (It’s also blue because I follow him on Twitter.)

You’ll notice that everyone’s individual responses are more rounded — similar to chat bubbles. This allows them to pop out on the contrasting background, and gives an appearance of an online discussion board.

Left: Original Twitter; Right: twttr prototype

This is even more apparent when the background is set to the white day theme instead of the darker night theme.

Color-coded replies

Here’s a closer look at nested replies.

People you follow will be prominently highlighted at the top of longer threads with a bright blue line next to their name, on the left side of their chat bubble-shaped reply. Twitter says the way people are ranked is personalized to you, and something it’s continuing to iterate.

Left: Original Twitter; Right: twttr prototype

In the public version of the Twitter app, the original poster is also highlighted in the Reply thread with a prominent “Original Tweeter” label. In the prototype, however, they’re designated only by a colored line next to their name, on the left side of the chat bubble. (See Jordan’s tweet above.)

This is definitely a more subtle way to highlight the tweet’s importance to the conversation. It’s also one that could be overlooked — especially in the darker themed Night Mode where the gray line doesn’t offer as much contrast with the dark background.

In the day theme, it’s much easier to see the difference (see below).

Engagements are hidden

Another thing you’ll notice when scrolling through conversations on twttr is that engagements are hidden on people’s individual tweets. That is, there’s no heart (favorite) icon, no retweet icon, no reply bubble icon and no sharing icon, like you’re used to seeing on tweets today.

Instead, if you want to interact with any tweet using one of those options, you have to tap on the tweet itself.

The tweet will then pop up and become the focus, and all the interaction buttons — including the option to start typing your reply — will then become available.

“Show more”

Another change to conversations is that some replies are hidden by default when you’re reading through a series of replies on Twitter.

Often, in long conversation threads, people will respond to someone else in a thread besides the original Tweeter. Both are tagged in the response when that occurs, but the reply may not be about the original tweet at all. This can make it difficult to follow conversations.

Above: “Show more,” before being expanded

In twttr, these sorts of “side conversations” are hidden.

In their place, a “Show more” button appears. When tapped, those hidden replies come into view again. They’re also indented to show they are a part of a different thread.

This change highlights only those replies that are in response to the original tweet. That means people trolling other individuals in the thread could see their replies hidden. But it also means that those responding to a troll comment to the original poster — like one offering a fact check, for example — will also be hidden.

There are other reasons to hide some replies, notes Twitter — like if the original response was too large or the thread has too many replies. It’s not always about the quality of the responses.

Above: after being expanded

The icon!

Twttr is very much a prototype. That means everything seen here now could dramatically change at any point in the future. Even the twttr icon itself has gone through different iterations.

The first version of the icon was a very lovely bird logo that looked notably different from original Twitter. The new version (which we’ll dub twttr’s Yo icon), is a plain blue box.

Twitter has its reasons for that one… and clearly, it didn’t ask for feedback on this particular change.

Where’s that feedback form again?


Social – TechCrunch


Why mobile first design is the only 2019 strategy that will work

March 5, 2019 No Comments

Everyone knows that mobile is red-hot right now. In fact, there is a pretty good chance you are reading this very article on a mobile device.

And yet, like an old dog who just won’t learn a new trick, most people are still designing websites for desktop computers and then trying to make them work well on mobile devices. Square peg, meet round hole.

Quite simply, it doesn’t make sense. Why would you create a website for a dying medium (cough, cough; desktop) and then try to force it to work for new technology? It doesn’t have to be this way.

Why not, instead, create a website for the devices most people are using that will also work on a desktop?

Google has made it clear that mobile-first is the way to go. It is time to leave the past behind because five billion mobile phone users have made it clear they aren’t going anywhere.

Here is why designing for desktop first is a mistake, why responsive mobile design isn’t enough, and why mobile first is the only way to go in 2019.

It is time to put a stop to responsive mobile design

Let’s say you need a train. You want a fast one, one that can get you from Paris to London in two hours. (Ignore, if you will, that this train already exists.) Would you build a coal train, then convert it to a high-speed diesel-electric train? No, that would be a ridiculous waste of time and resources, particularly since the high-speed train can run on standard tracks.

And yet, that is what most people are doing when it comes to designing sites for mobile. They create a site for desktop first, then try to make it work on mobile instead of building a better, faster site that will work just fine on both.

Before we dig into how to design mobile first websites, we need to talk about responsive design.

What is the difference between responsive mobile design and mobile first design? Aren’t they, essentially, the same thing? Not quite.

Is ‘mobile responsive’ the same as ‘mobile first’?

Mobile responsive and mobile first have some of the same ingredients, but their methods, approaches, and strategies are totally different.

Here is how they differ:

Mobile responsive is a technical web design approach where CSS is used to adjust the site to the device it is viewed on. The coding is more complex, and the design still often places desktop needs at the forefront. In other words, the website’s built for desktop users first and then made to work on mobile later.

Mobile first, on the other hand, is a design strategy. While it may use a mobile responsive framework, it considers mobile users’ needs first and foremost. Instead of creating a desktop website and then forcing it to fit in a mobile box, you create a website that considers the majority of users (on mobile) first.

Mobile websites have been an afterthought for years. Yet, 52.64% of all internet traffic happens on a mobile device.

By implementing the seven strategies below, you’ll start designing websites for the devices users are actually using and not just for desktop.

Seven easy strategies to create mobile-first websites

Designing for mobile first doesn’t have to be complicated. And with the rise of the freelancer and gig economy, finding high-quality designers isn’t complicated either.

So get started and start putting the needs of your mobile users first.

Here’s how you can keep your mobile users at the forefront of your mind and get a few handy tools to make your life easier.

1. Less is more when it comes to content (yes, really)

Wait, what? Isn’t longer content better?

Well, (here comes everyone’s favorite internet answer) it depends.

Longer, more in-depth blog posts are, in fact, proven to generate nine times more leads than short posts.

But, mobile readers are looking at tiny little screens.

To be mobile first, your content needs to be concise and clear, so keep the mobile-first design in mind when starting your blogging strategy.

Solution: Keep your copy succinct and unique using a grammar tool to deliver in-depth information in as few words as possible. Break up text into single-sentence paragraphs when possible.

Screenshot of grammar tool

(Image Source)

2. Keep your site simple

Minimization is having a pop-culture moment. The truth is people, love simplicity. It reduces anxiety, improves clarity, and makes us happier.

This applies to web design as well. Less, really is more. Keep the website elements you truly need and ditch the rest.

“But, what about X thing that my site really, really needs??” Ask yourself, “Does it spark joy?” If yes, then keep it.

Ask yourself if each element is really necessary. For example, could you ask fewer questions on your 13 field contact us form?

Can you reduce the number of links on your nav bar?

Here are six more website simplification tips:

  1. Reduce the number of pages on your site
  2. Add an improved search feature so users can still find what they need
  3. Increase white space to reduce the appearance of clutter
  4. Use clean lines and wide borders
  5. Use a simple font and make it larger
  6. Keep a maximum of two columns on mobile

Get VOIP screenshot

(Image Source)

Solution: Keep it simple. Get rid of tiny buttons, ditch scrolling images, trash that 13 field form.

3. Bring your calls to action (CTA) into the 21st

There is nothing worse than clicking on a link from your mobile device that doesn’t load because, while the main site is mobile responsive, the landing page it links to is not.

Or, our favorite, when you get taken to an off-center, impossible to fill out lead-gen form.

Your calls to action are useless if they aren’t designed with mobile in mind. Which means you are missing out on leads and sales.

Solution: Stop throwing money down the drain. Make sure your CTA is designed mobile-first, too. Test links and consider using mobile-friendly calls to action such as SMS text messaging and live chat.

Chat bot example

(Image Source)

Additionally, your mobile conversion funnel needs to be brought into the 21st century with new features like mobile vibration on button clicks, full-screen mobile e-commerce experiences, and signature collection.

Mobile interaction experience example

(Image Source)

4. Let’s talk about it: Make mobile communication a breeze

There is no question that mobile devices have changed the way we communicate with each other and with brands.

Did you know that 97% of Americans report they send at least one text message a day? Research even shows that the increase in text messaging has contributed to a rise in phone call-related anxiety.

People want answers to their questions now, not at 9 a.m. when your phone support opens back up.

And they don’t want to call you if they don’t have to.

Have you adjusted your contact methods to meet the communication preferences of today’s consumers? If not, you may be leaving customers dissatisfied–without even know it. It is time to change. Luckily, there are plenty of tools to make this shift painless.

Consider using a help desk software like Freshdesk to manage your customer communications across channels and devices. It can track previous conversations, prioritize incoming requests, and even help automate the process.

Freshdesk screenshot

(Image Source)

Or, consider adding a live chat or a chatbot to your website to humanize your website for mobile users. If you are looking for an easy way to transition, this is it. Chatbots are a great way to give a fantastic mobile experience without a massive overhaul of your entire website.

Solution: Use technology like chatbots and mobile-friendly help-desk software to make mobile communication frictionless.

5. Graphic design for mobile first

You might be wondering, “Does graphic design really matter when it comes to mobile first?” The answer is a resounding yes!

A study into the value of graphic design found companies who emphasized on graphic design outperformed non-design-focused companies by 200 percent. Well-designed websites are also considered more trustworthy, more memorable, and easier to use.

So, what does mobile first graphic design look like?

According to Venngage, the most significant graphic design trends of 2019 are:

  • Vivid colors
  • Strong typographical elements
  • Geometric shapes and abstract patterns
  • Light and dark contrasting color schemes
  • Gradients and duotones
  • Bright minimalism
  • Original, hand-drawn illustrations and designs
  • Real photographs

What does this all mean in practice?

Aim for bold shapes, clean lines, bright colors, and typographical elements. Make use of white space, which is both visually soothing and makes navigating on mobile easier.

Graphic design examples

(Image Source)

Solution: Use graphic design tools to make creating memorable, trustworthy, and easy to use websites simple. We love Canva and Snappa for their library of templates and stock photos.

6. A need for speed

Site speed has always been important to user experience. But now, site speed is a Google ranking factor, too.

If you are too cool to care about what Google thinks, consider that 40% of people will leave a website if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load.

Even more damaging, 79% of shoppers are less likely to buy from a site again if they experience web performance issues.

Clearly, your site needs to load fast if you want to survive on mobile.

How to improve speed on your mobile first website

Luckily, building your site with an eye on mobile first means you aren’t stuck trying to strip features away to make your site load faster on mobile.

Instead, you can implement speed protocols from the beginning.

Here is how to build a fast, mobile-first website.

  1. Check your page speed using Google’s Test My Site. Google site speed tool
  2. Install a CDN, which loads content from a cache closest to the user.
  3. Compress images so they look good but load fast
  4. Consider using lazy load, which loads elements separately so the user can view at least some of your content right away.
  5. Make the switch to HTTPS, which is faster, more secure, and has SEO benefits.

Solution: Start by testing your mobile page speed, then implementing the changes above.

7. Test, test, test

The more things change, the more things stay the same.

Testing is more important than ever for websites. Even the most carefully designed mobile first website needs to be tested on multiple devices.

Why? Currently, there are at least nine different operating systems in use on mobile devices.

According to StatCounter, Android makes up 75% of the mobile operating system market share. iOS clocks in with just under 22 percent of the marketing share, but KaiOs, Windows, and Samsung all claim at least a small portion of the market.

Statcounter screenshot

(Image Source) 

Dozens of new phones are released every year. In fact, Motorola released 11 new mobile devices in just 2017.

In 2018, Apple released two new iPad models (Mini and Pro), two new iPhones (iPhone XS and XR), and three new computers (new models for the iMac Pro, MacBook Pro, and Mac Mini).

Trying to keep up is just plain exhausting. If you want to stay ahead of the curve, you need to test your site across platforms regularly.

Solution: Use a cross browser and cross platform tool to see how your site performs across the multitude of different operating systems and devices.

Conclusion

The desktop computer is dying. Mobile responsiveness is not enough to keep mobile users on your site.

If you want to create an easy to use website that Google and users will love, mobile first design is simply the only way to go.

But changing the way we’ve always done things can feel overwhelming.

You’ve got enough on your plate, right?

As you can see, the mobile first design doesn’t mean changing your entire process. Instead, it means reimagining how we create content, images, CTAs, and communications while keeping a firm focus on mobile users’ needs.

Stop spending too much time creating sub-par mobile sites that users hate. Instead, use these tips to build websites that search engines and (more importantly) web users will love.

Adam Enfroy is Affiliate Partnerships Manager at BigCommerce, and also does Content Marketing Consulting and Blogging at adamenfroy.com. He can be found on Twitter @AdamEnfroy.

The post Why mobile first design is the only 2019 strategy that will work appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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