Tinder’s New Feature Takes A Creepy Turn

Tinder has a new feature that reveals they know a lot more about their users than they let on. The new algorithm is turned on by a toggle switch called ‘Smart Photos‘. It then begins testing photos, alternating through them, to see which one gets the best results. In testing this has ended with up to 12% more matches. But here is where it gets really interesting: If the profile picture that gets the best results is of a person wearing glasses, but a user looking through profiles usually swipes left on people in glasses, it will show them the most popular photo of that person without the glasses on.

This is a bit of a breakthrough for people wondering exactly how much data the dating app calculates on its users. Tinder has been notoriously quiet about what data it collects, and while it’s assumed they take the usual statistics into account, they have never revealed they watch and dissect what each user swipes right or left on. This new feature proves they do in fact have algorithms on every single action every one of their users makes.

So what exactly can the data Tinder is gathering be used for, beyond helping everyone find out which profile picture gets the most suitors excited? One of the easiest channels to exploit is advertising, and knowing what a target market likes and dislikes is pretty attractive to anyone wanting to spend money on the platform. Who know what other data they are collecting and what it could be used for in the future, but all signs point to it going far beyond finding the best match for your next hook-up.

Hinge Just Transferred Existing Users to Their New App

HInge

Hate your existing app but don’t want to lose your user base by developing a new one? No problem! Hinge, a Tinder-like dating app that followed the swipe left or right format has just launched Hinge 2.0 – which is completely different than the original concept. It’s now about relationships, commitment, and a paid subscription… and they are betting on users sticking around after the free trial period is up.

Hinge launched in 2013 with the then unique concept of only connecting users with common friends discovered through Facebook. It had the same swiping functions that made Tinder so popular, but narrowed the field to people that might have already crossed paths before. Soon after all the other similar dating apps followed suit, adding in the common connections feature that once made Hinge stand out. With this feature adoption Hinge just became one of many freemium dating apps in a big messy market.

Last year Vanity Fair published an article slamming the current state of dating, and while many felt the article showed a fuddy-duddy attitude towards the millennial way of hooking up, Hinge CEO Justin McLeod took note of the mentality. In December he decided something needed to change with Hinge, in a big way. McLeod rebuilt the app’s entire engineering team, and focused all the company’s efforts on the new launch, to the detriment of Hinge’s original format.

Hinge 2.0 launched today, and it plans on taking the remaining existing users along for the ride. People have been receiving notice of the change over for two weeks now, but the big test will be to see if millennials will actually pay for a dating app, something they are not used to forking out cash for. Hinge now requires a $7/month subscription for the service, a fee that the company hopes narrows the market down to people who are really serious about finding a relationship and not just having a laugh.

Hinge has also updated the complete look of the app, and the way people interact on it. They have eliminated swiping completely and instead allow for more conversation points in a persons profile, which they call a story. This new story looks similar to Instagram, where people can post photos along with generated questions and answers, and interested connections can comment on them. In beta testing Hinge says this new format has resulted in 7x more numbers being exchanged between users.

It’s an interesting model as Hinge 2.0 is really nothing like the original app users agreed to download. Of course, both are dating applications, but the similarities really stop there. It’s a gamble Hinge is willing to take, and they have the luxury of reaching thousands of people directly, so why not? It’s really a genius way to have people consume a new product without having to do the work to acquire the initial user base.

It’s yet to be seen if the users Hinge has transitioned over to this completely new format will stick around, or will be turned off by the subscription fee. The company hopes that the potential higher success rate will draw users in who are looking for a more serious relationship. One roadblock they will face in terms of growth is that apps like Tinder have a higher download rate because it’s non-committal. We will soon see if millennials are ready to spend money to find a more substantial idea of love.

Launch of Robinhood Gold Reveals Important Lesson

robinhood gold

You do not have to monetize a mobile app immediately. In December of 2014 Robinhood, a stock trading app, launched on the market promising to never charge commissions. Nearly two years after their successful foray into the app world, and around 1 million users, they have announced a new premium feature called Robinhood Gold, which charges users $10/month for additional features. This expansion into the monetary branch of mobile apps is an excellent case study for anyone looking at launching their own app.

Robinhood gained their impressive network of users through a lot of knowledge and hard work. It was founded by two Stanford grads who had built high tech trading alternatives for big hedge funds. The basis of the app was that it should appeal to people just getting their feet wet in the stock market, because it allows users to trade stocks without paying any fees. Other companies with similar applications charge anywhere from $7-$70 per trade, depending on various charges and commission.

The sleek design and amazing user experience was also an important factor to reel in users. Having a great concept and bettering their competitors was a way to get people to download the app, but the user experience kept them there, creating loyal followers. After assessing nearly 2 years of data Robinhood discovered that anywhere between 10%-20% of their user base was more experienced traders, and they saw an opening to monetize without compromising on their founding promise of never charging commission on trades.

This past week Robinhood Gold launched. For $10/month users who upgrade to this paid subscription will get a plethora of features. Gold users have better trading hours, which include before the stock market opens and after it closes. They also get access to an additional $2000 of credit (if there is $2000 already in the account), and they get to skip the 3 day waiting period for deposits and reinvestments. This Gold membership provides more experienced traders with features they really want, for a fee that they can afford. Also, with the name being ‘Gold’, it gives the people who invest in the subscription a level of prestige, which after all, is what most stock traders are chasing.

The massive takeaway for new developers and anyone with a great app idea is that you don’t have to monetize immediately. Get it all right first. Grow a user base first. Make sure you have all the working components functioning seamlessly first. Once you have the app working and people loving it, you can then make changes. In fact, as with the Robinhood app, you may even be praised for this change as it could offer your user base something they actually want. The side effect is simply that you can get paid handsomely for that upgrade.

Driver’s Education App Raises $4 Million in Funding

aceable

Now more than ever people are wanting the convenience of doing what they want, whenever they want it. Online and app courses are gaining widespread popularity as people adjust to work and learn from home attitudes, and thanks to one mobile startup, this mentality now applies to driving education.

More and more drivers are relying on their phones to guide them, and with the launch of Aceable, this now extends to those learning to drive. The app initially raised $4.7 million in seed funding to develop the app in 2015, and has now delivered another $4 mil in series A funding after following through with a successful plan.

The key to the success for Aceable can be attributed to focusing on a totally new education space for technology learners. The tech-ed platform tends to be crowded, which is not saying a start up can’t improve on a targeted space. However entering an area not touched gives first in advantage.

The biggest hurdle for the app will be the approval process for states which don’t currently allow digital courses. But that list is diminishing as technology and app courses become commonplace. The company plans on expanding and developing curriculum beyond driving in the next year.

Most Popular Mobile Payment Methods In Canada

payments on smart phones

A new consumer report put out by Technology Strategies International reveals the top contactless payment methods Canadians are using when making purchases through their phones, and they might surprise you.

In TSI’s study almost half of respondents didn’t have a payment app installed on their phone at all, and out of those that did many were not a mobile wallet, but rather a single branded product. Paypal came in overwhelmingly at the most installed application, with Starbucks behind by almost half.

Apple Pay comes in at the 6th most installed app, with only 5% of the people surveyed downloading it. With the Apple Pay expansion announced recently, and with more phones in the future having the capability of using the Apple Pay wallet, we are sure to see these numbers rise.

In fact, the study says that by 2020, 90% of Canadians will have a smartphone, and three quarters of those phones will have NFC technology. This means in the next 5 years we can expect to see mobile payments ramp up drastically.

In 2015 alone contactless payments doubled in Canada, accounting for around $60 billion dollars worth of transactions. With technology only getting better at an alarmingly fast rate, and companies dedicated to making shopping easier for consumers with more focused payment applications, we are sure to see payment through mobile phones become an everyday part of our lives sooner than we think.

If you want to develop an app that gets ahead of the trend today, contact us for a free consultation.

How Mobile Apps Benefit the Restaurant Industry

Food. It is shared, photographed, raved and ranted about, and searched endlessly online. But the internet is shifting into our hands more and more every day. In North America over 89% of mobile internet usage is through apps, and 90% of a mobile user’s time in general is spent in apps! This is staggering, and a key insight as companies develop mobile marketing strategies.

So how can mobile apps benefit the restaurant industry? An obvious answer is by creating tablet applications for customers. Tablet menu applications are highly adaptable and easy to alter for fresh menu items and features, look super slick to the customer, and provide a portable interface for servers to place orders and requests. Forget clunky POS ordering, tablet apps are capable of providing an all encompassing system for your customers and staff that sends a signal to the integrated device.

Outside of the restaurant, customers are always looking for information. Think about how many times you have viewed a menu online, and it was a picture someone had took and uploaded to a third party site. With an app you can be in control of the menu your customers see – and it can be dynamic. No need to update your website every time you have a new dinner feature. Updating your app can be easy and interesting, giving customers a reason to see what your specials are for the evening.

Hours of operation, directions, reservations… there are many other reasons customers search for restaurant information. Having a dedicated space on their smartphone gives your business a leg up, because there is no searching involved. It is all at their fingertips. And with the recent expansion of Apple Pay in Canada, payment integration means customers don’t even need to bring their wallet to dinner.

Many companies utilize mobile apps for customer loyalty. Gone are the days of punch-cards for every coffee you buy. Now giving customer rewards is as easy as a bar-code scan. This makes the process easier for staff and managers as well, eliminating lengthy discount codes.

Mobile apps save time for back-end operations, eliminating duplication of tasks by having everything on one interface. Instead of having to update menus, internal systems, and your website, it can all be done with one adjustment. This saves time, confusion, and countless errors. What it all boils down to, is it saves you money.

Mobile websites are yesterday’s news. The wave of the future is mobile apps, and the restaurant industry can benefit from staying ahead of the curve and developing a mobile app now. There are many options available with a variety of prices and intricacies. If you have a restaurant and want to discuss your options, please contact Terraform today for a free consultation.

Warning Signs Your App Development Is Headed For Trouble

man yelling at phone

App development is a new field for many businesses and entrepreneurs, and the process can be complicated with the wrong developer. Clients need to understand their project inside out and backwards. Sometimes along the way there are warning signs that the app development is going off the rails, and often times clients and developers alike ignore these red flags until it it too late, and the project ends in disaster.

Here is a list of warning signs your app development is headed for trouble. This list looks at everything from the hiring process to the client’s role in the development process. We hope these warnings will give you peace of mind during your development, or help you get out of a bad situation if you recognize any of these red flags!

Is your developer a ‘Yes Man’?

One of the biggest signs you are dealing with someone with little knowledge about app development is when they agree to everything you want. While it might feel good to you at the start, app developers with experience will know the limitations of their skills, as well as the industry’s requirements. Of course you don’t want to be arguing with your app developer all the time, but if you get no push back at all, this could be a warning sign. Questions and concerns from your developer show true commitment and a desire to truly understand your project.

Is your developer an established business?

Many freelance developers can talk the talk, but when it comes down to the app design, development, and follow through, they can’t deliver. It’s tempting to hire a freelancer because they are more budget-friendly, but what you may not realize is you are likely paying them to learn the ropes. One person alone is very unlikely to be skilled in all aspects of app development which include design, coding, analytics, project management, content writing… the list goes on and on. Hiring a full team at an established business gives you a range of people and skills all contributing to your project.

Can the client make a decision?

The client needs to have a clear vision of what they want, down to the finest detail. Without this, the project is destined to go over budget. If the client is a group of people, all the parties need to be on the same page for all aspects of the app. These internal discussions should be done on the client’s own time, so they are not paying to hash things out during development meetings. Internal conflict is a huge warning sign, as it will drag a project on for eternity, and increase costs and time expectations drastically.

Does your developer have references?

If you ask your developer for references they should be able to provide you with a document detailing past/current projects with the ability for you to contact a few customers. No references is a huge warning sign.

Does your developer have published apps?

Ask for a list of published apps, or actually take the time to explore their portfolio. Download these apps. Test them out. Do you like the look and feel of them? If your developer has no published apps to review you may be in for trouble.

How detailed is your quote?

A huge red flag is a developer who gives you a cost and time quote without knowing the full scope of the project. How many modules or pages does your app require? What features are important to you, and what does the design look like? Your quote should include every aspect of your app, or it won’t be correct! No matter how experienced the app developer is they can not give you an accurate quote without knowing your vision for every aspect of your mobile app.

Does your developer outsource design?

If a company doesn’t do app design in house, but rather outsources this part of the development process, get your spidey senses going. This is a warning sign that your app development may be headed for trouble because the amount of control the company has over the project is limited.

Does the client constantly change their mind?

Planning and developing one thing and then asking for something new is a big red flag that your project is headed for trouble. Often during the development process clients will start looking at other apps as a comparison, and then want a feature that app has. The issue with this is your quote will be based on the information your developer had at the time of your project. Once work has started on one thing, asking for something new could mean your developer needs to start from scratch. This is fine if you weigh out the hit you will take for cost and time setbacks, but if you are on a tight timeline and budget, these kinds of changes could lead to serious trouble.

If you feel like you are getting the runaround from your developer, and any of these red flags ring true, there are options. You can move your project over to another developer, or you can hire someone to look at your project and consult with your current developer. Don’t feel like you have to stay in a bad situation when you are unhappy and not getting the results you want.

How Google Analytics Can Improve Your Mobile App

Analytics

If you have a mobile app it is imperative you assess the data of your users. This not only gives you valuable marketing information, but also alerts on possible roadblocks and bugs in your app. Google Analytics is free, and provides a central platform for gathering data, reports and offering analysis. If you are new to Analytics there is a lot to learn about the program, however some information is easy to assess and get started with.

First, you will need to set up an account, and once you connect your mobile app some information will be obvious and easy to digest. At first it will be amazing to see how users engage with your app, but as you get more adept with the program you will have a whole new world of data at your fingertips which, with time, will save you money and attract more users to your mobile app.

Below are just a few of the ways Google Analytics can improve the performance of your app, improve your marketing campaigns, and increase monetary gains:

Measuring New & Active User Metrics

Information such as location of your users and which device they use might not seem beneficial on the surface, but simple bits of information like this can benefit your business in many ways. The New and Active User metrics will be the easiest section for you to assess when you first look into Google Analytics.

Discovering which platform the majority of your users prefer can help you make a business decision about creating a native app for either Android or iPhone, and looking at geo-location data can help you learn about the best ways to market to your target audience. It is also possible to check the monetization from one device compared to another, and assess if a technical issue is possible with your app on a specific platform, causing revenue loss.

Choosing A Monetization Model

Data gathered from Google Analytics can help steer you towards the correct revenue stream for your mobile app. There are three main models to monetize apps:

  • Paid App Downloads & Subscription Based Models
  • In App Advertising
  • In App Purchases

Monitoring Your App Revenue Stream

In Google Analytics you can create a measurement plan to assess the success of your monetization model. In this plan you should define your key objectives in order to understand if your marketing goals are successful or not. You will be able to see what user actions are converting into the most money for your business, and where the user actions are costing you money. You can also monitor they type of payment used and time taken for transactions.

Finding App Bugs

Google Analytics creates a ‘Crashes and Exceptions’ report which gives you feedback on the performance of your app. Data on crashes is automatically created, but you can also define specific alerts to monitor issues or screens you might be focusing on. The data on these errors can then be broken down into groups in order for you to assess where the issue might be arising, and how much money it is costing you based on user conversions.

Measuring Effectiveness of Marketing

When you use Google AdWords or AdMob, a report is created in Google Analytics that can show you the success or failure of your campaign. By analyzing this data you can target your efforts more precisely, and save your business money by aiming your campaign on the correct market.

Attracting New Users To Your App

When you use a combination of AdWords and Analytics, you can use reports to identify high and low value users, meaning you will discover who is spending money in your app and who is not. With this information you can seek new high value users, who are the people likely to engage in and pay for your product.

Assessing Roadblocks

Using reports such as ‘Screens’ in Google Analytics gives you the opportunity to watch where your users are exiting your app. It can help you assess a problem with the flow of your app, or an issue with a payment process. You are also able to see when most users who aren’t spending money are leaving the app, and with that information try to create a way to keep them engaged longer. You can use this data to entice them to make a purchase. For instance if users are often exiting a game at one level, possibly the level is too difficult and you need to adjust the complexity so they stay in app longer.

Setting Goals

Once you get more familiar with Google Analytics you will be able to set goals for your business. Goals will most often lead to a monetary conversion by a user, and by tracking funnels you set, you can see where your user is getting confused or contrarily where their usage is most often turning into a sale. Goal setting requires some additional configuration, but the value you will get out of it is worth the extra effort.

As you can see assessing analytics is a powerful tool, and helps you find ways to assist your business in achieving its objectives. Whether it’s adapting your app’s performance, narrowing your target market for advertising, or focusing in or monetary conversions, Google Analytics can benefit every user. Even with minimal effort some data will be useful to the average person, but if taken seriously and given some extra effort, the data gathered can convert into a better user experience and higher revenue.

10 Questions to Answer Before Developing a Mobile App

mobile search

1) What Is the Purpose of My App?

Can you explain your app in 30 seconds? If the premise is too complicated, try to narrow the focus. You can always expand your mobile app, or develop a new one, once the main aspect takes off and you gain a user base.

2) Do I Need A Custom App?

Some app development companies have affordable app templates that may fit your needs. The cost will be significantly less, however a subscription fee is likely and you will not own the source code. If you business requires something simple a turnkey app may be the way to go.

3) What Platform Should I Choose?

The platform you choose for your app really comes down to a business decision. iPhone, Android or Universal? Native apps cost more but provide an amazing user experience. Universal apps reach a broader range of people, but will likely need to be re-developed once a large user base is established.

4) How Do I Choose a Developer?

Narrow your choices and interview a few mobile app developers. Ask them to provide you with a breakdown for all modules incorporated into your app. Get a cost and time quote. Review their portfolio and go with your gut!

Caution

BE WARY OF A DEVELOPER WITH NO PUBLISHED APPS!

5) What is the Potential Competition for the App?

Have you done extensive research for mobile applications with a similar premise? Ensure you find out how many users they have, and what the likes and dislikes about the current apps on the market are.

6) What is your USP?

Your app doesn’t need to be a completely unique idea, but it should have a unique selling point. What sets your mobile app apart from the competition? What will make people want to use your app over the others?

7) What is My Budget?

Quality does come with a cost. Ensure you know what your budget is for your mobile app, and talk with your developer about what to realistically expect within your app in return for your set budget. Have a bit of a slush fund for unexpected changes as you begin to see the app take shape..

8) What is the Visual Design of My App?

Do you have logos and a color scheme designed already? What is your taste when it comes to graphic or simple design? Where do you envision the placement of the buttons and menus on your app? It is a good idea to have all the visual aspects of your app thought out before development begins.

9) Do I Need a Wireframe?

Are you presenting your mobile app idea to investors or partners? Wireframes are visual representations of how a user will interact with your platform. Beyond the visual, wireframes are a resource to have the feasibility of your design and function tested before development begins. It is a good idea to have your developer draw up a wireframe to ensure your idea is technically sound.

10) What is My Marketing Plan?

Developing the app is just the start. Without a marketing and media plan, your app may not be seen by your target market. Start your mobile app marketing plan when you are still in development. This way you have a game plan when the app is complete, and you can hit the ground running.

Avoid being a Mobile App Horror Story

In Education // By

Recently I met a new client who had already hired a app developer for his project. The problem was, after thousands of dollars and months of delays, he has nothing to show for it. And this could very easily happen to you!

I am running into more and more clients everyday that have had bad experiences for a range of different reasons. Some have dealt with larger companies here in the city and ended up with a useless app, other have hire ‘coders’ and ended up way over budget with lengthy delays.

The big question is, How do you choose an app development company?

#1 – Portfolio

Never hire a app developer without a portfolio! This might seem like common sense, but most people end up hiring the first company they reach out to and buy based on personality! 75% of the time, they don’t even bother to do a bit of research to see previous apps they have built.

Three simple ways to understand their portfolio:

  • Does their website have a portfolio of apps? If they do not have any apps to show you, then this is not a good sign from the start! Every developer is proud of their apps no matter the quality. Lots of time and energy is put into every app (no matter how small), which makes it a success story when it gets published!
  • Are the names of the apps clear, and can you find them on the app store? Some developers just show a picture of apps they have copied from other websites. I have seen a few local companies trying to break into the market by using a bait and switch technique, pretending to have apps they have built when really they are just images they have copied.
  • Take 5 minutes and install 2-3 of their apps! Just by installing 2-3 of their previous apps, you can get a good feeling for their quality of work. Also you can quickly see how their finished products come out. Is this final product something you want, and something your company would be proud to publish?

#2 – Experience

Many app developers I have run across this past year do NOT have the experience in the industry, which sadly will lead you astray. The problem is that you will be the one paying for the lesson; in time and money. Very recently I ran across a local charity that was building a API for donations, the problem is that it was developed with 19 year old principals which are rarely used today in the app industry. I am sure in 12 months time when they will realize this, they will regret the advice they were told before the project.

Two quick ways to see if they are experienced enough:

  • How long have you been in the IT industry? If they have been working totally different industries and only recently got into IT, they might be lacking the hands on experience you need. While it’s important that they have many years in the industry, its also just as important to make sure they are up to date with all the new technology changes.
  • How many languages and platforms have you worked with? Over the past 20 years I have worked with over 50 different languages, because almost every platform has its own languages. While transition from one to another is not difficult, having that experience sure helps ensure things are designed correctly from the start.

#3 – Developers

Does the company have developers here in town, or are they all overseas and outsourced? Just from asking this question, you can quickly understand the company better. If they are a new firm, and all their developers are outsourced, then they might not have the experience or knowledge needed for your project. While this can put hurdles into your project, at the end of they day you are most likely overpaying for something you could get cheaper for the same quality.

Two easy questions to ask:

  • Am I able to meet with your developers? I personally feel that meeting with your developers is a key part of your project. They are going to be the ones creating your app, so why not open lines of communication just to enable better transparency.
  • Are your developers outsourced? While this is not always bad, it will add additional delays and problems to your project. One very common issue is time delay when you have problems. Imagine having your app live, and then some problem brings it to a screaming halt, and now you have to wait 12-24 hours before they can get ahold of the developer to fix the problem.

#4 – Templates

MOST companies I see around town are just reselling template apps. While these may work for smaller companies, they are a far cry from a custom apps! Any development company that is selling templates and has no custom apps to show you, may not be the best company to develop your custom app.

Two things to look out for:

  • All their apps are the same! Companies that have no development experience, will only be dealing with template apps. Almost all their apps with be the same looking, or have very similar layouts.
  • Source Code! Ask if you will own the source code when your app is done. Almost every template app does NOT have source code, only the finish product. The problem with this, is not you are tied into that developer for life. And if you want changes in your app, only they can do it. Once you move to a different developer, then all of that is a waste and you must start from scratch.

While there are many great companies out there, over the past 12 months I have seen a large influx of startup getting into this industry. I hope you are now able to distinguish the difference and have a better insight of what to look out for when you talk to a app developer. Hopefully I can educate more people, and avoid more of these horror stories I am hearing more often.