All posts in Mobile

Taking Risks for Business Growth in the Mobile Internet Age

Right on cue, after yesterday’s post on mobile app ideas for “boring” businesses like tire shops and dry cleaners, Inc. has published a great read on why you must take the risk of getting into the mobile game in order to continue growing your business – physical or virtual.

The article is a must-read and I suggest looking into the book coming out this week by Randy Gage: Risky is the New Safe. Change is inevitable, growth is not. Let’s figure this out together!

Free Mobile App Ideas for 4 “Boring” Businesses (plus How to Make an Affordable Mobile App)

Mobile internet usage is doing nothing but rising and will continue to for at least the next decade or so. At the bottom of the article there will be some links to stats and info about that so you can do some research, as well as platforms you can use to make an app yourself, more affordably than hiring a development company to do it from scratch.

What I want to talk about are some ideas that less-sexy businesses like dry cleaners and tire shops can use as inspiration to create their own mobile app, and how this can benefit you. So open your minds and get ready to think outside your box about new ways to market your products and services. Don’t worry about cost for now… we’ll talk about that after the ideas.

App Content & Features Ideas

Tires & Tire Services

Purchasing tires can be like purchasing underwear – you know you need them and have to buy them, but don’t necessarily want to as it seems like your hard-earned money would bring more satisfaction if spent on something pretty or fun… like a designer handbag or electronic gadget. So how does a tire shop possibly create an app that customers would want to use and ultimately would bring them into the store for tires or service? How about…

  • offering a daily or weekly deal in the app exclusively for app users
  • allowing fast inventory and price-checking
  • pushing out a reminder to a customer who needs their tires rotated or some other service on a schedule
  • pushing out seasonal tips about tire care
  • giving a “guide to long-lasting tire care” so people can save money & not have to replace them prematurely
  • letting customers schedule an appointment so they don’t have to call
  • letting customers tweet you a question easily
  • giving people a fun badge for checking in so many times using the app
  • randomly giving people a special incentive after so many checkins using the app
  • write a “tire buying for dummies” guide or something geared to first time tire purchasers to help walk them through it
  • allow parents to purchase tires for their college kids via your app, so all the student has to do is show up to get them put on
Mr. Tire has a similar app you can examine to give you some real-life inspiration! Note the wonderful way they keep track of all your vehicles and maintenance information (though they have a few comments about this needing a better user experience… take comments to heart and make corrections once an app is in the market.)

Covering Your Geo-Location Bases: Using Google, Foursquare, Gowalla, Yahoo & Facebook to Help Customers Find You

I recently read this great post “Is Your Social Media in the Red or the Black?” by Lissa Duty. The entire post offers some great points about what you’re doing with your social media activities, but one point we felt needs some further explanation is the first part of #5. Lissa asks, “Have you claimed your business listing on Yahoo Local, Google Places, Bing Local, etc.?” This question seems like a very basic one. It makes complete sense that a business would make it as easy as possible to find its location through the various services available. However, I think a lot of these get overlooked fairly often, or people who aren’t immersed in social networking aren’t aware they exist.

The big ones generally get hit, like Google maps or Foursquare, but these aren’t the only services used to locate businesses and you could be losing prospects to competitors who are listed there. It’s easy, it’s free and it doesn’t take much time. If you get just one customer from making sure that you’ve covered all of your geo-location bases, then it’s time well spent. It’s also important that you include as much information as allowed. You might as well help your potential consumers understand your business in the easiest possible way.

In case you are unaware, I’ve included a list of some popular services and links where you can register your business:

Google Places
You want a listing on Google Local if you have any kind of actual address where people might visit you. You get analytics each month and you can see the keywords people are using to find your listing, which is really helpful.

Yahoo! Local
Similar in purpose and features to Google, Yahoo is used daily by people for stories, news and more and so you also want to be found here.

Bing Local
Aside from merely being found via a search, you can be found on Bing in a related business or geographic area search, which might introduce you to people as more of a “happy accident” than if they do a deliberate search.

Foursquare
If you have enough foot traffic you can claim your business and get analytics, offer specials and take advantage of Foursquare in other innovative ways, so for a retail, hotel or restaurant establishment, this site is a MUST. Foursquare is gaining in use and popularity. People routinely use their Foursquare applications to find a place to eat, get gas or buy something from their mobile smartphones, so you want to be listed correctly and found easily here.

Gowalla
Gowalla is a Foursquare competitor and if you have regular foot traffic it would benefit you to be found and listed here also. You should encourage folks to check-in to their Foursquare or Gowalla accounts from your place – it’s free publicity!

Yelp
Yelp is the go-to source for reviews, but it’s not the only review site. However, it’s been around a long time and a lot of people visit it routinely to find a place to eat, locate a good hair stylist, and obtain recommendations on everything from churches to swimming pool installers.

Facebook Places
Facebook has jumped into the geo-location frenzy with their own version of  ”Places.” With all the users Facebook has, take advantage of any free promotion they offer (within reason!)

Linked In Company Profile
If you haven’t already, you should also set up a company profile on Linked In, and once set up, it will automatically pull in data about your company from around the site. The link here is to a Mashable tutorial and explanation article that’s especially good.

Once you’re listed on all the basic, most popular sites, check out these articles and books on how to take things to the next level and market your business better online:

As usual, if you have any questions let us know!

~ Matt

The Mayor Has Entered the Building… Give Us Presents

I am seeing more and more people succumb to the lure and magic of Foursquare, and it tickles me. Even the staunch holdout, @thebrandbuilder, finally conceded to join and in short order earned the Oversharer Badge, which was hysterical. But I have some concerns about whether or not locations who are jumping into the Foursquare fray really know what they’re doing with the checkin-and-reward system.

That social media personalities have a touch of vanity that serves as a driver for participating in online antics could go without saying, but it should not. It is this underlying note you’re playing with when you seek to engage people using an interactive mechanism, so it’s important to understand how to work with the psychology of people like us if you want to get the most out of your social marketing efforts on Foursquare and other sites like it.

I read an article that says in some places, Mayors can jump to the head of the line if they’re present, and that is a perfect example of the type of elitist reward that should be offered to someone who visits a busy establishment so much that they earn the title of Mayor.

I was at Starbucks yesterday (Wayne R. I am coming for you, by the way!) and was very disappointed to see that their highly touted rewards program is nothing more than a push for the latest stuff they’re pimping at the drive-thru: right now it’s $1 off a frappucino. That’s just not good. What if the Mayor comes there everyday for a blueberry muffin, or a half-caf/half-decaf sugar-free soy latte is their preference? You’ve now said, with your flimsy $1 coupon on something unwanted or needed, that the Mayor’s presence is not really appreciated. At $3-7 a pop per visit (and let’s face it, some of us go daily or not at all), a customer who is Mayor of a Starbucks location is A Big Deal. So roll out the red carpet and actually REWARD them, or find some other game to play. The $1 coupon would be far better if it were on something the Mayor wants to have – do you see the difference?

My fabulous friend @bobbyrettew and I were just discussing how we long to open a little restaurant of our own on a beach somewhere and use Foursquare and Twitter to play games with patrons and also provide them services. For example, we would:

  • offer a free beer to someone who checks in
  • give a certificate to a random person who checks in and then sees the Twitter post telling them they won
  • let people use Twitter to call our taxi service for a ride home
  • post clues to hidden prizes on Facebook, like a scavenger hunt
  • let people tweet their restaurant order from the beach or poolside and have it delivered
  • let frequent customers pay their tab with no CC on hand because we have their info saved in our system
  • give the Mayor a pitcher of Sangrita (Sangria-infused margarita) and pineapple salsa on the house when He or She arrives
  • have our dry cleaning service pick up the partied-in clothing if needed, from a tweet request
  • let people request songs from the band via Twitter
  • have a live video feed of the band, the beach and the party piped online using our Intefy product
  • have kiosks and displays of real-time festivities up throughout our outdoor and indoor areas so that people can get to know new people who are also there and see what recent guests have said

These are just the silly ideas of two dreamers who want to use these tools not just to talk, but for services and utility and entertainment – all at the same time.

But I digress… the point of this post is Psychology of Foursquare Mayors and Badge Earners and Those Who Aspire To Be Them. Think about this, when you are creating ideas for marketing games using Foursquare, Gowalla, Twitter or Facebook:

  • What would a spoiled, pampered Princess expect? (Not WANT… they have expectations)
  • What would the world’s hottest Rockstar expect? What would he or she demand?
  • If this were the President of a country, what would you offer them for coming to your place or trying your product or service?
  • If this were the CEO of a major corporation, would you offer He or She what you are claiming is a cool gift or reward to your Mayors?

You may find these examples extreme, but this is an important question: What can you do, that is an actual sacrifice, to reward your most loyal customer? Send them a gift? Give them a free product or service? Let them pick their own reward? Really GIVE something to these folks… what you will earn in loyalty, word of mouth and influence on others that these people will have, will pay you back many-fold. Foursquare is adding analytics so you can test and track and experiment until you hit the right mix of offers and options.

Are you playing with these new social sites or thinking about it? We’re really excited to explore the possibilities and have started pitching ideas in proposals to certain types of clients. This stuff can make retail, restaurants and even service businesses fresh and fun again!

Are You #foursquareimpaired?

Our friend @SarahRobinson today mentioned she was “foursquare impaired” and is curious about Foursquare and wants to participate, yet concerned about safety and how to go about using location-based services (LBS) without losing her privacy or security as she travels about.

These are very valid concerns and it’s great that Sarah is thinking before blindly jumping in, but I want to help alleviate some of the worry for her and others who are interested in playing with geo tools but not quite sure what they might get themselves into. You will need to signup online, but checkin from a mobile phone app such as the iPhone, Android device, Blackberry or Palm. I am on Foursquare, so the bulk of this post refers to it, but Gowalla is equally popular and someday I may be on it also.

Here’s a simple step-by-step process of some things you can do to protect yourself when using these services.

1. First of all, before signing up for an LBS, take a privacy inventory of ALL your social profiles. Twitter only allows a link to your site, but you may have private information on your background, if you’re self-employed or a business that operates from home. At Facebook, you may have listed your phone number, address, emails and other identifiers. Reconsider what fields you have filled out there or choose settings that prevent all but your closest friends from having access to that info. The same with LinkedIn, MySpace, Plurk, Plaxo, etc. Lock these profiles up if you want private info secured and then you won’t have to worry as much about your geo tools leading to more information than you wanted to give people.

2. Second of all, signing up is not in and of itself going to cause you any problems. You don’t even have to enter your last name at Foursquare. I couldn’t tell what the required fields are for Gowalla as they aren’t marked.

Foursquare displays your first name and last initial, Gowalla appears to display both names. My name displays as “Kristi C.” on Foursquare, instead of the more widely know “kriscolvin” which is both my Twitter and Foursquare user name.

foursquare2. After signing up, you can select different settings and you’ll notice in mine, I don’t even let Foursquare friends see my phone and email.

That’s because I want to be able to accept large numbers of people as friends and not have to be overly concerned about who they are (as on Twitter.)

3. You can select whether or not you want every single Foursquare checkin to go to Twitter or Facebook, or just reflect your activity on Foursquare itself.

These settings are important to consider from both an annoyance factor (to members of other social networks, who may not care you’re having waffles at IHOP right now) and from a security factor. If you’re like me an an active Twitterer who is often out and about in Kansas City and surrounding areas, you might not want every follower you have to know all your activity.

foursquare-14. You may be alarmed when you see untold numbers of folks requesting to be your friend on Foursquare, but there’s no need for alarm. One of the settings allows your handsome mug to be shown on the home page of the site whenever you checkin, and folks hitting the page right at that time may elect to befriend you just to add more folks to their network. There’s also a “friend finder” that people may use and you may be in their address book, Twitter or Facebook network.

5. You can use some creative processes to play in Foursquare, yet not be stalked or found. For example:

  • Checkin to a place once you get in your car to leave. That way you can denote being there, without actually having to worry about people finding you there.
  • Checkin only to places where you are with other people, such as your office or a restaurant and not when you’re alone, like at the grocery store or hair salon.
  • Never checkin your home address or let people know if you’ve gone home or left home. It’s just good common sense!
  • If you frequent a place in any sort of pattern, for example, hitting Starbucks every morning at 8:30 am, either don’t checkin every single time, or omit that place altogether and never checkin when there. Should someone have nefarious designs on you, you don’t want to indicate patterns of behavior that will give them unfair advantages. Okay, this might include marketers! ;-) This may actually get harder once a lot more companies use rewards based on checkins, so be aware that’s coming.

6. There are some pretty awesome stats at Foursquare with a tempting offer to tweet and share them. If you’re worried about privacy or security, don’t do it. Just enjoy them as records of patterns about your own behavior.

7. You can add tips and to-do’s for others about venues, such as “Try the Nutella Crepes!” at a place which has fabulous nutella crepes. Keep your tips generic and not personal.

8. If you checkin to a place and instantly regret it, it can always be deleted from the website.

9. Avoid sharing travel details with pals on Twitter and Facebook, then checking in from all over the place you’ve traveled to, especially if this is a major vacation or something and your house is actually empty at the moment. Rob Frappier wisely points out that the key is intelligence and moderation, when playing with these geo sites.

Facebook and Twitter are both integrating with LBS sites or adding geo-information to their product directly, so be sure to examine your settings regularly and change whatever they set by default that you do not agree with.

10. There’s a little link that says “Currently in X place” on the website. If you travel between multiple houses or places like I do each week, refrain from correcting that when you see it. For example, mine right now says I am in Mission, KS because I last checked in there, but that’s not where I’m sitting as I type this.

Now, hopefully some of the concern has been addressed and we can discuss WHY you might want to use these services. We are literally only on the cusp of what can or should be done with these interesting LBS applications. If you check out this page for businesses at Foursquare, you’ll see some interesting things: specials for the “mayor” of a bar or restaurant, coupons for checking in, and other reward ideas are being envisioned everyday.

Starbucks has officially announced they will be developing a Foursquare checkin reward system, and will award visits to multiple locations with a special Barista Badge and they will be actively experimenting with other reward ideas.

When you look at the nature of recommendations and reviews, retail shops of all types stand to gain big by getting involved with Foursquare. How many times have you walked by a dry cleaner, dentist or nail salon and wondered if the service or quality of care provided was any good? As more and more people use Foursquare beyond the simple quick checkin (meaning, they spend time on the site to categorize entries and do tips and to-do’s and longer checkin recommends), the value of this business being found on Foursquare increases significantly.

This is the reason the Fresh ID team is on Foursquare – some of our clients are a perfect fit for the future potential of offering rewards and benefitting from reviews and customer checkins, so we want to be part of this global, social experiment.

If you’re curious, but still need more info, check out the Foursquare blog on Tumblr to learn more about what they’re doing right now, and let us know what you think about the LBS revolution. Are you #foursquareimpaired, or playing with these tools at all? Let us know in the comments and if you want to be mine and Matt’s friend on Foursquare, our links are below.

How Mobile Brands Can Build a Successful App Strategy

I just read a short but great article on mobile app branding and the approach you need to consider before going to market. The 12 lessons mentioned in the article:

  1. Apps must be real-time
  2. Make it easy for consumers to pay
  3. Integrate feedback quickly
  4. ‘This is not the wired web’
  5. People will pay for value…
  6. …But free works to drives sales for your endemic product
  7. Apps need to be part of an integrated message
  8. Utility, frequency and viral distinguish long-term success 
  9. People find apps through other people
  10. Use existing assets to market your app
  11. App marketing needs to be targeted
  12. Don’t discount the iPod Touch

For details, case study examples and to read the whole article head over to Advertising Age.

Why You Need a Mobile Web Site (And How to Get One Today)

Ask the question “Do you have a mobile site?” to a lot of overworked professionals and they’ll groan, roll their eyes, or do something else to indicate this is just not something at the top of their priority list right now, and they’d rather not think about it.

Yet, with so many people on the move, using a wide range of internet-capable phones, the timing is right to take a look at going mobile. Since I wrote Branding Yourself in Small Spaces and hypothetically redesigned an existing corporate mobile site, I have been chomping at the bit to get my hands on a real one. I have the perfect mentor, but haven’t yet had the opportunity to take on this new challenge. This week I discovered some free web tools that gave me the chance to play with mobile design, albeit in an indirect and less-than-perfect way from an information architecture and design perspective.

However, even with the design limitations, I think anyone who wants to network and get the word out about their business should take a look at these tools. I have designed two sites for my company, Fresh ID and am trying to decide which one I will officially use with my new “freshid.mobi” domain name.

 

 

SWIFT GETS YOUR MOBILE SITE ONLINE QUICKLY

Swift is a beautiful tool that allows you to literally create a mobile web site in minutes. It offers the ability to make the mobile site your own by choosing colors and inserting graphics, which is the reason I started with it as my first foray into mobile design. It allowed me to add a page for this blog’s rss feed, which is nice because this is updated much more often than the Fresh ID site is. In fact, Swift focuses on bloggers who might just want a way to make their blog mobile. It is free if you want to show ads, or $10 per month to be ad-free.

I went through a lot of trial and error with the design, which was exhausting, but I sincerely believe we should try to brand ourselves consistently regardless of the environment, so I wanted to put in the effort. I am not totally satisfied with the results… if I were designing this with developers, or wanted to spend the time learning all the applicable behind-the-scenes css and coding tricks to do what I want, I would approach the design differently – especially of the home screen. What I created at Swift is a nice first pass and usable, but not delightful, which is the emotion I ultimately want to evoke.

Swift says, about growing your business, “Now, you don’t have to be a Fortune 500 company to have a great-looking, professional mobile Web site.” That is definitely true, and is the single reason I am sharing this information. I hope organizations of all sizes that read this will think about what they can do in the mobile space to promote their products or services, and I will provide some examples to get your marketing synapses firing at the end of this article.
MOBISITEGALORE PROVIDES ROBUST & DYNAMIC SITES

Another mobile site builder I wanted to try was mobiSiteGalore. I found them first, but ended up starting with Swift because they looked easier and had a more appealing interface. However, I’m glad I tested mobiSiteGalore because they are a lot more robust and have helpful marketing “Goodies” you can utilize to make your mobile site a lot more interactive. The site is fairly easy to use and comprehend (well, for a web professional like myself, that is.) Like Swift, they create the site for free and give you a custom domain name to use, but they also offer the ability to host the created site on your own server, which is a little unexpected for a free service like this. You can remove their “Made by mobiSiteGalore.com” link from the bottom of the pages for 95 Euros, or about $150 US.

They are tightly integrated with ready.mobi (a mobile phone tester and emulator, and where these screenshots came from.) If you get into designing your own mobile site at all, you will become intimately acquainted with ready.mobi, as I found myself going back and forth constantly to test the results of my design efforts. mobiSiteGalore does this with each completion of your page design, and you get instant results of how well it is expected to work across various types of mobile phones. I found that my mobiSiteGalore site scored better than the Swift site did in terms of having the properly validated code and fewer errors.

My main complaints, naturally, have to do with the design control. My header is tiny, whereas with the Swift site it resizes to fill the screen, and I had no control over the home screen’s appearance, like I minimally did with Swift. If I could combine these two products together, in addition to my wish list of design features being implemented, I’d have the perfect online mobile site designer!

BRAINSTORM & PLAN MOBILE SITE IDEAS BEFORE STARTING

When I decided to take on this experiment, I had the benefit of some understanding of restraining my mobile site’s message to fit the context of the space, thanks to tutoring from a leading mobile design expert, Barbara Ballard of Little Springs Design. She believes in designing for the mobile web with “intelligent simplicity” but that is perhaps easier said than done.

You are going to need to put yourself in your user’s shoes to create content for your mobile site, and I strongly advocate creating a separate site, because your existing web site is going to be much too hard to navigate and read on this small surface. (Test this for yourself using an emulator.)

Here are a few questions to get you started:

What is the minimal amount of content from your site that someone might need online?

Your full contact information is one obvious reason for being found online when people are searching, so definitely make pertinent content information a page in your mobile site, and use any SEO features offered, in addition to considering paid mobile ads, to be found in mobile searches.

What is the next most important thing people in a non-computerized environment might need to know?

For Fresh ID, I felt the answer was about my services and a little bit about my background, which adds credibility. In reality, people want to see my portfolio, but I have directed them to the normal web site (when they’re in front of a computer) rather than putting these images online… for the time being.

I have two clients who are manufacturers, Vertec Polymers makes plastic shapes that companies use to create products and parts with, and Titan Wood sells a special wood that is used in all types of structures and applications. Both of these companies sell to individuals and distributors, and a natural mobile site component for them, might be to have specific product information or datasheets (perhaps stripped down to essentials) that a buyer in the field could access if they had a question based on their need at the moment. A contact form that sends an email (such as mobiSiteGalore offers) to a sales rep would be awesome when someone has a quick thought, away from their desk, and wants to handle it now.

What do people commonly do at my site, that I could let them do from a mobile site?

Banks and brokers have begun using mobile sites to provide access to transactions, such as checking your balance or transferring funds. What do you do, that could make life for your users a bit easier if they could do it without having to be in front of a computer? Here are ideas for three companies I like that I don’t think have mobile sites now:

VisualCV could let users send their resumes via the phone to someone’s email, so that if they get a call from a potential employer or recruiter, they can hang up and instantly send their visual resume to an email address.

Phix could let customers order more energy drink powders from wherever they are at the moment… a thirsty mountain biker would never have to be indoors to get his Phix!

EchoSign could allow users to send documents from a mobile site to someone’s email address so they didn’t have to rely on computer access to take advantage of closing a possible deal.

MOBILE SITE RESOURCES

Are you starting to formulate ideas for your own business yet? If not, check out the .mobi showcase to see real examples of mobile sites from all sorts of organizations, and visit the sites below for help to get your mobile site online.

Do-It-Yourself Tools
>> Swift
>> mobiSiteGalore

Do-It-For-You Using Online Tools
>> Fresh ID

Mobile Design & Strategy Firms
>> Little Springs Design
>> 2ergo
>> Punchcut

Mobile Site Design Resources
>> Fresh ID’s Delicious Links
>> Small Surfaces
>> Mobile Design on Squidoo

If you’re hungry for more information about mobile design, from industry experts, attend the Design for Mobile Conference in Lawrence, Kansas September 22-24, 2008!

What Does Celltop Cost on Your Alltel Phone?

Celltop_cellsSo many people are searching every day for the costs associated with Alltel’s Celltop feature, and finding the design critique on the Celltop user experience I recently posted, that I felt I should provide specific pricing information if possible. I have done some more research about the cost of using Celltop on your Alltel phone. Maybe this can be my good deed for the day. :-)

Please note, this information is from the software on my LG Scoop phone, which appears to be different than the software in screenshots on the Alltel site, so the pricing and application information is subject to change. (And not all applications are available on all Alltel phones.)

Continue Reading →

Celltop User Experience Disappoints at Least One Alltel User

For those that don’t know, “Celltop” is a suite of mobile widgets designed by the amazing Frog Design especially for Alltel, who is my service provider at the moment. Celltop works on certain phones only, and there are about 10 free widgets out of the box, with others available for purchase. An interesting idea, in theory. When I first saw the concept, with its slick looking interface, I wanted to put my hands on it and play! In reality, the fun was short-lived.

CellThe design feels pretty nice at first glance… the colored backgrounds and typography on top of them seem readable. But because they put two cells on the screen at one time, they feel a little “squished” for my taste. I think there’s a way to unsquish them and display only one using the full screen, but I haven’t yet figured that trick out. As a user experience specialist, I deliberately don’t want to use the Help for it, because I am trying to ascertain the application’s intuitive learning curve. (Unfortunately for me, that meant my husband ended up telling me how to listen to ringtones because he figured the secret out first.)

A brand design, an amazing application interface, and ultimately the entire user experience of any system is dependent on two external things:

Continue Reading →

Branding Yourself in Small Spaces

Mobile_brandingI recently had the opportunity to get together with a brilliant woman named Barbara Ballard, who specializes in mobile application design… in fact, she wrote the book on it! As someone who wants to break into this field, the gears in my brain couldn’t help turning as we looked at some real live apps on several of her different devices and discussed the ramifications of designing for these small spaces.

Today I took a few minutes to do a brief redesign of one of the mobile applications we looked at, for USAA. I want to make it clear, that neither Barbara nor myself have done any work on the USAA site or mobile application. She is a customer of theirs, so we had the opportunity to examine the interface superficially and only briefly discussed it.

THE CORPORATE BRAND
At first glance, I wasn’t overly impressed with the mobile application Barbara showed me. It is functional, but very plain. As someone who believes that the brand and user experience are strongly intertwined, I wondered what the site design and USAA branding looked like, so I visited the http://www.usaa.com/ to check it out. Wow!! I fell in love with the simply elegant typography, the color palette, effective use of white space and generally effective navigation. (I didn’t look too closely at the information architecture – today’s focus was visual.)

The web site fits the image, the style, and the level of sophistication you’d expect a large, national, financial brand to portray. I found it very peaceful to peruse, and they had some nice usability components that would help a potential customer research their offerings and make at least the decision to call them to see about becoming a member.

LOGGING IN
In comparison to USAA’s corporate site, I don’t get the same experience when launching the mobile app. So I did a quick redesign to show how I would have approached this design and created the same brand experience in the small space, as they offer in the large, unlimited one.

It was surprisingly easy, because the web site contains some wonderful graphics in a special section promoting the mobile service. By the way, the presentation on the site is designed as part marketing/part tutorial, and it provides an excellent service for users. The mobile app itself seems pretty easy to use and understand, but it lacks the delightful branding that makes the USAA site such a pleasant environment. Here is the login screen, looking much more like the login section on the site:

Usaa_login

All the functionality is still there, except one component. I don’t think it is a good idea at all to enter a user into something without their permission, such as they are doing with each mobile login. I didn’t know what this contest is about, so I searched the site (as they said to do, for the contest rules) but couldn’t find the information. The reality is, if I had been doing this project, I would have tried to talk Marketing out of this approach by explaining the how this introduces a negative message to the user, or I would have handled it in a way that feels more advantageous to people than intrusive. I eliminated it from my login screen completely.

HOME IMPROVEMENT
This is a very quick effort to redesign the home screen at a purely visual level, repurposing their existing site graphics, but I think it has a lot more personality and appeal. Given time and money and a real job redesigning this, the effort would be a lot more impressive, but I think you will see my point here.

Utilizing these well-designed, iconic images already on the web site sends a message of professionalism that says “Our company is second to none. We offer style and class. We take no shortcuts, etc.” It also gives the application a little bit of an interactive feel, much more so than the plain, dry text links offered currently.

Usaa_home

(The little “hand” over the green icon should not indicate that this is a touch interface. I just realized I am so used to designing software prototypes, I put that there as an indicator of the visual cue when an option is selected – on this type of mobile device that would mean using the center key to move up, down, left or right to hop from one icon to another.)

This brand exercise only took me about an hour. Of course, the images aren’t as perfect as they would be if I worked with their designers and had the original art. I used the largest size device screen, but would have no problem scaling down the images and altering the layout, yet still maintaining some branding for smaller size screens – the smallest of which is about 128×128 pixels.

As the postage stamp industry has proven, there is nothing so small that you can’t align beauty, detail and spareness of clutter if you feel it’s important. Fresh ID is founded on the principle that branding is a key ingredient in the overall user experience of a system. It should not be ignored simply because we have a significantly smaller canvas on which to paint!