Thunder Bay is magnificent. Hugging the banks of Lake Superior, this small northwestern Ontario city is in the midst of a transition from an economy based on forestry and manufacturing into that focused on knowledge – something many Canadian cities are grappling with these days. Just north of Thunder Bay, straight up the Trans-Canada Highway, is also where the cancer-beleaguered Terry Fox gave up his cross-Canada Marathon of Hope on August 31, 1980.
What has Thunder Bay got to do with mobile? Well, I was asked by the Northwestern Innovation Centre to head up north and put on a few workshops to talk about the opportunities that mobile brings such a diverse, and sometimes harsh, economy in transition. I often talk about the pure power of mobile and its ability to democratize entrepreneurship, educate a population and raise economies and this is one of those prime examples. Mobile’s ecosystem gives cities in transition like Thunder Bay an incredible platform to build from for their future. To take a pervasive global phenomena and plot a course on how they plan on playing a part in it – and what that means for industry, education and funding – is exciting to me.
As part of my visit, I put together a snapshot of opportunities for businesses looking to participate in the mobile economy. Here are a few trends and some tactics based on the 400+ episodes I’ve done on UNTETHER.tv.
4 development trends
Get it right on one platform. UI/UX is so crucial today that developers are focusing on a single platform in order to nail it before moving on to the next. I’ve seen this happening more and more for a simple reason: Each platform is unique and brings with it development nuances that need to be customized. It is hard to build for all platforms at the same time and can result in incredible development delays and miss-matched experiences.
Focus on enabling business. If you’ve ever wanted a way in to the mobile industry, find a failing or cumbersome business process and wrap an efficient mobile experience around it. A number of the top firms (read: exits) have done this over the past 24 months. If you focus on an existing pain, you will gain traction.
Innovate in the cloud. Removing the constraints of the physical opens up ideas that would never have otherwise been born. Wristbands that monitor sleep patterns as compared to other coffee drinkers, health apps that gather medical data into the cloud and offer suggestions for treatment – the possibilities are endless once the tether to the hard drive is broken.
Build for the multi-screen experience. This is nothing but hard work and common sense. The experience we all have on desktop versus a laptop versus a tablet versus a smartphone versus a television set is at its heart a challenge. Each is different, each should be treated differently, each should be thought of differently. Make experiences don’t just create a default.
Test your idea first. Find a way to build a prototype, tap a small base of your customers, reach a subset of your target with an enquiry. Test in HTML 5 and migrate to an app if needed. Don’t do it the other way around (NY Times, Financial Post)
Create anticipation. Build to the launch. The launch is not the end, it is the start. Build a website. Build a mailing list. Build a following. Start the conversation. Launch with a list. Why? Because the algorithms of the app stores like this type of thing and take note. You have a finite window to launch right and launch with momentum. Use the tools you have to do so.
Focus on your metric. What is a metric? Daily/monthly active users, data transfer, check-ins, redemptions just don’t make it page views or click throughs. Only collect the data you plan on using. Data spoils. Determine what yours is. Build around it. Focus on it and adjust.
Does any of this ensure success? Nope, not one bit. You still need to do the hard parts – the idea-making, the funding, the coding, the design – but using the advice here, distilled from 10,000+ hours of conversation, may give you a little more focus.
Guest Post by Rob Woodbridge, Untether.tv
Entrepreneur, business leader, UNTETHER.tv founder, tech junkie, mobile business advisor, baseball nut, Springsteen fan and father of 5-year old twin boys.
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