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Category Archives: Apps




Evernote Raises Prices and Removes Free Features

Evernote, the cloud note service that has been a mainstay on most peoples’ mobile devices for syncing lists, photos, and notes across all of their devices, has made some changes to its pricing structure. The Evernote team has minimized the usability of the free tier and raised the prices on both of its paid plans. Evernote Pricing
Since I learned about Evernote, around 2009, the free option was more than capable for my use. I would typically access notes from a phone, tablet, desktop and laptop. As I moved from student to professional, the amount of devices I found myself carrying only seemed to grow. Now I would need to buy the $35 annual plan which, while not objectively expensive, is a jarring change from functionality I used to get for free.

Having been a happy Evernote customer for a long time, this price change is making me take a look at what the Premium tier plan is really offering, and what kind of alternatives are out there. For both Android users, Google Keep offers almost all of the functionality of Premium Evernote for free, and it uses storage from your free Google Drive (15GB). Apple Notes paired with iCloud are built into pretty much every Apple device, and use iCloud storage to sync across devices. While some features of Evernote Premium aren’t built into either service, there are plenty of free apps on both platforms’ app stores that will match or exceed the functionality of the $70/year plan.

Any existing Evernote Plus and Premium members are being notified as their prices begin to change. Plus members will see a $10/year increase and Premium members will see a $20/year increase. If I were on either plan I would take that extra $20, throw it at more iCloud storage and say goodbye to Evernote. It will certainly be interesting to see the impact this move has on Evernote’s user data, as some free users simply won’t want to pay and won’t be able to use the free plan any longer.

I’m Obsessed with the New Instagram Update

Instagram has had a very similar UI since it was created. The tired old brown icon has occupied a space on the grid of my phone screen(s) for almost six years, but I’ve been using it less frequently over time. Simply put, I just got bored of it. The content became less interesting (blaming the friends I follow for that one) and the stagnant, dated UI didn’t compel me to check this drab feed of selfies and memes. Luckily, the update I got this morning for Instagram caught my attention immediately, and may have breathed new life into the application entirely.

Instagram ditched the brown and beige icon for a very eye catching gradient. The app itself has lost most of its color, opting for almost entirely black and white UI with a pink color for elements like notifications. It looks very “Apple”, and we’re expecting a similar look coming to Apple Music soon, which won’t matter to Android/Windows users, but there is definitely something that can be taken away from this update and the effect its having on users.

Instagram UI Update

Through exploring, I have found very few new features in the newest Instagram update, so it’s safe to say this is solely a UI update, and I’m so excited to use it again. As a developer or business owner, it would be worthwhile to take this into consideration for the systems your customers use. If adding new features or services isn’t having the effect you expected, or just isn’t something you’re doing right now, a new look can be enough to trigger more engagement.

Keeping your UI up to the current trends is critical to maintain and expand your user base. Unless you’re offering a highly specialized product, chances are there’s a competitor out there whose website or app has a cleaner, more user-friendly design. Users will gravitate towards interfaces that look simple, make it obvious where they should navigate to get their desired result. Using familiar elements to your design will make the user feel like they know what they’re doing, even if they’re seeing it for the first time.

Google to Discontinue Google Wallet Debit Cards.

Google Wallet CardGoogle Wallet is the longstanding mobile payment platform that brought NFC payments to the masses in 2011. Google has been heavily restructuring their payment applications recently, turning Google Wallet into a peer-to-peer payment service (a la Venmo, Paypal, SquareCash) and putting NFC payments into their new app Android Pay.

As of May 1st 2016, users will no longer be able to add money to their Google Wallet debit cards. On June 30 the cards will be fully cancelled by Google. The Wallet service will still work, and Android Pay is growing in support and adoption rapidly. Google has yet to say whether they will be creating an Android Pay card, or if they’re ditching the idea of replacing debit and credit cards altogether.

Because of the low adoption rate of NFC terminals, Google started offering a Google Wallet physical card that worked with ATM’s and traditional swiping terminals. The cards launched in 2013 and functioned by loading up your balance in the app, and spending with the card.

If you’re a Google Wallet card user looking for a convenient way to replace the plastic in your wallet, we have written about our pick for a replacement card previously. Of course there still isn’t anything wrong with actual bank cards, but many people out there are looking to simplify their wallets.

Adobe Experience Design CC Preview

Adobe’s Creative Cloud applications are a mainstay for designers and developers around the world. Photoshop, Dreamweaver and Illustrator help people create and publish graphics and websites, but there hasn’t ever been a product that focuses on user experience in the Creative Cloud. Project Comet was the codename for Adobe’s entry into the UX design world, and it now has an official title and preview available for Mac OS X. Say hello to Adobe Experience Design CC.
Adobe Experience Design Marquee
Experience Design (abbreviated as XD) is for creating a unique and powerful user experience in your site or application. While design is important for UX, a tool like Experience Design will focus more on the actual interaction with your design. XD comes with tools focusing on gestures, transitions, and elements for your app or website.

In the preview there are two tabs to work in: Design and Prototype. Adobe Experience Design IndexDesign is about building the pages, galleries, and content that your finished product will use. Prototype allows you to map out the navigation of your app. You can then share a live preview with anyone to try out your project, making it easy to get feedback.

Experience Design is in preview right now on Mac OS X, with a Windows preview coming soon. All of the features that will be in the final version are not available in the preview, but the roadmap on Adobe’s site is looking very promising. To keep up with new features or to get your preview of Experience Design CC, head to Adobe’s website.

UsabilityHub Suite: The Final Verdict on Your UI

Designing a website that looks good is a big undertaking. You need a design that works objectively, not just to you. The functionality of that site can be even more difficult to decide upon. After hours of design choices and working with your site, a UI feature that makes perfect sense to you might not be as obvious to somebody who has never seen it before.

UsabilityHub looks to help make those critical design decisions a little more clear for you or your designer with their suite of UI tests. You upload your design to their site and they present it to a number of people to answer questions, try to complete an action or simply choose which design they prefer.

Five Second Test

The first test I tried was the five second test. If the visitor doesn’t know what Five Second Testyour site is about in the first five seconds, chances are you’ve already lost them. The way the test works is after you upload your design, it will present it to the people taking the test for a total of 5 seconds. They have to take in as much about the site as possible, then answer a series of questions about what they remember about the site, what they like and what they don’t like. As a designer, this helps you make sure your design is clear enough to capture the attention of your would-be customers quickly, and maximizing the number of conversions on your site.

First Click Test

The first click test makes sure the product, feature, or page you want people to click is as First Clickobvious to navigate to as you think it is. You upload an image of your site, and give the testers a task to complete. In the example on UsabilityHub’s site, they use Amazon.com and ask testers “Where would you click to register for Prime?” The user gets one click to find the objective and you get the feedback on where they clicked. If you have a question about if a UI decision is intuitive or not, this will be the test for you.

Navflow TestNavFlow

Navflow is similar to the first click test, but instead of one click you as the designer set up multiple “hit zones” and the user must navigate your site to complete the task. It’s hard to overstate how critical it is that your website is easy to navigate, and this is the test to guarantee the UI makes it easy for your customers. Instead of a heat map, you get results of how far through your task they were able to navigate.

Question TestQuestion Test

This test is like the five second test, but untimed. Where the five second test is about making sure your site’s purpose is quickly recognizable and the information can be digested quickly, the question test allows you to ask questions that will require a more thorough look at your site.

Preference Test

As eaPreference Testsy as UI questions can be, the preference test lets you upload two designs and ask a question related to the two. If you have two designs for a logo, homepage, or form that you can’t decide between, this test lets you get objective feedback from real users.

 

 

The best feedback you can get on your site comes from use. You may have a design that looks great and you think is functional, but if that design goes live and it turns out what makes sense to you doesn’t translate to most users, that’s lost revenue from your site’s potential sales (and chances are if they didn’t like your site the first time, they won’t be back). UsabilityHub’s tools ensure you make informed design decisions that maximize the accessibility of your site. Check out their products at UsabilityHub.com

Outlook’s Impressive Update

2016-02-18 11_09_40-Outlook takes on Gmail with huge new update _ Webdesigner DepotOutlook’s webmail recently got a fresh visual update as well as some great new features to keep up with Google’s Gmail.
While the first updates you will notice are the design changes, which include themes and emoji support, there are much more practical features in the new interface including a one-click-away Skype powered chat, the ability to tag people in email bodies and integrated Yelp data to help with organize events.

This is the full list of new features, from Microsoft’s blog:

• Built-in Office document editing
• Dropbox and Box integration
• Add-ins from GIPHY, Yelp, Wunderlist, Uber, Paypal, Evernote and Boomerang
• @Mentions (tagging users)
• Skype chat integration
• Inline (quick) reply
• Emoji support
• Image editing
• Pins, Likes, other extended prioritization tools

Check out the video from Microsoft below and if you’re currently an Office365 or Outlook.com user, let us know what you think of the new update in the comments.

Facebook to Shut Down Mobile App Platform Parse

Parse is shutting down on January 28, 2017. The mobile application platform (purchased by Facebook in 2013) announced on Thursday that they would be “focusing resources elsewhere”. While these unforeseen migrations can mean trouble for developers who are already busy supporting their applications, this change may be better in the end for the internet as a whole.

Parse-Shutdown-Notice

Facebook, for several years, has made efforts to be more than just a social network. Facebook is many people’s primary source of news and communication, and has been expanding its “family of apps” to cover more aspects of the internet. Parse’s shutdown is a chance for developers to break free from their largest competitor. No matter what your application is, chances are Facebook is moving to bring that content, service, or experience to their brand. As a company specialized in serving small to medium sized businesses, Newtek is excited to see business owners and developers get an opportunity to take control of their application hosting and bring user focus out of Facebook and into unique, independent mobile apps.

This also gives developers a chance to look into the various service providers associated with running their app. With this change, devs can look into alternatives and find the best providers of services like data storage, usage analytics, BaaS and push notifications.

Given the multi-step process of migrating, and the fact that most mobile apps are free, it will be interesting to see how many developers just decide to let their apps go down with Parse. If there is no money to be made in their app because it hasn’t taken off yet or might just be a fun side-project, how much work is it worth putting in to move the services out of Parse’s environment?

Kevin Lacker of Parse made a note that they are striving to make the migration as easy as possible on developers who currently use the service. They have open-sourced Parse Server and are providing a data migration tool, so you can install it on your own server. If you have questions about hosting your mobile application currently with Parse on a Newtek server, contact 1-877-323-4678 Option 2.

Major Android Security Hack Uncovered

android-devil-malware-100247149-carousel.idgeAttention Android Users!

With just a simple receipt of a text message, your Android can be hacked. This is likely the biggest smartphone flaw ever discovered, CNN reports that, “it affects an estimated 950 million phones worldwide.” The issue is rooted in the way in which Androids are programmed to analyze incoming text messages, even before they have been opened. For instance, with Google’s Hangouts app, any media file that you receive (pictures, videos, audio) is automatically processed as soon as it is received. Because of this, “a malware-laden file can start infecting the phone before it’s even opened.”

The hacker needs only to send a text with a malicious media file to your phone to potentially gain complete control of your Android device. With that, he or she will be able to wipe out your device, access apps, open and review sensitive information on your phone, or even turn your camera on without you knowing.

Google, owner and operator of the Android OS, has acknowledged the vulnerability. In fact, they were made aware of the hack – and even provided with a potential fix – as early as April 9 by cybersecurity firm Zimperium. Google has assured that a patch would be made available for all customers, but according to Zimperium, a fix still isn’t largely available.

Although Google has likely developed a patch to this vulnerability, due to Android’s dependence on carriers and phone manufacturers, the company can’t simply push the fix directly to user’s devices, as main rival Apple has the luxury to do. The fix must be coordinated with disparate manufacturer platforms (Samsung, LG, Motorola, etc.) and then disseminated through the carriers (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint – just to name a few…). Google claims they have delivered a solution to its carriers, but it is still unclear whether or not the solution has been passed along to their users.

Until security firms like Zimperium declare this issue clear, Android users can disable auto-fetching of multi-media messages by accessing the Settings menu within their default messaging app. Tap Settings -> Advanced -> (deselect) Auto-retrieve MMS messages.

Users can find detailed instructions here.

Beware of the Facebook Color Change Scam

facebookscamappA variant of the tried-and-true Facebook color scam is back.

Cheetah Mobile, security software researcher and provider, is the first to confirm the reemergence of the hack. The scam appears as a Facebook app that can be shared or posted on the News Feed. So far, more than 10,000 people have been tricked into downloading the malware, according to the Cheetah Mobile Security blog post.

Upon clicking on the link from the News Feed, users will be directed to a phishing site that poses as a legitimate, Facebook-sponsored page. Once on the phishing page, users will be prompted  to watch a tutorial on how to change the color of their Facebook profile page. By agreeing to watch the video, users grant hackers access to their profiles, allowing the app to spam their friends. PC users who skip the video will be led to download a pornography video player, and smartphone users to download an antivirus app. Both are infected with malware.

Luckily, the malicious app is easy to get rid of. Those infected need only to remove it from the Facebook app settings page. Affected users should also change their Facebook password. Check out Cheetah Mobile’s breakdown of the virus for more information.

Lenovo Pulls the Plug on Small-Screen Windows Tablets

Lenovo thinkpad 8When it rains, it pours; and for Microsoft, the hits just keep on coming. Following the announcement of drastic job cuts (18,000!) comes the news that hardware partner Lenovo will stop selling small-screen Windows tablets in the United States.

Lenovo, the world’s biggest PC vendor, cited lack of demand as the reason for pulling the 8.3-inch ThinkPad 8 and 8-inch Miix 2 from American shelves. Lenovo will continue to offer the models in other regions where they are more in demand.

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