As this year comes to an end we are celebrating the conclusion of the Taking SickKids Mobile project. It was an ambitious undertaking. Researchers from The Hospital for Sick Children, OCAD University, George Brown College, and Ryerson University collaborated to produce six prototypes that promise significant timesaving improvements to patient care.
Since MEIC’s founding seven years ago, it has incubated and launched companies, been a matchmaker, brought together players in a diverse and emerging mobile ecosystem, conducted outreach, and produced three major research reports.
The mobile landscape has changed greatly over the last seven years. Mobile is now widely integrated with other industries, and we are entering the age of the Internet of Things, which is why MEIC’s board of directors has decided to lay down its gauntlet so that others may pick up the challenge and opportunities that mobile provides to their own sectors.
Thank you for your support and participation in MEIC over the years. Best wishes for a successful 2015!
Kathleen Webb, Executive Director
and MEIC Board of Directors
Andrew Light gives a list of tips for any new venture to keep in mind when developing a new business plan. When creating a business plan, it is important to know exactly what you are trying to achieve. Typically, businesses lack focus or become too ambitious so rather than attempting to do everything yourself and be all things to all people, the best course of action is to focus on the niche you want to target and determine if it’s big enough to sustain your venture.
Identify Your Value Proposition
Before you can understand your own business, you need to understand the market. Who are the other ‘players’, and what are they doing? Once you’ve plotted where other players are, you have a better chance of understanding what your focus should be in order to compete effectively. This might be as simple as knowing what you don’t want to do.
Once you have an idea of what the market looks like, you can decide how to position yourself. How will your business fit into the competitive landscape? What do you want your business’s market segment to be – value? Quality? What are your ‘core values,’ and how will they match your business model? In general, the further from the ‘centre’ of the market you are and the more defined your plan is, the better your value proposition is likely to be.
In any case, the fundamental aspects of a good value proposition are that it is measurable (how do you know how big your market is?), sizable (is it big enough?), applicable (can you reach the market in a cost-effective way?), and desirable (for instance: is the market ‘durable’? In other words, will it last long enough to make your business worth it?).
Design Adaptive Products and Services
Simply designing a product may not be enough. The landscape of the market may change, and your product may need to change with it. Thus, you will need to know how to build what are termed ‘active offerings’ – adaptive consumer products that can change with the market’s needs.
Plan Your Budget
The most important part of your budget is your ‘peak funding requirement’ – that is, your moment of maximum exposure. Investors will need to know just how big your – and their – risk is.
Understand How to Attract Investors
Investors will want to know who you are, what your idea is, what your business model is, and who your customers are. People are actually the most important thing: investors are looking for more than just an idea or a product – they want to work with people who are honest, experienced, have leadership qualities, and have passion for what they are doing. Most investors will know that ideas can be refined, but personal conflicts or lack of expertise are more difficult to remedy. On the other hand, many good ideas never become successful businesses. Don’t assume that your product alone will be enough to sell your business. It also pays to understand your market and what you are trying to achieve. Show that there is a market by giving the examples of other applicable business plans – and how yours is different. Likewise, before you meet with investors, you should have a clear pricing strategy (competitive? Predatory? Bundled?) and understand how big the market is and how big (realistically) your share might be. Get your facts and figures right, and don’t exaggerate.
Andrew also gives a few short tips in conclusion:
– Have a tightly defined value proposition.
– Emphasise you.
– A great product on its own is no recipe for success.
– Ontario is a great place to be right now. There is a compelling story around digital, mobile, and Ontario.
Mobile development is no longer something entrepreneurs can ignore. Last year, cellphone sales surpassed desktop computer sales for the first time. There are now 3.4 billion mobile devices in use. Every minute, people share over 100,000 tweets, 700,000 Facebook posts and 40 hours of YouTube video; and most of this is now consumed on mobile devices, not computers. As Christina Warren put it in Mashable back in 2012: “Having a mobile strategy shifted from ‘nice to have’ to ‘must have’ for all businesses.”
There are two main ways of delivering content to mobile devices: websites and apps. Websites are accessed through a web browser. The advantage of a website is that it is built in a universal language (HTML) that can be accessed on any platform, including both mobile devices and PCs.
Websites therefore are relatively easy to develop and open by default to a large base of users. Sebastian points out that the disadvantage is that the user must know where to go—to download the content each time they want to use it.
Native mobile applications are made for a specific proprietary platform and downloaded from an app such as Google Play or the Apple App Store. They have the advantages of being tailored to the chosen device, which tends to make them better for unusual or process intensive apps. They are also easy to find from the app store and are readily available at any time, once they are downloaded. Unfortunately, a native app can be a lot more difficult to develop, since things like the user interface may need to be developed from scratch, and is only useful in the platform for which it is developed. Porting an app to additional platforms involves even more time and money.
The main disadvantage of hybrid apps is performance. The need to translate code means that hybrids tend to make less efficient use of a device’s hardware. If an app will be especially hardware intensive, it is better to make it native.
When developing for mobile devices, one size does not fit all. The decision to use a website, native app, or hybrid should not be based on what developers are most comfortable with, but on what is best for the project. For example: prototyping in HTML is a false economy if you know it will need to be made native later. Instead, developers and entrepreneurs should make decisions based on the project’s long term goals and needs.
Video: Why to use mobile apps
Video: What is programming language
Video: Hybrid Apps
When starting to build your app, there is the issue of which platform should be used. If you decide your app is more suitable to be distributed by a carrier rather than an app store, Renee Szuhai notes that there are some important things to consider. While working with carriers is a viable option, there are also manypotential challenges, and developers should be clear about and what they hope to achieve before they begin negotiations.
For example: Who is the target audience? How will billing be arranged? What platforms are being targeted, and how will integration be organised? Contract negotiation is another issue: Will the app be geared toward particular carriers or regions? How widely will the app be distributed; is it proprietary, national, or global? Then there is Over-The-Air (OTA) functionality and Application Programming Interface (API) support to consider.
Fortunately, the Global System Mobile Association (GSMA) has launched its ‘OneAPI’ pilot programme in Canada. OneAPI is an agreed standard for Network APIs among different mobile networks. Since OneAPI does the work of negotiating with carriers, developers can use it to make their apps available nationally to all carrier customers in a single step.
The GSMA website LINK explains
OneAPI in this way:
The OneAPI Exchange is an infrastructure that provides developers with access to mobile network operator assets via APIs. This infrastructure federates different operators into one unit providing a wider reach for developers.
As a developer you will set up a relationship with one mobile network operator. This operator will expose RESTful APIs to you. Once you have implemented these APIs and published your app, the API calls are federated through the OneAPI Exchange backend infrastructure to all of the other participating operators. This allows you to increase your reach to all subscribers of the other operators.
Negotiating with individual carriers can be a difficult experience, as Renee notes. Rogers is the only Canadian carrier that currently has a developer programme, and using this might limit an app’s distribution to Rogers’ customers. On the other hand, for all but the largest developers it can be very difficult to attract the attention of other carriers such as Bell and Telus. Renee likens the experience to ‘swimming through peanut butter,’ noting that even finding the right person to contact can be a trial, after which negotiations can drag on for months. Then there are the issues of arranging integration for billing, messaging, location, payment, and so on. The whole process, Renee notes, can be a bit of a headache.
For app developers, working with carriers is an option, but one that comes with its own issues and challenges.
Video: Working with Carriers
The User Experience with Ilona Posner
During the past few years, there has been an increase in the need for User Experience (UX) techniques to create and test products and services. Ilona Posner gives an excellent introduction and numerous examples of UX and how it can really change the way you see mobile design and development.
Why is it important to think about user experience design when creating your mobile product? Ilona presents compelling reasons why user experiences are important. Not only the economic traction but also the overall success of a product can be affected by the user experience design.
What is User Experience?
Defined by the International Organization for Standardization, user experience is “a person’s perceptions and responses that result from the use or anticipated use of a product, system, or service”. The whole process of the user experience is subjective and is shaped by the users: emotions, beliefs, perceptions, and behaviours to name a few.
From the moment your user finds your product, to when they use it, and even after they stop using it, UX is important. Every aspect of the journey through your product should be important to you when studying the user experience, it is always an opportunity to improve and understand your product as it relates to your customers’ experience.
You Are NOT a User
Ilona has created a mantra for her students and teams: “I am not a user.” The mantra is there to guide designers to remember that their perspectives are of a maker, not a user. What you see as obvious to you, might not be as obvious to the user.
You may know the manual of your product inside and out, but the true user doesn’t know or even think about your manual. The reality is, they will never go to a manual and only in true distress will they go to some form of help button.
When building and testing your mobile interface, keep in mind that you are tainted by the knowledge of the project. You do not posses the objectivity to be able to successfully understand how your product will be understood.
The Importance of The Prototype Stage
With a little imagination and creativity, you can “try” out your product before coding or building it. Paper Prototyping is where you draw out your designs step by step, working through the functions of your platform. One of the goals is to minimize the risk associated with a failed product, in turn saving both time and money in building. This is also the time for you to experiment and try different ideas, which may lead to greater innovation.
Ilona’s presents more examples on UX design and knowledge in the video’s below:
Video : User Experience Design
Video: User Research
Slideshare from Ilona’s presentation: