Category Archives: location-based

On mobile phones, “distance” isn’t really important

By | design, innovation, location-based, mobile apps, product design, user experience | No Comments

DO has been cooking up a location based mobile game over the last month or so, we’re still early on in development but I wanted to share an interesting conclusion I came to tonight while building one of the interfaces.

Our game requires the user to make a new ‘match’ and invite his or her friends to it. While the user will be able to do this from the web interface, we also want it to be possible to start up a new match on the go, right from the mobile device. Essentially a match consists of three things: a starting location, the radius of an area surrounding that location, and a title. The problem I ran into with creating an interface for this is that capturing all of that information can get clunky. Below is the initial layout I came up with based on discussions with the team (disclaimer, I am a programmer practicing design without a license, these would normally be cleaned up before going into production).

Initial Interface

Initial Interface

So I didn’t really like the interface here, but I kept rolling along with development anyways, it’s still early enough in the process that overlooking aesthetics is alright. However, as I continued about my merry way writing code to support the interface I just built, it slowly dawned on me that everything wasn’t as ‘alright’ as I thought it was. Problem one came up when I tried to actually convert the distance entered into the text field to an appropriately sized circle on the map. The map on the iPhone only allows you to specify dimension in terms of one metric: latitude and longitude differences. So I dusted off my trigonometry skills and started to write the code that converts from a distance in meters, to iPhone friendly units. I then realized this still hadn’t exactly solved my problem, as it turns out, users at different elevations can’t exact distances the same way when using latitude and longitude to measure them. So for instance, if I’m at the top of an office building, the distance covered between a single degree of latitude is not identical to the distance covered between that same degree at the bottom. Well, needless to say my head started to hurt a little bit here, and I went back and re-evaluated why I was in this situation.

Reworked Interface

Reworked Interface

The conclusion I came to was that distances in feet or meters really aren’t always appropriate metrics to be using for mobile map interfaces. Granted, if you’re getting directions it’s nice to know how far down the road you need to continue, but on the other hand, how often do you evaluate the distance as drawn by a line on the map, and how often do you evaluate distance by looking down the road and approximating ‘another 200 feet’? I would wager that the map will almost always provide more accurate context for distance than any hard number would. So taking that as granted, I reworked my interface (and the concept of what a ‘match’ consists of) completely without any units of distance.






Our new interface has a few benefits:

  • The user doesn’t have to worry about how far away three miles is, they just zoom in on the area they want their game to take place, the red circle remains the same size (relative to the screen) and they have chosen their game radius without having to enter it in a text field.
  • The issue of whether they are using kilometers or miles is completely a moot point
  • We’ve saved ourselves hours of development time, and the headache of ever having to convert or worry about distance
  • The interface is cleaner and simpler

I imagine that the same issue of converting distance for iPhone maps has occured countless times as more and more location based apps make their way into the app store, keep a look out for this: do you notice many of them bothering to note distances directly on the map?

Online Identity Evolutions

By | digital identity, geekery, innovation, location-based | No Comments

One of the most inspiring things about the digital landscape is the access and sharing of information. I had a chance to read some of Chris Messina’s thoughts on the new Mozilla Online Identity concept. I’ve been interested in what Chris has been working on since my very own “portable profiles” idea back in 2006, which I pitched to a new startup client at the time. It was too much of a long term strategy they thought, so I went ahead and did my own due diligence with a patent search. What I discovered was that, yes it was too early, but there were many people in a small community trying to solve the problem of 50 usernames and passwords alongside masses of personal assets strewn across the web like breadcrumbs reminding you where you had once been.

One of the things Chris said that caught my attention was:

“In practice, much of what I’ve described is already possible using recent protocols and formats. It’s really just a matter of providing a unified experience through the browser and pushing for wider adoption of these technologies across the most popular social web services.”

In reading Chris’s thoughts and what Mozilla was up to, I thought about my own identity across the web and some of the opportunities that would be presented to us in the near future. I even shot a quick email to my team to encourage some of their own thoughts. Here’s a run down:

  • “Following” extends beyond just statuses and drills down into asset types like photos, videos and profile types.
  • Sharing your location enables newspapers to have value again! Viewing NYTimes based on my zipcode and profile offers me neighborhood specific content like deals, events, movies, personals and friend’s plans as a viewable layer.
  • Technologies like iPad provides interactive experiences for managing profile-types when you travel – My San Diego profile is different than my NJ profile because of the places I go, purchases I make, connections I have in each area; recommendations become better targeted.
  • Following your favorite bands gets better – You can choose to follow only their videos and new tracks posted to iTunes. You may hate their statuses, photos, etc.
  • Browsers may hold the key to how your identity is managed across the digital landscape – whether on your laptop, phone, iPad, tv; activities, interactions, sharing, communicating will be seamless.
  • Education can be done from anywhere and courses are tuned for you on an individual basis and information is crowdsourced and created by the students and professors in harmony. Think free-flowing, living books. Like developers use versioning, the same could be possible in textbooks.
  • Check-ins become a commodity and consolidate under a couple service providers, giving the SMB market a truly targeted way to connect with their customers.
  • Finding that perfect pickup game with the right level players is a non-issue.
  • Preferences in video games, car stereo receivers and kiosks would all be decentralized and portable; no matter what device, where you are, your login/id personalizes it for you.
  • Forget clipping coupons, remembering vouchers or gift certificates; your profile contains that information and accessible anytime.
  • Discovery becomes more about tuning the degree at which you want a new experience vs. something highly targeted to you. Think of it as a viewing the world through filtered layers that you control the intensity.
  • Rewards cards and keychain tags? Throw them out. Customer loyalty programs will get integrated, your device knows your location and displays the right barcode to be scanned.
  • Friends will follow you everywhere. You’ll have layers of friends that you control what they have access to from your online identity. Don’t want your mom seeing your Vegas weekend videos?

Have anything I might have missed or just interested in the Digital You? Feel free to leave your comments below.

Social Media to become more about Where I Am then Who I Am

By | digital marketing, facebook, google, location-based, mobile apps, mobile marketing | 3 Comments

When crafting a Social Media Strategy, we often think about the people and who were are trying to engage and activate. So you look at demographics, what tools, apps and websites they are using; you begin to build out these utopian profiles for the people you feel your message will resonate with.

So how is this going to change moving forward?

Let’s take a look at the some of the recent news in the area of “location-based services“:

  • Twitter turns geo-location on – read more
  • Facebook enabling its 400M users to share their location – read more
  • Google dilutes its efforts between Buzz and Lattitude – read more
  • Foursquare is testing its new business analytics dashboard – read more
  • Gowalla inks deal with Travel Channel – read more
  • SXSW becomes global battle dome for location-based Davids competing against the Goliaths – read more
  • Loopt in chats with Facebook and repositioning around check-in specials for consumers – read more
  • Plancast seals its future with funding – read more

So what does all this news mean?

Well you better be aware of what is out there because the social media strategy you spend 4-6 weeks crafting better include location-based marketing tactics, metrics and the ability to scale as these services continue to offer the end consumer more game-like features to keep them engaged and business owners a suite of tools to connect in real-time conversations both unobtrusively and geographically.

It’s not just Who Am I. It’s becoming Where Am I.

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