Windows Store and Windows Phone Store: Website Apps “Problem”

I have noticed a slightly disturbing trend in Windows (and Windows Phone) apps, and that is “big brand” apps being released as a website wrapped in an app. I am going to refer to three specific examples I stumbled upon recently, but please note these apps are not the only ones with this issue.

Let’s take a look at United Airlines app to start with. Here’s the app’s opening screen:

 

United Airline App Home
United Airline App Home

Even at the first glance you can tell this is the website being rendered inside the app. I don’t have a problem with HTML inside apps, but just throwing the website as is into the app makes for terrible user experience especially on touch. For example, you can see that the links are so dense that they will make it hard to tap:

 

United Airlines Travel Info Page
Travel information page

Even some other “pages” in the “app” where the density is not so high, the layout does not feel native at all:

 

United Airline Products Page
United Airline Products Page

Finally, compare the screenshots above to the United Airlines website:

 

United Airline website
United Airline website

So yes, the Windows Store team can claim we have a genuine and official app for United Airlines, but as a user I’d much rather just go to the website than use the app.

It gets worse in the evite app, whose main screen is shown below:

 

Evite App Home
Evite App Home

When I tapped the header image in the app, I was brought to the details page. So far, so good. The touch targets are big enough, the layout does not look like a website but it is because evite’s website is designed that way.

 

Evite App Section
Evite App Section

However, the issue arises when I tap something in the details page, it launched the evite website! That is terrible, because the app itself is the website, so why should it throw me out of the app and open the website?

 

Evite App Clicks To Website
Evite App Clicks To Website

For comparison, here’s the evite website:

 

Evite website
Evite website

Finally, the Orbitz app, where you will see a link to their mobile apps!

 

Orbitz App Home
Orbitz App Home

See the Orbitz website below, which looks exactly like the app:

 

Orbitz website
Orbitz website

Starting from scratch as a distant third in the mobile ecosystem wars, Microsoft is in a bad situation when it comes to breaking the Catch-22 of users not buying Windows devices because of lack of apps and developers not building apps for Windows because of low volume of Windows devices sold. I have seen other desperate attempts by Microsoft, like encouraging student developers to submit apps without much regard to quality of the apps. We have also seen Microsoft getting caught submitting web wrappers in their own name, for popular products and services like Southwest Airlines. This could very well be another such attempt to get big brands in the Windows and Windows Phone Stores, but I am unclear how it benefits the end users. The fact that several such apps have been released recently points to some level of green lighting by Microsoft, even if they are not the ones making it.

The least Microsoft can do now, is to make sure the layouts are modified to make them touch-friendly. Don’t get me wrong though, there are a lot of good, big brand apps coming to both Windows and Windows Phone lately, and I am really happy about that as a user in that ecosystem. Also, increasingly the apps are being released as “Universal” where you buy/download on Windows and it becomes enabled on other Windows/Windows Phone devices (and vice versa). This trend is also great news for the ecosystem.

Do you agree that these apps are close to “junk”? Are you ok seeing such “apps”? Let me know in the comments!

GitGrow Adds Meaning to the Data Google Analytics Fetches

If you are a webmaster, chances are you already use Google Analytics for understanding and analyzing your user behavior. The tool from Google aggregates the data that can answer a ton of questions about your visitors which otherwise would have been kept unanswered. However, you need to spend some time and study closely to understand which data means what, and depending on that what changes are needed to be implemented to improve stats. GitGrow is here to help.

gritgrow-intro

You will be required to authorize your Google account(which you use for Google Analytics) to get an account with GitGrow. Next you will have to add your analytics profile for the website you are willing to monitor with GitGrow. Once you are in, you will get to see insights based on your Google Analytics data.

Google Analytics and other tools that measure web visitors metrics for your website, only points out raw data (lately a bit of insights too). It happens often that you hardly know what to do with it. For example a rise in bounce rates indicates that your customers/visitors are not engaging with the content that you have, so you need to optimize your internal linking or landing pages. Similarly a study of the resolutions used by your site visitors gives you a good insight into how you can design your website to look or perform better on their screens. This is where GitGrow comes in. It analyzes your data and puts forward suggestions to leverage from the user metrics which serves great for website analytics.

The service comes at an introductory price of $49/month(which is free to use now). Other plans are priced at $499 and $799 per month with many more advanced features like recommendations, peer comparing etc.

In an age where the companies are understanding the potential of mining their user data in helping them improve their revenue opportunities and customer engagement, solutions like GitGrow are quite relevant. Currently in beta, GitGrow plans to integrate other popular analytics tools like Kissmetrics in later versions. Give a try if you want to know more.

IORAD Lets You Record Like A Video, Present Like A Powerpoint

Planning for a quick video for your friend on how he can configure his network setting or how he might be able to start a download from YouTube? Or planning for a tutorial for your next blog post. For all the practical reasons you would have done a screen video or a presentation. This time let’s try something in between, something equally(if not more) better, let’s try IORAD.

iorad-intro

Sign up for a free account and you will be taken to a page where you can start creating a tutorial. You will be required to start by naming your tutorial first. Next steps involve window selection and then just doing what you wish to demonstrate. As you complete the tutorial you can press “Done” to finish the recording or you can pause the recording midway as well. The recorded clips will now be loaded and you can edit them a slide at a time. Add action buttons from the left which includes Read, Click, Type and Hover. For most of the slides, however, the action buttons are already added. So all you need to do is rectify the mistakes or include a few more.

Be advised that Internet Explorer and Firefox browser are recommended to get the action balloons to be added automatically. IORAD is something in between video and Powerpoint presentations. You get to record the screen just like you would normally do a video screen grab. However, the end result is based on slides and the illustrations are more interactional as the viewer can actually perform the similar actions(demonstrated in the tutorial) on the presentation to move on to the next slide. Although, a streaming slideshow would have been a great addition to the features on the platter. There is also an option to embed any tutorial on a webpage. The size restriction only allows you to add an iFrame of 1000px wide which is quite high for most blog layouts. Take a look at a demo tutorial I created with IORAD.

Apart form browser windows, any window from the PC can be recorded with the tool which would definitely help any presenter to create comprehensive tutorials. One downside is that the fixed window size for the recording is a bummer if tried on many dynamic websites where the elements fall apart once the window is resized. The tool has been there for a while. The older version used to have additional flexibility while recording/editing that are removed in the latest edition. The new interface is simpler and more task oriented. Nevertheless, it’s still a quick and nifty way to create interactive tutorial presentation with precise brevity for anything that happens within a computer screen.

Startup Review: Aggregate your Social Feed using RebelMouse

Most people today use more than one social network. You either have a Twitter account or Facebook account or both. Wouldn’t it be awesome if there were a service that would aggregate all your social content into a single webpage?

Well, RebelMouse does exactly that! It’s a service that allows you to aggregate your social feeds from Twitter and Facebook and is created by Huffington Post’s former CTO Paul Berry.

Signing up for RebelMouse is a pretty straightforward process. You can either use your Twitter or Facebook account to sign up. Once signed up, you will be taken to the RebelMouse dashboard. Here you can configure your Facebook and Twitter settings. You can include your profile, the Facebook pages you administer and apps you own. For twitter, you can add different accounts on Twitter. While you need to be the owner/admin of the Facebook page that you are adding, you can add any public Twitter profile that you like.

 

You can even add multiple persons to administer your RebelMouse site. You can add them as Editor, Administrator or Guest. Once you have added the feeds, your post will automatically start appearing. At the moment, RebelMouse is offering a free account. But paid accounts for individuals and businesses with a top level domain name will be added soon, according to their site.

The interface of the site is pleasant to see albeit a little bit cluttered. They provide a few options on the fonts and that’s the only customization option you will get.

 

Coming to a conclusion, it’s an easy to use service to aggregate your content. Will anyone want to visit another site for social updates is an entirely different question. But considering they got about 12,000 signups within the first week, that isn’t an issue.

Summarize Your Day In 280 Characters with 280Daily

Remember old days when your friends waited for a chance to sneak peek into your diary to have a look at your long kept secrets? Or the times when our daily lives were neatly archived into a silly notebook? Journals, micro-blogs, note-taking apps replaced them with time. The secrecy and simplicity got suppressed with sharing features and usability. 280daily is here to gratify the dissatisfaction users whine about. The short, simple and private journal app can log your day in just 280 days and it stays encrypted and private to you only.

280daily-intro

Sign up for a free account and don’t offer a Facebook (or Twitter) login. Wonder why? It’s not a product built with sharing in mind. Once you are in, click the “New Entry” and you can add a note for the current day or the previous ones. Adding images or an interesting link is also allowed. View your entries in a grid to get a quick look at your notes which is good way to track your daily activities. You can configure the app for better appearance and performance that suits your needs. The “Overview” option allows you to get an overview of your notes which also provides a link to the summary of your daily activity(that looks something like the screenshot below).

280daily-account-summary

Seamless and clean interface makes the daunting task of documenting every day quite comforting. Since the notes are private you need not worry about privacy. Use succinct sentences while taking down notes for a day. Tracking your progress for a task at hand and at the same time trace the shortcomings are a bonus to what you can achieve with this simple application. So if you are looking for a journal app that doesn’t need you to fill-up a dozen of entries like categories, tags for organizing content or give into the most contemporary need of sharing, 280daily does a great job.

With Pinstagram You Can Enjoy Instagram In A Pinterest Style Layout

Instagram, the most popular smartphone app for photophiles, offers a great medium to capture, edit and share otherwise ordinary images in an extraordinary manner. Pinterest on the other hand has pioneered a great way to share images from various web sources and present them in a unique eye catchy web interface. Ever wondered how would it be to mash up two of the most popular image sharing services? Pinstagram offers a similar experience.

pinstagram-instagram-for-web

Login with your Instagram account and you’ll be presented with a Pinterest alike floating grid interface with images shared by your Instagram connections. You can like, pin and comment on them the same way you do on Pinterest. The interface is quite appealing akin to Pinterest.

Much like Facebook, Twitter or any popular social medium, Instagram is gradually growing into a platform developers can build upon. Before Pinstagram, there were a plethora of apps which had already provided ways to use Instagram from web, while the service(Instagram) is yet to launch its own web based platform. Notable mentions are Webstagram(Instagram on the web), Statigram(Instagram stats and browsing), Snapwidget(for showcasing Instagram images on a web page).

Contrary to buzz, the credit for even the very specific mashup idea, i.e Pinterest and Instagram, doesn’t go to Pinstagram. Pingram, an exactly similar startup, was there for quite long and hopefully is the first of its kind. Unlike Webstagram and Pinstagram, Pingram offers open access even to those without an Instagram account who can also share images to Facebook. Not to mention Instagram users can also enjoy their Instagram profile with Pingram. Pingram also offers an added advantage of browsing content using geospatial data, which undoubtedly is a great way to connect. Pinstagram, however, presents a much polished look for the users, which compliments the brilliant Instagram images.

Since the time Instagram’s or Pinterest’s popularity soared high, plenty of services have tried to ride on the wave. Leaving apart an initial surge in users, not many have made it big enough to get compared to the parent startups. Pinstagram is new and has been in news for some time now. There’s no question to the fact that it addresses a need and does so with usability in mind, yet, we’ll have to wait to see if Instagram community accepts it or not.

Download/Export Instagram Photos to PC, Dropbox or Flickr

Instagram is one of the hottest apps for iOS and with more than 35 million users combined. The app which did not have any revenue was so popular that went ahead and purchased it for more than $1 billion. However, the purchase by Facebook has left many users wondering as to whether they should continue using the app or not?

If  you are one of those disgruntled users and are looking to stop using the app, here is a easy way to export and download all the Instagram photos you have uploaded till now and back them up to your computer. You can also download and move them to a free service of your choice as well.

Export and Download Instagram Photos to Desktop PC

Export and Download Instagram Photos

Instaport is a web service which allows you to export all your Instagram photos and download them to your local PC (they are working on social export soon). To download all your Instagram photos, visit the website at http://instaport.me/ and connect it to your Instagram account.

Once you have done that, you will be able to export and download all your Instagram photos to your computer. You can also select from to only download a smaller number of photos or select photos you have uploaded between certain dates. Additionally, you could also download photos which you have liked and photos with certain tags.

Export, Download or Backup Instagram Photos to Dropbox, Facebook or Flickr

If you are looking to download your Instagram photos to , Facebook (ironic Smile) or , you can use a very useful service called If This Then That or ifttt for short, which provides you with recipes to automatically perform tasks based on certain triggers or action.

ifttt is a very simple service and users can find recipes which will allow them to backup their Instagram photos to Flickr or save them to Dropbox or upload them to Flickr or among other places.

To setup a backup for your Instagram photos, sign up for the ifttt service and visit the recipe page for Instagram at http://ifttt.com/instagram. Once there,  you can select the recipe you want to use and setup the required parameters. Once you have done that, just click the “Create task” button to create it. ifttt will then periodically run the task and backup your Instagram photos to your selected service.

Please note: While using ifttt, your older photos may not be backed up. You might have to use the first method to download all your photos and then upload it to  your choice of service.

Schedule Email in Gmail With Right Inbox

A few months back I had written about an interesting web app which allowed users to schedule emails in Gmail. The add-on for browsers like and worked very well and did its job. However, there is another entrant called "Right Inbox" which provides a similar service but is simpler to use.

Also Read: How To Send Anonymous Email | Temporary Disposable Email Services

While Boomerang for provides much more than just scheduling emails in Gmail, Right Inbox’s only focus lies on scheduling emails in Gmail. Once you install the Right Inbox extension refresh you Gmail page and you will be guided through grant permissions to the app to your Gmail Inbox.

Send Emails Later Gmail

Once you have granted permissions to the Right Inbox app, you will be able to schedule emails in Gmail with the click of a button. Right Inbox will add an additional button to the compose email workflow (as seen above) allowing you to send the email at a later time.

Schedule Emails in Gmail

Clicking on the "Send Later" button will give you several options to schedule the email. You can either click on the options provided or choose to send the email at a specific time. Once you have scheduled your email, the email will be stored in your drafts folder and will be delivered at the time you chose. The best part is that you don’t have to be near your computer once you have scheduled your email and Right Inbox will do the work for you.

Right Inbox is currently available as a and and can be downloaded from here.

Express Your Life with Timeline Movie Maker

Let me tell you about a nifty website that you will want to add to your online repertoire. It is called Timeline Movie Maker. Timeline Movie Maker allows you to take elements from your Facebook timeline and incorporate them in a short movie that you can share with your friends. It could use some refinements. However, it is simple to use.

When you first arrive at their website you are greeted with the following:

Timeline Movie Maker

There are no fancy tutorials or instructions, just a big green button that says “Make Your Movie”. When you click it you get the typical app permission window you see when you install anything related to Facebook. See the picture below.

App Permission

When you click the “Log In with Facebook” button the app gets to work. In the image below, you can see how the app automatically starts going through your Facebook timeline and gives you an indication of where it is in the process.

Making the Movie

Before you know it, you hear music playing and a video montage of your Facebook timeline streams right before your eyes. When the video finishes you see the window picture below.

Remake the Movie

If you like the movie as is, then simply click share and it will post to your Facebook timeline for all to enjoy. However, if your experience is like mine you probably won’t want to do that right away. Notice in the picture above, there is a picture highlighted with a red circle. The app randomly pics images from your timeline so something as mundane as a map of where you checked in at the dentist shows up in the movie. Fortunately, at this stage they give you the opportunity to select a different picture. If you see a picture you don’t like simply click it and the picture will change. I have to admit I would rather have had a dialog box where I could go to the picture I wanted to put in there. Unfortunately, you have to click the picture until it finally finds a picture you like. You can also change the soundtrack using this dialog. Once your finished selecting the pictures you want, click “Remake Your Movie”.

Your movie will regenerate and will give you another preview. If you are happy with the movie simply click the “Share” button. Now you will see the window pictured below.

Share

Please make note of the options in the top right corner. Above you will see where it says “Friends of Friends”. That is pretty lenient and you may not want that to be who sees your new movie. Make sure these permissions are set the way you want them to be. When you’re happy with it, click “Share Link”. There will now be a link to your movie that your Facebook friends can enjoy.

Timeline Movie Maker is pretty fun and definitely simple to use. I could think of a lot of ways to make it better though. Hopefully there is more to come. In the meantime, give a try and tell us what you think. I believe you might find this little web app entertaining, despite its shortcomings.

New website launched for GNOME 3 Desktop

A new website dedicated for the much awaited GNOME 3 desktop was launched today by the GNOME project.

GNOME 3

The website, GNOME 3 , with the same name as the Desktop Environment of that version, currently just lists the features that the users will experience once GNOME 3 is officially released. GNOME 3 Overview 1

  • Some enticing features mentioned on the site are :
  • A beautiful , sleek new design for an improved look and feel.
  • Built-in Messaging system to make instant messaging quick and effortless
  • Re-designed System Settings which grants more control to the user
  • An improved file manager
  • Dark Application Themes for when you want to focus on pictures and videos
  • Ability to use Flickr images as Desktop backgrounds

GNOME 3 Overview 2Eventually, the developers plan to make all the GNOME 3 releases , which are scheduled from April 2011, through this website. Till then, they have a Try It page where you should be able to download a Live USB image soon. For the geeks, the Try It page contains a link to instructions for manually building the Gnome 3 Shell.

The FAQ section answers some basic questions that current users of GNOME 2 may have about GNOME 3’s plans , roadmaps, compatibility with older applications, links to get involved, etc.

The mockups, screenshots and the claims by the GNOME developers ,do look promising. We’ll be watching this space to see whether GNOME 3 delivers on it’s promises.