Rapid Prototyping for Web and Mobile

In one of my previous posts, I have already touched upon paper prototyping.  This time I would like to discuss some other prototyping methods for websites and applications. I will concentrate on rapid prototyping, which does not deliver precise product copies, but rather defines the position of UI (user interface) elements and their function (this is why pixel-perfect Photoshop representations are not considered to be rapid prototypes).

But why do you need rapid prototypes?

  • You create them quickly and easily
  • You show the structure of the future website/application, leaving little room for ambiguity and misunderstanding
  • You evaluate technical and time resources needed for building an application
  • You implement and test any feedback  immediately

One important note: before you start mocking-up the design, you should have a clear idea about the content of your future website or application. Ideally, you have already written your content in a document and have thought about navigation tabs, CTAs (calls-to-action) and other important UI elements.

Industry Pages Wireframe v
A wireframe for a Web pageWireframing


This is a very simple method of demonstrating the layout of a website/application. The easiest way of doing it is paper prototyping. You just draw the elements of your future UI on paper, each in a very abstract and schematic way. If you want to make a more accurate model, there is different software developed specially for wireframing, such as Balsamiq Mockups or Mockingbird. Some of these wireframing tools allow you to build clickable prototypes by adding a few interactive elements, such as hyperlinks.

The main advantage of this method is its simplicity and universal applicability. However, a wireframe lacks design (patterns, fonts, etc.)  and responsiveness and thus does not give a full idea about the end product.

Style Tiles

The main function of style tiles is to represent the design of the future website. They consist of samples of colors, patterns, fonts, images, etc. placed on one sheet. This is a perfect tool for designers, however, it will be less helpful to a developer who actually has to construct the site and needs its exact layout.

A style tile for Miseya website redesign

HTML /CSS Prototyping

Creating a prototype by coding it has the advantage that the functionality, the usability and the responsiveness of a website can be tested to the full extent. However, though ready-made code pieces are used, creating such a prototype requires specialist knowledge and takes some time. The most common tools in this case are Bootstrap or Foundation.  After you have set up placeholder elements, you should start adding the pre-written content. This way you can control if the content actually fits the placeholders.

All in all, there are hundreds of  programs and schemes used for prototyping. This probably means that there is no one-fits-all solution.  Also, a combination of several methods throughout the product development cycle will yield better results than sticking to one method only.

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App Store Optimization (ASO) Basics

As the role of mobile is increasing and more and more developers and companies produce  mobile apps for app stores, it is getting more and more important to be able to optimize apps for search.

ASO is a discipline that has a lot of common touch-points with SEO and includes keywords research and keywords implementation as the main pillars. Furthermore, ASO encompasses the visual representation of your app in the app store (icon, screenshots, demonstration videos).

This article is dedicated mainly to finding the best keywords for your app and what is important to achieve good traffic and ranking.

Keyword research

Basically, keyword research for apps is similar to keyword research for the websites.  You should ask yourself the following questions:

  • What words describe my app?
  • What words would a user type in to find my app if he/she did not know it existed?
  • What user problems would my app solve?

Analyzing your competition is of paramount importance. A trick you may try is using parts of the names of successful apps in your category as keywords for your own app. You may, furthermore, analyze the description texts  or even reviews of the strongest competitor apps to hand-pick relevant keywords.

Another approach is using the autocomplete function in the app store itself or using the tools online to find out what relevant word combinations users are looking for. An important note hereto is that in mobile environment users tend to type in shorter queries than from desktop computers due to the size of the screen and the less convenient typing on a mobile device.

Keywords evaluation

To evaluate the gathered keywords (I would recommend collecting 150-200 keywords per app and language), use three criteria:

  • Traffic. How often the word is searched for, alone or in combinations with other keywords. You can try estimating the traffic using available SEO tools, but this would only approximately reflect the user behavior in the app store. However, there are a number of special ASO Tools that allow for more exact keyword traffic estimation (SensorTower, MobiledevHQ, AppRankCorner, etc).
  • Difficulty. One factor is a number of competing apps for a keyword in your category. You can estimate it by typing in the respected keyword in the app store and looking how many search results you will get.  Another factor is the “strength” of your competitors, meaning the number of downloads, ratings and reviews. Also here, good ASO tools will estimate the difficulty score automatically.
  • Relevance.  Does the keyword have direct relevance to your app? Does it match the visual representation of your app and its description, in users’  view?

Keywords implementation

For the Apple App Store, keywords are typed in directly in the keywords field when submitting, the space limited to 150 characters, including commas. Therefore, it is important to submit shorter words that also make good combinations (do not type in word combinations when submitting).  Another strong search signal is the app title, here you can use up to 255 characters, however the user only sees a maximum of 35 characters in the app list.  Furthermore, longer titles look spammy and are very difficult to remember).  Also the app category is considered (no need to include the category name in the list of your keywords).

For Google Play, app title, app category and app type are important signals. Furthermore, the description of the app must contain the keywords you want to rank for.

Apps Ranking

You can easily find out your current rankings using online tools such as AppAnnie or SearchMan. How you will rank will depend, firstly, on how well you chose and filtered your keywords (see above).  Secondly, newer apps may receive a boost in ranking, however with time if there are not enough user reviews and downloads, they will fall down in the search results.  So, promoting your app outside the app store (advertising, Social Media, video trailers, events, etc.) is of large importance. Also, ask your users to review the app and be attentive to the comments and suggestions for improvement.

Considering how Google app store works,  traditional SEO techniques such as link-building and in-app content are also helpful  in achieving higher ranking results with Google.

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Google AdWords Series: Understanding Location Settings

As Google is strengthening the location factor in its search algorithms, location targeting remains extremely important for managing AdWords campaigns as well.

As Google is strengthening the location factor in its search algorithms, location targeting remains extremely important for managing AdWords campaigns as well.

Location targeting increases the ROI of your advertisement, by showing the ads only to the people who can be your potential customers and possibly will have a genuine interest in your product or service based on the geographical proximity.

Location targeting

You can set your target goals on the basis of

a) countries

b) areas within a country

c) radius of a location.

More advanced campaign management allows including or exclude the locations based on several additional factors:

a) enclosing locations (areas larger than your target locations)

b) related locations (e.g. having a similar name)

c) nearby locations.

Another special feature is airport targeting, that allows you to target people located in some 300 airports around the world surfing on their mobile devices while waiting for a plane.

User location identification

It is of primary importance to understand how location targeting actually functions in AdWords.

Here is a list of factors considered by Google to determine if an ad should be shown for a search term or on display network:

  • Location interest (only for the same country), this will be explained in more detail below
  • Google domain. e.g.  Google.fr or Google.de
  • IP adress
  • The location of the user in Google Profiles, if signed in
  • Google search history
  • For mobile ads, the location is additionally determined on the basis of GPS, Wi-Fi, Google’s cell ID data

By default, Google includes not just the people located in the target location, but also searching for products or services in the target location. E.g. if you are based in Berlin and look for shoe stores in Munich, ads by Munich advertisers will appear, though they might not have set Berlin as their target location.

As it has been mentioned above, this does not work between the countries, so you will not see ads by Parisian shoe stores if you are in Berlin and look for shoe stores in Paris, unless a French store specifically targets Berlin.  The only exception is if you actually get on Google.fr to conduct your search, as the domain “signals” the country you are interested in, as well as the language you want your search results to be displayed in.

However, for most campaigns advanced location options are available, which allows you to tune in your advertising by excluding either people not physically located in your target area or not searching for (search campaigns) or looking at pages about (display campaigns) your target area.

Optimizing AdWords location settings

As always in online marketing, make sure to monitor how your current location settings perform and optimize them incrementally.

The following can be done to optimize your location settings

a) find out which locations perform better than others

b) assign more budget and increase the bids for better performing locations to attract more traffic

c) write customized ads and create landing pages for your most profitable locations, and even think how you may “localize” your offer to better match the customers’ needs.

All in all, understanding how location targeting works will lead to better campaign customization and higher conversions for your ads.

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Google AdWords Series: Selecting the Keywords and Matching Options

How to select the keywords in AdWords and how Google matches them to the search queries.

Selecting the keywords for your campaign is a science for itself, but there are several common recommendations you can keep to:

  • Think in terms of a concrete problem your potential customer wants to solve, a situation where your product is used or how what features and qualities are peculiar to your product or brand. Instead of “shoes” use “white Adidas shoes” “tennis shoes” “lightweight shoes” “big size shoes”.
  • Do not select your keywords too generally, more specific keywords often signal a higher purchase possibility. Use 2-3 word combinations, possibly including a word signaling buying intention (buy XXX online). If relevant, localize your keywords (XXX in Berlin).
  • You can find good sources for relevant keyword combinations by: analyzing your own web page and marketing material; watching your competitors; performing test searches in Google/Bing; surveying your customers or your target segment; scanning industry-related news in search for trends; or even using web tools like the free Google Keyword Planner tool (this, however, is not meant to encourage  you to generate whole lists automatically!).
  • According to Google, you do not need to include forms of the same word or misspellings, but make sure to consider synonyms and modifiers commonly used with your keywords (e.g. noun+adjective phrases).
  • Consider both the frequency of the search and the competition for the keywords you select. The higher the competition is, the higher your cost per click will be. Do not use keywords that have little relevance for your products and website, otherwise this will result in low conversions and bad quality score for your keywords (more on the quality score and the actual cost per click in my next articles on Google AdWords).

After preparing lists of 10-20 keywords for each AdWord Group, decide on the type of keyword match you would like to use.

  • Broad match. This matching option helps Google make most of its money with AdWords. Any words you enter without additional marking will, per default, use the type broad match. To explain, if you type in white shoes, Google may match it with white boots, and black shoes. I would not recommend this option for anyone, and especially for beginners, unless you are bidding on your brand name or have a unique product that only you sell.
  • Broad match modifier. In this case, words of a phrase have a “plus” sign in front of them. Words in these phrases are matched to search queries in any order, but synonyms are not used. In other words, +white +shoes will match to: shoes of white color, shoes in white, a white sport shoe.
  • Phrase match. For this option you need to type in your keywords in inverted commas. The related search results will include the complete phrase you enter plus any words before or after it- “white shoes” will be matched with white shoes Adidas, second hand white shoes, etc.
  • Exact match. To use it, enter your keywords in square brackets, e.g. [white shoes], in this case only the exact search terms entered will be matched to your ad. This might significantly limit the number of impressions for your ads, but will probably result in higher CTR rates and conversions.
  • Negative match. If you use broad or phrase match, do not forget to include a list of negative keywords. In the example with white shoes, assuming you are an owner of an online shoe shop you may want to include the words “for free” or the names of well-known brands you do not carry.

Remember to use the keywords in your ad copy and if appropriate, the display URL as well. After setting up a campaign and running it for a couple of days (or several hours for large campaigns), make sure to review the performance of the separate keywords. If a keyword gets almost no impressions, it is probably too specific to be matched against search terms. If the CTR is too low, then your ad copy is not very relevant for what the visitor is looking for (especially in case of broad match options) or is simply not very well written. And finally, if the conversion on the clicked ads is low, make sure to optimize your landing page or otherwise bid on more specific keywords and add more negative keywords to make sure you get more qualified leads.


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What is the Turnover of 2000 Likes?

Every marketer has probably asked himself/herself a similar question.

In fact, looking at a Facebook page, what are the actual merits of judgement how successful it is? Do the “likes” necessarily convert into dollars (or any other currency)?

facebook in dollars
The turnover of Facebook likes?

Imagine a product or brand page that currently has 2000 fans/likes.  It seems like a lot of fans and probably means a highly popular product. However, it is better to take a closer look at this number.

The first problem is if these fans actually exists. A recent case study about Facebook advertising points out that almost half of the likes came from unidentified profiles that probably have no real consumers behind them.

I.e. it may be easy to receive a  number of fans by investing into Facebook advertising, however the sad fact is the existence of  numerous cases of spam and fraud on the internet (possibly even whole “click farms”), which decreases the value of advertising campaigns.

Secondly, even if the fans seem to be real people, they might not be on Facebook often  (or their profiles may be outdated), so that your chances of interacting with them are very low. Another extreme is the people who are keen on “liking” everything they see,  so that the number of their liked Facebook pages can be counted in hundreds. In this case, your chances to reach these consumers organically will also be close to zero, since their news feeds are very cluttered.

In addition to that, if a user “liked” the page in order to take part in a Facebook lottery or any other incentive,  he/she may, in fact, have little interest in the product or brand and refuse to interact with the postings.

So the only important parameter that helps to evaluate a Facebook page is the engagement, i.e.  Likes, Comments or  Shares of the posts. Shares are certainly the most helpful type of engagement as the organic reach of the posts increases significantly after the post is shared on the wall of a fan or in a community.

Besides, engagement influences the Edge Rank, which, in turn, determines how often (if at all) your posts will be shown to your fans, so this is  a closed circle.

However, we also need to consider the pure business aspect of social media. Does “liking” a product or commenting positively on something actually involve a purchase?

Here we face the core psychological function of social media, that is image-building and self-defining both externally and internally. When a consumer clicks “like” on a product page, he or she wants to be associated with this product and add it to his or her image.

Whether this association also includes purchasing a product will depend on the total buying costs (that is the price and availability of the product, conditions for use, etc.)  As an example: it is highly unlikely that out of 15,5 million Ferrari fans on Facebook (as of July 2014) everyone or at least a half own a Ferrari.

Social Media may play a significant role in after-sale marketing or brand-building, but the actual purchase motivation has to be supported by promotion (discounts, special offers, testers, etc.).

In summary, the turnover of 2000 likes may be much lower than expected, so when budgeting for Social Media one has to consider the return on investment aspect in the first place.

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