All posts by Steve

About Steve

Husband, father, brother, software developer. CTO @WanderfulMedia

Find&Save iPhone Application Gets a Facelift

My team at Wanderful Media has been hard at work on our latest update to our Find&Save iPhone application which we recently pushed to the AppStore and is now available for download. FindnSave iPhone AppWe took a fresh approach to the app’s design focusing on improving user engagement and making finding local sales quick and easy.

We’ve added a lot of features in this release with some of the highlights including:

  • Visual design with larger pictures
  • Local Store-wide offer content a.k.a Featured
  • Removed the requirement for Location Services (approx. 10% of users denied this)
  • Easy sharing of offers
  • Seasonal/Holiday a.k.a. Now! content
  • Image zoom on offer detail pages
  • Geo-notifications for sales around shopping malls
  • Offer browse history
  • Buy Now links on 1000′s of offers

One factor in our redesign was reducing the need for the Hamburger/slide menu and adding a tab bar for faster access to various slices of content. Within days of making these changes it was interesting to read some supporting evidence from an article published on the The Next Web UX designers: Side drawer navigation could be costing you half your user engagement saying:

On the other hand, if your app has multiple views that users will engage with somewhat equally, then side navigation could be costing you a great deal of your potential user engagement, and interaction with those part of the app accessed via the side menu.

As you can see in the screenshot we’ve not completely done away with the Hamburger yet but we’re continuing to focus on quick access to our core content. Even in just the few days this version (v1.5) has been in the AppStore we’ve started to see positive numbers on engagement. We’ve also applied changes to how we approach users for push notifications drawing some advice from an article by Clusters founder via techcrunch:

Our biggest takeaway: don’t ask a user for access until you really need it, and make sure it’s crystal clear what they will get in return.

One of our biggest behind the scenes changes has been refactoring our iOS codebase moving to support a Universal Binary that will help us leverage code across iPad/iPhone and keep evolving both applications more quickly. While this has been a big release it’s really just a first step as we have a large backlog of features and improvements to come making for a busy and interesting summer.

Please make iOS lock screen camera access optional via Settings

My request to Apple on the camera icon on the iOS Lock Screen:

The camera icon on the iOS lock screen is to a child like a Fart Gun from Despicable Me 2 which is to say they can’t stop using it.

Please, make it an option.

If you have young children you can likely relate, if not you should really see the movie it’s quite funny.

But seriously. Can we get an option here?

I’d prefer not to repeatedly have dozens of blurry, pictures of the carpet, couch, floor, ceiling, siblings, goofy faces, all variety of inanimate objects and alas things which shall remain nameless streaming to all my other iDevices let alone getting shared on the big screen via Apple TV.

Seriously, an option. Please.

Found this quote from a data researcher at Microsoft interesting:

I don’t make decisions from my gut. I make decisions based on as much information as possible, and then I make them with the least emotion I can

-David Rothschild

Google SERP Ignoring Ad to Content Ratio “Guidelines”

While doing some SEO research this morning I ran the Google search pictured below…

Having spent considerable time building sites/businesses that rely on Adsense as part of their revenue stream I can think of a number of Google algorithmic penalties this ad/content ratio seems to violate.

Can you?

Google ad to content ratio problem

Relevant article from Search Engine Land:

Have The Same Ad-To-Organic Ratio As Google Search? Then You Might Be Safe From The Top Heavy Penalty

Matt goes on to add this disclaimer:

Hmm, guess I’m a cynic though I just tried lots of searches, most with brand names as I’m working on a shopping site, all had ads just like what’s pictured above. While percentage wise there are probably large numbers of searches that do not have ads that doesn’t mean ones that do should so blatantly violate the ad/content ratio.

Nike Shoes
Levi Jeans
etc. etc.

[Updated: Dec. 6, 2013] Moz Blog has an interesting article speculating on Google’s next steps in 2014 with a nice analysis of these relatively new ads. Peter goes on to add:

This new format has been running on mobile browsers for a while now, and Google’s widespread testing makes it look like a foregone conclusion for desktop search. This change will have huge implications on both organic and paid CTR in 2014, regardless of the final form.

Dr. Peter J. Meyers – November 2013

Cost of WordPress blog running on Google AppEngine

Having recently migrated all of my blog/site content to Google AppEngine away from my prior $10/month hosting I was curious about what the monthly cost of running the site would be. My blog went live on AppEngine on Nov 13th and with the default instance settings was running ~$2.00/day at roughly 50-55 instance hours the vast majority of which is servicing requests from crawlers.

Tuning Google AppEngine, For Cost

Idle Instances

As mentioned above I started with the default settings and the first significant change was to set Idle Instance Max to 1 as running multiple instances chews through the free 28 hours at an xN multiplier rate. This change alone had a significant impact on reducing overall instance hours though clearly impacts the performance of my blog. I’ve tested the performance and for a blog I feel it’s suitable so I’m comfortable leaving things at this level for awhile.

robots.txt and dos.yaml

I’ve been running another site on AppEngine which has both significantly more pages and traffic than my blog though I’ve been able to optimize it to stay under 28 instance hours and one key factor has monitoring bot traffic and blocking via either robots.txt or dos.yaml.

Google Cloud SQL Costs

So far for the month of November which is missing roughly 12.5 days worth of actual traffic to my blog I’ll be around $15. In addition to normal site traffic (crawlers & users) I’m currently running JetPack which appears to ping back to my domain for tracking stats etc. I’ll need to evaluate the possible benefits of using dedicated memcache over the Cloud SQL expense as most of the site’s content is static. I’ve configured WordPress as recommended by Google using Memcached plugin as well as Batcache.

SSL Administration

I’ll admit I mistakenly hadn’t thought too much about SSL prior to finally switching my domain over to Google’s servers. At that point, I faced the issue of having to buy SSL support for AppEngine which would certainly add to the monthly cost of running my blog. Seeing as how I’m the only administrator this wasn’t exactly an attractive option given the traffic challenges my blog has faced coupled with the desire to keep costs down. I’ve instead opted to use the free SSL on the appspot.com version of my site to manage WordPress administration which works *fairly* well though there are places (like the Themes Editor) which expect to load all content from the hosting domain which in my case doesn’t work. I suspect there are other issues here as well that I simply haven’t run into yet but time will certainly reveal those issues too.

At this point, I’m fairly happy with the switch as WordPress is far more advanced that BlogEngine.NET 2.X not to mention it has clients for iPad and iPhone which is likely where I’ll be posted from the vast majority of the time. That said, I’ll continue watching the hosting costs and learning more about the SSL issues.

Updated Results (Dec 6, 2013)

I’ve been running with the above modifications since Nov. 21, 2013 and my blog is running about 24-26 instance hours per day, within Google’s free 28 hours. It looks like my associated Cloud SQL instance is running about $14-16/month which is roughly comparable to where I was hosting before. Prior to these changes my instance cost was nearing $2/day and typically exceeding 50 instance hours.

Shopping on the iPad with Find&Save’s latest update

Wanderful has just released an updated version (v1.0.3) of our iPad Discovery Shopping App Find&Save for iPad on the App Store on iTunes.

Now for the bits interesting to the iOS dev crowd regarding the approval process.

Submitted Nov. 20, 2013
Reached review status 6 hours later on Nov. 11, 2013
Reached Process Status on Nov. 24, 2013 9:37pm
Available for download on Nov. 24, 2013 10:48pm

Means we got a 5 day turnaround time which is not bad headed into the Holiday week.

iPad Screenshot 1