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Psychographics: Learn How To Laser-Target Content With AI
Traditional wisdom tells us to market to consumers based on gender, age, income, and marital status. Characteristics known as demographics. But while this type of data can help, it only captures half the story. In the age of AI, you also need to consider psychographics. By the end of this article, you’ll not only know what psychographics are. You’ll understand how to create a marketing message using both the demographic and psychographic traits of your ideal customer. Segmentation is a crucial marketing exercise. It gets you to think deeply about who your ideal customer is, helping you tailor your message to specific groups, and so convert prospects into customers more effectively. The issue is: there are many ways to answer the question, ‘Who is my ideal customer?’ And while many marketers prefer to focus on the most readily available data like age, gender, and location (because they create neat buckets with little effort). Just because people are the same age or gender does not mean they behave in a similar way. Put another way: two 28-year-old women from New York likely have wildly different habits, interests, preferences, and values. That’s why demographic-based segmentation often results in ineffective and expensive campaigns. It only leads us to poorly-tailored messages delivered via the wrong medium. But what can we do to avoid this? Well, we can focus on the details that make an individual unique. We can use psychographics to guide us to more targeted messaging. Resulting in more effective campaigns. Psychographics are similar to demographics. But where demographics are the ‘dry details’ about your customer, psychographics reveal why your customer responds to a particular message in a particular way. Psychographic data relates to habits, hobbies, and values, layering crucial information over demographics, with the combination helping you to form a customer persona (the detailed picture of your ideal prospect). One of the most important goals of psychographics is to match the language of communication to the audience of your message. And for many, it’s the only way to ensure your prospects understand what it is you’re actually trying to say. To make things more concrete, let’s compare the two. Here’s a breakdown of the two data types. As you can see: while demographic data might be easier to collect, it reveals little about who your customer truly is. In contrast, psychographic information is more personal. It’s more likely to show the attitudes and perceptions that will influence any response. So while demographics might tell you, ‘I’m a 42 y/o male living in New York.’ Psychographic data can divulge ‘I’m expecting my second child’ and so am ‘looking for a suburban house with a garden.’ That’s not to say demographics aren’t an excellent place to start segmentation. They’ll help you divide a big market into broad groups. But psychographics will help you ensure each target group takes the desired action. Now that you know what psychographics are, how can you use them? The first step is to collect the necessary data, which you can do in two ways. If you have clients you’re close to, they can be a great source of psychographic data. The next time you talk to them, ask them questions to learn how they spend their time, what their interests are, and what their number-one life priority is right now. These types of questions can reveal why they are your customer: maybe it’s because they like that you donate to charity or that you’re an equal opportunity employer. If conversations aren’t an option, you can always check the past performance of content, adverts, and banners. By reviewing the analytics, you’ll learn what kind of messaging compelled people to click, call, or respond in the first place. Alternatively, you can collect psychographic data using sources like social media. And if this second approach sounds familiar, that’s because it probably is. Psychographic profiling became famous during the Cambridge Analytica scandal when a specialist agency started using Facebook games to harvest the sensitive personal information of political voters. The agency then used the details to create psychographic profiles of voter bases, helping political parties target campaign messaging across social media. And by many accounts, the strategy worked incredibly well. The major problem was: Cambridge Analytica harvested the data without consumer consent. As a result, the firm has tarnished the reputation of a technique that can be extremely valuable both from a public and commercial standpoint, especially when it’s perfectly simple to get users to opt into data collection. You just have to be transparent about how you’ll collect and use the data. It’s just… Cambridge Analytica was not. But when carried out transparently, psychographic profiling is a powerful way to understand people’s preferences. The technique stems from research from Dr. Michał Kosiński of Cambridge University, which led to the development of a new method called ‘Personality Targeting.’ Personality Targeting leverages social media to predict how people might react to specific messaging. And this is all based on what Dr. Kosiński calls the BIG-5 (OCEAN) model, which uses five factors to characterize a person: In the context of personality targeting: the technique uses the common likes in a given group to assign a set of predetermined characteristics. From here, marketers can use the characteristics to tailor content, say by creating: This level of targeting is not only proven to boost the efficacy of campaigns. It helps create smaller target groups which can reduce campaign costs. DLabs.AI has even taken things one step further, profiling customers based both on shared likes and predicted visual preferences — and we achieved this in an entirely transparent way, ensuring customers happily opted into the data collection method. In one project, DLabs.AI invited over 2,500 people to take part in a research project run via a Facebook survey. Participants had to opt-in — and they understood that we would enrich the dataset by analyzing information from other Facebook groups and activities, as well as scraping data from additional external sources. We then collected visual preference data via a second custom survey. In other projects, we’ve extracted similar information by looking at the ads on which people click, but there are plenty of ways to collect data: No matter which approach we use, we always comply with GDPR, and we always require the user to opt-in. In doing so, we hope to help rebuild the reputation of a valuable technique. DLabs.AI still uses traditional demographic targeting to a degree. The approach remains valuable because wealthy people still buy expensive cars. And individual professions will always enroll in specific courses. That said, at some point, the same two questions always arise: Our answers to both, ‘It’s unlikely’ — and that’s why we’re pursuing a new concept: behavioral targeting. Like footprints in the sand, every website click leaves a digital footprint. And we can use these prints to group segments by behaviors (pages visited, time spent browsing). We can even use searches for a ‘new laptop’ or ‘new phone’ to show ads for said items. And while there’s no doubt the strategy results in highly effective campaigns, even behavioral targeting isn’t a magic bullet. Because it’s hard for us to know when someone actually buys a product. That means we might still show the same product for a time, even after the purchase. But that’s not to say we can’t add more value in another way. A key benefit of behavioral targeting is being able to turn numeric outputs into straightforward, text-based insights. That means the technique can actively help your creatives apply the learnings by spelling out the: To see what we mean, here are three descriptions we’ve created in the past: Description 1: “Very sociable, fond of people, cordial. Makes friends easily, flirts, popular, noticed by others. Dominant, assertive, imperious, a leader.” Description 2: “Controlling, no guarding required because they have very strong and stable internal motivation. Disciplined, motivated, persistent, pursuing goals, hardworking, systematic, ambitious.” Description 3: “They wear their hearts on their sleeves. Helpful, team-player type. Submissive, avoid conflict at all costs, slow to argue, willingly share with others.” But even if you have a description, you still need to know how to apply these insights to an image-heavy platform like Instagram. That’s where another form of artificial intelligence steps in. Because if you know the messaging a group likes, you can harness computer vision to learn exactly what kind of images they like as well. This degree of understanding will help you laser-target your overall content strategy, and, in doing so, you’ll not only see an uptick in Instagram engagement. Conversions will improve across the board. Author: SHEMMY MAJEWSKI
7 Tools & Libraries every Software Developer should learn
When working in software development, you’re always learning something new, evolving your skills to keep pace with innovation. Through the years being in the software development business, we had the chance to work with companies in different sectors on hundreds of projects. It wasn’t always easy. We went through countless challenges, both technical and cultural, and learned lessons that can’t be taught in a classroom. We want to share with you the top 7 tools and libraries that every software developer should learn. Good knowledge of these tools goes a long way in your software development career. Git is a Version Control System (VCS). On a very basic level, there are two awesome things a VCS allows you to do. You can track changes in your files and it simplifies working on files and projects with multiple people. There are multiple Version Control Systems, but Git is by far and large the most popular. Both for individual and company use. If you are a beginner or a programmer and want to improve your Git knowledge, we suggest you go check out the Git Complete: The definitive, step-by-step guide to Git course from Udemy. Docker is another important tool that every programmer and software developer should learn. It makes your development easy as you don’t need to install many separate applications. Just downloading a Docker image with the required software is enough. Docker is also becoming a standard tool for deployment as more and more teams are adopting Docker to deploy Microservices and other Cloud Native apps in a consistent manner. The main advantage of Docker is that you can deploy a Java Microservice or a C++ app in the same way because you actually deploy a Docker container. If you want to learn Docker and need a resource, we recommend Docker and Kubernetes: The Practical Guide by Maximillian Scwarzmuller on Udemy. A great hands-on and affordable course to learn both Docker and Kubernetes in 2021. Since most programmers have to work on Linux machines at some point, good knowledge of the Linux command line goes a long way. It allows you to work effectively. You can search files, know what’s going on with the system by checking its CPU and memory usage, and perform basic and advanced tasks. If you want to learn Linux commands, we suggest going through Learn Linux in 5 Days and Level up your Career course on Udemy. Postman is an API (application programming interface) development tool that helps to build, test, and modify APIs. Almost any functionality that could be needed by any developer is encapsulated in this tool. It is used by over 5 million developers every month to make their API development easy and simple. It has the ability to make various types of HTTP requests (GET, POST, PUT, PATCH), saving environments for later use, converting the API to code for various languages (like JavaScript, Python). If you want to learn the Postman tool and you are looking for some excellent resources, we recommend Postman: The Complete Guide course on Udemy. AWS (Amazon Web Services) is a comprehensive, evolving cloud computing platform provided by Amazon. It includes a mixture of infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and packaged software as a service (SaaS) offerings. AWS offers many different tools and solutions for enterprises and software developers. They can be used in data centers in up to 190 countries. Groups such as government agencies, education institutions, nonprofits, and private organizations can use AWS services. If you want to learn AWS, there is no better time to do so than right now. There are plenty of opportunities for employment or to start your own business if you have AWS certification. Here you can find some amazing courses where you can learn from real-time experts. Jira Software is part of a family of products designed to help teams of all types manage work. Originally, Jira was designed as a bug and issue tracker. Today, Jira has evolved into a powerful work management tool for all kinds of use cases. From requirements and test case management to agile software development. The platform leverages all kinds of project management skills, including software development, agile project management, bug tracking, scrum management, content management, marketing, professional service management, and much more. Learning JIRA is also a good way to progress in your career. As you grow and become a team lead or tech lead, you will get more responsibilities. JIRA can help you there. If you want to learn JIRA, we recommend Learn JIRA with real-world examples (+Confluence bonus) course on Udemy. Visual Studio Code is a streamlined code editor with support for development operations like debugging, task running, and version control. It aims to provide just the tools a developer needs for a quick code-build-debug cycle and leaves more complex workflows to fuller featured IDEs, such as Visual Studio IDE. Software developers do a lot of text processing jobs and knowing a text editor will always help. Apart from NotePad, which is a very good, omnipresent basic text editor, we encourage programmers to learn some advanced text editors like Sublime or NotePad++. But, if you know VS Code, then you can do advanced text searching, replacement, and even run macros. If you want to learn more about the VS Code, we recommend you to join the Learn Visual Studio Code 2021 course on Udemy. It’s a great course to not only learn basic VS code but also advanced tips, tricks, and shortcuts to boost your productivity.
Achieve Rapid Growth with Digital Transformation in Banking
Nowadays, most banks have a tremendous amount of resources at their disposal, allowing them to implement the newest technologies and solutions into the experiences they provide. However, the substantial resources that banks work with can be both a blessing and a curse, given the overwhelming variety of options available to them. Making the right choice can lead to full digital transformation in banking, but the wrong one will just turn into wasted money. What is digital transformation in the finance industry? Digital transformation (sometimes called digitalization) is a process of shifting various bank processes from outdated technologies and approaches to new and fully digital ones. For example, people used to wait in line at a bank to get a loan, but many banks now allow you to submit the request and get a response on the company website. In this article, we will examine some of the top proven transformation strategies, including business process gamification, and help you take the first steps towards implementing them at your company. A good digital strategy can pay dividends in all aspects of your business, from the customer experience to external processes. Let’s examine how digital banking is useful to banks: 1. Fast service One of the staples of digital banking is support for mobile devices. Thus, they can quickly log in to their online bank account and access bank services through an app or browser, even if they are on their phone or tablet. 2. No time restrictions While banks and their workers have business hours, the online systems that provide services to the clients tend to work 24/7. Thus, clients can access most services that can be processed through automation and that don’t require human oversight. 3. Payment flexibility Nowadays, customer-friendly banks are making it easier for users to make payments by giving them various options. Beyond the traditional credit/debit card, they often give users the option to pay through phone/smartwatch NFC, fingerprint, or even through facial recognition in some cases. 4. Accessible information Long gone are the days when you needed to visit the bank to receive financial advice or information pertaining to your bank account. Today, online and digital systems not only provide instant and updated information about your account, but also plenty of helpful guides and online support representatives. 5. Control We cannot discount the importance of letting users have more control over their finances. This is a psychological factor that carries over into business success. By giving customers more tools to manage their finances, they are letting them feel more in control and comfortable in the business arrangement. 1. Reduced costs Digital banking brings convenience and automation, both of which can have a big impact on your bottom line. For example, automation can reduce the amount of work that your employees will need to do manually, while giving customers more options to manage their services remotely will reduce their need to visit branches of the bank, i.e. fewer consultants will be necessary. 2. Better organization Some of the tools and software you integrate as part of your strategy can be enterprise-focused. For example, setting up a digital staff organization and planning system will make your meetings and scheduling much more effective. 3. Competitive edge Giving customers a greater amount of options for personal banking is sure to be appreciated and boost your reputation. If you become the most innovative leader in your region/niche, you will no longer have to worry about how to increase digital transactions in your bank – the growth will come itself. 4. Greater security A comprehensive transformation strategy can include a complete revamp of your tech stack. For example, if you switch to a single platform that addresses your software needs, it will make it much easier to protect this system from attacks, compared to using dozens of separate tools. 5. Less paperwork Though some paper documentation will always be present in banking, switching to digital records and document copies will make it much easier to manage all these files and easily get them at a moment’s notice. This is perhaps the most visually striking impact of digitalization in the banking sector. There is a lot of debate about what exactly constitutes digital banking, so we will just be looking at some of the most promising and prevalent solutions used today in the financial industry. 1. Online banking This is one of the key components of digital banking and a must-have item on the features list. Online banking through app or browser became the standard in the U.S. as early as 2006, and today, this kind of solution is offered by an overwhelming majority of financial institutions around the world. 2. B2B payment integrations Some businesses that operate outside the financial sector want to make it easier for users to pay through their banks’ online systems, so they add integrations with bank APIs or payment systems like Paypal or Xsolla to faster process payments. 3. Mobile wallet This solution removes the need to carry around cards with you everywhere, since most of them (with a chip) can be added into a wallet app like Google Pay or Apple Pay and quickly used at any time, through a simple gesture with a smartphone/smartwatch. 4. Terminals Terminals can be described as a middle ground between old banking and new banking. On one hand, they support cash transactions in certain locations around the city, but at the same time, you can access and complete these operations much faster and more conveniently than you would at a bank branch. 5. Financial planners Planning tools have become very popular in recent years, allowing clients to keep track of their monthly/weekly/daily finances and movement of funds. Some of these tools are even endorsed and partnered with banks, featuring helpful integrations with the bank account. 1. Quick registration/agreement Opening an account with a bank used to be a complicated procedure, but today can be done in a few clicks. This is with a streamlined registration procedure that takes place digitally and requires no visit to the bank. Users can even speed up the process by registering through their Facebook/Google accounts. 2. Biometric verification Biometric verification is becoming more popular every year, ever since the feature permeated modern smartphones. Thus, many financial institutions are allowing customers to use fingerprints or face recognition to access account features, instead of a password or key. 3. Automated payments From monthly utility payments to subscription fees, many of us have dozens of expenses that we have to keep track of and remember to pay. To make the process easier, many banks are offering automated payment features that reserve and pay the required amounts throughout the year. 4. Quick notifications Checking your bank statement doesn’t have to be a minutes-long ordeal, especially if you use mobile banking. This is because many institutions allow users to enable push notifications to instantly see every transaction made on their account without fully opening their app. 5. Rewards To keep clients engaged with the bank and happy with their services, these institutions often create loyalty/reward programs, conduct giveaways, and offer plenty of other great deals, some of which are related to services that you wouldn’t get at a bank. 6. Quick support Last but not least, it is recommended for any digital financial solution to offer some kind of support feature, be it live chat, sending support queries, voice support, or another form of assistance. A good support team can help customers adequately deal with any difficulties they encounter on the service. Gamification is the practice of adding game elements to practices and tasks that are normally serious. Thus, in banking, it could make everyday operations like paying bills (for customers) and writing reports (for employees) fun. While digital transformation often focuses on functional improvements, adding gamification is a strategy that improves the quality of client/bank or employee/company interactions in an amazing way. You can implement different types of gamification, but they will all have one thing in common – appealing to the user on an emotional level. Gamification in FinTech makes learning and menial tasks fun, giving the user extra motivation to keep doing something that they might not be very interested in otherwise. If you choose to add gamification to your customer experience, you might consider adding new elements to your mobile/web app, including a character serving as a virtual assistant, or mini-games that provide real rewards/benefits to the clients. As for employees, you can create gamified solutions for them as they learn the specifics of their trade and also solutions focused on productivity. This will let them keep track of work and feel good about it. 1. ZA Bank ZA bank is based in Hong Kong that has come up with a creative way of asking clients to complete simple procedures. They have integrated a mini-game in the app that asks them to complete tasks like setting up notifications and verifying their email address represented visually through animation, and goal completion granting real rewards like bank credits. 2. Fampay Fampay, a fintech startup based in India has selected a gamification strategy aimed towards teenagers. Since their business model is based on empowering teens to make payments online and offline, they have built game elements into their transaction app to provide a fun tutorial before any real money is spent. 3. Bettr Bettr is a virtual banking platform under the parent company Bettr Finance that likes to keep up with the times. They pride themselves on having a user base mostly consisting of young and tech-savvy folks, and have tailored their mobile app to this audience. This includes implementing AR into the app and making certain operations go through with dynamics and animation resembling those of a game. 4. Monobank Monobank is a leading Ukrainian bank with an odd fixation on cats. Apart from using cats extensively in the app artwork, they set up a really unique badge and reward system that motivates users to use their payment account in many unique ways. This way, ordinary payments turn into a treasure hunt and collection game. To integrate digital banking into your business, you will need two things at a minimum: 1) a solid vision of the improvements and functionality you want to add, and 2) an application that will fulfill your business requirements. If you don’t have in-house developers, you might have some difficulty with the second part of the equation. Thankfully, there are plenty of companies out there offering software development services. You can look for one with experience in fintech and developing the types of solutions you need, and they will handle the process for you from square one. Program-Ace is one such company with the capabilities to develop top-notch fintech solutions. Our development work is preceded by careful business analysis, and we approach the process with lots of care. We can also implement strategies like gamification, as we have done it for numerous projects in the past. Working with us, you can count on a high quality of software, timely results, and full understanding of your business goals. When you are ready to take the next step towards building your next-gen banking solution, just send us a message.
What’s the Clubhouse hype about?
Clubhouse is a social networking app based on audio-chat. It connects the functionality of a radio, conference call, and a casual meeting or a lecture where users can listen to captivating conversations on various topics. Clubhouse has a tone of exclusivity. You can’t just download the app, create an account and join the party. The idea behind the invitations works just like a real-life exclusive, membership club. You have to be invited to join by an existing member. Clubhouse is currently not available on Android devices, so you’ll need to use an iPhone for now. Just like many other apps, you have to select a range of your interest. Technology/IT, business, psychology, and so on. The number of conversation rooms and users the app will recommend to you depends strictly on the amount of information you’re willing to share. The topic room works just like a conference call. Most people just join the channel to listen to other people talking. Once the conversation is over, the room is closed- no content stays on the platform in a form of recording (yet, it doesn’t stop anyone from recording using external software.) To join Clubhouse, an existing user has to send you an invitation from their app. Then you’re given the access to set up your own account. When you are invited, you’ll receive a text message to your phone number, containing a link directing you to a sign-up page in the app. Note that existing users only have two invites available at the beginning. The creators have announced that they’re aiming to complete the app’s beta stage to eventually “open up Clubhouse to the whole world”. The Clubhouse App was launched by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs Paul Davidson and Rohan Seth in March 2020. In May 2020, it had just 1,500 users, and was worth $100m. Recently Elon Musk hosted an audio-interview on Clubhouse with Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev. The event reached the app conversation room limits and was live-streamed to YouTube. It allowed Clubhouse to gain lots of recognition. Currently, Clubhouse has over 2 million users. Clubhouse has announced new features, such as well-known subscriptions as well as tipping or tickets. The new solutions will potentially allow users to directly pay creators via the app. Clubhouse is now valued at $1bn, and is considered a Unicorn startup just likeUber or SpaceX. The App invitations are highly desirable at the moment making some users try to sell and buy them on Reddit and other online forums. Author: Michał Plebaniak
4+1 Tips for corporate learning and development in 2021
There’s no doubt that effective employee learning and development programs are a must in today’s corporate world. But not all companies succeed in helping employees improve their skills and performance, as seen in the following figures shared by Harvard Business Review: Companies aren’t entirely at fault here—the world is changing fast, and demand for more effective and especially continuous learning is much greater than it used to be. For example, in almost every profession today, having a degree is not enough to land you a top job. You’ll need to continue learning to keep up with the inevitable changes in your industry. This is why organizations today need to be agile in their approach to learning and development. In 2021, this holds even truer than before, with major forces such as digitalization and health-related uncertainty creating change faster than ever. There are many examples of how organizational learning can be approached in an agile way. This article focuses on corporate learning in particular, with tips on how to make corporate learning and development successful in today’s world. So what exactly is corporate learning? It’s a company-wide learning program that is closely tied with the organization’s current strategy and future needs. It’s not separate from the organization's objectives and performance metrics, but should be designed to support them in a measurable way. About a year ago, it was possible to envision a corporate environment where all the learning and development would happen in a physical classroom. Although, even back then, 98% of all companies were planning to use e-learning by 2020. Now, in 2021, almost all corporate training is digital—and the remote model is here to stay. This actually brings several advantages to companies, especially big corporations: As a terminology sidenote, there’s no difference between e-learning and digital learning. Both mean the same thing, although e-learning is a term traditionally used in education and digital learning in the context of corporate training. How can you choose the right corporate learning management software (LMS) for your company? Start by defining your learning objective. Since the world of digital tools in learning has evolved greatly in recent years, it’s also important that you know the difference between learning management systems (LMS) and learning experience platforms (LXP). The latter is a newer term and reflects the changing approach to learning. In striving to make their learning and development processes more agile, companies have started seeing learning as a human-centric, goal-oriented experience rather than, for example, something that just consists of feeding information to employees. There are three kinds of digital solutions for learning, as outlined in our previous article on how to choose the best online platform: LXP is the “third-generation” approach to digital learning tools and probably the right choice if you want to make corporate learning and development successful in 2021 and beyond. Among the types of online learning platforms listed above, LXP is the solution that encourages learning by doing rather than only delivering and tracking theoretical knowledge. To give a concrete example, Howspace’s AI features can organize, categorize, and summarize participant’s comments. This is a powerful way to ensure that everyone feels heard and to harness the brainpower of your entire organization. Although corporate learning should always be aligned with the company strategy and objectives, employees’ real learning needs cannot be defined without the help of each individual. With digital tools, you can actually put your finger on the pulse of the entire personnel of a large corporation. To succeed with corporate learning and development, make sure it’s tied to your company culture. How does a corporate organization learn? The question is systemic—it needs to be addressed on all levels, in a continuous manner. For example: An article by Deloitte summarizes this beautifully when talking about learning itself as a platform, built on top of a digital platform: The new corporate learning platform is much more than a technology platform—although technology can play a powerful enabling role. It's an ecosystem made up of strategies, processes, and tools that integrate so seamlessly into your business the learning function itself becomes invisible—not because it is less relevant but because it has become interwoven into the DNA of your organization. Just as the world is changing faster, the needs and values of the workforce are changing as well. The biggest change driver here is that the very dominant generation of Baby Boomers is currently in the process of moving away from the workforce, to retire. With every passing year, a larger proportion of the workforce will consist of younger generations: Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z. It’s a well-known fact that they, especially Millennials, are more likely to leave a company if they feel unappreciated or out of touch with the company culture and values. While Baby Boomers are, generally speaking, content with status and stability, the younger generations demand personal development, also at the workplace. Ultimately, the need for effective and impactful learning and development will grow more important with every year that passes. Employee retention is a big part of this. LinkedIn recently conducted a survey in which a whopping 94% of employees stated that they would stay at a company longer if the company invested in their development. This figure will only go up—as much as it still can, anyway—with each year that passes. Young generations are fully aware that the world is complex and volatile, and they expect their employer to understand this means they also need to continue to improve to ensure their personal success as well as that of the entire company. If they feel stuck, they will start worrying for their future, which will prompt them to start looking for other opportunities. So, if you want to retain skill and talent, make sure your corporate learning and development is agile, continuous, and smart. Also make sure your company assesses its own generational makeup before designing learning. Inevitably there will be a mix of different needs and preferences, and this must be taken into account. (For Baby Boomers who are more accustomed to the traditional classroom setting, it helps a great deal if there is just one digital tool that covers all the learning.) Click here to start your free trial.
Architectures for Modern eCommerce Applications
Even beyond retail and eCommerce as an industry - most digital experiences are now transactional in nature. Customers expect brands to have an eCommerce component to their online experiences, as well as a seamless user experience from product discovery to delivery. Any brand with a substandard checkout process, or confusing UI, will likely face hardships or a dwindling user base. Today users expect to be able to search for a product on their phone, order it on their tablet, and track it on their watch, without having to go through the entire process of searching for and selecting the product twice. As more brands choose to build fully online businesses, the components of their commerce application are not only important but crucial to their survival. API-first, modular architectures offer many possibilities when it comes to creating highly performant commerce applications that center around user experience. Whether teams are starting a new company or are taking a further step into digitization, best-of-breed architectures can be the key to unlocking a highly personalized customer experience. Building this custom stack, with all of the functionality that the team needs and wants without having to start from scratch gives the team more flexibility and shorter project timelines. Those teams with existing monoliths in place can extend the lifespan of those data-rich systems while still taking advantage of a more current, flexible tech stack. Modular tech stacks enable teams to work flexibly and quickly adapt to changes in scope without having to consider each system’s maintenance, scalability, or vendor lock-in. As teams begin to search for tools to build their modular, API-first tech stack, it can be a daunting task. That’s why we have created some high-level architecture to give you a place to start and serve as a guide for building an optimized modular tech stack for a commerce application. To view the high-resolution version of this architecture, you can view the higher resolution version here. Asset Management tools make it easy to upload, transform, manipulate assets for your website or digital project. These services give users more control over their assets, a critical component of any modern digital project. Popular tools for asset management include Filestack and Fastly. Localization and translation services help digital products serve the needs of a globalized user base. These tools range in their specific product offering; however, they either allow for easy translation or localization of content. This can be particularly helpful if localization is being outsourced or are looking to use an AI translation tool. An ERP is a software that helps companies manage business processes. These processes can range from accounting to human resources, to order processing depending on the service and needs. As these services are often integrated the look and feel across various services tends to be similar. Oracle and SAP are some of the traditional ERP vendors. Payment Service Providers allow online shops to accept online payments. These payments can come in the form of credit card payments, bank transfers, or third-party services, such as Paypal, depending on the configuration of the service. One example of a popular payment service provider is Stripe. Order Management systems track sales, orders, inventory, and fulfillment to make digital commerce more streamlined and efficient. OMS solutions house a wide range of information including product information and order tracking. A PIM serves as a single source to manage and enrich product information which can then be distributed to sales and commerce channels. PIMs ensure that data around a product is current and can easily be distributed where necessary throughout the buying experience. Popular PIMs include akeneo and PIMcore. Marketing tools cover a wide range of tools that can be helpful to a team to give them the functionality they need and exactly the insights that they require. Marketing tools can range from personalization, to feedback, to business insights tools. These tools are highly dependent on the needs of your team and resources but are helpful for gathering data and user interactions. In order to get the most out of your modular, API-first tech stack for a modern web application, there are some critical best practices that should be considered. With commerce applications, the user experience must be held as the central consideration. Due to the fierce nature of competition and the more complicated processes, it is crucial to consider how to ensure that there are no technical barriers for the user and that the experience matches their expectations. Whether it be ensuring that the Martech tools in your stack gather the correct data or that the mobile and web applications share the same standards for experience, the user must be at the core of these considerations. While it may be the case that you want to build some redundancies into your tech stack for extra security, it is important to make sure that they serve a real purpose. Creating too many redundancies or unnecessary ones can lead to a bloated tech stack rather than an agile, flexible system. Instead, by working with a decentralized system, make sure it is easy for content to flow through various systems while still being housed in a single place. This ensures higher data accuracy and less redundant work. In order to reap the full benefits of modular architecture, it is important to fully embrace the best-of-breed approach. Choosing specialized systems that suit the needs of your team is critical to being able to be reactive to new approaches. If teams choose to end an experimental channel that is no longer needed or want to try a different tool, it is much easier in a decentralized system as information is housed in a single system but is spread throughout the tech stack. Although it may take time to find the ideal tech stack, this time investment enables teams to seek out exactly the systems they need with little risk because of these systems communicating via API. Data privacy varies wildly from region to region and it is important to consider how various services will handle data. Ensuring that data is stored in the regions that match your standards can be a key factor when choosing your tech stack. With commerce, this is even more essential as the data will require a high standard of security and privacy and it is important to choose systems that reflect that.
7 Reasons Why Your Business Needs a Chatbot
According to new market research by the Global Market Insights, Inc., the Chatbot Market would exceed USD 1.34 billion by 2024. The omnichannel experience is where the businesses are headed towards as customers are constantly on the move and looking for interactions and solutions. One way for businesses to ensure that they are there for their customers round the clock, offer personalized services and solutions, share customized discounts and offers, and engage even those who abandon a purchase, is by having an AI-powered chatbot. Forrester recently conducted a survey, where it was found that over 46% of the companies have made investments in adopting AI systems for their sales and marketing teams, while 40% had made this investment for their customer support. This trend shows that companies across the globe are trying to invest in proving better customer service by switching to chatbots for their service delivery. Not sure, how this trend could have a positive impact on your business? Here's my small writeup that highlights the 7 Reasons Why Your Business Needs a Chatbot. 1. Increases customer engagement: Your customers are engaging with your brand on the go and would need answers instantly to all their devices. While your website might have the answers they are seeking, the attention span of an average user is very limited and they might leave your website even before they find what they’ve been looking for. “Businesses and customers alike could save around 2.5 billion hours of time by the year 2023, through the use of chatbots.” - Juniper Research A chatbot can come handy as it can enhance customer engagement by keeping them on the website for longer, provide assistance, and personalized experience by answering all their queries. 2. Higher conversions: An efficiently adapted chatbot, help you gain more leads, improve your customer support service, and provide relevant information to your customers through dynamic forms. Your customer journey mapping can be made more efficient when you are available at all points to answer their queries and concerns. This leads to a promised increase in conversions. Did you know that a report by Juniper research stated that by the year 2022, Chatbot Conversations would help businesses deliver $8 billion in Cost savings? The reason for this is that the average time a customer has to spend to have her queries answered over the phone is halved when they are interacting on chat, which in turn becomes a great push for conversions. 3. Ideal for all business types: Gartner, in its recent report, stated that by the year 2021, 50% businesses from across the globe will invest more on chatbots than on their mobile apps, the reason for this being the wide applicability that chatbots have for all business types, scales, and operations. No matter the size, genre, scope of the business, chatbot services can be customized for all business types and needs. For instance, when you opt for a service provider like Serviceform to help your business with your chatbot needs, they ensure that the tool is customized to suit your industry, customers, and business needs. This ensures that your customers do not miss out on the human element, even while they’re in conversation with a bot. 4. Omnichannel experience: Most chatbot solutions can be integrated with ease to your software. Serviceform uses its prebuilt integrations for chatbots and forms integration to any CRM, invoicing software, or other backend solutions to facilitate the use of chatbots on any software or website. This helps businesses to deliver a real omnichannel experience to all its customers, as your chatbots would be accessible from all devices and platforms. Research reports show that over 89% of the customers prefer to interact with businesses over chat and get back to the interactions from where they left. Having an omnichannel chatbot would help you achieve this, without having to keep your customer waiting, or making them repeat the information over and over again. 5. Scale up operations: Using chatbots to handle customer interactions would be an effective way to deal with a huge inflow of customer queries, rather than employing resources to respond to each of these. According to a Gartner report, over 85% of the customer interactions would be managed without human intervention by the year 2020. So, this is the right time to invest in a chatbot and be future ready! 6. Enhances brand outlook: Customer interactions play a key role in establishing the tone of your brand communication, and virtual interactions are a wonderful way to build this aspect of your brand. Building a healthy rapport with your customers through online communication on multiple channels, with a reduced investment on human resources, and quick turnaround time is an ideal way to build a strong brand image. 7. Available round the clock: Your support staff might not be able to answer chat and queries round the clock. There is also a possibility of missing out on a few messages when human intervention is needed, remember that your average website/app visitor does not want to wait for more than five seconds to connect to an agent. This kind of turn around time is impossible for humans to achieve and would cause you to miss out on some prospects. This trend of chatbots handling customer support is increasing so widely, not just for the round the clock operations, but also because of the data it helps one generate. According to a report by the Narrative Science, around 44% of the executives who were surveyed, believed that artificial intelligence’s most important benefit is automated communications, which provides them with the data that can be used to make crucial business decisions. Need help in setting up a chatbot for your business? Drop a comment and I will guide you, how! 1. Increase customer engagement - Consumer committed brand interactions 2. Higher conversions - Increased conversion of leads to customers 3. Ideal for all business types - Applicable to businesses of all scales 4. Omnichannel experience - Real-time interaction from multiple devices 5. Scale up operations - Effective utilization of resources 6. Enhance brand outlook - Healthy customer-brand interactions 7. Available round the clock - 24/7 customer support on the go
Time management in project management
The success of your project is always a function of time, quality, and costs. How long do you take to finish the project, how good is the solution you come up with and how many resources did you use – these are the crucial parameters for the stakeholders.In line with this is the saying “time is money”: If you are managing a project, any time that you are behind schedule will incur additional costs. Or the other way around, if you are able to reduce your project time, you will save costs. Thus, stakeholders will only approve the business case if the costs/schedule fall within the budget/timeline. If you want to read more about this, check out the PM² Alliance project management methodology (p. 34ff). Consequently, time management is of high importance in project management. Time management is the management of the time spent on project work packages, i.e. the planning, scheduling, monitoring, and controlling of all project activities. It is important across all project phases (initiation, planning, execution, closing). After setting up a timeline in the planning phase, it needs to be continuously monitored and adjusted according to changes due to internal or external factors. In order to make the best use of the given or planned time for your project, follow the next steps to allow for maximum efficiency. Break down your project into smaller components and assign relationships to these. Think about how much detail you know already and thus into how many small packages you can break the work down. Then, determine which of the work packages depend on one another and create parent-child relationships between them. OpenProject offers the work package list or agile boards to visualize your work breakdown structure. After having set up the work breakdown structure, the next step is to define a timeline by assigning individual start and finish dates for your work packages. The Gantt chart in OpenProject displays the project timeline for you. Also, you can add dependencies, predecessor or followers within the Gantt chart. Invite project team members to collaborate on the timeline to include their expertise as well. When creating the project timeline, you have different options on how to schedule work packages:The top-down approach aims at moving from the bigger tasks into smaller tasks, from the overall into the specific. It can be the case that the start and finish dates are known but not all sub-tasks are known when planning the project.The bottom-up approach is – as the name suggests – the opposite of top-down. You plan from the detail to the bigger picture. Thus, this approach takes much more time in the planning phase. But in return, it also generates a more accurate plan. OpenProject allows you to switch between the different planning methods and combine both at any time just with a single click. Once your timeline is created, it needs to be monitored. Review the progress and check updates to compare your actual work completed against the plan. This allows you to detect if there are areas you are behind. With the project overview, you can create your custom status dashboard to have all the important information of a selected project at a glance. Choose between several widgets, including work packages table, work packages overview and work packages graph. At the same time, you want to have an overview of what your project team members are working on and what they have accomplished. Use time reports to see what time has been logged to which work packages, which team member has worked on which work packages etc. Several filter options allow you to create custom reports. Besides reporting the hours you could also choose to display the value according to the hourly rate per team member.
How to Create a B2B Wholesale Marketplace
Amazon, Etsy, eBay, or Alibaba - these giants instantly come to mind when you mention the word “marketplace”. Some of them started as regular online stores and began to attract third-party sellers to the platform over time. In recent years, the format of such sites has been developing in demand rapidly. Reputable sources claim that in 2021, more than 50% of the global online trading market is occupied by marketplaces. This is a good enough reason to think about creating a modern or antique wholesale marketplace of your own. To begin with, let's look at what an online wholesale market is. Also read: How to Build A Multi Vendor Marketplace Like Ebay Using Magento Leading an online wholesale marketplace in 2021 is a lucrative business that is attracting more and more entrepreneurial attention. At the peak of the popularity of B2B business, a new ambitious trading platform might as well take its rightful place in the market. Image Source: www.shopify.com At the heart of B2B eCommerce (business-to-business electronic commerce) is the online sale of goods and distribution of services from enterprise to enterprise. The main goal is to bring potential wholesalers and buyers together in one place, thereby increasing the competence and efficiency of sales. Wholesale marketplaces differ from regular wholesale selling sites in that they allow the customer to compare prices, product or service features, interact and ultimately choose the best option. By joining online markets, sellers increase brand awareness, expand their potential customer base, and get more business benefits. Also read: How to Increase Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) in Ecommerce? There are five major B2B direction commonly defined: There are numerous B2B eCommerce wholesale marketplaces working in various directions in the modern market. But not all of them are safe and easy to manage. Others have managed to become premium antique wholesale marketplaces. Such companies should update their business processes, establish strong relationships with customers and partners, and expand marketing activities in line with the trends of 2021. Still, B2B wholesale marketplaces remain among the most effective sales channels across a variety of industries. Platforms with customer-oriented functionality are especially popular. Together with experts from Dinarys, we will tell you what to consider when creating an online trading platform of such a format. Dinarys has been developing eCommerce stores, marketplaces, food ordering systems, and corporate websites since 2014. Among their work cases are the unique LastBid marketplace that unites leading auction houses with collectors, a B2B eCommerce wholesale marketplace for a Vivat stationery seller, migration of a leading forklift dealer from Magento 1 to Magento 2, etc. In 2020, the trading market has undergone dramatic changes, mainly due to the Coronavirus pandemic. From the concept to its implementation, you need to remember: only useful and convenient features can help you build long-term cooperation with the target customers. In particular, the major eCommerce trends of 2021 should include: Before making your start in wholesale eCommerce, consider the niche you would like to work in. Better to be a shark in the lake than a little fish in the ocean. Don't target all-encompassing niches right away. Focus on a specific market that has future prospects. For instance, you can sell clothes online - it is a lucrative niche with annual revenues of about $90 billion. According to Statista, the figure will reach $138 billion by 2022. Also among the promising niches for 2021 are men's beauty, fitness, and sports products, natural and eco-friendly cosmetics for women, animal care, smart speakers, antibacterial agents due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some pro tips on choosing a proper business direction: Then, compose a clear business plan, describing your market path to the final goal. Of course, there will be adjustments and changes during the implementation of the project. But without an initial blueprint, it's hard to build a successful product and get the desired results. Initially, every wholesale marketplace is a blank sheet of paper. Finding reliable suppliers of goods or services is not easy. But those who manage to do so are increasing traffic and expanding the platform with many partners. What should be considered when negotiating with a potential supplier? Often, a marketplace business model is built on two channels of revenue: one-off transactions and recurring payments. On top of that, the following sources of profit are popular: Dinarys experts share three important rules for creating a successful online wholesale marketplace: After choosing a model, you need to decide on the functionality and logistics: user profiles, catalogs, filters, statistics and reports, inventory management, payment methods, etc. For companies that use different payment methods, it is important to integrate with popular payment systems. In addition, you need to ensure the security of transactions, data protection, and communication methods. As the wholesale market develops, it is important to ensure the flexibility of procurement, logistics, payments, product management processes on time. Also read: How to Hire the Best Magento Developers It is important to offer the user analytics tools, thanks to which you will be able to track the results and adjust the strategy. Implement a real-time reporting feature. This will help suppliers see and analyze visits, views, unique visitors, top-selling products, and more. If are looking to implement a platform distributing a huge variety of products, such as the online wholesale clothing marketplace, create personalized recommendations for visitors. Special algorithms can help users find the required product faster and provide an effective result for each segment. Also, if your customers are companies of different sizes and with their own needs, set unique prices for each segment. According to Gartner, B2B sellers who implemented a good level of personalization increased their revenue by more than 15%. After setting up a functional part of a B2B eCommerce wholesale marketplace, you will come across different customers/suppliers. Some will be satisfied with the site's performance, others will require improvements. To handle customer/supplier inquiries, it is important to organize a support service. Read more: Shopware vs Magento 2 Performance Testing in 2021 Receiving questions and/or requests in real time has a positive impact on business. The clients themselves create points of growth for you. Implement a system that immediately sends requests received to support employees. In this way, you will satisfy the client's wishes and improve the platform. The knowledge base is another useful implementation. A block with frequently asked questions will help the client to independently understand the problem. You will save resources and support staff won’t have to answer the same questions multiple times a day. Also, for a quick response and customer focus, create a profile in social networks. This is a way to get all complaints, requests, and wishes in one channel, as well as inform customers about innovations. Once you think through and implement the features from a customer perspective, the platform is ready to go. After all, service, customer focus, adaptability, and flexibility are most valued today. We hope that this brief article gives you an idea of building a wholesale marketplace. Research the market, focus on your customers, and your marketplace will bring you success.
How Much Does It Cost To Create an IT System?
Anyone who has ever considered buying dedicated, tailor-made software development services has certainly wondered how much they may cost. The answer is not simple and can be put down to the statement: – It depends. Over the last 6 years, we have completed about 100 projects in Evertop, which allows me to identify the most important factors on which it depends. In our experience it is also important that many of the projects we’ve implemented were Fixed Price contracts (the difference between Fixed Price and Time and Material and indication which is better, can be found in my article available at this link). It really matters because we have to make the estimation of the project as good as possible since we take all responsibility and all risks on ourselves. So what are the key factors that influence the price of the custom software development service? I assume that this element is not a surprise for anyone. The simpler the system is the cheaper it is. The more complex and complicated – the more expensive it will be to create. Some trivial examples that everyone should be able to imagine: It is worth mentioning here that the price of the software development services is directly related to the amount of man-hours needed to create it. For example, the starting point of all project pricing is estimation of labor-intensity of its implementation. Estimations are usually made in man-hours or man-days. Then, the estimated time is multiplied by the hourly (or daily) rate. In addition to the functional requirements, IT systems must also meet non-functional requirements, which also affect the time, and thus the cost of their development. I’ve listed some examples below: Decisions regarding the choice of technology including programming language will definitely affect the cost of the custom software development service, both directly and indirectly. At the same time, it should be born in mind that when choosing a given technology, the direct cost may increase because it will simply be expensive to buy, and the indirect cost will decrease because programmers will produce code faster thanks to it. When creating IT systems, ready-made components and controls are often used to speed up the creation and visually make a given solution more attractive. Some of them are open source, some other are paid and these costs should also be taken into account. OS (the operating system on which our application is to run) as well as RDBMS (database management system) will also be of significant cost. Of course, here also we have the choice of both commercial (Windows, SQL Server, Oracle) and open source solutions (Linux, MySQL, PostgreSQL). Integration with external systems is often the most risky element in pricing procedure. The problem in this case is the lack of control on external systems and its APIs and communication methods. The cost of integration also depends on the scope, method and frequency of data exchange. This point requires a little explanation at the beginning. Well, there are no systems without errors. When creating dedicated, bespoke applications, you cannot eliminate defects, bugs and faults. They are as inseparable from the software development process as medical errors in treating patients. Fortunately, in the case of software development, we have such a solution as TESTS. Each project in the development process is subject to a testing procedure (or at least it should be). There are several types of tests and they are performed in different ways and at different stages of the development process. These are manual and automatic tests, unit tests, regression tests, safety and performance tests, etc. How well we test our system depends on how many errors can be eliminated at the development stage, and thus how many of these errors will end up in the production environment. It will probably not be a surprise to you but each additional test is another cost that must be incurred to verify the correct operation of the systems. A simple way to keep costs under control is to adjust the test scale to the project you are dealing with. It is clear that a different level of quality should be provided by sending a mission to Mars and another by preparing an application that stores your favourite recipes in your mobile phone. The price is also a derivative of the type of contractor you choose. With the same labor-intensity and the same number of hours to be worked, the hourly rate will be important. A medium-sized software house, such as Evertop, will definitely be more expensive than 2 students or freelancers. On the other hand, it will also be much cheaper than a large, international corporation that employs, apart from developers, also hundreds of people in the administrative, legal and sales departments. When choosing a contractor, it is therefore important to choose its size and professionalism to the type of project you are implementing. As you can see the number of factors that affects the price of bespoke software solution is significant. It is good know them all before you start buying process to understand better the offers you may receive. Author: Maciej Kotok, CEO
How to programmatically take a screenshot of a website?
At LEOCODE, we value software craftsmanship and being a part of an ever-growing community of developers. We share a strong belief that making the world a better place by programming is possible. Delivering products and solutions based on open-source software, it is natural for us to contribute back to the growth of the community we owe so much. As a digitally savvy enterprise, we invest our time and resources in worthwhile OSS projects thus supporting others on their digital journey. We have come up with space for our talented software engineers to pursue their passions as they develop and share innovations to work for the greater good. These principles are our bedrock and set the standard for the way LEOCODE acts. The following publication opens an upcoming series of blog posts, sharing our open-source solutions. We truly hope our work will prove beneficial for all of you that might be looking for technical aid or opportunity for self-education. If you’re a tech-savvy software engineer, looking for non-standard technical solutions, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter. Following our mission of contributing back to the developer’s community, we’re going to post an insightful series of our own open-source solutions.
Top 7 Ways to Use Augmented Reality in Medicine
With the current pandemic, many countries are investing heavily in healthcare, particularly in cutting-edge technology. We could spend a lot of time discussing the medical marvels in use today, but let’s start with something small - augmented reality in medicine. Augmented reality (AR) is one of 3 major extended reality technologies (the others are VR and MR) that allow us to improve our quality of life with the help of software and hardware, connecting the digital and the physical planes. VR in healthcare has its own role, but AR is widely considered the most accessible. This might surprise you if you haven’t experienced augmented reality before, but AR in the healthcare industry is already a big hit and used globally. In this article, we will show you why this is, and help you get started with AR app development. There are a bunch of different use cases where augmented reality and medicine work great together and the goal is always the same: improving the quality of healthcare. This is possible with the functions granted by AR: using a device screen and camera to capture a user’s surroundings and visualize digital elements on top Let’s examine a list of real-life augmented reality use cases in healthcare: A training aid for personnel Reusable endoscopes are used in approximately half a million gastrointestinal medical procedures every year. Without proper cleaning, this poses a threat to patients, as they could transmit infections from one to another. To address such a risk, the Riverside Health System in Virginia, U.S.A. created a helpful AR app. The app works by visualizing cleaning techniques and providing simple step-by-step instructions for the staff to repeat. A practical tool during surgery There are already several AR applications out there that help with complex surgery procedures. For instance, they can either show surgical instructions through AR goggles or a regular smartphone. The idea behind augmented reality surgery is to show an overlay image where the operation should take place, based on MRI and CT scans from the patient. One example of such a tool is being used in JFK University Medical Center, where surgeons are aided by the app in visual navigation. This tool has successfully managed to pair a surgical microscope with a 360° visualization platform and provide vital bodily information in a matter of seconds. A patient education/presentation tool Doctors and nurses have an important role in educating and reassuring patients, but there are certainly cases when this learning process can happen without their participation. For example, patients can now learn about the procedures they see how their vision might improve after surgery with a special solution deployed at the Translational Medicine Research Center in Istanbul. In this case, the visuals were not generated by a smartphone, but rather a special projector and lens that create an immersive hologram. A telemedicine solution Telemedicine software is becoming increasingly popular because it opens the door for patients to receive much of their care remotely without hospital visits. AR is starting to dominate this field of development because of the technology’s capacity to capture footage with a camera. We can see this type of solution applied by G60 Trauma, a private healthcare firm in Arizona that provides patients with augmented reality nursing through a virtual assistant. The assistant scans and interacts with the patient, performing checkups and identifying issues with posture. A way to navigate hospitals Hospitals can be a scary place but become even more so when their layout is complicated and mazelike. At least, this is what it often feels like for kids. In an effort to address the issue, the Children’s Health Centre in Surrey, Canada built a fun AR app for kids. It features a colorful squirrel named Chip that helps children find their way through this hospital. A disease detection tool When paired with machine learning, AR produces incredible results because of its ability to detect some of the most dangerous diseases very quickly. At least, this was the case with a study conducted in multiple countries by researchers using a so-called AR microscope. The hospitals involved in the research didn’t have to change their existing microscopes, since digital cameras captured the footage and fed the results to a custom AR display and ML algorithm. Augmented reality, combined with machine learning outperformed even the top trained pathologists in identifying various health defects. A solution for medical staff cooperation Cooperation between medical staff in different locations is extremely important in situations where one side lacks critical expertise. Some solutions in this field exist, but augmented reality can improve the experience by making visualizations realistic and helpful in where they are displayed. This system is being tested in military settings by researchers from Purdue University working closely with army medics. A person performing a medical procedure wears a headset that transmits footage to medical staff. They can then remotely annotate the screen with live information and guidance. By now, you can already see how big of a role AR can play in healthcare. Let’s recap some of the advantages we covered above: With AR development on the rise, many great AR medical apps are already available to use, and they can be useful to both sides - patients and medical personnel. Let’s review some of the best AR health apps out there: 1. ARnatomy – As the name suggests, this is an app dedicated to helping people learn about the human body. It’s very simple to use and people can even scan their own bodies to see the anatomy. It was primarily developed for students to get more familiar with human biology. 2. smARtsKin – This is surely one of the best augmented reality apps for healthcare in the field of cancer treatment. When a patient undergoes radiotherapy, they must be placed in a specific body position. This application uses AR technology in combination with cameras as guidance for patient positioning which improves their safety drastically. 3. Dorothy – A solution for people with memory problems. Users are reminded about their daily tasks and they are guided around the house if they can’t remember the way. If a user goes somewhere on their own, their caregiver is notified via live alert, which is super useful in cases of Alzheimer’s. 4. Mandarin Health – A mobile application developed to help you increase your good habits and decrease the bad ones. It helps you visualize the status of your body’s health by taking the health data you have inputted and creating a detailed 3D representation of your body systems. 5. AR Eye – Would you love to know how visually impaired people see the world? With this application, you can see how it would look if you had eye disease such as glaucoma. Other than that, you are also able to explore the human eye by learning about the parts which make up our eyes. The future of augmented reality in medicine reality looks bright, but there are still some challenges. For example, in order to get the application approved in the healthcare system, it has to follow strict medical guidelines. Furthermore, any inaccurate information provided in-app can have terrible repercussions on patient health. You can see the difficulty of development firsthand in our Hand Rehabilitation VR training application. This application allows patients to gradually improve their hands’ range of motion through exercises conducted with haptic gloves and a headset. Each patient has a virtual trainer called Andy who shows them the movements that they have to do. One of our biggest challenges was crafting the code for precise motion tracking. Hand rehabilitation sometimes involves exercises with barely any movement, so the tracker had to register even the smallest hand movement. We had to do a lot of different physical testing to get this system to work. In addition to this, we invested a lot of time into research about rehabilitation and the creation of several animations, sounds, 3D models, and VFX to ensure the experience is not inferior to real-life rehabilitation in any way. To have a smooth experience with your AR application, you have to meet certain requirements. These requirements include hardware, software, and people who will develop the application. In terms of hardware, you can target common devices like smartphones accessible to most users or create experiences for specialized gear like headsets and goggles. You can even try a universal approach and deploy your application through WebAR, delivering the augmented reality process in medicine on all devices with a web browser. There are several different software development kits available to develop AR and VR applications. It usually comes down to personal preference, but here is a list of the 4 most popular AR software development kits: ● Vuforia – One of the most popular SDK for creating AR apps. ● Wikitude – You can develop AR applications for platforms such as Android, iOS and Smart Glass. ● ARKit – Developed by Apple and specifically made for iOS. ● ARCore – Developed by Google, but unlike ARKit, it can be used for both Android and iOS. Developing an AR application takes a lot of time, and it’s very hard for beginners to get into this kind of development. It usually takes a couple of developers to work on an AR project, unless you have a really talented Senior coder as we did with the Hand Rehabilitation VR training. If you have an idea involving AR & medicine, but lack the skills or time to develop it, why not leave it to the professionals? It’s always better to have a development partner that specializes in this field who can build apps faster and cheaper. Program-Ace is a leader among augmented reality healthcare companies, with a solid track record of developing immersive solutions. Why choose us? ● We have over 27 years of experience in software development. ● Numerous successful AR projects published. ● We work with all types of industries, from entertainment to healthcare. ● We are an award-winning R&D company with a lot of awesome projects behind us. When you are ready to get started and discuss your project, just contact us.
Being a modern nomad
Nomad (n.)"a wanderer, one of a tribe of people who have no fixed abode." Imagine yourself drinking your morning coffee, looking at the sight of the sea stretching beyond the horizon. Last night you talked to your colleague who has rented a small wooden house in the mountains, and she/he is all but euphoric about seeing a deer wandering in the woods. That story reminds you to do a final check-up on visa regulations in that country you always wanted to visit. You write that down and go to your work desk to join your team on a daily meeting to briefly discuss the progress made and the tasks for today. The chances are that you are enjoying the thought of becoming a digital nomad. If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that we should be flexible and search for opportunities beyond our current limits. That also applies to the location constraints of our day-to-day jobs. There seem to be over 35 million digital nomads across the globe. Another fun fact from research says that if the digital nomad community were a country, it would be the 38th most prosperous country based on gross national income per resident (source). A digital nomad is a person who has a job that is not tied to a specific location, changes her/his residence from time to time, while most of the job can be done using devices with internet connectivity. That's it. A digital nomad can be an employee of a larger organization, a freelancer, or even an entrepreneur. Some say that being a digital nomad is not "a thing to do. " Other than that – it is a lifestyle. That is a tough one since there is no empirical evidence of what personality characteristics, abilities, and skills contribute to being a successful nomad. But for the time being, let's say that one should pay attention to these. There is a "nifty" quiz that could help you better understand your preferences as a potential digital nomad. https://www.deftnomad.com/personality-quiz-what-digital-nomad-life-are-you-made-for/ It goes without saying that some jobs are more suitable for taking "to go." The research mentioned above conducted on over 4000 English-speaking members of the digital nomad community reports Top 15 most commonly represented DN jobs. Since we are in IT, the next question in line is – what makes a developer job suitable for nomadism? A developer himself (source) says that there are 3 main reasons: IT industry by default pushes the forefronts, so remote could very well be the future of work. Most of the processes or products are on the cloud, so it doesn't matter whether their colleagues are physically next to them or not. Also, there is an abundance of communication platforms available. The author says that being a developer can be a very "background job. "A person might not have to write code at any particular time of the day, and "all tasks and issues are (hopefully) logged and organized. " (Besides that, a developer job is 👌 because it is ever-developing, high in-demand, and mostly well paid.) If you are looking for a remote job, we highly recommend sifting through Clutch, „Clutch is your data-driven field guide for B2B buying and hiring decisions.“ Or on DesignRush. „DesignRush is your guide to finding the best professional agencies, categorized by their areas of expertise. We analyzed and ranked hundreds of agencies to help brands find top full-service agencies, web design companies, digital marketing firms & top technology companies.“ Those will be presented in a before vs. after manner. Things you should be prepared for before embarking on a different lifestyle and managing stuff once you are in a land far, far away. BEFORE Codemotion mentions "overcoming the mental block." This means ditching some of the thought patterns that you might have taken for granted. Things like quitting a permanent position, being flexible about living conditions, budget resources, possible changes in relationships with family, friends, or partners, etc. A recommendation is an amount for at least six to eight months. This also means getting rid of unnecessary expenses. That will provide you with enough autonomy and security for situations where you don't have enough active income. Almost every road has some bumps. You will outsmart them more effortlessly if you have a plan B (or C, if needed). It is said that "the secret is to travel light." Bringing more stuff with you could further complicate the situation. If you realize that you miss/lack something, there is a good chance you will be able to purchase it at your destination. Some say that "as a digital nomad, your budget should be your bible." Things to consider: living expenditures, cost of travelling, accommodation, activities you would like to experience, costs of working, etc. To at least have an approximate idea of when and how you will do something. Make sure to leave room for improvisation and unexpected stuff. Be it through meetups, events, or virtual meeting sites. Just cruise the internet, and you will probably find something that suits you. It would be a mission-impossible to list all of the stuff you could learn or experience. Alfter some time, you could find yourself getting along just fine with knowing multiple languages. Write letters, send gifts, or video-chat from an exciting place. Be it through exercise, diet, "spending" time in nature, or taking care of your mental health. Psst! Nomad List is a super cool website with a whole bunch of information that you will find helpful… and fun. Besides exploring places based on what they have to offer, Nomad List even has a dating app. 💘 If you ask those 4000 people who took the survey mentioned above, Croatia is the top-rated DN country in the Balkans and Eastern Europe. Most of the cafes have free wi-fi, and the overall signal is pretty good. Croatia is a small country.  That means that you could easily explore the country without spending too much time on travel. Also, Croatia is pretty well connected to the rest of Europe. Some estimates say that more than 80% of the population speaks English. Also, we could be transitioning to Euro in years that come. We do not joke around with what we eat. Disclaimer: Do not look at these if you are hungry. From a digital nomad himself: “… there are few places in Europe which can offer the relaxed lifestyle of Croatia.” Indeed, we have developed a particular state of being and named it “fjaka”. More on that in A Guide to Mastering Dalmatian Fjaka. Some other insights in Croatian phrases. Fortunately, as of past month, you can submit your application for the DN visa through an online service. 🥳 You can find more information from our Government. And some first-hand experiences on Total Croatia’s website. If you want to keep up with the progress of the digital nomad community in Croatia, follow Croatian Digital Nomad Association. Formally founded just about four months ago, they have achieved a lot by pushing the forefront of development. We hope that we have managed to tell you the story of digital nomads. Without further ado, here are some heartfelt pieces of advice from a nomad herself. "You can't possibly know what you'll want in two or more months from now. If you think you do, it's quite probably just a reflection of what you want right now, based on who you are in this moment." "There's a certain magic to just going with the flow — going to the next place with a new friend, following a sudden spark of curiosity for a certain place or experience, leaving the option open to just go back home when you feel like it." If you have some questions or comments, feel free to contact the author on edita@kodius.com Author: Edita Krizmanić
Proof of Concept vs. Prototype vs. MVP
Undoubtedly, there are a lot of choices that you need to make before launching a final product. From budget revision, feature design to mockup creation, everything plays an important role. But the fact of the matter is that choosing the right development technique is one of the most important as well as impactful decisions. You can’t just directly jump into the development process if your product is in its discovery stage. In this article, we will take a deep dive into POC (Proof of Concept), MVP (Minimum Viable Product), and prototype. Hopefully, this will allow you to make the best decision for your app development, so let’s get started. In business, POC stands for Proof of Concept, an approach that is used to validate your idea. It’s important to keep in mind that this stage comes into play way before the actual development process starts In order to make sure whether your idea can be implemented on business model grounds and technical capability, a small project is implemented. Additionally, POC for a mobile app is not typically available for customers or the general public. That’s because the idea behind POC is to check whether the concept is actually feasible or not. In order to make sure that your idea is feasible, you can create POC by following the five simple steps mentioned below. The prototype comes after the POC stage, and the main purpose of it is to demonstrate how your application will work from one page to another. It's basically the first working model of your project that allows you to understand the experience that it will offer to the end-users. The prototype is undoubtedly one of the most important stages of app development. You’ll most probably find some bugs and glitches in the prototype testing process. The reworking and testing process will continue until the acceptable model of your application is achieved. A prototype helps you create the foundation on which your final software and system will stand. Keep in mind that it’s an iterative method where you find errors and eliminate them. Not only does the prototype allow you to understand the flow of your application, but it also helps you make sure that your application offers all the important and required features. You can use the following steps to create a functional prototype most efficiently and effectively. In technology, MVP stands for "Minimum Viable Product", and it's the first iteration of your fully functional application. It includes all the core features of your idea in working condition. It's a standalone mobile application that you present to people to evaluate the end user's experience. A Minimum Viable Product allows you to verify the profitability of your application because it demonstrates market demand. Moreover, on the basis of the feedback that you get from the end-user, you can also improve your application by adding more features and fixing the errors in the existing ones. Consider using the steps mentioned below to create your MVP. Many people think that POC, Prototype, and MVP are entirely different approaches to developing mobile apps. It’s one of the biggest misconceptions. The fact of the matter is that the proof of concept, prototype, and a minimum viable product are three different stages of the complete development process. The second stage starts where the first stage ends, and the same is the case with the third and second stage. App prototype created by Program-Ace The first stage - proof of concept - is basically an intangible idea without any physical value. This stage allows you to make sure whether your idea is worth developing or not. The second stage - prototype - is the first physical form of your application that allows you to find out how the end-users are going to interact with it. The third and the last stage - minimum viable product - is when you launch the first fully functional model of your mobile application, which the end-users can test. The most important factor that develops your idea into a proof of concept is proof of the need. If your idea is capable of filling the gap that exists in the market, then you can develop your POC. But you also need to plan out the main pain point to achieve it. Once you have successfully developed your proof of concept, the next step is the creation of a prototype. It must incorporate the core features as well as UI/UX of your idea into a rudimentary product that can be used to test it in real-time. An MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is a fully functional solution of your product that you can share with the general public to use. It’ll allow the end-users to test all the core features of your application, providing the primarily intended solution. An MVP allows you to test your application beyond your team members and selected individuals. As mentioned, proof of concept doesn’t have any physical embodiment, as it’s just an idea for the mobile application that you want to develop. It shows the potential of your idea that allows you to determine whether it’s workable or not. On the other hand, the prototype is the physical model of your application that shows the flow of your application from one screen to another. Lastly, MVP is the first fully functional application that offers the core feature of your application which end users can use. How long does it take to develop?Creating a proof of concept isn’t a long process, and expanding upon the idea, it can take from one to six weeks. On the other hand, determining the time of prototype and MVP solely depends upon your concept.How much does it cost?As far as the cost of these stages is concerned, the proof of work generally costs nothing except time. Additionally, determining the cost of the prototype is a bit tricky as it can be free, and it can also cost you a lot, depending upon your idea.How is it tested?The proof of concept is finalized after a discussion with your team members and coworkers when you successfully decide whether you should move forward with development or not. Moreover, the prototype is tested after its creation by your team and selected individuals (who want to be a part of it voluntarily) that you choose after interviewing them. Lastly, the MVP is tested directly by the end-users once it's developed and tested internally.When should you show it to investors?You can involve the investors once the prototype is created and also tested successfully. It will help them understand the potential of your application to provide the solution for a certain problem. You can utilize any of the 3 approaches depending upon your current project state. If it's just an idea, then it's best to go through all the stages. But if you're going to digitize an already existing product, you can skip the first stage to save time and money. All three of these stages are important and helpful, but it certainly doesn't mean that you must always follow them sequentially. It might be unnecessary to spend time on these steps, especially on the POC in some scenarios, such as the digitalization of an existing product. There are many benefits to using these approaches on different development stages, and some of the most important ones are the following: If you need help with POC, prototype, or MVP, then you are welcome to contact our experts. Program-Ace hosts the best development teams in Europe that offer full-cycle software development services.
How to set up Yubikey with GPG subkeys: full guide
Basic two-factor authentication using 6 digits and a mobile app is not enough to keep personal and professional accounts and services secured. This method can be abused in a number of ways, like phishing attacks, third party login, and brute force. Because of this, it’s essential for professionals to add another layer of protection, incorporating hardware devices like smart cards, and YubiKey is a popular choice for it. It allows your private key to be stored and accessed only when you need it to decrypt your data. Up next is a simple and straightforward guide on generating GPG keys via your machine and transferring them to the security dongle YubiKey 4. GPG, or GNU Privacy Guard, is a public key cryptography implementation. This allows for the secure transmission of information between parties and can be used to verify that the origin of a message is genuine. The YubiKey is a hardware authentication device manufactured by Yubico that supports one-time passwords, public-key cryptography and authentication, and the Universal 2nd Factor and FIDO2 protocols developed by the FIDO Alliance. Now that we covered all the basics let’s get to work. Before starting this guide, you need to download the GPG Suite. If you work on macOS, click here to download the software installer and install it. If you work on Linux, you already have it preinstalled. Also, you have to have a YubiKey! Start key generation by running the following command: Certify key generation - step 1 Select 8 ( RSA - set your own capabilities) and press enter. On this prompt, it is necessary to toggle off sign capability (S) and encrypt capability (E) by entering capital letter associated with it and pressing enter. When "Current allowed actions" has only "Certify", insert Q (finished) and press enter. Certify key generation - step 2 In the following step when prompted for key size put 4096 and press enter, after that it will prompt you to input key expiration time. For this step only set it as 0 (key does not expire), press enter, and then insert y to confirm and press enter again. Afterward, it will request your name and email address to construct a user ID to identify the key. The comment is optional. When satisfied enter O (Okay) and press enter. Key identification Important: Popup window requesting to set passphrase will show. (it is recommended to save passphrase in LastPass or another secure password manager) After you have set the passphrase your key has been created and you will get a message similar to one in the snipper below. Key generation - random bytes You have now generated your certification key. After we have created the key for the certificate we need to add the rest of them. (the address you provided in the previous step) Edit key Insert addkey command to start the procedure for adding the second key add key - RSA sign only This step is similar to one from the creation of the first key, just on this step you choose 4 ( RSA - sign only ) and press enter add key - RSA sign only - length It will again prompt you for keysize 4096 and for an expiration time. This time you input 1y meaning the key will expire in 1 year. On the next two prompts confirm creation with inputting y and pressing enter. Passphrase window will pop out requiring you to insert the passphrase which you have set up in 1st step. This step is identical as previous (STEP 2) in every part besides selecting 6 (RSA - encrypt only) on first prompt. Afterwards key length is 4096, expiration time is 1y and confirm twice with y and passphrase on end add key - RSA encrypt only This step is kind of combination between step 1 and step 2. Insert command addkey and press enter, on prompt enter 8 (RSA - set your own capabilities) This time current allowed actions start with: Sign and encrypt; you need to toggle them out and toggle in authenticate capability. It can be done by inputting S to toggle out Sign capability, afterward E to toggle out encrypt capability and finally A to toggle in authenticate capability. When you have only Authenticate in current allowed actions input Q and press enter. add key - RSA authentication Afterward key length will be prompted - 4096 again, key expiration - 1y, confirm twice with y and enter passphrase. If you have done everything correctly something like this should appear add key - RSA authentication - length add key - RSA authentication - summary Last but not least, enter command save to finish your key creation process. Run following commands to export keys Provide passphrase where necessary. create backups - commands you can list keys with list keys Insert yubikey into usb slot in your machine and write command to get data from your Yubikey. If it works it should provide with Yubikey related data. Enter command to be able to edit card data. Type command and it will prompt you administrator pin. Important: Default admin pin is 12345678. You can use command to view all possible commands for your Yubikey. When you are done you can type command To insert keys into your yubikey run following commands and it will output like from the screen below: Exporting keys to yubikey - list keys To add the key you need to select it and transfer to Yubikey. If for example we typekey 1it will select 1st key and put * next to its ssb (like on picture below). Typing key 1 again will deselect that key add key to yubikey - key 1 Select 1st key with command: key 1 Write command: keytocard When it prompts where to store, type : 1 (Signature key) enter passphrase enter admin pin Deselect 1st key with command: key 1 Select 2nd key with command: key 2 Write command: keytocard where to store: 2 (encryption) enter passphrase enter admin pin Deselect 2nd key with command: key 2 Select 3rd key with command: key 3 Write command: keytocard where to store: 3 (authentication) enter passphrase enter admin pin Deselect 3rd key: key 3 Write command: save Important - You must change password and admin password on Yubikey for obvious security reasons Enter edit mode with command: gpg --card-edit Enter command: admin to allow admin commands Enter command: passwd and following will be shown Select 1 to change PIN After you have finished PIN change it will give you the password menu again; Select 3 to change Admin PIN Important: Save PIN, ADMIN PIN and PASSPHRASE to LastPass and protect access to them with LastPass master password Export public key to clipboard with following command: After that go to your gitlab site, click on your user button and click on settings in dropdown menu Go to the GPG Keys section in the menu, paste your public key from clipboard into text area, press add keys and the result should look like this List your secret keys with following command List secret keys copy GPG key id that starts with ssb and has S next to date. in this example → 6DCB9294B2139D96 Run the following commands to edit your local git configuration.
5 Signs It's Time to Update Your E-commerce System
Knowing when your e-commerce store needs to upgrade, or migrate entirely, can make all the difference between rapid growth or painfully sluggish sales. As new features and web standards emerge each year, it’s imperative to act before falling behind competitors who employ the latest practices and technologies. The good news is that there are 5 clear cases in which upgrading your e-commerce system leads to better revenues, order values, and customer experiences. Making changes to your e-commerce business can seem scary, but staying on legacy systems in a fast-evolving digital marketplace is even scarier. Through e-commerce development services, Polcode has helped brands solve their pain points with direct store upgrades. When marketing tactics or web & mobile UX/UI improvements yield less and fewer returns, it’s often the case that your software and technical upgrades can make the biggest difference. Migrating to a new, better platform means that you can use the latest feature sets and tools which competitors are certainly using. A custom site using the latest web standards, user privacy policies, and page load times is more likely to improve user experience. An upgrade can also involve renewing your e-commerce software, opening more opportunities for scale and growth, like advanced order handling, international shipping and multiple storefronts, just to name a few. Rising Competitive Landscape Perhaps the #1 reason to upgrade is the growing competitive landscape of e-commerce sales. Now is the perfect time to take advantage of more people shopping online. More consumers are avoiding in-store purchases, which has led to global e-commerce revenues seeing additional growth of 10% in 2020 due to COVID-19, according to Statista. As brands invest more into developing their operations, it’s even more important to stay ahead of the competition by modernizing your store. Here are the top 5 scenarios when it’s time to upgrade your store. Outgrowing your current e-commerce system is a great thing but you can’t sustain that growth unless your store evolves with increased demand. Identify the limitations of your current system and address them. Signs that it’s time to reach out to an e-commerce developer like Polcode: Where should you start? Conduct an audit to find out what features or technologies you’re missing out on that would most improve your business. It may mean implementing new features, upgrading versions or changing providers entirely. Which development service yields the best results? The short, safe answer is that custom software upgrades should be tailor-fit to your business goals. Want to start targeting enterprise companies, or enable more B2B sales? The latest software lets you create digital catalogs and link online shoppers with your CRM, sales and marketing modules. Maybe you need a more powerful store with AI-based recommendations, responsive mobile shopping, data-driven reporting, or seamless checkouts. An e-commerce developer consultant will be able to offer these in-demand features, and much more. How can you save money by upgrading? Powerful order management systems and customer service features can help any e-commerce business save time and money. In rare cases where clients need to scale down, an e-commerce developer can help find the right set of technologies to help save on costs—like moving data costs to serverless architecture, putting you on a pay-as-you-go type plan. Money-saving endeavors can all be managed through e-commerce technologies; it comes down to which one impacts your business the most. There are many benefits to running your own web store. While marketplaces like Amazon, Allegro, eBay, Etsy or AliExpress draw in huge amounts of volume, there are significant downsides to selling on them. Small business owners can close the gap with the right technologies. There are pros and cons to running stores in either scenario, so ask yourself which of the following metrics are important to you. More ControlA consulting partner can build an e-commerce site with your vision, controlling every aspect from content, UX, design, brand feel, and business tools. Anything is possible that you can imagine, and a good e-commerce developer will guide you through the best approach to achieve it. With a custom store, you can also take a more proactive, agile approach to your e-commerce health by staying ahead of the latest technology trends. Order Handling and Payments When you own your own e-commerce shop, making sure you have the right tools for payments, invoicing, order management and shipping comes down to technology choices. We’ve written a primer on choosing your payment gateways, which will help you decide what makes sense when it comes to topics like commissions, security, international shipping options, and much more. While integrations like Stripe or Paypal are the most popular, there are literally hundreds of gateway options and depending on your region. No need to worry, Polcode will help you make the best decision if and when you get to this stage. Powerful Customer Data Modern e-commerce platforms are able to collect and organize invaluable data that can be used for business insights, marketing, and sales strategies. Leveraging user data that can be funneled into your CRM or visualized in reports are just a few perks of having your own custom shop. With a consulting partner like Polcode, you can also ensure that your site is compliant with data privacy regulations, as we have extensive experience in developing with the latest requirements of user privacy. Newer e-commerce technologies are going to give your customers a better experience and help you keep up with competitors who are on the latest platforms. If you’re avoiding your legacy system because it causes some pain, or simply don’t want the headache of maintaining an old site, considers your migration options. For instance, does your current store let you easily set product meta tags and descriptions? How does your store perform in terms of page load speeds? Are your product pages and internal linking structure organized properly for SEO? Do you need a proper blog section? In this case, you’ll also want to add a CMS layer which opens a whole new set of opportunities. Once your store is up to date, making enhancements or enabling new features becomes a kind of addiction. Continuous and iterative e-commerce updates are the way to go. Most of our long-term clients simply upkeep development projects a few times per year to keep their e-commerce shop at the top of its game. Mobile SalesMany e-commerce stores are seeing success on their mobile platform which are made possible with the latest store upgrades. Mobile wallet technology makes shopping even easier, which increases order volume and value. Mobile devices are the #1 medium for purchasing today, (over 60% in the US and UK) and 52% in Germany, beating out Desktop PC, Tablet, and Voice according to Statista’s April 2020 Global Consumer Survey App and Developer Ecosystems We purposely haven’t mentioned the benefits of upgrading with a specific platform like WooCommerce, Magento or Shopify. That’s because all of them have tons of apps and new versions get even more added every month. Everything you can imagine from a modern e-commerce platform—fulfillment systems, user tracking, shipping management, cross-selling, behavior tracking, fraud detection, payments integrations—have one thing in common: they are constantly updated! Getting on the latest version also ensures that your processes run smoothly and protect you from security flaws that might be exploited in earlier versions. E-commerce owners are often left wondering if they should build a fully customized e-commerce site, or use a SaaS platform. A custom store (e.g. Magento Open Source) has one key advantage: setting your business up for success to handle evolution and growth. SaaS platforms like Shopify are great, don’t get us wrong, but they can limit what’s possible. Here are signs you need a custom site, rather than a pre-built solution: Investing time and effort into e-commerce upgrades is beneficial no matter what stage of your digital business. Nowadays, upgrades are not a one-time event, but a continuous strategy for staying competitive in online retail. With a full-service e-commerce developer like Polcode, we manage the technical elements of your store, from website, mobile storefronts, shipping, fulfillment, web design, database, tax and regulation compliance, and payment processing. You’re able to stay focused on your brand, content, and products while leaving the rest in talented hands.
How co-creation has changed in 2021
Many organizations estimate that they’ve seen a decade’s worth of innovation in the past year since the start of COVID-19. Among other types of development initiatives, co-creation has seen a major shift in how it’s being carried out. Co-creation stands for organizational development where people from outside the organization are also involved in the process. Typically, this means the organization’s customers but it can also mean involving other types of partners or consultants in the process. Antti Pitkänen is the Chairman and Chief Experience Officer (CXO) at Agile Work, a company focused on workplace transformation. A key part of their work is to co-design better workplaces together with their customers. In this context, Antti has seen first hand how workplaces have undergone a dramatic change within 2020 and how that has impacted co-creation. “Before 2020, all of the co-creation we did happened in a face-to-face setting. At the moment, however, we are doing absolutely everything remotely by using digital tools,” explains Antti. In this article, Antti Pitkänen talks about how co-creation has changed in 2020 and will continue to change in 2021. He also shares his visions for the future of co-creation, along with tips on how to stay on top of the changes. When it comes to co-creation, the in-person and virtual settings both have distinct advantages. The traditional in-person model has the element of social interaction and physical presence. There’s the tangible atmosphere and the energy in the room, which the facilitator can sense and build on. Plus, getting to know new people tends to happen more naturally face to face. “But what usually happens, no matter what your group, is that the level of participation varies greatly from individual to individual. There are the loud ones in the room who take up 80% of the time,” Antti Pitkänen describes. He says that the past year has demonstrated the many advantages of digital ways of working. “Engaging the entire group is possible in a completely new way—many of those who would not speak up in a classroom setting are willing to share their thoughts online. Recently, for example, we’ve reached participation levels as high as 97%. This means that almost everyone has provided input in one way or another.” Antti adds that processing and documenting are easier with digital tools: “The AI features of Howspace are constantly getting better at recognizing emotional states and summarizing themes. Being able to organize and compile all the input from the participants creates transparency, which in turn creates trust in the process. We can show the results to the client and they concretely see how much they have created and how much insight they have provided as an organization.” Antti summarizes his advice for co-creation—whether physical or digital—into eight key elements: According to Antti, some of these points have grown more important now that everything has moved into a digital environment. “For example, choosing the right tools is much more important when you are doing co-creation only remotely. Documenting in real time is also crucial because it creates a shared understanding. And, finally, the role of skilled communication is also emphasized because non-verbal cues are not available in the same way they are in a classroom.” Nobody knows for certain how long we’ll be forced to do everything remotely. It is likely, however, that the return to normal or closer to normal will happen within the next few years. Antti believes that in the future, co-creation will combine the best of both physical and virtual worlds. People will still occasionally get together in a classroom but they will no longer be ready to go without all the great advantages of the virtual setting. “As the internet of things (IOT) develops, it can bring very interesting solutions to the markets that can bridge the gap between the classroom and the digital tool. Think about self-recording whiteboards and a camera that converts post-it notes into editable text. Solutions like this could be directly plugged into a tool such as Howspace.” Click here to start your free trial.
Top GitHub Features You Probably Don’t Know
GitHub is a website and cloud-based service that helps developers store, manage, track and control changes to their code. Below you will find some of the features for GitHub that you might not know! GitHub Actions was launched at the end of 2019 and is already the most popular CI/CD service on GitHub. The GitHub team has continued adding features and improving ways for you to automate common tasks in your repository. GitHub Actions is so much more than simply CI/CD. GitHub community has really stepped up to help you automate all the things with over 6,500 open source Actions available in the GitHub Marketplace. Some of the enhancements to GitHub Actions in 2020 include: GitHub made it easy for you to see what’s happening with your Actions automation. With Workflow visualization, you can now see a visual graph of your workflow. This workflow visualization allows you to easily view and understand your workflow, no matter how complex it is. You can also track the progress of your workflow in real-time and easily monitor what’s happening so you can access deployment targets. On top of the workflow visualization, you can also create workflow templates. This makes it easier to promote the best practices and consistency across your organization. It also cuts down the time when using the same or similar workflows. You can even define rules for these templates that work across your repo. Issues are a great place to talk about feature updates and bug fixes, but what about when you want to have an open-ended conversation or have your community help to answer common questions? GitHub Discussions is a place for you and your community to come together and collaborate, chat, or discuss something in a separate space, away from your issues. Discussions allow you to have threaded conversations. You can even convert Issues to Discussions, mark questions as answered, categorize your topics, and pin your Discussions. These features help you provide a welcoming space to new people as well as quick access to the most common discussion points. GitHub Team launched GitHub Sponsors in 2019, and people have been loving this program. It’s a great way to contribute to open-source projects. In 2020, GitHub Sponsors became available in even more countries. Last year, GitHub Sponsors became available in Mexico, Czech Republic, Malta, and Cyprus. GitHub team also added some other fancy features to GitHub Sponsors. This includes the ability to export a list of your sponsors. You can also set up webhooks for events in your sponsored account and easily keep track of everything that’s happening via your activity feed. GitHub Universe also announced Sponsors for Companies. This means that organizations can now invest in open-source projects via their billing arrangement with GitHub. Now is a great time to consider supporting your company’s most critical open-source dependencies. Draft pull requests are a great way to let your team know you are working on a feature. It helps start the conversation about how it should be built without worrying about someone thinking it’s ready to merge into the main. GitHub recently made it easy to convert an existing PR into a draft anytime. Choose how GitHub looks to you. Select a single theme, or sync with your system and automatically switch between day and night themes. It is possible to create a new folder from the web interface, but it would require you to have at least one file within the folder when creating it. Author: Gentrit Abazi
How to work with app developers and digital product agencies
Digital product agencies (DPAs) and other developers can help you build your app if you can’t or won’t do it yourself. Agencies are particularly valuable because of the wide range of professionals with different skills they have on hand and their depth of experience. But what if you’ve never worked with developers before? The upside of a solid working relationship can be a reliable application that gets the job done for your users. But to make the most of this opportunity there are some key insights you need to know (or you risk losing time, money, and even your project’s viability). Read on to learn how to work with your developers and, with a little luck, get your app built right the first time. Do I need a programmer, developer, or engineer? Many experienced business professionals who get into the tech sector for the first time as entrepreneurs or startup founders are unsure of some of the terminology, so there’s no shame in it. As such, you may find yourself wondering “Do I need to hire a programmer, a developer, or an engineer? And are these even important differences in the first place?” Unlike job titles most people are familiar with such as 'doctor', 'firefighter', or 'grocer', there's a surprising amount of ambiguity for most members of the public around what to call someone who writes code. Short answer: they’re the same. Programmers, developers, and engineers are all people who write code. For most people, that’s enough. Some organizations have preferred terms for their developers, ‘or devs’, favoring one of these labels over the others. However, if that’s not sufficient detail for you, Alan Skorkin has a great blog post in which he lays out the more nuanced, technical distinctions between the various kinds of coders. Of course, rather than hiring individual developers, you may engage the services of a digital product agency (DPA) like Develocraft. If you’re not sure if you need to hire just one or two devs, if you’re looking for freelancers, or if a DPA is right for your situation, you can check out our post on finding developers to work with: How to find an app developer. Once you’ve found the developer (or developers) for you, it’s time to consider how best to work with them effectively, which brings us onto our next section. Understanding how engineers think Software developers and engineers are people too. That said, many developers share a core set of personality traits that can influence how they interact with others in the workplace. Your archetypal software engineer / dev is extremely analytical and comfortable thinking about solutions to complex technical problems. However, this tendency to focus on a narrowly defined problem or task can sometimes lead to a loss of broader perspective. As with many professions, programming tends to attract people with certain kinds of personality. It's not a hard rule by any means, but it's worth taking into account. As any competent project manager knows, each distinct task is but one link in the chain (or several chains) leading to a desired final outcome. As the owner, CEO, or other responsible person at your startup, that outcome is not simply an elegantly written piece of software that fits with the potentially idiosyncratic coding preferences of your devs. It’s a successful business that succeeds in part because of a piece of software. Within the development process, it’s your role to be an advocate for the interests of your business. While individual developers may be highly skilled at what they do, they’re usually not project managers or executives taking a broader view of the context of their software. This leads us onto our next point: Be clear at all times Developers often regard themselves as problem solvers. What problems do they solve? Finding creative solutions through their mastery of programming languages to bring about the results specified by their clients. As with all complex projects, if the objectives and preferred methods are not made explicit in the briefing, it’s possible or even likely that a gap between the unexpressed expectations of the client and the software delivered will emerge. This can be particularly dangerous to a young startup or one short on funds, which may not have sufficient funding to make changes after the mistake has been made, leading to the failure of the venture with no path to raising revenue with an incomplete or incorrect product. Even for well financed startups, there can be significant costs associated with unclear or poorly defined expectations. While the money may be on hand to correct the mistakes, no cash-rich investor can buy back wasted time. The consequences of delays can be extremely harmful and, crucially, irreversible. In the tech industry, being the first to release an innovative digital product is often the best way to ensure long-term success. In a world where capturing market share is the main priority and - particularly in some circles - investor cash is readily available, the temptation can be to ‘move fast and break things’, as per the mantra of Facebook. Being the first company to release a particular kind of novel technological solution that catches on can lead to the public identifying every subsequent version of that solution with your own product. Emerging competitors may struggle to be seen as anything other than second best and imitations of your product, even if their product is superior in certain areas. Time may be of the essence, which is why you want to get every step in the process right the first time whenever possible. That means making sure all your key assumptions and expectations are properly communicated. Consider the ingrained habit of using Google as the default search engine of choice for much of the western world - though there are other markets with distinctive characteristics such as China where this is not the case. Google’s early dominance in market share has proven remarkably challenging for competitors, even remarkably well-heeled ones, to challenge. However, it’s worth remembering that when companies such as Google or Facebook launched they were able to grow their market share rapidly in part because they had a product that satisfied their user base and connected well with their market. While speed can mean ‘being first’ at the expense of your competitors, if the perceived urgency of getting a product out fast means that care isn’t taken at every stage, your competitors will thank you for actually slowing down your development process by introducing so many flaws that you have to delay your launch. As such, excessive speed can lead to lack of care in documenting the exact requirements of your product to your developers, leading to delays and wasting the opportunity to capture market share early. An experienced developer or digital product agency will request that you complete a product requirements document (PRD) that lays out all of your needs in detail, helping you to avoid confusion, get to market with a great product on time, and ultimately grow your business into a success on the back of your code. To learn more about how to complete a PRD, you can check out out guide to the subject: The Product Requirements Document (PRD): How to decide what features your app needs. So far, we’ve considered the importance of understanding how developers think and being clear about your expectations when working with them - but there’s one step you can take that will all but ensure that your goals are aligned with those of your developers. Include developers in your planning process No matter how good your PRD is, it’s a set of instructions on the preparation of a complex product requiring considerable technical expertise. As you spell out each additional technical requirement, you’re just as likely to raise more questions as you are to answer them. The way many startups initially envision the process is to write the PRD document and then send it to the developers, who will then create the software described in the PRD. In such a scenario, it’s highly likely that the developers would come back with a multitude of technical questions which, depending on the technical knowledge of the people who prepared the document, may mean revisions are necessary. Involving your devs in the planning process can bring potential stumbling blocks to light early on and help you address them early on. This process can take extra time and effort which, as we’ve already pointed out, can bring its own disadvantages. To avoid being slowed down by a stream of questions and potential obstacles, involve developers in the planning process as early as you can. Regardless of the type of project you’re running, having the developers who will be writing your code present at an early kickoff meeting can help them understand your needs, get questions and clarifications out of the way quickly, and help them understand what your intentions are. Having this understanding of the context of their work and being able to question the various aspects of the project also gives your developers the opportunity to make helpful suggestions which may ultimately improve the quality of your digital product and accelerate development. This means you can start capturing market share sooner and more effectively. But what about the actual management of the development project itself? How will you interact with the development team and how will tasks be organized? That’s the subject of our next section. The development process In an ideal situation, each member of a development team has a well defined role. Each role is generally situated within a sub-team, such as quality assurance (QA), product, and engineering. And in most digital product agencies, the teams will carry out their work within a project management framework, like the Agile Scrum process. This framework is used to manage the performance of tasks and monitor progress while keeping the overall project on track despite the inevitable roadblocks that will emerge in most development cycles. Here’s a quick primer on the role of each type of team member within the flow of this framework. In the first stage of this (idealized) process, project managers take the lead: Stage 1: project (or sometimes ‘product’) managers: Stage 2: developers and QA pros attempt to complete their assigned tasks: Stage 3: all parties cycle back to review and regroup before the next development cycle begins Remember; this is an idealized version of the workflow. In emergency situations, the process may have to be sidestepped. It’s also worth noting that - particularly in small teams - the same person may have multiple roles. For example, a senior engineer might also serve as the project or product manager. They may also be involved in quality assurance. Above all, the biggest piece of advice from this section when it comes to working with developers is to make sure everyone is clear on their role within the process (rather than simply assigning job titles). Clear roles and clear processes lead to clear results. Don't neglect organizational arrangments. The responsibilities of each individual should be as clear as possible and everyone should understand how each of their tasks fits into the wider project. To help with this:
Designing A Product Information Management System.
A story on how we designed a PIM system for an Enterprise. In 6 weeks. And in a user-centered way. No revolution starts without a spark. Especially a digital one. One of our clients, a leading clothing retailer from Norway, needed something special to excite the key stakeholders and the whole organisation at the dawn of the digital transformation. The retailer's problem was fragmentation of systems they used for operations. Marketing, sales, warehouse ops, the websites, product information - all of those functions used a myriad of digital tools, none of them customised to the organisation's real needs. This often causes teams to slip, systems to break down and the whole operation to suffer should anything go wrong. Big retail companies often use hundreds of separate systems to manage their operations. You cannot start a digital revolution by changing everything at the same time - you do one thing at a time. That's why a team of expert designers and developers from EL Passion was invited to build a foundation for one of the key aspects of their retail operations  -  the PIM. The increasing role of the Internet in commerce has created many opportunities for retailers to go global and reduce the time consumers need to discover and purchase their products. On the other hand, managing product information across many sales channels creates problems with maintaining consistency and accuracy of it. A PIM - Product Information Management is a central system that stores (surprise, surprise) all product information and distributes it to certain channels - online stores, retail stores, marketing systems etc. Time was of the essence (isn't it always?), so our role was a 6-week sprint to design a clickable prototype of a PIM and build a back-end platform that will allow to construct the PIM in the future. This case study will focus on the former. We could start with any of the retail systems, but the PIM was selected, as it could truly show our capabilities and was something a lot of people in the organisation could relate to. Our system and stakeholder mapping exercise during our Product Design Workshop was helpful in establishing that. System and stakeholder mapping allowed us to see the full picture of the systems involved in retail operations. The first challenge in the project was to look into how product information is typically managed and what are the issues online merchandising and product information managers face daily in their jobs. We were tasked by the client to provide an external perspective on how a PIM should be constructed. We have consolidated insights from various sources in order to create an architecture for the PIM and decide on the core functionalities. One of the key assumptions of our involvement was that we shouldn't gather insight from within the organisation to avoid getting biased (sic!). It made our work a bit harder, but we did not give up on user interviews. Instead, we interviewed a number of people who have experience with using Product Information Management systems. We conducted all of the interviews using Lookback, and that helped us analyse the content later on. This gave us tons of insight into how PIMs are built, how they bring value to organisations and what are the most used features across different organisations. In order to get to know how PIMs work we reviewed a number of existing solutions in the market and mapped out how they solve certain problems ecommerce staff faces every day. Each of the products we reviewed (InRiver, Akeneo, Shopify, Magento) have gotten us a bit closer to initial visions of how to best manage product information across many channels. Product information has one end-goal. Surprisingly, it's supposed to inform the customers about the products! It would be a terrible oversight if we hadn't interviewed actual customers in relation to their shopping behaviour! Even though the target audience was based in Norway and Sweden, which is not that far away, we felt the ecommerce habits may be a bit different to Poland. That's why we conducted 10 in-depth interviews and user testing sessions with customers from Norway and Sweden. We learned how Klarna's 'order now, pay later' feature is changing their relationship to online purchases; how they trust PayPal more than the stores themselves; how the clothing and shoe wear materials can make a difference or how sizes are irrelevant if not shown in context. We conducted affinity mapping to determine key themes of findings from the interviews. Before working on particular screens we always work on the applications high-level architecture with the client. Based on the client's insights and our own research from the industry, we have devised an architecture on top of the idea that the PIM should be a one source of truth for product information, and only that. Splitting all of the functions into modules helped our back-end development architects understand the system concept a little bit better. After validating the feasibility of the architecture on both operational and technical levels, we started working on something more tangible. To streamline the design work, we used Shopify's Polaris UI Kit as the starting point. That allowed us to use pre-made components to build new layouts and quickly get to a shape we could present to the stakeholders. We have prototyped the key screens of the PIM, including: This, however, was just the beginning. We needed to synchronize our thinking with the development team. The developers were building a totally new environment that would be capable of handling the operations needed for a large scale retail operation. And the designers did not want to add any features that would prove unrealistic to develop. The PIM we were all building was supposed to be a start of the transformation, and not a science-fiction promise.