Wednesday, 12 December 2012

The native/HTML5 debate revisited


In a previous blog post, we outlined our thoughts on the native/HTML5 app debate and where we were going with our development.  Since then things have changed such as the well-publicised change of Facebook’s application to a fully native experience which many in the blogosphere have taken to mean that, certainly in the short term, native is the way to go and HTML5 is just not good enough, yet.

We would disagree with this assertion.  The Facebook app change was not as clear-cut as it is often made out to be.  In reality, Facebook chose to change from a hybrid app (one which is a native app that presents HTML5 pages within it) to a fully native one.  They did not kill off their true HTML5 web app, which is still fully available at http://m.facebook.com and works well, and quickly.

What they did do was make a change from the hybrid app model to a full native app.  This makes sense to us, as a hybrid app really does not work well.  The true HTML5 web app is best experienced through the device’s browser, which is designed and optimised for the task and certainly on iOS devices benefits from a faster JavaScript engine that is not available to hybrid apps.  Native apps, similarly, should be true native apps to take advantage of the devices APIs and the performance boost it can give.

As stated before, we are going down the HTML5 route as we believe this is the future and ensures the user experience is consistent across all devices.  The other major benefit for our clients is that it is so much easier to ask users to browse to a web address rather than hunting through a crowded app store to find the app, download it and then log in.  In the time that takes, they could have already completed the required task!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

A quick update on forms!


Hello all,

We're working hard on building some new features in yagmap that will make your mobile data collection even easier than ever. However, in the meantime, we thought we would take a break from the coding to let you know that we're really pleased that last week we had the ten thousandth form data item received! This is great news and we hope to build further on this success.

If you're interested in finding out how yagmap eforms can help your business' remote data collection - do get in touch via forms@yagmap.com.

Monday, 10 September 2012

New Feature! Form Camera Integration on Android Devices


We are really excited about this one as we believe this is cutting edge stuff!

We can now provide the option to have camera integration on forms when using certain Android devices. As these are HTML5 forms, it’s pretty cool being able to press a button on the form, go straight to your camera, and then have the image saved back and uploaded with your form.

This new functionality works on most Android 3+ devices and a few 2.2+ devices where Firefox Mobile are supported – see http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/mobile/platforms/ for more info on Firefox mobile support.

For best results, use either the Chrome (Android 4+ only) or Firefox Android browser as these provide better image compression compared to the stock Android browser.

If this is something that would be of interest to you then please get in touch with us at forms@yagmap.com. We’re not making this feature available to everyone just yet, as we want to work closely with a handful of customers in the early stages.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Free Olympics Competition


Well the Olympics are very nearly upon us with only a few hours and counting!

To celebrate both the Olympic Games and our recent launch of the yagmap forms we thought we'd set up a little competition that's free to enter for everyone. The winner gets a £50 Amazon gift voucher.

To enter, log onto yagmap (or if you've not yet got an account then sign up for free) and find the "yagmap Olympic Competition" form and enter your predictions for the events we've selected. For each answer you get right, you get a point and those with the highest number of points get entered into a draw, with one winner selected at random.

There are no limits to the number of times you can enter, each entry counts so if you really have the time, feel free to enter as many times as you like!

We'll announce the winner on this blog, so once the games are over, head back here to find out who knows their stuff!

Friday, 29 June 2012

Standard forms now available!


Since launching our new electronic forms solution a few weeks ago we're pleased to announce that we've now enabled standard forms for all users. The forms available, so far, are:

  • Audit Report
  • Business Mileage Record
  • Customer Satisfaction Form
  • Hazard/Near Miss Report Form
  • Job Sheet
  • Market Research Example
  • Personal Expenses Record

These forms are based on what we feel are useful business process forms that work well on electronic devices and particularly mobile devices. For example, being able to report a hazard/near miss whilst out in the field means the company's health and safety team can respond immediately rather than having to wait for the remote worker to get back from the office and hand in their paper based form.

We're continuing to add to this list of standard forms and if you like them, but do need some tweaks making to them to fit your own business requirements, please do not hesitate to contact us via email (forms@yagmap.com) or via the member's contact form.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Mobile Forms


As you know we created yagmap as a group messaging service aimed at businesses who want a secure and private method of communicating within their teams both in and out of the office. Well, we're really excited to have launched a new additional service to yagmap building on this communications platform to allow businesses to take advantage of the advances in mobile computing technology to allow them to complete forms electronically (eForms) while on the move or back in the office at the desk.

What we're really excited about though, is the feedback we've had from the customers we've demonstrated it to and who are using it in the wild. First and foremost they like the ease of use - which is a key design requirement we try to adhere to generally. For us, ease of use not only means ease of using the solution, but also ease of getting access to it in the first place. Whereas all other mobile eform solutions that we're aware of are built using native apps, we've stuck to our philosophy of HTML5 based web apps as users can simply browse to www.yagmap.com, sign in (or quickly create an account if it's their first time) and start using it straight away - none of this hunting around a cluttered app store. From a business point of view, this means sharing out yagmap forms is as easy as emailing a link to it!

Secondly, what has really impressed our customers is how the forms work like a native app:

  • you can do geolocation as it integrates with your device's GPS (or if it doesn't have GPS or can't pick up a signal, uses your WiFi or cell network details to try to determine your location)
  • it works online and offline - and if you submit forms whilst offline, once you're back online it automatically pushes the data up to the database without you needing to do anything

And thirdly, they like the speed with which forms can be deployed. At this stage we want to work with our customers to design their forms so once we've discussed their requirements, a form can be in place ready for testing very quickly. Obviously it depends on the size of the form and its complexity, but you're looking at hours rather than days for even the largest forms.

If you want anymore information on this new service please do get in touch with us at enquiry@yagmap.com.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Using yagmap to cope with email overload


Email overload is a common problem, especially in large organisations and the longer you've worked somewhere. It’s amazing how spammers manage to get hold of your email address regardless of how well you try to prevent it.

According to Symnantec (http://www.symanteccloud.com/en/gb/globalthreats/charts/spam_monthly) about 74% of all emails are spam and whilst your company's filtering service will do a good job of eliminating most of it, unfortunately and inevitably a significant amount will still get through to your inbox. In 2003, the BBC reported that spam email costs us an hour a day of unproductive time and it’s likely that this situation has got worse since.

So how can yagmap help you?

The way to use yagmap and make it most effective, is to set up groups with key contacts - those with whom communication is critical. Those whose emails you can’t afford to miss amongst the junk.

As you’ll trust and know the people in the group, you’ll know that only genuine correspondence will be posted to the group, not adverts for knock off watches or fake pills!

This means you can respond quicker as messages are delivered immediately, not delayed going via spam filters. Plus you can seamlessly switch devices, for example, from your laptop to Blackberry to personal iPhone. You can respond whenever and wherever.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Building For Mobile: Web App or Native App?


When we started building yagmap we decided right from the outset that a key requirement for us was to support both mobile and desktop/laptop type computers. Building the site using web technologies for the desktop computer was a no-brainer - this is just the way things are moving and how people expect to interact with a cloud based solution. So when it came to mobile, we also quickly opted for building a solution based on web technologies rather than native apps.

This goes against the current trends for mobile - there's an app for everything at the moment it seems and it appears to me that a lot of marketing money is being spent by development shops to convince a lot of small businesses that they 'need' a mobile app. So why did we go for a web app instead?

Well, basically for exactly the same reasons as we went for a web based solution for desktops:

  • You get a consistent look and feel across all browsers and operating systems so a better user experience across platforms
  • You don't need complicated instructions, IT support or "consultants" to install the application on each machine that needs to access yagmap, thereby significantly reducing the total cost of ownership (TCO) for the end customer 
  • End users can access yagmap from their home computers rather than being tied to their office desk
  • Updates to the system are available to all users on all platforms at the same time, again without requiring IT support

These reasons are equally applicable to the mobile space.

Another financially beneficial reason for us, as a company, is we don't need to employ specialist developers for Android, iOS, Blackberry etc which means we can devote our time and resources to creating the best possible user experience and the best features available, along with the best customer support of course!

We strongly believe that web apps are the longer term future for mobile operating systems. There is too much fragmentation and users will expect cloud based systems to work the same way on every device they use. They don't care whether it's from Apple or Google or RIM.

Don't forget that when Apple launched the original iPhone back in 2007, they didn't support native apps and wanted developers to build web apps - they saw this as the future of app development but were they possibly too early to properly do it? Today we have HTML5 which gives access to an enhanced browsing experience, the mobile browsers have come on a long way to support these so we have planted our allegiance firmly on the web app side and see the capabilities of web apps continuing to grow as HTML5 develops further and developers get more access to the hardware.

Finally, our anecdotal evidence based on observing ordinary people using their smartphones indicates that most access web services via the browser. Without doing an indepth study, we believe this is simply because this is what they are used to and find it easier to pull up Google, search for the site and load it in the browser rather than trawling through numerous home screens to find the app for the particular service they want.

Conversly, games, music and imaging apps on the otherhand were used as native apps...so our takeaway would be a native app is the right thing for those as people perceive them to be part of the device so native is the logical way to access them. Cloud solutions are off-device, so logically (or subconsciously) access via the browsers is the natural way to access them.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Supporting Older Versions of Internet Explorer


It's good fun coding for the latest and greatest browsers, making use of the new HTML5 features and pushing the envelope to see what can be done. However, as we are focussed on businesses, we need to appreciate that not every business is able to be running the latest version of Chrome or Internet Explorer either due to specific policies in place or application compatibility issues.

For this reason, we prefer to be inclusive and ensure yagmap is fully functional with at least Internet Explorer 6. Yes, we know even Microsoft would like IE6 to disappear but in reality a lot of businesses, particularly the larger enterprises are still using IE6 and will be for some time to come until they are in a position to complete a blanket upgrade. Whilst it's all very well saying install the Chrome plug-in, or an alternative browser for day-to-day web, keeping IE6 for the legacy applications; this is not always a practical option due to security policies in place.

So, as part of our product development, we test against IE6, IE7, IE8 and IE9. IE9 is our preferred (until v10 comes out soon!) but IE8 is the latest supported on Windows XP (again not always possible to spend thousands or millions upgrading all PCs to Windows 7). With IE6 and 7, we make sure the functionality works but whilst the newer browsers allow for a more appealing visual appearance, IE6 and 7 give a more functional look as they don't support the newer standards such as HTML5 and CSS3.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Microsoft BizSpark


Whilst we've been quiet on our blog over the past couple of months pleased be assured we have been busy!


We're pleased that we've been accepted onto the Microsoft BizSpark programme for startups. This is great news for us as it gives us access to Microsoft software, which yagmap is built on, which would otherwise be out of our reach. Microsoft are doing some great work in the startup space, helping them to grow without having to worry about software costs too much in the early days whilst they concentrate on delivery of their product and getting the word out.