A $50 DIY IOT solution for pet care

IOT for petcare

It all started when I got a new pet (Wall-E), a labrador puppy. When pups are small, they can’t be left alone and need a lot of your attention. If you prefer to spend your night working like me, you don’t get enough time to give proper attention to your loved pet. Small puppies doesn’t move much, they spend most of the time eating, pooping and sleeping. So, the pup only needs attention when he’s awake, Awesome! That got me thinking about designing a system that can alerts me whenever he moves.

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Sentimental analysis via machine learning – Bag of words meets bag of popcorn

Sentimental analysis kaggle tutorial

This is nothing so sophisticated tutorial on predicting sentiments using R. The following is part of a Kaggle competition that I took part in. I must tell you in advance that this tutorial is basically ‘101’ of predicting sentiments using bag of words. A more advance way to predict sentiments would be using word2vec by Google. This tutorial will get you started on predicting sentiments.

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SearchTwitter() – doRppAPICall, Limited, small set of Tweets [R, twitteR]

Trying to fetch Twitter data using SearchTwitter()?

Got such a message on your console?

“500 tweets were requested but the API can only return 2″

The question is extremely centric to new R users, and constantly resurfaces.

So far, you might have been tempted and suggested to tweak internal parameters to get more results.

Many would’ve claimed that their code worked well after tweaking their code, but, you by now are having a hard time reproducing the same results.

And you still get the same error again and again,

doRppAPICall(“search/tweets”, n, params = params, retryOnRateLimit = retryOnRateLimit

 

Now, it gets frustrating!

But don’t worry, you probably aren’t doing anything wrong with your code. You missed one small detail.

Twitter Search API!

Yes,

The Search API doesn’t provides you an exhaustive set of search results, and is quite weak when it comes to providing results.

With the Twitter Search API you get a sample, not the entire results.

To properly get Twitter search results, you can either look for 3rd party providers,

Or,

You can either use the Twitter Streaming API.

The proper way to set up a Twitter mining system using Twitter Stream API includes:
1. Creating a database to store tweets
2. Regularly update them

Another benefit of Streaming API over Search API is that the Streaming API brings almost real-time data.

I am not getting into the specifics of Twitter Streaming API right now, but, getting access to Twitter Streaming API is simple and similar Twitter Search API.

Some of the packages that you need to perform data mining operations using Twitter Streaming APIs are StreamR, ROAuth, RCurl and Rjsonio.

In a subsequent post I will walk you through fetching data using Twitter Streaming API.

Meanwhile, if you have an experience of yours working with Twitter Search API that you want to share, please feel free to drop me a comment.

Mobile app marketing – Get creative

App marketing a/b testing

Ever wondered why people still make apps for a niche that already has a ton of apps with little to no space to squeeze in? Well, for the most part entrepreneurs, product managers and marketers all know a little secret – There’s always a possibility!

Most people will be surprised to see how quickly these folks can identify and calculate an opportunity. If you are interested in identifying/validating your own idea, hop over to Noah Kagan‘s interview by Tim Ferris and do it yourself.

When it comes to market an app idea, most usually follow the same basic pre launch and post launch strategies: App store optimization, PPC ads, Blog mentions/Press coverage, Social media marketing and other usual stuff. While, all of these steps are necessary and shouldn’t be ignored, app marketing is about getting more creative with your efforts.

Mobile app marketing should be creative

Why is there such a need to get creative?
1. It helps you innovate.
2. Play store search is broken. I myself have often found Playstore not being able to lead towards an app I searched for, while searching on Google search easily gets me there (quickly!). You need to make sure that you get discovered on Playstore, creativity helps you get discovered easily.

Further, even if you use app store intelligence tools which are a bit pricey, you won’t be sure if those results are accurate. If only creative mobile app marketing had a book written on it, right? I wish for such a book too! Most of these creative app marketing practices are black hat and are almost buried in depths of Google search. But, if you look at the playstore closely, you might actually end up finding a few of them. Although, it still would be difficult for you to draw a clear line there.

A reddit user ‘Rudolf895′ accidentally came across a network of apps that appear to have the same functionality, shared the same app screenshots, and were infact from the same developer.
Here’s the screenshot that he shared

App marketing tricks

Here’s something that I noticed about these apps:
1. Apps with same functionality but different name had different ratings.
2. These apps had almost all possible combinations that a prospective user might feed into the search bar.
3. The logo variation was very strategically placed for A/B testing.

Even though Playstore is against duplicate content, this developer was able to circumvent and perform his A/B testing without any problems. Only one of these app had a brand name associated with itself – Zoemob Family safety.

A layman’s first speculation would be that this app developer is trying to own the app results, while in my opinion this was just an A/B test to get the best results. And now that it is almost a year since this screenshot was discovered, and all duplicate apps except for the brand name one are gone.

A year ago, Zoemob used a different logo while they were testing:
App marketing a/b testing

The current logo that they are currently using belongs to one of the duplicate app’s logo, see for yourself:
App store optimization logo

With 60,000+ ratings and more than a million downloads on Play store, the strategy has worked quite well.

I am not actually recommending going blackhat to get a million users for your app, but the point is creativity works well with marketing and product development efforts. Even Unicorns like Airbnb once relied on bots to get users. In the words of Andrew Chen:

A traditional marketer would not even be close to imagining the integration above

That’s all for this post, hope I helped you in someway. Have something to say? Drop me a comment!

Information dashboard design – Best Practices

I love data, and after a couple of research projects and ML algorithms I cannot disagree with the importance of information visualization. So do most of the businesses that utilize information dashboards on a daily basis to trace, understand or even analyze things.

Since, information dashboards are mainly an ‘Enterprise thing’, many lack the user experience end users deserve. The same way we get badly designed enterprise softwares, we get badly designed information dashboards too. It happens!

But it’s not all dark and gloomy. There are products like Toutapp, who provide awesome dashboard with the right user experience. Question is how can you do the same for your information dashboard? While, pointing out specifics is difficult, there are some general rules that could simplify the user experience.

Information dashboard design – Some general tips

Visual Consistency
Consistency is often a designer’s best friend, and a consistent user interface would help users rely more on recognition and less on recalling. If you don’t know the difference already, recognition is better than recalling in this case. An excellent read on recognition and recall by nngroup.

Establishing hierarchy
While you are utilizing consistency in design to help a user easily move forward without having the need to recall much, you still need to separate the most important information from the rest. Imagine a case when to navigate to the most important section a user has to look at each section and read all text to identify them.

Edward Tufte’s design principles
Often regarded as the god of information visualization, what Luke Wroblewski is to design of forms – Edward Tufte is for data visualization. He recommends to optimize data-ink ratio, reduce chartjunk and myriad of other data visualization parameters that great simply complex information in a very easy to digest form. Here’s a good read on Tufte’s principles that you can include in your design.

No calculations
Dashboards are designed for a reason – To present the data in a digestible way. If your information dashboard design makes a user perform calculations then it probably isn’t doing the job right. Therefore it is recommended that you design while keeping the end user in mind. This will take care of all pains and frustrations of the user.

Top UX blogs to follow in 2016

My list of top UX blogs

Ecommerce UX design blog : http://ecommerceuxdesign.com/
Here you can find almost everything ecommerce design related.

A List Apart: http://alistapart.com/
One of the my most recommended design blogs.

52 Weeks of UX: http://52weeksofux.com/
If you really wish to understand design as a whole and feel it around yourself this blog is for you!

UX Mag: http://uxmag.com/
A very helpful blog that brings highly valuable information from industry practitioners.

UX Myths: http://uxmyths.com/
Based upon research findings, this blog will help you look beyond your design beliefs and will help you to design what’s best for the user.

Luke Wroblewski’s blog: http://www.lukew.com/ff
His advice on design is impeccable, especially his advice on how to design web forms.

Smashing Magazine: https://www.smashingmagazine.com/category/uxdesign/
A very informative and diverse blog on design, this is a must read for any UX aspirant.

GUI Design tools

GUI design tools

Awesome GUI design tools that you should definitely checkout

ForeUI
ForeUI is a user interface design tool that allows you to create graphic user interfaces for websites and softwares. It allows creating a skeleton wireframe, add workflow and simulate the website or software.

ForeUI allows easy drag and drop facility to do rapid prototyping. Here’s how ForeUI works

To assist in a collaborative design process and usability ForeUI even allows a user to add comments.

MockingBird
MockingBird is a ridiculously easy GUI design tool that let’s you create interactive wireframes. The user experience is crafted in a way that it makes using this tool extremely easy, even for a new. Apart from being easy to use, it also allows editing and collaborating in real time. A user can add comments to the design.

Here’s a video that illustrates how easy it is to make wireframes in MockingBird

The pencil project
An open source all platform tool, the pencil project allows users to create mockups for any platform – Desktop to mobile phones. It also allows to save the project in the popular formats like PNG, SVG, Openoffice, PDF or even Inscape compatible files.

Mockflow
Mockflow is another GUI design tool that helps designers collaboratively create wireframes. The tool is completely cloud based and promises high level of data security. To help a user get started with their work, Mockflow has provided a very nice set of detailed documentation on their site.

Patternry

This GUI tool is a bit different as it aims to reduce the divide between designers and developers. Rather than just providing pre made design patterns, Patternry allows you to build living UI libraries. Patternry stores everything in one place: Screenshots, discussions, design guidelines and code. This ensures that everyone is one the same page and can see the entire picture.

Patternry also helps building design and code removing any redundant tasks that an individual might face.

Have something to say? Drop me a comment!

Design methods for product planning, scoping and development – Part 1

Brain storming origami

To build more meaningful products we need a user centered design approach. This new blog series outlines some of these design methods which could lead to products that users love. Depending on your use case, you can incorporate these design methodologies.

Brainstorming by graphic organizers

Brainstorming using Graphic organizers helps teams generate out of the box solutions and discover more problems by utilizing free spirited and quantity intensive frameworks. When utilized properly it helps bringing ideas out quickly and often uncovers the more unexplored ways to solve a design problem.

These brainstorm graphic organizing frameworks are available in the following frameworks: Brainstorming webs, Tree maps and Flow Charts. Consider the following when selecting a framework from the three frameworks:

  • To shape an idea brainstorming webs are often found to helpful.
  • To establish hierarchical relationships Tree maps are instrumental.
  • To better shape your idea and understanding it as a cohesive system dependent on elements Flow charts are usually helpful.


    Business Origami – Invented by Hitachi Design Center

    Brain storming origami
    Image credits – Dave Grey

    The practice ensures that everyone is on the same page by using paper cut out models that illustrates the system. As opposed to digital models, the paper cut out representations are often more intuitive in understanding mental models.

    In this design methodology, pieces of paper are placed either on a horizontal whiteboard or a big white sheet of paper. The whiteboard or big white sheet of paper has marked areas. The cut out paper pieces who may represent people, groups, etc are then placed on top of these relevant areas. These areas are then connected with lines to illustrate flow and establish relationships.

    For now, the post will end with just the two design methodologies, but other design methods will follow soon.

  • Buster Keaton should be an inspiration for ux designers

    Watch a lot of movies and you love designing too? Well, you should know Buster Keaton. I have always been a fan of his work. When traditional cinema relied way too much on titles, he was the one who was focused on visual representations to connect with his audience.

    His awesome camera placements and exceptional talents brought a lot of value to modern day cinema. Keaton made his videos based on what would be the best for the audience.

    Buster Keaton(October 4, 1895 – February 1, 1966)
    Buster Keaton

    Keaton applied methods in his videos which really show us how to build anything that your audience will love. Look at how well crafted some of this scenes were.

    You don’t tell Buster Keaton he can’t do a stunt.

    Our work as designers and product owners should be to make intuitive experiences like Buster Keaton. Here’s a great video from the Youtube Channel “Every frame a painting” about Keaton that’s a must watch.

    Cheers!

    Kindle – The best Ebook reader

    I am a book worm and I love to read as much as I can. My reading interests often makes me to import books out of the country, and often that’s unpleasant. The entire system to import books is just awful for an avid reader. After a good time utilizing Printed books and reading ebooks on PC’s and Tabs I switched to Kindle.

    Kindle best ebook reader

    The best ebook reader

    It has been years now, and since then I haven’t regretted my decision. Kindle is an awesome device for someone who loves to read. The entire product speaks of a design that’s well crafted for book readers. Here’s what I love the most about my Kindle.

    User experience of Kindle

    Kindle follows the typical book convention. While it doesn’t have those swipe animations which were present initially in the Galaxy Tab devices, it does follow the exact page flipping science which allow users to go back and forth between the pages. I remember not having to refer to any guide or check any instructions to learn those interactions, the user experience of Kindle feels extremely natural.

    Screen Quality

    When I unpacked my Kindle years ago, I’d no idea of what I was getting into. I opened the box and it appeared to me that there was a cover made of paper on my Kindle’s screen. When I tried to remove that cover I found that it was the actual screen of my Kindle! How awesome is that?
    300 ppi E Ink Carta display makes the screen well suited to our eye. For someone like me who wears high power spectacles, this combination bring more comfort.

    Screen brightness

    Again, another awesome feature that distinguishes Kindle from any other eReader. Kindle allows user to adjust screen brightness to match almost any light conditions, whether it be day or night.

    Light weight

    Being extremely light weight renders it as one of the easy to use devices. Using Kindle allows you to read for long time without tiring your hands.

    Battery

    I read at least for an hour on my Kindle, and still, it only needs to be charged after 20 days. As opposed to our cellphones, which demands charging at least once in 2 days, Kindle only needs to be charged once in a month.

    .Mobi format

    The biggest pain in reading digital books is that you often need to pinch/zoom to adjust the layout, and you need to do it very often. Kindle straightaway takes that pain away. It brings a huge number of publishers to a platform with books perfectly optimized to provide the perfect layout without any need to re adjust the layout. Kindle also provides the facility to adjust font size and typefaces to your reading needs. Adjusting typefaces brings a bit more affordance in reading, e.g. if you are reading a novel you might want to switch to a typeface that facilitates that kind of reading. Latter one only applies to people who understand typefaces.

    Last but not the least, I’ve had Plastic cased Samsung Flagship phones in past which felt unnatural on a users’ hand and have an iPhone whose metal body makes it so slippery that it often falls from my hand. Whereas, Kindle is nicely design, the back portion feels extremely good on hands and takes good care of these usability issues.

    Is Kindle the best ebook reader? Yes, Definitely it is!

    10 things designers know very well but you don’t

    We don’t live in a very different world, but designers do know a few things very well that others don’t. These things are interestingly awesome

    Shadows are not black

    Fan of #00000? Shadows, dark corners and other visual elements you describe as black are not black for designers. Especially, shadows are not black, really they aren’t! Consider the image below. Clearly, the shadow is not your #000000 black. Shadow not dark

     

    Take quality feedback, ignore the rest

    Being a designer means that you are going to be judged ( a lot actually), more people leave design field after joining the professional world than those who leave it during college. The reason is that most designers are not prepared to take the heat. It is often counted as a vital skill for a designer to learn how to receive the proper feedback and ignore the junk by HIPPO’s or stakeholders with a bad taste/bias.

    Good design is often invisible

    Well this technically isn’t the most hidden fact in the design community, but is infact one of the most ignored one. A good design always assists a user in completing his/her task without even being noticed.

    Users often don’t know what they need

    A famous saying by Henry Ford pretty much sums up to this. Taking feedback from users is important, but it is equally important to have a deep understanding of what they need instead of what they want.

    “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

    Different curves lead to different feelings

    In real life, we are afraid of things that are sharp and we often tend to be cautious around them. The same applies to our designs, especially in selecting a typeface for a particular situation. A smooth and rounded typeface would appear to be more friendly and warm than the one with sharp edges.
    Look at the image below and guess which one is the most friendliest
    Fonts feeling

     

    The empty place in most of the web apps

    Be it Twitter, Facebook, Youtube or any other famous web app, you will end up finding that there’s little to no content on the bottom left of the web page. That’s because our pattern of reading from top to bottom which eventually forces the reader to move towards the extreme right.

    The more option you give, the less people will buy

    If you are selling a wide range of products online, chances are that your target audience will buy lesser. Users tend to buy more when there are less choices involved. This behaviour was presented by Barry Schwartz, an American Psychologist in 2004. Providing 3 to 7 choices is often the best practice as cited by George Miller.

    I hope you learned something new here, and would love to hear from you if you have anything to say.

    Paisley Pattern – Things you should know about it

    Since I was a kid, I always used to wonder the designs that my mom made on Diwali. Where did those designs came from? What’s their importance? What do they symbolize? All these questions always made me curious. Well, whatever story I was told when I was small about these designs, I definitely have outgrown them now.

    Example of a Paisley Pattern
    Paisley design

    By Arulraja (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

    As the festive season approaches, I see all these patterns back again. The similar looking designs now available in print media sparked something in my mind. The art of a society is often the true reflection of people living inside it. By looking at present designs and fonts, you can easily understand a lot about past and present of a particular location.

    When I started looking for the origin of this leaf like design, I found that it is called “Paisley design”, the origin has been attributed to Persia. This particular design is so extremely popular in India that we commonly see it in bed sheets, sarees and designs intended for religious festivals.

    According to Wiki,

    Some design scholars[who?] believe it is the convergence of a stylized floral spray and a cypress tree: a Zoroastrian symbol of life and eternity.[4] Paisley is the quintessential visual metaphor of Iran’s bifurcated and tormented identity – riven between Arabic Islam and pre-Islamic Persian creeds. It is a bent cedar, and the cedar is the tree Zarathustra planted in paradise. The heavenly tree was “bent” under the weight of the Arab invasion and Muslim conquest of Persia.

    The design was probably brought to India by the Mughals. The context of this design is beyond my understanding. Since, the design was all about resistance and modesty, I couldn’t comprehend the usage with the current times. Anyways, it could just be the change in our perception that has provided such wide acceptance to this design within our daily lives.

    Paisley was a symbol of luxury during 1600’s-1800’s with East India Company promoting it to the heights. Most of the weaving work of this design in 19th century came from Paisley, Scotland. Which is also the reason behind this pattern being called Paisley pattern.

    Paisley weavers were often thought of as enlightened beings. And Paisley was attributed to psychedelic nature by The Beatles, who often wore t-shirts with Paisley Patterns.

    Here’s one such psychedelic portrayal of Paisley
    Paisley 2

    That’s a very short writeup on Paisley, I shared what I found out of curiosity. Feel free to share if you have anything on Paisley!

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