Less is more. Ludwig Mies
Hello. I'm Kevin
Welcome to my website, a mix of professional and personal content, designed for mobile, tablet, laptop and desktop. From the days of defensive coding during the early Web to today's responsive design targeting devices with distinct features, the approach is the same. Content and consumers should not be separated.
This site is under development. To view snapshots in the evolution of PlanetKevin from 2001, please go here.
Content in The Age of the Device
Digital media content development has undergone revolutionary changes over the past several years. Consumers have more choices than ever, as well as raised expectations for media they consume. Fast moving trends which content developers and publishers must keep up with include:
Rapid Growth of Mobile Market
In the six years since it was introduced, over 250 million iPhones have been sold worldwide. Prior to its arrival, online ads and marketing were almost non-existent for mobile devices. There had been WAP and other non-rich media methods of accessing network information, but with the arrival of the smart-phone, the Web as a content medium changed forever.
More of us are accessing the Web through mobile devices than ever before. Design and development paradigms have been and still are shifting within creative departments and the online advertising industry at large. Content developers have to give attention to a myriad of display resolutions that each have their own native look, feel and functionality. Neglecting to do so quickly reveals a company or brand "just doesn't get it."
Some analysts are predicting that 2013 may be the year that more browser content is consumed by mobile devices, including tablets and smart phones, than by desktop and laptop devices. Regardless of the instant when there are more devices online than traditional computers, their sheer number makes them unwise to ignore from a content standpoint.
The rapid growth of the smart phone and tablet markets has impacted Web development more than any event or trend since the arrival of Netscape and Internet Explorer in the mid 1990s. Unlike the desktop browser market that only considered two browsers and two operating systems, today's developers are expected to support more than a dozen operating system and browser combinations, as well as future-proofing their code.
Content Choices for Device Targets
A decade ago, the software application that ushered in the CD-ROM era, Macromedia Director, was definitively replaced as the rich media authoring tool of choice by its sibling, Macromedia, now Adobe, Flash. In the era when Director was the most affordable and accessible authoring tool, it would be used for many rich media tasks. However, once Flash became increasingly powerful, Director could no longer answer the "Janet Jackson" question--what have you done for me lately? Now, it's Flash's turn to be under the microscope trying to argue the case for proprietary SWF content over open-source HTML.
Flash and HTML are not the only contenders for rich media in the Age of the Device. Several other proprietary environments and languages have entered the arena, particularly the native languages for the distinct device groups: Objective C, for iOS; Java, for Android; Windows for the Windows Phone; and other hardware-dependent environments. While proprietary languages enable developers to access more device functionality than is available to browser-based content, the choice to develop in device-specific languages can quickly add up in costs.
In addition to over-investing in native app functionality at the expense of open-source HTML, many companies have followed the disturbing trend of providing a website for desktop visitors and an app for their device-based visitors. Beyond the production costs associated with multiple application support, companies tend to lose perspective on their clients' behavior. In many instances, they miss out on the "fat middle," those visitors who use their mobile device to go to company websites instead of downloading an app. Downloading is a serious barrier to entry and should be a component of one's mobile strategy rather than its only strategy. Even the pesky alerts that regularly interrupt the mobile browsing experience asking the user to download an app can be off-putting to potential clients.
New Mobile Device Features
One of the most exciting areas in publishing and development that the Mobile Web has enabled comes from the tremendous feature extension that smart phones and tablets possess. These mini-computers have many functions beyond their desktop counterparts, including the ability to call and send text messages from the browser, GPS and compass capabilities, touch and gesture events and more. The onus is on content teams to find ways to integrate and incorporate these features into sites and campaigns. Some of the new features that are worth knowing about and what can be done with them include the following.
Call or send text messages from Device Browser--why not enable visitors to call or send text directly from the browser? Many campaigns have a mobile texting component, such as the voting on American Idol, yet this same type of feedback is not often enough considered for the Mobile Web. It is paradoxical that there are more ads for viewers to use their phone to send an IM on television than on content designed for the phone.
Enable consumers to enjoy content even when offline--people don't always have a connection, but they always want content. Knowing what to cache and make available and ensuring that it is facilitated will earn you respect and loyalty from site visitors. Having access to content when no network is available is especially satisfying for all of us.
All smart phones have location-based awareness--in the world of Real Time Bidding, can anything sound more relevant than knowing where your potential client is? Knowing where you are will certainly impact your choice horizon when it comes to where to eat, where to shop, what car to buy, and much more. It also helps to determine which language, currency and other information may be most appropriate.
Most of today's smart phones have built-in compasses and gyroscopes--why not help someone out when they're trying to find you? Many people have a hard time understanding maps and orientation. If you hold your phone at arm's length and turn in a circle and see a big thumbs up on the screen when you're facing the direction of the place you're looking for, it might be friendlier for some than a grid of unfamiliar streets.
Touch and Gesture Events are waiting to be creatively utilized--why not integrate them with other features to provide a true HTML5 experience. In addition to navigation, this user interactivity can be used for games, organization, and many other applications. A fairly trivial usage could enable a person to stand in place, then move the screen view forward a few blocks and then turn the direction by moving the phone. In this fashion, a person can control the position within a map environment and do some exploring without having to move. The sky is the limit with these events, particularly in conjunction with built-in gyroscope and GPS functionality.
And of course, today's devices enable users to download apps--regardless of HTML 5 penetration, it will still be chic to maintain at least a shell within the principal device environments that contain the mobile website. Ideally, there will be some distinguishing feature(s) that the app provides to justify its download. App Stores provide income and exposure to developers and publishers and should be exploited in appropriate ways. Respect your users, consider what you're offering them and how to best serve their desires, and the choice of app versus website features will be logically revealed.
Finally, the last frontier for taking advantage of new mobile functionality is the one that is least supported: the sharing of knowledge gleaned from one application for use in another. For instance, suppose you hide some "Easter Eggs", each with a prominent QR code, as part of a campaign in XYZ City. The contest rules require the users to use a QR code reader to find the coded items, use another app to find their exact latitude and longitude, then send in all the locations to you, who will reward the first correct contestant with the Grand Prize.
It is an exciting time in content development, and features available on devices are driving the envelope of what is possible. It is a time for creativity and experiments. We are only at the dawn of the age of the device.
As the Mobile Web has forced developers to mature and open their design and testing sensibilities, the business logic and presentation layers in the browser have grown in their ability to manage our evolving needs and expectations. This has happened on a number of fronts: most importantly, in the new layout and programming functionality; and the advent of approaches and libraries that have become popular in developer communities.
In 2013, most online forms have at least some degree of client-side verification before a user can submit them to a server: such as ensuring a field is not blank; or that the appropriate value or format is followed for a given field. When developing for the Mobile Web, this consideration applies more so than it does to the typical connection one has from a cable modem. Bandwidth is not always an assumption that can be made, and this refers as much to the number of requests than the file sizes.
CSS Sprites were officially sanctioned by the W3C in 2011, but they've been supported by browsers as old as IE5. A CSS Sprite is a collection of images that are combined into a single image that is then referenced through CSS by having explicit width, height, scale and background-position properties set. Imagine a page with a single image, a button, with two states. Instead of downloading two files, you make a single file that has one dimension doubled. Then, by offsetting the position of the image around the width and height parameters, a different piece of the image is seen: the default and selected, for instance.
For the lay person, what is salient is that many modular libraries are available for developers to use to create mobile and desktop content. By using code that has been tested by many different browsers, devices and websites, a lay person should hope to be able to expect a look-and-feel and interactivity that can be described and agreed prior to code commencement. Knowing how the developer intends to construct the site can enable the contracting party to participate in planning and assessment.
Even though there are many frameworks or libraries to choose from, each with advantages and shortcomings, including size, compatibility and ease of use, to achieve design objectives, there are some times that even these will not suffice the needs of an ambitious project. In these cases, one may look to either create their own frameworks or methodologies to address their specific issues, or to extend or alter existing code. Most libraries have the ability to be extended or over-written. However, there still exist many instances in which code requirements do not permit libraries to be used, such as online advertisers, who are reluctant to download a kitchen sink worth of code to achieve a thimble-full of functionality. 30K of code may seem small by some measures, by others it is more than the allotted weight of the entire creative, including rich media.
Links to some of the most important libraries and frameworks today are below:
This is only a small selection of the libraries being used today. The benefits of using libraries are multifold. The nature of the project will influence which, if any, frameworks are appropriate; and the availability of developers who already know or who are willing to learn a framework will also impact the eventual choice of code approach.
Some of the companies and projects I have worked on in recent years include:
Mediaplex, a division of ValueClick, has been providing comprehensive solutions for advertisers and agencies since 1996, including ad serving, data management, tag management, rich media, mobile, and more.
AKQA is a leading ad agency that stewards global brands in the digital age. Acquired by WPP in 2012, AKQA has more than 1,000 employees around the world, with offices in Europe, North America and Asia.
SmartShoot connects consumers with filmmakers and photographers in an online marketplace for location-based work and social rating, vetting and reviewing features.
Virtuoz was acquired by Nuance Communications in January 2013. The company specializes in providing online support through virtual chat agents. Its functionality is being merged with Nuance's own mobile virtual agent, Nina.
CBS acquired CNET in 2008 and rebranded the network as CBS Interactive (CBSi), and CNET became a subsidiary. The company is a major publisher of broadcast and online entertainment.
Organic is one of the first digital marketing agencies, IPO’d in February of 2000, and became a subsidiary of Omnicom in 2003. They have maintained a focus in online and cutting edge technologies.
Developed Income and Expenses module for Bank of America's current home loan guide. Created interactive charts using existing and new AS3 frameworks. Worked with Ant-backed project builds with other AS3 developers.
frog designs, engineers, and brings to market meaningful products and services for its worldwide customers. Their experience spans technologies, platforms, and media across a spectrum of industries. frog has worldwide offices and is a company of the Aricent Group, a global innovation and technology services firm.
Developed an Air application for a prominent telecommunications firm that used a variety of technologies to bridge the desktop and mobile devices. After developing prototype, tested with beta version of Web Services for Fortune 100 software firm for usability analysis. Project associated with Windows Azure launch
Primary Technologies: Flex, Flash, ActionScript AS3, XML, Air
Mindjet creates team collaboration software. Its products share your ideas visually, help organize information, create plans, and work across teams. Mindjet works on Windows and Mac desktops, in the cloud, on-premise, and on mobile devices.
Developed interactive videos for the new MindMaster 8 flagship product for front page of their English and German sites. Attended client meetings and worked with their team to ensure pixel-perfect replication of PSD comps.
ON24 provides webcasting, lead generation, and virtual event solutions that are designed to meet performance requirements for businesses of all types and sizes. ON24 offers a portfolio of licensed ASP products or turnkey solutions.
Developed MXML components for Virtual Tradeshow. Used Cairngorm framework for B2B administrative application for Tradeshow. My role was Flex development and bug resolution.
Primary Technologies: Flex, Flash, ActionScript AS3, XML, Air
Eveo has provided innovative digital solutions for clients across devices, media and networks since 1999. Their principal clients are in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. Their services include interactive and video content development and design, 3D animation, mobile solutions, tradeshow solutions and more.
Created XML-driven marketing application with video, Tweener-animated fades, blurs and placement, for Novartis FocalinXR. Developed XML-backed PDF to SWF conversion process for a number of vaccine products for GlaxoSmithKline, as part of a larger application suite.
Primary Technologies: Flash, ActionScript AS2, AS3
Ustream provides a platform for live video broadcasting and user-generated content for personal and business users worldwide. They boast more than 50 million unique monthly visitors and have been referred to by many as the "YouTube" for live events.
Developed horizontal reflective thumbnail scroller using ActionScript 3 which loaded object data from AMFPHP (Flash Remoting) and called image and video feeds in response to user interaction. Was responsible for determining handshake requirements, gradient fade, exponential navigation and media functionality. The videos are served from a Flash Media Server, and all feeds are live.
Reality Digital provides white label video solutions for social networking, intranet and corporate uses. Since 2003, they have built social media experiences for leading brands and agencies, providing the infrastructure to build, manage, publish, distribute and monetize the video component of social media campaigns.
Developed suite of XML-based FLV players--simple video players, video players for blogs, WebCam recording, video editing--which shared a core logic swf and are configurable to support size and shape requirements, third party assets, ad tracking, and advanced functionality. Was responsible for the Flash/ActionScript programming, and client-side functionality of RD's Opus Platform.
Questions or comments ---> Contact me