February 19, 2021

13 Expert Tips For Boosting Your Company’s Mobile Site Performance And UX

With the proliferation of smartphones and personal devices, “mobile-first” has become the watchword when it comes to website design for optimal user experience. Businesses must ensure their websites are just as responsive, appealing and easy to navigate on mobile devices as they are on desktop computers—if not more so.

To succeed, it’s important to not only adopt strategies specific to mobile design but also to follow good practices for serving users on any device. To help, 13 experts from Forbes Technology Council share their best tips for optimizing modern websites and designing them for the mobile era.

1. Understand your users.

“User experience” begins with “user.” Understand them. Create a story or narrative that represents their good day and create one that represents their bad day. Those stories become the lens through which you can create an experience that addresses your users’ needs. - Tim Mitrovich, Artisan

2. Consider edge data methods.

You need a clear data strategy and a robust data architecture. Otherwise, your app will be making massive data calls to the backend. Cached data is not great for app performance, so do look at edge data methods to serve the right data at the right time for optimal customer experience. - Jacqueline Teo, HGC Global Communications

3. Create a quick and simple path to your call to action.

Ensure a clear and simple flow for each persona use case. In the browser, we had three-click aspirations. On mobile, we’ve changed that to three swipes for the user to see the clearly understood and interactive button or call to action. - Gavin McMurdo, IStreamPlanet

4. Keep your operating systems and applications up to date.

One best tip for companies trying to improve their mobile sites’ performance or UX is to ensure that all servers are running the latest operating systems and applications. Frequently patching and updating the underlying infrastructure of mobile sites will provide the latest features and the most-up-to-date security posture, mitigating known vulnerabilities that might be exploitable in the wild. - Bob Fabien ZingaDirectly, Inc./U.S. Navy Reserve

5. Invest in progressive loading.

Progressive loading (a.k.a. lazyload) can help capture your users’ attention quickly by allowing your website to show meaningful content as soon as possible. From there, load in advance what your user will see next. By continuing to prioritize the loading of resources according to when your user will need them, the entire experience will feel much snappier. - Amy Czuchlewski, Bottle Rocket

6. Know your audience and which devices they use to interact with you.

As an enterprise business-to-business SaaS solution, we looked at our data and found that 95% of our visitors are on desktop. Because of that, we focus on the desktop first. If your data says mobile devices are what your visitors primarily use—which is typically true for business-to-consumer products—then really focus on a solid mobile UX or an app. - Richard Kahn, Anura Solutions, LLC

7. Get right to the point with your message.

A lot of mobile development focuses on UX, which is incredibly important, but the message is king. Spending as much or more time on immediately and effectively getting your most important messages to your audience is vital. UX plays a role in this. But having UX and your content/messaging strategy work in unison is the Holy Grail of mobile development. - James Draper, Bidstack

8. Understand the difference between responsive design and mobile-first design.

There is a difference between a responsively designed platform and a mobile-first platform—and the distinction is important. Most companies focus on compliance and the ability of their platform to respond to a smaller form factor such as a phone. Mobile-first design asks, “How do the needs of people differ when they’re using a phone?” Mobile-first considers that features may differ on mobile versus desktop. - Pierce Brantley, Cytracom

9. Make decisions based on data, not trends.

When you decide to make changes or improvements to your mobile site, don’t just stick to the “latest trends.” Make decisions based on the real data you’ve collected on how your users or site visitors interact with your website. Measure first, then optimize. - Ivailo Nikolov, SiteGround

10. Decouple your mobile strategy from your desktop strategy.

Website strategy for mobile should be totally decoupled from your primary website, with only the message and brand being constants. What you’re trying to say has an impact on the potential direction your team can take the design. Accessibility is not really front of mind—most often, mobile visitors appreciate content that speaks to them literally. Animations and voice-overs keep you in control. - Raymond Hicks5thColumn Inc.

11. Design your site based on your customers’ behavior.

Know your customers. Learn and analyze the way they use your products. Which browsers, which devices and which platforms do they prefer? Do they usually use the product during the day or at night? Do they prefer a horizontal (tablet) or vertical (smartphone) view? All these factors should help you design a better product that best suits your customers. - Ariel Rosenfeld, 3d Signals

12. Keep the design clean.

Minimalism is the word when it comes to smaller screens. Stick with simple one-column designs if you can. Check all elements for redundancy. Be very frugal with information—especially above the fold—but be generous with call-to-action elements. Give links and buttons good breathing room. Similarly, for forms, keep the number of fields to a minimum; use more checkboxes and fewer typing fields. - Vikram Joshi, pulsd

13. Get expert help.

Bring in outside expertise, and make sure your internal leaders are there to be the bridge, not subject matter experts. Be the experts about the business, but let the experts from outside handle the design, as this is what they do day in and day out. We often try to become the SMEs for a “solution” when we should simply be the business SMEs who help and guide the outside experts. - Gene Yoo, Resecurity, Inc.

This article was published on Forbes.com

February 8, 2021

11 Of The Top IT Investments Businesses Will Make In 2021

Companies across every industry have had to make quick operational changes to acclimate to the pandemic and mitigate its impacts on the bottom line. Resources, projects and functions may have been outsourced initially or cobbled together internally as a short-term solution. 

As a “new normal” slowly comes into focus, however, many businesses looking for more long-lasting stability are investing in their IT departments. 

Here, 11 members of Forbes Technology Council offer their top predictions on the specific types of IT investments businesses will be making in 2021 to adapt and thrive in the economic landscape now taking shape.

1. Cloud Migration

The most crucial investment businesses need to make in 2021, if they haven’t already, is migrating to the cloud. The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us the importance of investing in IT before the storm. Many agile companies that had completed their digital journey to the cloud prior to the pandemic did not miss a beat when all employees were forced to work from home, producing an outstanding ROI. - Bob Fabien ZingaDirectly, Inc/U.S. Navy Reserve

2. Communication Automation Tools

Critical investments will be made in technology solutions that automate and test companies’ communication tools and ensure an elevated customer experience. Omnichannel communications are becoming more important to both consumers and businesses, with video becoming more standard. Ensuring the functionality of communication tools will be critical in 2021. - Alok KulkarniCyara Solutions Corp

3. Self-Service Models And AI-Driven Knowledge Management

Organizations will accelerate the adoption of self-service models and AI-driven knowledge management to reduce costs and roll out superior employee and customer experiences, extending ITSM with self-service and knowledge management to adopt processes that drive digital transformation. With AI service management, businesses can leverage hyperautomation and ops automation to increase productivity and become autonomous digital enterprises. - Ali SiddiquiBMC Software

4. Tools To Boost Employee Engagement

It can be challenging for employees to stay engaged while working remotely for extended periods of time, and engaged team members are crucial to driving productivity and innovation. As we move into 2021, businesses should continue to invest in cloud-powered collaboration software, internal social media platforms and communication tools to simulate the in-office experience. - Michael RingmanTELUS International

5. Cybersecurity Education For Employees

Remote team members are now playing “home help desk technician” and “domestic cybersecurity officer” roles in addition to their primary job functions. Forward-looking companies will double-down on education and awareness efforts for mobile workers to amplify foundational technology skills and prepare them for constantly changing cyber vulnerabilities and threats. - Chris PurcellPEMCO Mutual Insurance Company

6. Insider Threat Solutions

I believe that many businesses will be investing in insider threat solutions in 2021. In 2020, organizations realized that their biggest security vulnerability isn’t coming from outside of their businesses but from inside. Remote work has revealed the true risk posed by employees, whether accidentally or maliciously, and businesses will be putting strategies in place to mitigate this in the long term. - Tony PepperEgress

7. Digital Sales Tools

The pandemic has ushered in the era of digital sales for most companies, and I expect to see many invest more in tools to make the sales process seamless and digitally engaging. Sellers need to sell the way buyers want to buy, and more and more B2B buyers are voting with their wallets for digital experiences. - John JahnkeTackle.io

8. Digital Customer Experiences

Build with the digital customer in mind. Whether it’s transforming existing services or adding new streams, the customers will have options at their fingertips. They have been more understanding and limited in choice during the pandemic, but they have also become more resourceful and digitally savvy. Tap into that, respecting the place they are coming from, and offer an outstanding experience to all stakeholders. - Diana XhumariTegeria

9. Communication Services

Companies will invest in communications services, and not just video chat or file sharing, but any way that people can communicate their ideas: virtual whiteboards, shared documents that can be edited together, searchable archives where you can find everything later and more—even games that a team can play together, as stronger relationships build better communication too. - Luke WallaceBottle Rocket

10. Desktop As A Service

Many businesses will prepare for the unpredictable and look at ways to bring their emergency planning down to minutes of recovery versus days. With DaaS, for example, I can right-click and “burst scale” from a few test machines to hundreds or even thousands of instances. The cloud is cheap until you start using it, so wise investments will look to optimize this. - J. Tyler RohrerLiquidware

11. Machine Learning

In 2021, more IT teams will adopt state-of-the-art ML model management and operational platforms. The pandemic has shown us the power of AI and ML initiatives such as consumer insights, cost optimization and online marketplaces. Businesses already running ML have also realized the need for a reliable infrastructure and MLOps pipeline to quickly react to sudden changes in consumer behavior and market dynamics. - Meeta DashVerta.ai

This article was published on Forbes.com

February 8, 2021

10 Tech Leaders Share Their Favorite Edtech Innovations

The pandemic has caused a major shift in education. Even as students begin to return to the classroom, education technology remains a hot topic. Schools are continuing to look for effective and affordable ways to enhance classroom learning or better support remote learning, and the tech industry has been quick to deliver.

As leading experts in their field, the members of Forbes Technology Council are constantly looking for the most cutting-edge, innovative technologies, including those used for education. Below, 10 of them share the most compelling piece of edtech they’ve seen recently and why they’re impressed by it.

1. AspectO

AspectO is a great artificial intelligence/machine learning product that enhances both classroom and online learning. Through continuous evaluation of student participation, it triggers events to drive student engagement while in class. It also personalizes educational content and assignments based on the attentiveness of students during teacher-led class sessions, remote sessions and even online self-learning sessions on platforms such as Coursera. - Sujeeth KanugantiAira Tech Corp.

2. ClassDojo

Students are learning both remotely and in person, which means that schools today are relying on tools such as Zoom to help teachers connect with remote learners. ClassDojo can help ensure equity for remote students by randomly calling on students and awarding points for participation. Kahoot is another great option for class participation, as it lets everyone contribute to Q&A discussions. - Amy Czuchlewski, Bottle Rocket

3. Kahoot

Kahoot is a compelling edtech platform that uses gamification to make the learning process more fun and engaging. The free portion of their platform helps school kids build and use and/or browse and use others’ online learning content, while corporate users can access the paid version of the platform to build their own and utilize others’ corporate training materials. - Robert Weissgraeber, AX Semantics

4. Khan Academy

Perhaps more than any other segment, education had unexpected scalability requirements, and the success of the virtual learning platforms that adapted with agility certainly caught my eye. Khan Academy faced these sudden changes and quickly took on 2.5 times their typical traffic levels within a week as a result of successfully leveraging edge computing technology. - Joshua Bixby, Fastly

5. LearnPlatform

I’m fascinated by the edtech effectiveness system created by LearnPlatform, which is used to analyze data from students and teachers participating in their program. Currently, there are data available from 4 million students, and that number is expected to grow. I believe that the evolution of this system will eventually lead to deeper personalization when it comes to how educators teach children. - Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster

6. Student Journey Mapping

Institutions are becoming more learner-centric in their design and operations, which is giving rise to student journey mapping technologies. A student’s journey map reveals multi-dimensional pathways that they navigate in their educational progression, highlighting courses, skills, learning outcomes and experiences. This equips learners with guidance and analytics to align their education with career and life goals. - Jim Milton, Anthology

7. Asynchronous Forums

One piece of edtech I find compelling in a remote learning environment, especially with students in different time zones, is asynchronous forums. Having recently completed a graduate school formation, I found it useful to receive feedback on my assignments from my fellow students and instructor within a matter of days. It allowed me to think more deeply about the subject and expand my knowledge. - Bob Fabien ZingaDirectly, Inc./U.S. Navy Reserve

8. Virtual Reality

Virtual reality needs to be designed into the new classroom. VR is arguably the most immersive learning tool available today—it turns the educational experience into something exciting and modern. More importantly, full immersion massively reduces distraction from other sources. Paired with high engagement, this leads to better comprehension and enhanced retention for students. - Kyle Rand, Rendever

9. Remote Browser Isolation

Remote browser isolation technology is having a big impact on many verticals, but it is especially helpful to educational organizations given the way they’ve been targeted by ransomware and data theft during the pandemic. Isolating students’ devices from the internet—which prevents them from being compromised by ransomware and other threats—has prevented many schools from showing up in the headlines. - David Canellos, Ericom Software

10. Remote Work Technologies

We’ve seen schools turn to the same solutions as enterprises to enable their remote environments. Technologies such as Microsoft Teams—developed for businesses—are enabling education scenarios and vice versa. Remote work technologies enable virtual classrooms and prepare students to enter a workforce that’s increasingly dependent on such tech to enable collaboration across both large and small businesses. - Bob Bruns, Avanade

This article was published on Forbes.com

February 8, 2021

12 Ways For Tech Companies Using Consumers’ Data To Earn Their Trust

In the remote-first era of Covid-19, the potential for and frequency of cyberattacks has increased significantly. With data breaches regularly hitting the headlines, many consumers are wary of giving tech companies access to their personal data.

So how can a tech brand anticipate this and assuage the concerns of consumers who are reluctant to share personal information? Below, 12 members of Forbes Technology Council shared tips for companies that want to build trust with consumers when it comes to using their personal data.

1. Invest In Blockchain Technology

I love the idea of a blockchain-based profile that puts the control around how their personal data can be consumed completely in the hands of the user. It would be even better if such a profile could actually help the user monetize sharing of their data. - Michael FultonExpedient

2. Adopt A ‘Privacy By Design’ Approach

We must ensure that the collection and use of private data are intentional and explicitly communicated to consumers. If a personal data element is not required, then it is imperative that we do not collect it in the first place. Adopting a “privacy by design” approach to process and application development is a key method for maintaining compliance and building confidence with consumers. - David StapletonCyberGRX

3. Share Case Studies Of Brands That Trust You

Building trust is hard in general, but especially in the current, all-remote situation. One of the most effective ways to convince customers is to show them case studies of companies that already trusted you, especially well-known brands within a similar niche. - Robert KrajewskiIdeamotive

4. Apply Transparent Data Use Standards

Consumers view tech companies as independent operators, each with their own business agenda for personal data. Tech companies can create trust by creating joint, transparent standards that they apply to the use and management of personal data. With Big Tech signing on to a universal set of data use standards, consumers can better understand how their data is used. - Micheal Goodwin[email protected]

5. Show That You Value Personal Data

Choose who to do business with based on how seriously they take security. That includes providing two-factor authentication and guarantees of refunds for any losses they cause. The best way to convey your serious attitude with personal data is to show that you value it. For example, give the consumer something of value in return for their data instead of just asking, “Can I have it because I benefit?” - Mike LloydRedSeal

6. Work With Policymakers On Data Governance

Industry and government need to work together to create a clear, enforceable and definitive framework for data governance. With businesses all using the same playbook, consumers will have their faith restored in the use of data and how it is regulated. Not all data, nor its uses, are the same, so consumers need to ensure their data is used in a responsible and authorized way. - Sam AmraniOlvin

7. Have A Third Party Audit Your Security

First, be sure to collect only the data that’s needed and be really transparent about how and why you are doing it. After that, you can work with a third party to periodically audit your site’s security and fix any vulnerabilities, which will likely show up as your software develops. Reiterate your commitment to cybersecurity in as many user touchpoints as you can, and you’ll be well on your way! - Nacho De MarcoBairesDev

8. Obtain Consent Before Collecting Data

Consent is critical. By relying on consent-based data collection methods, companies can collect data with the consumer’s explicit permission. Consent management databases can also help to build trust by transparently showing what consumer data is being used for and giving consumers the continuous option to remove consent at any time. - Sanjoy MalikUrjanet

9. Adopt Policies That Favor Consumer Privacy Concerns

With its General Data Protection Regulation, the European Union is showing that consumers do actually value their privacy. So adopting policies that favor customer privacy concerns over extra profit from selling their data—and being clear about that choice—will help build trust. Be transparent. State your privacy policy clearly and in a way that the average, non-technical user can understand, and then hold to your own policies. - Saryu NayyarGurucul

10. Show Social Proof On-Site

We build trust with our customers by showing social proof on-site. When your audience can see verified trust seals and reviews from countless customers, they are much more likely to trust your business. You can even grab testimonials from high-profile clients and put them on your homepage or landing pages to show that well-known people trust your brand. - Thomas GriffinOptinMonster

11. Establish Transparency Through Clear Communication

To build trust with your customers, you must establish transparency. Are you deploying a new software update? Clearly explain why and what the new features are to your users in plain language. Do new data regulations affect how you collect and use customer data? Let your clients know right away. It sounds simple, but transparency is the foundation of trust. - Marc FischerDogtown Media LLC

12. Reiterate Your Message Often

Reiterate your message as often as necessary. If your customers are concerned about their personal data within your system, every touchpoint is an opportunity to reiterate your commitment: every email, every press release and every blog post. Mention one specific way you protect their data at a time, and focus on your overall commitment to security. - Luke WallaceBottle Rocket

This article was published on Forbes.com

January 28, 2021

13 Smart Home Tech Features To Anticipate In The Next Decade

Smart home tech has made life a lot easier for many homeowners. Voice assistants like Alexa are among the most popular and well-known of the bunch, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg as far as home tech is concerned.

Over the next 10 years, we're likely to see a revolution in how electronic devices interact with each other and impact our lives. New innovations like internet-of-things (IoT) devices that can transform regular homes into smart homes are already becoming more affordable. Below, 13 experts from Forbes Technology Council discuss some of the smart innovations and key features of home tech they expect to see become commonplace within the next decade.

1. Seamless Integrations

I expect to see seamless integrations in the next few years. We can already integrate home assistants with the rest of the home ecosystem — streaming services, HVAC, security, alarms, etc. But let’s get real — integration is often clunky, burdensome and it takes multiple hurdles to get it done. Imagine walking into your home and announcing to Alexa, "I have a new device. Connect it with…" - David Moise, Decide Consulting

2. Fully Integrated Security

Fully integrated security systems will become the norm over the next decade, combining physical security for the home and cybersecurity for digital devices. Today, cybersecurity for the home is actually pretty lax, especially in terms of Wi-Fi networks that are vulnerable to hacking. Expect smart home providers to add cybersecurity measures to their suite of services. - John Shin, RSI Security

3. More AI And ML Integration

Artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies will become more commonplace as integrations with smart devices. Think smart reordering of home supplies and consumables or monitoring of behaviors like electricity usage and home comfort systems to optimize cost and environmental experience. Currently we can tell devices like Alexa to do these things, but in the coming years, it will be done for us. - Mike Frey, Yellow Basket, LLC

4. Extended Role Of Voice Assistants

While voice assistants would be more advanced to be able to do more than schedule calendar appointments, they would extend to doing more such as turning on appliances, and actually be able to do other things such as park your car, answer the door and many more connectivity activities that technology would be able to support. - Lydia Miller, TATA consultancy Services

5. Voice Biometrics

Smart assistants will be reliable and with a fair degree of precision be able to tell who is issuing the commands, so that they can perform complex tasks — such as checking emails, making financial transactions, etc. Voice biometrics is already a thing but will mature over the next few years to become more prolific. - Suresh Sambandam, Kissflow

6. Interactive Robot Assistants

Devices like iRobot are pretty common today and robotics and AI technologies, fast evolving. In a few years, interactive robot assistants will become an integral part of our day-to-day life. They can help perform common household chores, manage connected devices, ensure home security and make our lives more efficient. Not to mention, for people with special needs they can play a much bigger role. - Meeta Dash, Verta.ai

7. Intelligent AI Operating System

While Alexa is the voice interface for the home, we need an intelligent AI operating system to handle "everything" at home (similar to "Her"). This OS would have basic technical features (work from home, energy, cleaning, safety, physical and cybersecurity, sanitation, AV, gaming, payments) at home, office and community levels, as well as ) integration with smart city (all government services), and personal function (social media, e-commerce). - Satyam Bheemarasetti, NeoSilica Technologies Private Limited

8. Virtual Interactive Displays

Voice assistants are nice but I'm looking forward to virtual and interactive displays in the home that complement the voice experience. Not a wearable, but ideally something that's projected. - Elias Guerra, Popwallet

9. House Health Monitoring

The hottest thing in the next five to 10 years will be an assistant robot that tells the vitals of your house as well as scope out oddities. This will be an evolution of the drone monitoring system. People will have home health dashboards that are especially synchronized with the health of their mortgage payments. - WaiJe Coler, InfoTracer

10. Smart Locks

Smart locks, for sure, will be an omnipresent feature. Current technology is quite clunky, and technology is coming up with new and more secure ways of adding greater security. - Irsa Faruqui, RetroCube - Software and Mobile Application Development Company

11. Smart Toilets

I predict that smart toilets will become a tech feature in homes over the next 5 to 10 years. COVID has proven that a smart toilet can help monitor for viruses, diseases and vitamin deficiencies. It will be an early indicator for many health issues. - Brian Keith, Microsoft

12. Smart Solar Panels

I expect to see smart solar panels mounted on roofs. This is in line with the urgency around climate action and sustainability. With this, every house could also resell power back to the electricity grid and contribute toward a circular economy. As smart solutions are all potential attack surfaces for cyber criminals, digital risk could increase in tandem, and we see cybersecurity also taking increased priority. - Kumar Ritesh, CYFIRMA

13. Always-On TV Screens

TVs will eventually be left on all the time and connected to the rest of your ecosystem so that they can show alerts or aid in tasks more easily. They'll passively show art or photos from friends and family, a constant news feed of your own social circle, and your voice will be the remote for most activities. - Luke Wallace, Bottle Rocket

This article was originally published on Forbes.com