EcmaStack to Attend TechDay 2017 in New York!

EcmaStack will be heading to Pier94 on April 18th for the New York edition of TechDay 2017!

If you have any interest in software development, we are keen to hear from you. Whether you’re a new startup looking to discuss ideas, a comp-sci student stuck on a coding problem, or a businessman interested in our services, be sure to stop by our booth and chat with a member of our skilled team.

As a NY/CT based startup, EcmaStack specializes in the development of customized software for any application. Our team of JavaScript engineers is committed to making the web a better place, by designing high-quality applications and websites. With experience working with startups as well Fortune 500 companies, we take pride in our work, and invest our time wisely to provide you with the service you desire.

If you’re interested in finding out more about EcmaStack and what we can do for you, contact us directly at hello@ecmastack.com, we look forward to seeing you among the 35,000 other attendees of TechDay NY!

Scrum Crash Course

Scrum offers an alternative to conventional management practices. With the dynamics of business constantly evolving, management techniques have to evolve as well. Before you can implement Scrum, you need to learn more about how it works and the steps it entails. Here is an overview of what you will learn through our Scrum Crash Course:

Epics
Overarching Initiatives: If you think about building a piece of software or a website, this could represent an entire page. Stories are associated with Epics. A good epic is defined by all the stories that will accomplish the goal.

Tips: A good way to think of an Epic is as a set of features that would accomplish a specific goal for the project. When thinking of epics, you may think of milestones. Each project is different, so it will take some practice to get good at breaking projects down into meaningful parts.

Stories
A story is like a task but is told as a story.
For example:
“As a user, I can update my password and save it to my account”
Remember, this is about good communication, so try to include images and artifacts to help your teammates understand the intent of the story.
Also, a good story answers all relevant questions upfront. A scrum master and project manager will help with this.

Sprint Planning
A sprint is a block of time. In our case, we work in two-week increments (also known as iterations). Before we kick off a two-week sprint, our scrum team assigned to the project will sit together and pull projects from the icebox and enter them into the backlog to be worked on.

Use the effort points allocated to each story as a mechanism to understand how much work your team may accomplish within a two-week sprint. The sum of the story points your team is able to accomplish within a sprint is called Velocity.

The Sprint
The sprint a sacred block of time that is to be projected at all costs. Once the work has been agreed upon, it is up to the team and the scrum master to work together to achieve the sprint. Teams use meetings, like “The Daily Standup”, and communication tools like Slack to warn each other in case there is a chance that some task will not be completed. The goal of the sprint is to exact all of the work they had agreed upon to either meet or exceed their target velocity.

The Daily Standup
When your team is assembled, and wherever possible, a standup is a 10 to 15-minute block of time where you stand with your team and each person gets a minute or so to discuss:

  1. What they accomplished yesterday
  2. What they hope to accomplish today
  3. Is there anything blocking them

Tip: DO NOT FIND A SOLUTION. Stand-ups tend to take up too much time when we hear a problem and try to find a solution for the problem during the standup. Scrum Masters have to keep the team on task. If a blocker arises or a few team members need to collaborate on something, kindly request that those conversations take place after the standup.

Blockers
A blocker is generally a reference to something that is preventing work from being done. This could be missing information, missing technology requirements, another story/epic that needs to be done first, design artifact or even a client meeting that has not occurred yet.

Dealing with Blockers
Blockers occur often and vary from case to case but you have to overcome them to keep your team moving. There is no one way to deal with blockers except to communicate clearly. Ask good questions that get to the root of what needs to be solved and have laser focus on solving exactly that. Once you feel the blocker has been eliminated, confirm with your team that they are able to move forward.

An enemy of success is assumption.

Velocity
Velocity is the sum of effort points your team is able to accomplish within a given sprint. It is part of the Scrum Master’s agenda to work with the team to achieve the highest velocity possible. Note that there will be certain things that affect your team’s velocity, for example vacations.

The Backlog
The backlog is a set of epics and or stories in order of highest value or customer impact. A backlog should be groomed regularly.

Steps for Grooming a Backlog

  1. There are times our teammates may not be using the backlog to record progress on a story. Encourage them to use the tools provided to your team to make sure stories are kept up to date.
  2. The backlog is sorted by the most important work first, so make sure all the epics and stories are in order.
  3. Make sure stories are well written and provide as much meaning as possible. Think if someone was looking at the story for the first time, can they sort out what needs to be done without needing to ask you a question?
  4. Remove or otherwise delete stuff that is just not going to get done or is redundant.

Sizing
Stories need to be sized for effort. We use a scale of 1,2,3,5 and 8. To size a story, sit with the scrum team assigned to the backlog and go through the stories and size them with the team. Get everyone involved in contributing to the sizing. Your teammates have different experience and visibility into the work you do.

Effort and Points
Effort is not exactly associated with how much time something will take, but the higher the point value allocated to a given task, the more tasking it will be on the team. A good rule of thumb is that if a story scores over 5 points, it should be broken down into more stories.

With Scrum, you can enhance the efficiency and productivity of your team and also make sure that work is completed on time, without conflict, and without compromising on quality. Scrum offers the ideal framework for modern businesses to improve their operations and achieve their goals.

Building Mobile App – Where to Start and What to Do

Before we start, here’s a little heads-up: this post is not for developers or designers with over 67 years of experience. This is a simple introduction on how to get started when you get an idea for an app, but are not sure where to begin. If you feel like saying something or have an advice or a suggestion that would be beneficial, please go ahead and comment below.
So, you have had this amazing idea for an app in your head for days, weeks, months, and you are more than sure that people can’t wait to try it and use it every day and tell their friends all about it. If this sounds like you, read on.
But where do you start? Should you look for a developer and talk to him about it first? Or hire a designer who will transfer your idea into screens of beautiful design? Nope, sorry, but that’s not how it works.

Functionality/Purpose
First, let’s define the purpose of your app. Yes, simply write it down in one sentence. Don’t make it overcomplicated. Simplicity is the key. Here is an example of one of the apps we are working on:
• Functionality: App delivers a new quote every morning for you to read
• Purpose: Inspires you with quotes from famous successful people
What problem is it going to solve? Define your goal and the mission of your app.

Target Audience/User Groups
Nothing is worse than putting in all your time and energy into a beautiful product that no one is using. Know your target audience! Ask yourself who this app is for. Without demand, there is no reason to create something. Be specific, pick your niche and create your product around their needs. Here’s an example with our Quotes app:
Target Audience: Entrepreneur, someone with an idea for a new product, or a start-up

Sketching
Shut Photoshop down right now and just do it. If you are not an app designer with a 3-page portfolio, take a pencil, note pad and start sketching. Otherwise, you are spending your precious time on something you are not an expert on. Let the real app designer handle that part.
For now, put your thought on the paper, and if you feel adventurous, use a wireframing tool (HotGloo, Fluid, or UXPin as an example). Just remember to be as detailed as possible. It doesn’t have to be ideal. Do include the flow of how to navigate your app and show all the features you can think of. Visit Dribbble for some great examples and ideas about design and implementation.

Talk to the Developer
By now you might think that most of the work has been done, but the truth is the actual process is just about to begin. You have to explain your app idea to a developer. Most people think app is all about design. They are wrong: it’s all about how a user is going to experience your app. So, look for a developer who puts user experience first! Also, keep in mind that not everything is possible when it comes to coding and the process takes more time then you think. Good developers should also provide you some suggestions on how to improve your idea, and not just simply follow your orders.

Testing Plan
Releasing your app without testing it first is probably one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Of course, to you, it might seem everything is ready, but don’t rush. Ask your friends or talk to your family about testing it. Let people use it and hear their honest feedback. You will be surprised at how many recommendations you can get and it’s a good thing, as this step might help you identify any UI/UX flaws you haven’t noticed before.
This is just the beginning and there are more steps you need to get through to get your shiny app out there. You and your developer will have to set up the backend of your system, decide how to monetize your app, and create a marketing strategy for it, etc. We will cover all this and more in Part 2 of this article!

How to Save SEO during a Domain Name Change

All webmasters eventually learn that both migrations and redesigns can be a disaster if not correctly handled when it comes to your either already established site or just lunched site for a start-up.  Unluckily, one can stumble into a lot of loopholes during a migration, from dropping URLs, to botched redirection plans, to technical problems. And when that happens, you can lose traffic, rankings, and search equity. To say the least, it’s not pretty!

However, if you consider a simple procedure of changing domain name, you are simply moving from one domain name to another, without a CMS migration or a redesign. People think it is a piece of cake and are unaware of the myriad things that can go wrong. And the more complicated your site is, the more factors you need to worry about. Below are a few steps that are often overlooked during a domain change but if incorporated, can do wonders in saving your SEO:

All Versions of the New Domain Should Be Verified In the Google Search Console

This step is commonly overlooked by most people, albeit being one of the most important steps. Not only is it downright imperative, the more important step is to do this before pulling the trigger on domain name change. It is a good practice to set up a Google search console for each version of the new domain to guarantee that your website flows smoothly, without finding any surprises waiting for you down the road, such as a manual action or important messages from Google. Additionally, GSC can also be used to track the progress of your domain name. You should check both the new and the old domain to check for smooth functioning. In a nutshell, remember to check the non-www, https, non-www, and the www versions of your new domain in the Google Search Console.

Change the Site Address and the Settings for the WordPress Address

If WordPress is being employed to power your website, it is imperative to change the domain name in your wordpress settings as well. It is also important to change all the myriad installs you have running on your website. During a domain name change, WordPress can usually seize up if there are multiple installs running or a complex set up. For this reason, it is prudent to have your website backed up in multiple locations.

ISAPI_Rewrite or Mod_Rewrite Changes

Check to see if you have any redirects setup in your previous domain, such as URLs that no longer exist on your site but now direct to other URLS on your site. For instant, any of your other owned domains that redirect to your previous domain, and so on. If such a situation exists, you need to back up all your current httpd file (if you’re using an older version of ISAPI_Rewrite), or .htaccess file (if you’re using mod_rewrite), and then work to refine those entries, so that they now redirect to your new domain. It never works to send Google and users through pointless redirect chains. Also, there is no room for any redirect loops, since if you have many URLs behaving that way; things can turn a little messy.

Back Up Your Site

If it’s possible, it is a good practice to have your entire site backed up by the hosting provider, including your databases and WordPress install on a daily basis. If you rigorously adopt this habit, you can easily roll your site back to a previous version in the event of a failure, and save yourself a lot of grief and trouble. Furthermore, you can also use WordPress services or/and plug-ins to back up your site. It’s the equivalent of the digital insurance for webmasters and SEOs and well worth the initial investment!

Scaling Your Team

When developing a software or program, you would be familiar with the concept of scaling. The idea is to keep adding elements as and when required, usually when the program starts becoming more complex to handle using the tools you have on hand now. The same concept can be applied to your software development team. Here’s how you can go about it:

  • Start by coming up with your best idea. Yes, this is the right way to go about scaling your team. When you have few people around you, you will be able to think a lot more clearly, and hence now is the best time to brainstorm and come up with the idea that will take you to the top. As they say, too many cooks spoil the broth. When you bring more people on board, you will get a structure and a great system working for you, but the time to think would be long gone.
  • Hiring the right people is more important than hiring the most qualified or experienced people. As mentioned, initially you don’t need much of a structure, but as the team grows, you need to assign goals and roles to each member. This is why every member you bring on should fulfill a role, and not just be a passenger.
  • When bringing new members on board, do it in stages. Initially, 2 to 4 people are fine. In the next stage, bring the total up to 9, max. Then, you can take it up to 15 and that’s where you have to stop. Assigning more than 15 developers to a project can be overwhelming for everyone and many great ideas might get lost in the noise. You have to weather the transition between stages and handle any crisis which emerges.
  • As mentioned, assigning roles is important. Take it a step further by creating different teams which take care of different parts of the project. The idea is to have one group of people focusing on one thing so that they can give it their best shot. This is where you can benefit from specialization.
  • Cohesion and communication is the key to making scaling work. You have to be clear about your plans from the outset and keep everyone in the loop. Only bring on new people if you need and if there are any issues with the progress of the software, inform everyone involved without delay.

These are some tips you can follow to scale your team as your software project moves along. This will ensure the entire process is seamless and that you don’t have to bear any hassle

Marketing your app with social media the right way

Social-marketing

After building your product, the hardest part is to market and promote your app and get the ball rolling with the first users who are willing to pay for it, or even use it for free. The good news it that it’s possible and not very expensive to do. Social media is one of the best platforms to let people know about your shiny new app. As long as you provide some value to people, they are willing to listen.

Know your app’s target audience.

One of the most important lessons I learned is to build an audience before you even have a product you want to promote. That is easier said than done! The idea is that if you create content on a regular basis, saying something worthwhile and helpful, your audience will grow organically. What to write? Think of people you follow, looking forward to the next blog or tweet they post. Aim for similar content.

demografic-marketing

You like their content because you know they will give good advice, describe their experiences or share a new app that they found useful. They don’t often try to sell you something or self-promote. When you develop an audience that values your opinion, they are more likely to check out your new app when you do share it with them. You don’t get the same trust in a relationship with potential customers with more traditional and more expensive marketing, like paying for ads or buying a mailing list.

It’s all about sharing and caring.

We all know about social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. We have heard numerous times that businesses have to use social media for marketing. We have all seen books and tutorials on “Twitter strategies” or “10 Facebook tips for startups”. Yes, you can schedule posts every few days to tweet about your app, or just share random news related to the industry to keep your profile current. But what if you make an extra effort and help your followers by adding more value to your posts and updates, rather than just promoting your app? Effective social media marketing is a marathon, not a sprint.

For example, let’s say you have an app for recipes and cooking. Think why people would need that app. Would it appeal to people with adventurous tastes who want to try new recipes? Are they interested in a more healthy diet? Are they focused on losing weight? If you search twitter for “what diet”, meaning you’re looking for people’s questions, you’ll find tweets like this:

Why not help Sam by replying to him and answering his question? Having social media conversations with real people gives you a chance to learn what people really want, and build connections and relationships at the same time. Remember, there are a lot of real people hanging out on social media, and each one of them is first a potential follower, and then a customer. Even though there is a lot of spam out there, you just have to filter through the noise and find your audience.

Some of my favorite spots.

Product Hunt is a relatively new platform that allows people to discover their next favorite thing. Hundreds of new products (apps, podcasts, games, books) are posted daily. It’s a popularity contest for products. People vote up or down on the products and that’s how the list is sorted. It’s really important to have a great tagline and description when posting on Product Hunt to catch the attention of your potential customers.

Niche websites like Hacker News and Reddit may be a good way to connect with people with specific interests. There are many other niche websites, and it’s hard to know all of them. Every industry has at least one spot on the Internet where people interested in the subject hang out. These can be forums, IRC chat rooms, slack channels, etc. If you can find the niche audience that your app would appeal to, then you have yet another platform to communicate with them.

Customer friendly.

When you DO start marketing your product, make sure that your message is communicated very clearly. When people finally decide to go and check out your app, your website needs to explain what the app does and why people should register (even if it’s free). Don’t expect people to just “Get it”. There are too many junk apps available on the Internet, and you want to differentiate yours from the useless ones. Make the experience a simple and straightforward one for your users: it should be very easy to sign up, download, and start using your app. The fewer complications they encounter, the more likely it is that they will give you (and your app!) a chance.

The Best Apps and Trends of 2015 – An Overview

If recent trends are any indication, it seems like mobile app technologies are here to stay. Some of these are paving the way for great innovations in the future of mobile technologies. Here are some trends in app development that are worth looking into:

   1.React Native by Facebook

The businesses of today need to move their promotional practices towards mobile in order to enhance their presence with end users. This doesn’t come as a surprise since more local users use mobile technologies such as tablets and Smartphones to look for services or products. However, how do businesses deal with enormous frameworks in order to do that?

Facebook’s React Native app solves this dilemma by making it possible for users to break applications down into discreet components. In this way, the view framework makes it easier for users to iterate on their products. In other words, you won’t need to keep an entire framework in mind just to make changes to a part of it.  The app generates data templates and is currently compatible with iOS devices. While Android functionalities have been integrated into the app, it is still at the experimental stage.

  2.Mobile App Development

Businesses are expected to launch products faster now more than ever. However, they are having trouble keeping up with the rise of demand of mobile apps. As a result, businesses are now focusing more on reducing the time between conceptualization to launch. It seems that there will be a rapid growth of app development resources and tools on the market.

  3.Cloud Development

There has been an upsurge in mobile apps this year and it is not showing any signs of stopping. As mobile devices are expected to growing in the coming years, developers are now focusing on the integration and synchronization of apps. This is possible through cloud app development technologies. The purpose will be to make them accessible and functional on multiple devices while retaining the same functionalities.

  4.User Friendly Experiences

Every app developer knows that user friendliness counts for a lot. An app that is easy to use is downloaded more often and has the potential to gain businesses a lot of customers. Needless to say competition, in this regard is bound to go through the proverbial roof.

  5.Location Based Wi-Fi Services

Wi Fi is expected to offer a lot more services than internet access in the future. Data consumption has proven to be a costly endeavor for most businesses due to a splurge of Smartphone users.

Apple has paved the way for offline and online access with iBeacon. Beacon technology is now seen to blur the boundaries between the two which is why it might prove valuable for businesses that specialize in retail and advertising. The tech giant has already integrated the technology in its iOS that can communicate with their iBeacon networks. The term is basically Apple’s technology standard and allows mobile devices that run on Android and iOS devices to react to signals in the physical world.

Starting a New Venture – Why Execution Matters

Ideas are easy. It’s the execution of ideas that really separates the sheep from the goats

  • Sue Grafton

Business owners that start new ventures know how important execution is. They know that most executed ideas end up being hits or misses more often than not. According to a research paper from the Harvard Business School over 75% of all startups fail. Entrepreneurial ventures might start off with great ideas; but some startups don’t realize that those same ideas are useless no matter how unique they happen to be. Here are other reasons why execution matters when it comes to starting or growing a business –

The Value of Execution

Knowledge might be power, but it is the execution of that knowledge that really matters especially when it comes to business. After all, established brands lead the pack because they had what it took to take their ideas to the next level.

MJ Demarco explains this brilliantly in his The Millionaire Fastlane in which he explains the value of ideas and their execution according to dollar values. Let’s say that an entrepreneur has a range of ideas for growing his business. According to Demarco, a brilliant idea is worth $200 while a bad idea can be worth $1. However, an awful idea can be worth $10 million if it is executed brilliantly. On the other hand, a good idea that is worth $200 will have no more value than it already does if it is poorly executed.

Let’s explains this with a real life example. You decide to design an app as an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and plan to test it out. The idea itself is unique and is sure to attract more customers to your hotel chain especially since it will allow them to book rooms online. The only problem is that you don’t know how to make sure that your target audience uses the app. And if your audience cannot use it, you don’t make any money.

Results

Good execution guarantees results; period. Once you are used to being bold in this regard, you improve your own skills as well or find new ways to grow your idea more. If an idea doesn’t give you the results it is supposed to, it is time to think of a new one and initiate it in new ways.

Prepare to Fail

Failure is a great teacher. Unfortunately, most entrepreneurs tend to throw in the towel after their first one. A fear of failure often makes people freeze in their tracks. As a result, they don’t see their visions through to the end, no matter how good those visions are.

Keep in mind; if you are not prepared to fail, you risk stunting your business’s growth. People learn from their mistakes and business owners should be no different. Just because you failed to execute an idea effectively before doesn’t mean that you give up. Go back to square one if you have to. But remember to focus more attention on executing your idea than harboring the notion of the idea itself.

Can the Small Business Owners Benefit from a Mobile App?

There is an App for that

And the same applies to business. App development has come a long way and has become an integral part of a variety of businesses big or small. Unfortunately, this particular marketing medium still goes untapped more often than not. While some corporations have become aware of the importance and potential of mobile marketing, many are still in the dark. However, app development has helped businesses that utilize it. Here is how it can benefit you as well –

Embrace the Mobile Age

People are dependent on mobile technology more now than ever before. Everything from ordering food to making dinner and ticket reservations can be done with a few taps on a Smartphone. This is because the businesses of today realize that while optimizing websites for mobile does give them a competitive edge it is mobile apps that allow them to connect with their target audience on a more personal level.

Let’s explain this with an example. A pizza joint is looking to grow its customer base. However, they weren’t getting many customers during the day. That was before it decided to launch an app that allowed its customers to order and customize their orders on their Smartphones. In time, the pizzeria started getting more calls for lunch orders during the afternoon. Most of their clients were busy professionals who couldn’t eat out because of busy schedules and chose to order instead.

That is what the owner of The Gentleman’s Barber Michael Rechichi did. He realized that his clients would prefer an easier booking process. This prompted him to create an app that utilized push notifications and mobile booking to draw in customers. The initiative paid off. In fact, the idea worked so well that is clientele grew enough to allow Michael to hire new staff members and expand his business. “We have customers who download the app before they’ve even stepped foot in the shop, and push notifications bring them in,” says Michael.

What is the lesson here? The main purpose of marketing resources such as apps is to bring target audiences value. 

Provide a Productive and Fun Mobile Experience

You might be inclined to say no if the word “fun” doesn’t exactly come to mind when you think about your business. However, it is important to keep customer preferences in mind. You can still create an app that features fun social elements that may appeal to your customers even if all your business specializes in are sales. For example, it can have games that allow customers to win fabulous discounts or free gifts.

Will an app benefit my business? Is it worth spending the limited resources I have on an application that might or might not improve my ROI? These are only some of the questions that an owner of a small business asks himself. Remember, the key to app development is to draw people in by providing them with value. Creating apps that have fun elements and using the variety of features that go into app development will make people take notice. Give the prospect some thought before you dismiss the idea.

Why your Business Needs MVP

It’s the same old story; you have a product that you want to sell. You know that there are going to be takers. After all, field tests do not lie. So you do what makes sense in this day and age; you take your product to World Wide Web. But how do you market it? The businesses of today use MVPs.

What is an MVP?

MVP or Minimum Viable Product is a term in web development. It basically defines a process in which new products or websites are developed according to specific features that will attract early adopters.

The term itself was coined by startup consultant and writer, Eric Ries who defines it as “…a version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”

In other words, an MVP is an elementary version of a product.

In order for an MVP to have any affect at all, it must have at least three basic characteristics –

  1. It has enough value to attract buyers or users
  2. It has enough potential to retain early adopters
  3. It has a feedback loop that provides data for future development

Of course, you also need to ensure that your product gains the feedback you need to guide development.

The Benefits

Starting a new service or promoting a new product as an MVP has its benefits –

Less is More

While you may be tempted to perfect your first product from the get go, the decision may come back to bite you especially since you don’t know how it will be received by your target audience. You aren’t alone. Most new businesses tend to overbuild new releases in a bid to outrun the competition. This is often accompanied by a fear; a fear that underbuilding might set the product up for failure.

But can such a product guarantee its success? The beauty of an MVP is that it actually improves its chances of success. Here is how –

  • It doesn’t need to be reworked as much
  • It allows you to focus on core value propositions and efficiencies
  • It brings focus to critical business functions
  • It allows you to create relationships with customers immediately

Example

Let’s explain the concept with an example. Let’s say that your pizzeria just started a home delivery service. You decide to design an app that has basic functions and allows users to place their orders online. You get in touch with them once they select their choice and provide their contact information. Keep in mind; you still don’t know how successful your idea will be until you test it out. If your customers are happy with the app, you can add some more features that will make it even more valuable for paying customers.

By allowing you to create relationships with early adopters sooner, a Minimum Viable Product makes it possible for you to authenticate your value propositions early as well. Testing basic functions before you scale ensures that the weakest are improved and that any feature that you add in the future works perfectly for your target audience.