Phones “Smart” Except for Making Calls

My smartphone is smarter than me, and it was rubbing it my face over the weekend. Firstly, in Nova Scotia I now have to use 10-digit dialing even for local calls, 11 digits (including “1”) for long distance calls, and 12-digits (including “9 to get out”) when I am calling from the office, except of course only 11 digits from the office for local calls (including the “9” but not the “1”) or when I’m calling from the office using my smartphone, which used to be able to figure it all out from 7 digits but now needs 10 or 11 but never 12.

But I’m not stupid, I usually get it right after three tries. All I have to remember is “where am I?”, “what phone am I using?”, and “where is the person I am calling?”. I’m working on a flowchart to make it easier.

So I did finally get the call out and left my smartphone phone number with their voice mail. Except I had left my phone on the charger and stepped out when they called back . When I returned, my smartphone cheerily let me know I had voice mail, so I went to the phone app to retrieve it.

Only my “Voice Mail” icon had disappeared.

It was as gone as the Hamilton Tigercats. There was an icon for me to call home, one to call my wife on her cell, and one to call my daughter, all with a single tap. (Except the last time I tried any of those, the call didn’t go through because I had the wrong number of digits. Sheesh!) But the spot for retrieving voice mail with a single tap was empty. I tried restarting the phone app. Nothing. I tried restarting the phone. No joy there either. I finally appealed to our office administrator who told me how to retrieve voice mail from an ordinary phone. (For you youngins, “ordinary” means one that is attached to a wall via a wire, and does nothing other than phone calls.)

After three tries, I finally reached the voice mail system and was able to retrieve my message, and after three tries was able to respond to it.

Who knew using the phone could be so hard? I finally did find out how to reinstate my voice-mail icon. It was buried deep in my “options”, which I could swear I never touched. But who would believe me. I probably did get rid of it inadvertently one day trying to tap 10 or 11 or 12 digits correctly and hopping all over the place with my fingers and thumbs.

These devices are great for texting and getting football scores, but they could make phone calling a bit easier. After all, they are called “phones”.

What does “the Cloud” mean to Microsoft Office users?

“The cloud” is simply a term to describe computing services that you access online via a web browser, as opposed to having the same services from a server in your office. Many people are opting to go this route as opposed to buying equipment. Microsoft’s version of the Cloud consists of Office 365, an online version of Office (Word, Excel, etc.) as well as other online services like the collaboration tool SharePoint, customer records system CRM, business intelligence tools, etc.

Microsoft’s platform for managing applications in the cloud is called Azure.

This entire suite of products is continually evolving, but it is very robust with millions of users already using them. Nicom has been working with Microsoft products for years, and this is a direction we find our customers are moving in more and more.

Responsive, Adaptive or Mobile Website?

With the large variety of screen sizes and browser widths in use today, it’s very hard for a web designer to cater to all users using traditional design techniques. Just as screens are growing larger (with desktop displays) and smaller (with mobile computing), how do you accommodate so many vastly opposing scenarios? The fact is we live in an emerging Post-Desktop era that necessitates developing a website that considers, or even caters, to the mobile phone and tablet.

Recently some smart people have addressed the problem utilizing three approaches to viewing your website on smaller – and even various systems – utilizing so-called responsive, adaptive and mobile techniques to building websites.

So why should you care, what do these terms mean, and how do you decide which one is best for your website?

Everybody’s Using Mobile Devices

If you think in terms of revenues and costs, mobile website optimization can seem like a large investment into a new buzzword that you know little about. What is the pay off? 1.2 billion people access the web from their mobile devices, and one-quarter of all web searches are from phones or tablets. It is rapidly becoming a reality if you want people to be able to use your website you need your website ready to go anywhere and everywhere. Microsoft predicts that mobile internet usage will overtake desktop by 2015. As Google puts it in their “think insights”, mobile design isn’t a trend, it’s a new era. Anecdotally, every grandmother I know owns a mobile phone and tablet, reinforced by the assertion “Canadian seniors [are] keen to join the mobile computing revolution, as much for its simplicity as for its portability”. These facts are ignored at the website owner’s peril.

What does responsive, adaptive & mobile mean?

Responsive, Adaptive and Mobile websites share overlapping goals but take a different approach to the same problem. All practices aim to address the accessibility of websites on mobile phones. Responsive and Adaptive tackle the relatively complex issue of adjusting the needs of websites changing in response to various devices; be it a desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile phone. Mobile-only websites do exactly that:  target the user experience on a mobile phone. Regardless of which method you use, the bottom line is the person accessing your website has to be able to effectively navigate your website and access your content on whatever diminutive gadget they happen to be using.

Responsive Website

The responsive web design approach uses the website’s code to automatically suss out key information about the user’s device size to modify the appearance and re-flow the content in relation to the size of the device.

A responsive design will fluidly change to fit any screen or device size. A key advantage of this approach is that designers can use a single template for all devices, and use Cascading Style Sheets to control the presentation of how content is rendered on different screen sizes.

The business case for a flexible foundation means less code; and, in most cases, less time and money. Without needing to create fixed-width layouts for every dimension, the grid structure your website is built on does the heavy lifting. Your website is more future-proof by using a fluid design, as resolution breakpoints quickly become outdated. A layout that pours into the allotted space regardless of screen size automatically adjusts, resizing the grid proportionally to fit its new environment. In many cases a responsive website will still provide full access to the desktop content, although the spacing and positioning frequently changes.

Sample Responsive Website Nicom Designed & Developed:  College of Licensed Practical Nurses of Nova Scotia

Adaptive Website

An adaptive website will change to fit a predetermined set of screen and device sizes. In this approach, user experiences are targeted at specific devices and contexts. Where Responsive and Adaptive differ most is in their delivery of the responsive/adaptive structures. Responsive design utilizes flexible and fluid grids; whereas, Adaptive design relies on meeting the needs of predefined screen sizes and may go so far as to address the differing needs of mobile users by serving up different content and new interfaces elements from the desktop website.

One advantage to Adaptive design is that unlike a straightforward Responsive design, the adaptive approach cuts down on load time because it only delivers the code and images needed for the user’s specific device. For instance, the iPad 3s will only receive Retina images, while lower pixel density screens get served low-res images. Adaptive websites detect a user’s device before loading a webpage and then it delivers the best version of that website for the target device.

From a design and development point of view, you often have better control over what you’re displaying when you have defined constraints; whereas, with fluid designs you have to work to account for and accept the potentially less attractive consequences of; say, overly-long line-lengths on larger resolutions.

A concept that goes hand-in-hand with Adaptive design is Progressive Enhancement. Progressive Enhancement is a somewhat philosophical notion that espouses webpages not only don’t have to look the same on every device or browser but shouldn’t look the same under differing conditions. Progressive Enhancement offers users the best possible, but not the same, experience given the inherent capabilities of their device.

In a nutshell, both Responsive and Adaptive design approaches allow websites to be viewed on mobile devices and various screen sizes, ultimately providing visitors with a better mobile user experience.

Sample Adaptive Website Nicom Designed & Developed:  Offshore Energy Research Association of Nova Scotia

Mobile Website & ‘Mobile First’ Approach

The mobile context embraces more than screen sizes. Mobile-first is a design and development technique that tackles the most difficult context first: small screens with limited bandwidths. Considering the mobile experience first forces designers, developers and content editors to provide only the most vital information to their audience and get serious about trimming the fat, so to speak. By addressing the most challenging context first, upgrading from there will ensure your bases are covered as the experience scales up.

Sample Mobile Website Nicom Designed & Developed:  Performance Energy Management

Which mobile website option makes sense for you?

Optimizing for every web-enabled device on earth isn’t feasible; so, there will come a time when you need to make the strategic decision as to which devices to target and browsers for which to optimize. Using website analytics and other forms of research can help you gauge which audience for which to optimize your website.

For target audiences that require unique user interactions, Adaptive or separate Mobile websites may make more sense because of the different user interactions that need to take place in the desktop vs. mobile sphere. For target audiences whereby one main interaction will accommodate the majority, having a responsive website can fit the bill under most conditions without a lot of redundancy.

The complex and diverse device landscape we inhabit these days requires not only designers such as myself, but developers and clients, to reevaluate website content and ask what goals we want our users to accomplish across all contexts. By creating websites with the flexibility to scale both up and down, we can be better prepared for whatever digital landscape lies ahead.

Call Us – We’ll Help You with Your Mobile Website

If you would like to talk about which website approach is best for you, e-mail us or call us at 1-877-454-4499 (toll free) or 902-454-5656 (local).

Learn More About Nicom

For additional information on Nicom Interactive, division of Nicom IT Solutions Inc., visit

Nicom Partners Finalists for Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2013 Awards

David Nicholson, Partner and Pat d’Entremont, Partner of Nicom IT Solutions Inc. are finalists for the Ernst & Young Entrepeneur Of The Year 2013 Awards Atlantic for Information Technology.

David Nicholson

David formed Nicom Ltd. in 1982 and led and grew the company to a small business  of approximately twelve employees. In 2006, Nicom Ltd. merged with DDA Solutions to form Nicom IT Solutions Inc. (Nicom). David’s strength is in long-term strategic planning. He takes stewardship of the Nicom Strategic Plan, which he continuously updates and presents to the company for feedback and refinement on an ongoing basis. From this comes a series of realistic but “stretch” goals to aspire to. Dave is the go-to person for employees to turn to when they are faced with problems. Dave’s expertise in management consulting, in particular in the seaport sector, is being utilized to lead consulting and research and development (R&D) efforts in growing this vertical.

David has always prided himself on his high level of integrity and empathy. He is consultative by nature; and, this characteristic allows him to identify strengths in his staff and “assign them to task” in the areas where they as individuals can influence the most change. He collaborates and guides his staff; therefore, instilling a level of confidence and motivation in them “run with it”. His ability to influence these characteristics into others show, to this day, in how Nicom’s staff treat their clients, projects, and each other.

Pat d’Entremont

Pat formed DDA Solutions in 1986 with a partner which he bought out. ,He ran it alone in the final years before merging with Nicom Ltd. to form Nicom IT Solutions Inc.. Pat engineered the merger and changed his day-to-day role from Managing Director to Business Development. To this end, he continuously works at building and promoting the Nicom brand around its expertise, marketable assets and key points of differentiation. He has also increased his personal profile in the business community by volunteering for committees and boards such as Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (Nova Scotia division) (CME); and ,by creating a monthly column for the Chronical Herald Halifax newspaper on Technology, which ran for 6 years.

Pat’s attitude is “can do”. If he sees an opportunity, he goes for it without hesitation. He is not scared to voice his opinion if he sees undue negativity or lack of confidence in the workplace. He continuously identifies, recommends and executes suggested tactics to overcome such challenges. He is a team player and works with the expertise that surrounds him to identify and execute the solutions as efficiently as possible.

Learn more about Pat and David here. For additional information on the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2013 Awards finalists in Atlantic, click here.

Rogers Shows Leadership in “the Internet of Things”

There’s nothing quite as Canadian as street hockey.

While the NHL was locked out and the world juniors were playing in the middle of the night, I had been relegated to watching a lot of curling and the fireplace channel on TV. But that all changed with our annual west-end street hockey tournament in Halifax at the end of 2012.

Actually, telecommunications is also quite Canadian. With so much geography to cover and such a small population, Canada has always been a leader, and I try to keep up as best I can.

I was recently speaking with Eric Simmons, general manager of machine-to-machine communications at Rogers Communications, and he was telling me that Rogers provides leadership in “the Internet of Things.”

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