How Voice Search Will Forever Change SEO

Search Engine Optimization is not one of my favorite subjects to talk about. But I think this article is worth the time.  It explains some of the challenges with voice search in very simple terms, and shows how voice search is growing and affecting the web.

Voice search is the fastest growing type of search, according to the keynote speech given by Behshad Behzadi at SMX West in March, Principal Engineer at Google Zurich. Already, 55% of teens and 41% of adults use voice search on a daily basis, and that number is only growing. The allure of voice chat is undeniable—it’s faster, it’s hands-free, it lets you multi-task, and (especially among millennials) it’s considered cool.

Voice chat is also becoming increasingly reliable as technology improves. In fact, two years ago word error rate was over 20%, but current speech recognition word error rate is as low as 8%—a huge leap in a short amount of time.

On the future of apps and mobile web

It’s been a while since I expressed my point of view on the apps and the mobile web.  (It hadn’t changed much though.)  While reading through the “Why Britain banned mobile apps” article, I caught myself nodding my head in agreement.

So why did the GDS ban apps? It wasn’t because they weren’t technically savvy enough to build them.

Cost, he says. Apps are “very expensive to produce, and they’re very very expensive to maintain because you have to keep updating them when there are software changes,” Terrett says. “I would say if you times that by 300, you’re suddenly talking about a huge team people and a ton of money to maintain that ecosystem”.

How did the UK reach an increasingly mobile population? Responsive websites, he replies. “For government services that we were providing, the web is a far far better way… and still works on mobile.”

Sites can adapt to any screen size, work on all devices, and are open to everyone to use regardless of their device. “If you believe in the open internet that will always win,” he says. And they’re much cheaper to maintain, he adds, because when an upgrade is required, only one platform needs recoding.

I think that the initial boom of mobile apps was caused by two major factors:

  1. Native applications had much better capabilities – user interface, performance, features, offline mode, etc – than their web counterparts.  Mobile browsers used to suck big time.
  2. The competition in the app market was much smaller than the competition for the “first page of Google”.

These two reasons were significant enough for a whole lot of people to go into the mobile application development.  So much so indeed that a whole new industry appeared.

But I never thought this would be permanent.  Unless, of course, there would be other reasons.  Which I don’t see.  And both of those reasons aren’t valid (to the most part) today.

Smartphones got smarter, stronger, and faster.  Mobile browsers improved a whole lot.  So unless you are doing something really pixel perfect or resource intensive (like some of the games), the mobile browser is more than enough for you.

And look at the competition in the app markets!  There’s like a hundred apps for whatever is that you want.  Endless lists of recommended, featured, and sponsored apps for ever growing list of app categories.  No matter what your app does – there are a few dozen of others that do the same exact thing.

If you absolutely definitely have to build a mobile app, don’t start with the native one straight away.  Do the hybrid one first.  Build a web application and package it into the native one with something like Apache Cordova.  This will save you tonnes and tonnes of time, money, and pulled out hair.  (I learned this the hard way!)

With all the hype mobile apps have generated in the last few years, they have some momentum.  They aren’t going to disappear.  But just because you can build one, doesn’t mean you should.  Build a web app.  It’s simpler, faster, and easier.  It scales better.  It works better (except for very few edge cases).  And it will cost you a fraction to support and maintain.

CSS Hamburgers

After spending years and years in close proximity to web and user interface design, I’m still amazed sometimes at a variety of ways to solve even the simplest of problems.  The growth of the web users on mobile devices has brought us the hamburger icon, which usually hides the collapsed navigation menu.  It looks like this:


Now, when you click on that, something happens.  The menu expands or collapses, usually.  But what you don’t often notice is a tiny bit of animation that is applied to the icon itself.  Here is a collection of such animations.  There are 14 different effects, both in 2D and 3D.  Wow!

css hamburgers

Google Design : Resizer


Here’s a very handy tool for anyone in web design and developer – Resizer, from the Google Design team.  It allows you to preview your site in different resolutions, helping with all kinds of responsive issues.

This is an alternative to Am I Responsive?, which I mentioned a while back.

Chrome DevTools : Remote Debugging Devices


Remote debugging on Android with Chrome DevTools sounds like the best thing since sliced bread for anybody involved in web development.  TL;DR version:

  • There’s no substitute for debugging your site on a real device. Debug browser tabs on your device from your development workspace using remote debugging.
  • You don’t have to shift attention between your device and development screens. Use screencasting to display your device’s screen along side your developer tools.

You are your phone

Fig 1
Barcode of smartphone use over two weeks.Black areas indicate times where the phone was in use and Saturdays are indicated with a red dashed line. Weekday alarm clock times (and snoozing) are clearly evident.

Here are a couple of quotes from the “You are your phone” article:

Even obscure variables such as how frequently a user recharges the phone’s battery, how many incoming text messages they receive, how many miles they travel in a given day or how they enter contacts into their phone — the decision to add last name correlates with creditworthiness — can bear on a decision to extend credit.


The test subjects used their phones more than five hours a day, on average. Much of that usage went on unconsciously, the researchers found. When the subjects were asked to estimate how often they checked their phone during a day, the average answer was 37 times. The tracking data revealed, however, that the subjects actually used their phones 85 times a day on average, more than twice as often as they thought.

It’s an interesting read, though not too surprising.

SwiftKey goodness

For a few years now I’ve been a happy user of the SwiftKey app.  SwiftKey is a predictive keyboard for Android and iOS.  I was very skeptical when I tried it the first time, but my mind was blown almost instantly.  The app does not just make generic predictions T9 style, but learns from your SMS history, emails, social network posts, and even your blog’s RSS (obviously, only those channels that you allow it access to).  With that, the predictions are so accurate that you rarely have to type more than a couple of characters for it to guess.  In fact, sometimes it guesses the next word without you even typing anything.

Well, OK, so I wrote this all before.  Why am I suddenly retyping this?  Because I got an email from SwiftKey with some updates as to what’s happening there.  And I think that it’s pretty cool how they’ve taken something so seemingly simple as a keyboard and turned into a … well, not industry yet, but something more and something exciting.

ninja themes

For all those touch-typing fans, they’ve released two keyboard themes Ninja Pro and Ninja Trainer.  If you mastered your laptop’s keyboard, enhance and extend your skill to the mobile and tablet now.

swiftkey 6

SwiftKey 6 beta version is out with some cool features.  Most notably  – Double-Word Prediction, which should save you even more typing.  SwiftKey has also reached 100 supported languages, so you can recommend it to your foreign friends much easier.


And if SwiftKey wasn’t awesome already, they are pushing the boundaries with some real high end computing – neural networks and machine learning.  The blog post goes into detail of how this whole approach works and how it makes predictions better.

Wow!  Talk about a simple keyboard app for the mobile now … The sky is truly the limit.

Android 6.0 Marshmallow, thoroughly reviewed

Marshmallow Nexus

Ars Technica has thoroughly reviewed Android 6.0 Marshmallow.  Read the whole 10+ page review, or satisfy yourself with this very short summary:

The Good

  • The new home screen adds tons of genuinely useful features. App Search, predictive apps, vertical scrolling, and the uninstall shortcut are all great time savers.
  • The new permissions system lets users give informed consent to access their data while keeping them in the loop about breaking things from permission denial. Developers get to have a dialog with the user about why they need a permission, and old apps are fed fake data so they can be denied access without crashing.
  • “Adoptable Storage” finally makes SD cards as good as internal storage. Now if only there were Marshmallow devices with SD cards.
  • The fingerprint API isn’t groundbreaking even among the Android devices, but it’s the kind of ecosystem building that only Google can do.

The Bad

  • There still isn’t auto rotate support for the home screen. Google teased us in the developer preview but the feature was cut.
  • The new permissions page is a great first step, but it doesn’t list all of the access to the system an app actually has. Special settings like “Notification Access,” access to the accessibilities framework, and more are scattered all over the settings.
  • Apps can opt out of power saving features like Doze and App Standby just by changing their priority settings. We don’t trust developers to play by the rules.

The Ugly

  • There is still no solution for getting Marshmallow out to the billion+ devices out there.