Sunday, February 26, 2012

What's New in the InstantEncore Control Panel?

Over the weekend, you may have noticed that the InstantEncore Control Panel has a new look and layout. Here is a brief walkthrough of some of the changes as well as new elements that have been added.

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Friday, February 24, 2012

5 Awesome Splash Screens for Mobile Apps

As a complement to Scott's tips for your mobile app's splash screen, we thought it would be a good idea to highlight some of our partners' awesome splash screens and point out what makes them so great. Check them out!

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tips for Your Mobile App’s Splash Screen

As one of the many customizable features of your Android and iPhone apps, the splash screen serves a few purposes and should not be ignored when first preparing your app. We begin by addressing the truth – splash screens do not technically exist. The real purpose of the splash screen is to hide the fact that the app is not instantly ready. Existentialism aside, this loading page has a higher purpose for you and your fans. For the user, the splash screen acts as a welcome to your app, confirming any doubts about what they just downloaded, and reassuring them of their decision to download the app to their device. Your job is to provide an aesthetically pleasing experience while the user waits for his or her device to eventually load the app’s content.

When you’re preparing any of the elements of your app, remember that you’re customizing a user experience. Style is important to your audience, and therefore should be important to you. From the second a user touches the icon to the second they exit the app, they are judging your app’s content as well as its presentation. They base future decisions upon their interactions with your app, whether it’s easy ticket purchasing, or simply returning to the app to see what’s new. With that said, let’s treat the splash screen as a first impression. The entire app should be easy to read, easy to navigate, and stylistically appealing – or else you are simply not taking full advantage of having a mobile-friendly digital presence.

Tip #1 – Prepare and upload an image according to the specified dimensions.
UPDATE:  Since the release of iPad tablet computers with retina image display, we ask for an image with 1800px by 2800px resolution. If you upload an image that is not 1800 x 2800 it will be adjusted to fit that size. Please note that this image will be scaled down for smaller devices. The smallest size is 320 x 480 pixels. Your image should not contain text or small details that will not look good at this small size.

To accomodate devices with different aspect ratios we recommend including a "bleed" area of 225px on the top and bottom and 115px on the left and right. Anything outside this area may be cut off on certain devices.

If you upload an image with different dimensions, it will be adjusted to fit this size. Which means if you have a square or landscape image, we will scale the width and add in a background color behind it. The ideal image should be customized to the dimensions above.

Tip #2 – Anticipate how it will look on devices.
• It displays in portrait view on devices, so it should not be designed horizontally.
• Smartphone screen sizes vary from device to device. Depending on the size of the mobile device, the splash screen will take up more or less of the screen. After the image is scaled to the best of its ability, a black border fills in the rest of the space around it (See top image).
• The iPhone toolbar will overlap the top portion of the image you upload, so plan your text placement accordingly. Feel free to use this template when preparing your splash screen if you’re worried about spacing or overall dimensions.

Tip #3 – Kill two birds with one stone.
If you’re an artist or ensemble and you’re already taking advantage of our free website service, consider using your header image that you’ve already created.

Tip #4 – Know your editing options.
If you do not have Adobe Photoshop or any other expensive image editor on your computer, and your best friend who does have the Adobe Suite isn’t answering his or her phone, then there are a number of online image editors that have more than enough tools for you to customize a beautiful splash screen. Sumo Paint is one browser-based image editor that we recommend. It’s quick to upload a photo, add in text, and crop it to a specific size.

Tip #5 – Make it simple and catchy.
The loading screen can take anywhere from 1 second to 10 seconds depending on the speed of the user’s device and how much content is in your app. Since some devices are faster than others, you need an image that is easy to understand, easy to read, as well as tasteful. If you need ideas or inspiration, check out a sampling of great partner splash screens here.

Tip #6 – Think ahead.
• Once submitted, your splash screen cannot be altered or substituted without going through the submission process all over again. We generally only do this in outstanding cases, as each submission takes time, so spell check and make sure you’re happy with the result!
• Pretty soon we will be requesting higher resolution splash screens for those who want to take advantage of the newer devices’ display capabilities, such as Apple’s retina screen on the iPhone 4 series. One way to stay ahead of the game is to make sure you are using high quality images, and scalable vector graphics where appropriate. We will update you with specifications as we make the transition to accommodate these new displays.

How the user is greeted does make a difference. The splash screen should be thought of as just another part of the app experience, as well as a representation of your mobile identity. We look forward to seeing your designs!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Engaging Mobile Audiences, Part II: Apps vs Websites

Palm Beach Opera engages mobile audiences with an iPhone app,
an Android app, and a mobile website.
Once we recognize the need to provide our audiences with content optimized for their mobile devices, we are immediately presented with the question of how will we deliver that content.  Should we use a mobile website, mobile apps, or both?

From a technological standpoint, mobile websites may be accessed through the web browser on any mobile device.  This means that your patrons can experience your content in an optimized format regardless of whether  they use a Blackberry, an iPhone, an Android, or any other smartphone or tablet computer.  So, question answered, right?  Obviously, a mobile website is the best choice.

Not so fast.  While a mobile website makes the most sense from an accessibility perspective, what about from a behavioral point-of-view?  If you own a smartphone, consider your own usage.  What do you use more frequently on your phone - apps or your internet browser?  (If you do not own a smartphone, ask your friends about their usage.)

To be blunt, smartphone culture is app culture.  As I mentioned in part I of this series, mobile research company Flurry Analytics released a report at the end of 2011 based on public data which found that Americans spend an average of 94 minutes per day using mobile apps vs. 72 minutes per day browsing the web - this includes mobile web browsing combined with desktop web browsing.

Smartphone owners use their mobile web browser to search for information, but they use mobile apps for ongoing interaction.  This is what lies at the heart of deciding how you will deliver mobile content to your audience.

  • Do you want audience members to find optimized content when they perform an internet search on their mobile devices?  If so, then you need a mobile website.
  • Do you want to provide mobile users with access to your content regardless of the type of device they use?  If so, then you need a mobile website.
  • Do you want mobile users to engage repeatedly with your content?  If so, then you need to use mobile apps.
  • Do you want mobile users to engage more deeply with your content than an information search?    If so, then you need to use mobile apps.
If you want to achieve all of these things, then your mobile strategy must include a mobile website  AND mobile apps.

As you may know, mobile apps are particular to the device.  iPhone apps do not work on Android devices; Android apps do not work on Blackberry devices; etc.  So, how do you decide which mobile apps to pursue?

According to the Nielsen Company's 2011 year-end report, over 46% of all smartphone users have Android devices and 30% of smartphone users have iOS (Apple) devices.  And if the smartphone sales for the last three months of 2011 are indicative of the future, then Android and Apple will gain an even stronger hold on the smartphone market.  

So the bottom line is this:  a comprehensive mobile strategy should include a mobile website, an Android app, and an iPhone app.  While the mobile website will provide universal access to your content for ALL smartphone users, the iPhone and Android apps will provide nearly 80% of smartphone users with mobile content in a format that they prefer to use.

At InstantEncore, we believe in providing performing artists and organizations with the tools that they need to implement a comprehensive mobile strategy without charging an exorbitant fee.  To learn more about the pricing and features of our comprehensive 3-in-1 mobile solution, visit  

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Engaging Mobile Audiences - Part I: Do You Have To?

You've got a website, and you're using social media to engage online audiences.  Do you really have to engage audiences via mobile devices?

In 2009, researchers at Morgan Stanley released a report forecasting that by 2014 more people will be accessing web content via mobile devices than by laptop or desktop computers.

By the end of 2011, we can see the evidence of this prediction coming to fruition when we look at the average number of minutes per day Americans spend on internet browsing vs. using mobile apps.

So if we acknowledge that people are starting to use the mobile internet as much or more than desktop internet, then it only stands to reason that we need to think about the mobile internet user's experience.

When smartphone users go to standard websites, they have an experience that is not optimized for them.  The standard website is reduced to fit on screen so that nearly any text on the site is illegible.  The user has to pinch, expand, and slide the screen around in order to read the text and navigate to the content they seek. It makes for a frustrating experience.

Mobile websites and mobile apps isolate the content that is most likely to be of interest to mobile audiences and display it in a manner that is optimized for smaller, touch-based screens.  If artists and arts organizations wish to remain relevant as mobile internet usage continues to grow, they must provide content to mobile audiences in a manner that is designed to provide them with an optimal experience.

In part II of this series on mobile audience engagement, we'll take a look at the differences between mobile websites and mobile apps.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

February Webinar and Mobile Mentoring

Okay, you've signed up for InstantEncore PRO.  You have the ability to give your audience the content that they want at their fingertips - anytime, anywhere.  You have an iPhone app, an Android app, AND a mobile website.  Now, how are you going to make the most of these tools?

This month, we're launching two new support services to help you have the utmost success with your mobile engagement strategy.

  • Webinar - Making the Most of Your Mobile Apps
    February 16, 2012 - 2:00pm-3:00pm EST - Artists & Ensembles register here
    February 23, 2012 - 2:00pm-3:00pm EST - Arts Organizations register here

    In this 60-minute webinar, we will guide you through the updated Control Panel, spotlight best practices from our partners, and announce new features to be added to our mobile service in March.

  • Mobile Mentoring
    Sign up for a 30-minute session with Partner Liaison Erick Rarick, who will work with you 1-on-1 to discuss your mobile strategy and identify areas of your apps that can help you meet your goals.

    To schedule a session with Erick, go to and select one of the 30-minute sessions available throughout the month of February.

Each month, we'll offer mentoring sessions and new webinars focusing on particular areas of mobile engagement. If you have suggestions for topic areas, please email them to

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Announcing Two Streamlined Services for Engaging Web and Mobile Audiences

Artists know that their relationship with the audience is not limited to the performance on the stage. Today’s audiences want to learn more about the artists both before the performance and after the event.

Over the years, InstantEncore has developed a powerful system for artists and arts organizations to manage their online content and share it with their fans.  From news and event listings to streaming music and video, thousands of artists and organizations have used our system to give their audiences fantastic content.  Now, InstantEncore announces two streamlined services to help performing artists and organizations to connect and engage more fully with their fans.

  • InstantEncore FREE - a fast, easy and affordable tool allowing performing artists and ensembles to build their own professional websites without hiring a webmaster or knowing how to code. With IE FREE, artists can also connect their content with their social media accounts.

  • InstantEncore PRO - a multi-platform package allowing artists and arts organizations to engage mobile audiences with their own mobile website, iPhone app, AND Android app.  Additionally, artists and organizations using IE PRO gain access to our API, which allows them to pull content directly into their external websites.

To learn more about these services, take a tour of their powerful features, and view a showcase of our partners, visit

In the upcoming weeks and months, we'll be sharing best practices for web and mobile strategy, spotlighting examples from the performing arts, as well as providing tips and suggestions keeping your audiences engaged.  If you have particular areas you'd like us to explore, send us your questions.