nopCommerce vs Shopify Comparison 2017 Guide to Picking the Right eCommerce Solution

Today, it’s easier than ever to set up an online store. Everything is pre-made, from drag and drop interface builders to open source code frameworks that let you fully customize every function you need. As for the nopCommerce vs Shopify – the answer depends. It’s what you really need from the toolbox. Our company has worked with both for a while, and we should say that these products are very different. Furthermore, they keep on updating their features to cover more ground. Here is how they compare in 2017:


Shopify is a template based ecommerce platform to create fully customizable web stores with no coding needed, what so ever. It’s a good solution for a one-man army online shop owner. The kind of person, who may want to run things right from their apartment. Shopify even makes its own hardware for such cases. For example, the Shopify POS. A Debit Mastercard and Visa Debit card reader compatible with Apple iPad that works in USA and Canada.

Shopify comprises a huge collection of themes and prefabs that takes on any need you might have with its drag and drop features. The payment plans are flexible, and there is an entire Shopify app market running with community made extensions for your store’s design. Shopify charges you on a monthly basis as per your chosen payment plan, plus any additional functionality and apps you’ve bought. Basically, you shop for whatever you need for your online shop. For a startup with a simple but unique project, this will work great. For developers who are used to code everything on their own, Shopify would actually feel constrained.


nopCommerce is an open-source ecommerce framework. It’s free, and the tools are powerful enough to let you create any workflow that you require. However, nopCommerce cost is what you’ll pay to your developers to make it happen. Recently, the platform has migrated to ASP.net Core, and it keeps improving the structure with new custom solutions.

The architecture allows dynamically adding new functional elements to your websites on the go. It’s more of a “do everything yourself” kind of baseline. However, nopCommerce makes effort to compensate what it’s lacking in simplicity by featuring pre-made extensions from its own marketplace. In general, the pros and cons of nopCommerce are the pros and cons of most CRM online shopping carts that let you define your code. It should be said that each site comes with “Powered by nopCommerce” tag at the bottom of the site. In case you’d want to take it down, the nopCommerce pricing to remove the copyright tag is $150.

Here are a couple of demo stores of nopCommerce and Shopify.

Aside from taking a completely opposite approach to creation of ecommerce experiences, here are the most important functional differences that are quintessential to Shopify vs nopCommerce debate.


Key features unique to nopCommerce

Multiple stores with a single root – one of the main aspects that make nopCommerce so powerful, is that you may deploy and manage multiple frontend shops from one place. This opens up an array of opportunities to create mini-stores separately for B2B and B2C. You may also set up shops that are “specialized” in narrow assortments of goods or doing promotional activities.

  • The stores can be connected to a single catalog database so that your customers may use the same login data for each shop within the network;
  • On the other hand, you may specify each shop you wish to single out from the common base and make separate regulations, be it tax rules, products, manufacturers, reports, order filtering, etc.

Multi-currency checkout – customers may choose the currency to pay for your goods. Noteworthy, as this feature is N/A for Shopify. You can only customize the product price displayed to the user. But they will be limited to actually using a single one when making the final purchase.

Languages – nopCommerce lets you work in languages beyond Roman alphabet. Not supported by Shopify in case that’s what you need.


Key features unique to Shopify

Shopify Payments – doing business in certain countries, you can have direct debit card transactions. Shopify overrides all banking fees and only charges you according to its own payment plan. This feature is currently available for United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland and New Zealand.


Notable Common features

Here are the specific structural elements that Shopify and nopCommerce both kinda have. Some are closer to identical, while others differ to a certain extent in their execution:

Product variations – You can customize your products as much as you want. Create multiple-color, weight, size and other attributes for your stock. There are also features for on-website product comparison both with nopCommerce and Shopify via the Product Compare App.

Price adjustment – you may create advanced pricing decisions for your items. These can be “call for price” for extra valuable stock items, as well as “donate any amount you like” UI components.

Stock regulation – both frameworks have native means to verify stock counts of different product variations as well as to document and organize all items. You get a clear image of your warehousing by having the status of each order displayed.

Marketing tools – you’ll be able to present your clients with discounts, gift cards, coupons and other special offers. All the relevant functionality is there. Both nopCommerce and Shopify give you an option to run your blog and forum. With Shopify you’ll find non-native apps for this, however content heavy directories aren’t really suited for it. You will have to run the blog externally. Otherwise, it will undermine the overall site performance. To be fair, the most common complaint in the average nopCommerce review also happens to be performance due to scaling and site pre-load.


Multiple-Vendors and Drop Shipping – in nopCommerce you can host all the vendors you want under the hood of your website network and make all the sales on your own behalf. When the sold item is ordered, the purchase request is automatically emailed to the vendor. Each vendor can be granted a separate administration profile to help review their reports and shipment details.

Shopify itself features an app that turns your online shop into a multi-vendor marketplace. This model is a bit different in its approach to the above. Multi Vendor Marketplace is inviting all vendors to enter your online store as sellers and trade on your platform for a commission.


SEO – fully covered in nopCommerce and Shopify. All directories are optimized with general search engine terms. Complete access to keyword tags and URLs. Both have XML sitemaps. As for the HTML sitemap, in Shopify it’s available via Sitemapper.

Payment methods – both solutions pack an extensive array of options. Please refer to the official documentation to see the full supported lists of payment modules for Shopify and nopCommerce.

Shipping prices – there are standard options available, however with Shopify, you have to get an app to further diversify the functions. For instance, there is no per item rates option, and you can only set up general shipping rates.

Taxes – fully customizable options for different store items. You have everything you need to deal with legal aspects of your business. You get to set up the rules and exemptions as per your needs. With Shopify you will need additional scripting to set up VAT-included prices.


Shopify Architecture Concerns

As for the pros and cons of Shopify – you need “easy to use” and Shopify delivers. However, the more pre-made scenarios the solution can cover for you, the harder it gets to nail every outcome you might want and then fully optimize it. For instance, you can’t set up subcategories in your dropdown menus on the main page, and you need a workaround to make it happen. Some essential Shopify features are built into specific templates, and so you have to choose the one you need carefully.

Additionally, with App Store software star ratings and user reviews comes the issue of publisher’s detachment from the primary product. There are good apps, there are bad ones and some middle ground. All available to you. The whole idea puts the reliability of such model under question. First of all, mixing a huge amount of Shopify apps can mess with your store theme. This is due to adding HTML and JavaScript that may fight your native site code. Some apps also make additions in the Liquid code that Shopify is made with, and then don’t properly remove them. Think about this when running short test launches of different apps and then taking them down. Look for modifications in directories the app has been using in order to properly remove the traces. You may also download the backup of your theme before trying anything new.

Secondly, a big patchwork of apps can take down performance. Big loading times will frustrate your users, causing them to leave. Screen how well the creator’s customer support is working before getting a new app in case you need their help.

While you should be aware of these downsides to Shopify, it remains one of the best “average user-friendly” products out there. In context of this review, it’s not really “nopCommerce does all this better”, it’s “build your online shop from scratch and manage things on your own.”


Our verdict

With all the above, the answer to what’s better and what’s worse lies in what’s the best fit. Shopify vs nopCommerce compare poorly as they fulfill very different kind of goals.

If you need to create a single limited-niche web store with no coding expertise, then you should choose Shopify and skip to working with your strong suits such as marketing/sales. You will build the layout of your website with your bare cursor.

If you plan on building a huge business with multiple stores and intricate customized logics that you can scale when expanding your enterprise, then you’ll definitely want to stick with nopCommerce features. For this solution, you will need to hire a team of tech specialists. Plus, it will cost you more time and money in the beginning, but further allow to seamlessly grow.

Pricing, on its own, is a matter of perspective. On one hand, accumulating Shopify apps can gradually blow up your expenses. On the other, getting professionals isn’t exactly free either but can be cheaper and more efficient down the road.

Transaction fees for Shopify also add scaling considerations as they can take a big toll on huge revenues. This aspect can be taken to the minimum with varied options in different payment plans.

Taking your business online means learning from scratch which is not very easy. Here, we’ve tried to compare the key aspects of each platform. If you’re new to ecommerce, we hope that this guide will help you choose the right foundation for your future sprawling online store.

Author: Andrii Horiachko More

How to Create Your Own Cryptocurrency Exchange

How’s Bitcoin rate doing? Probably going up and there are many reasons to why. Some invest into Bitcoin, while others use blockchain as a foundation to create unique business models. Many people are simply loving it due to the sheer idea of decentralized economy, meant to overthrow banking financial reign. As for those looking to make a fair and tremendous profit, there are 2 bold ways to do so. One is to create your own cryptocurrency with unique financial capabilities. The other is to create own cryptocurrency trading platform to buy/sell blockchain powered currencies which, of course, includes bitcoin exchange but goes far beyond it. This article is taking the option number 2, embarking on the road to establish a full-fledged cryptocurrency exchange platform and solve the design challenges therein.

The product you are going to build is a seamless marketplace that connects people who buy cryptocurrency to those who sell it, with involvement of fiat currencies. How your platform is going trade may differ. Some cryptocurrency exchanges simply trade with their users at the world market price. Others partially give some open data on the state of trading within the exchange via their order book. They provide users with some advanced functionality like designating set price of their orders. As a person setting out to develop a cryptocurrency exchange platform, you should decide how much transparency are you willing to provide.

One of the first things you need determine is the amount of scalability you will need for the future growth. In terms of growth capacity, the architecture of exchanges is split into 3 types:

Synchronous - not very complex compared to the other two. These small exchanges process each order in a streamlined fashion. The change goes from the interface to the order book and customer’s account. This cryptocurrency exchange can hardly scale and large trading volumes will discompose the order book.

Asynchronous - this is a medium-grade exchange. It is characterized by passing the requests between separate layers. From the UI, each request is added into one of the queues that run as separate services, usually on dedicated machines. Upon execution, request status updates are sent to the UI. Every big feature on the exchange has a separate service that ensures its work. Also, there are maintenance services that run on their own without user involvement. Asynchronous architecture is much more powerful in terms of scalability.

Distributed - based on groups of services much like Asynchronous, this kind of exchange goes further by also splitting the customer requests. These partitions are called shards. They can act and be processed separately from each other. Based on cloud, this kind of exchange has infinite growth capacity.

Most of the notable exchanges are asynchronous. Here is how you create the major functionality that is integral to build a cryptocurrency exchange platform of this kind.


Exchange structure

The infamous services that run separate request queues can all operate on a single or multiple machines. They are specifically designed for the latter. Here are the separate components that will run on their own:

  • UI. Service-based, combining JSON web services with knockout.js + jqGrid;
  • Transaction engine;
  • Bitcoin client UI;
  • Market maker (simulated volume of transactions);
  • Customer service interface in the backend.


Integral elements to sustain the exchange

1. Huge active user base. There must be a large base of people buying and selling. Enough to ensure the demand and supply balance, plus sustain the rates in cases of large orders. In other words – liquidity.

Problem is, you need users to get it, and new users won’t be attracted to an empty exchange. The owner may inject initial assets to get the trading going. But due to the low amount of users, trading volume will eventually be skewed, deviating the rates far away from other exchanges and rapidly depleting all the funds. To ensure that a single purchase does not drastically tip the scales, you need huge amounts of people buying and selling to drown the affect individual has on the general trading.

The issue is resolved with the Market Maker service. It creates virtual purchases instead of real people to balance the trading. Market Maker measures its own rate deviation window by checking the live order book from the APIs of other exchange markets. Your exchange makes purchases within itself and then does them on other exchanges to even out the trading volume. This way exchanges hedge the risks and simulate the essential activity when there is none coming from users.

2. Rapid server response to users. The orders have to be instantaneous. However, when users are trading with the set price feature, it is impossible to send the order information to the server and receive rapid confirmation. Which is sad because the rates are always changing. For this reason, some exchanges confirm the user side of the order long before it is registered on the server, paying the possible expense deviation.

The speed is achieved via memory caching. However, it cannot come at cost of calculations’ quality, which are performance intensive. For this reason, the calculations are carefully verified under the hood.

3. Special user features. The majority of your users will not get into this complex functionality, however, it is essential in bringing seasoned traders aboard. These features are the hardest to pull off:

Multiple cryptocurrencies – implementing support of an entire range of various cryptocurrencies aside from Bitcoin.

Choosing among multiple offers – viewing the prices that traders offer and automatically “taking the best deal”. This is contrary to the practice of releasing only the general market price to the user, without the order book.

Compound orders – creating an automated trading algorithm to buy/sell within a certain rate window.

4. Platform security. Fund safety is the cornerstone concern for a  startup company that deals with blockchain. Your exchange market has to be a bank vault in terms of penetrability and fund safety. Here are the main security concerns for your future exchange.

4.1 Cybercrime

Exchanges are a popular target of choice for hackers. They are both semi-legal and semi-regulated in most countries. This is why the prosecution of culprits who undermine cryptocurrency platforms is a difficult matter. Both with big and small heists, the hackers convert stolen crypto-assets into fiat without much trouble. Intentional malicious activity can be external in its origin and also come from within the group of people you hire as team members of your company. The criminal will attempt to either gain access to a user account or the administrator’s.

There are 5 technical causes for security breach:

  • Rogue process privilege increase;

  • Unauthorized admin account access;

  • Server access violation;

  • External partnering platform security failure;

  • Ill intent on part of the staff.

Compromised user accounts. Whether it is confidential data leak on your end, malware on person’s PC or social engineering, there are 5 measures that exchanges do to prevent such incidents:

  • Integrate top libraries for user account administration;

  • Use 2-factor authentication for account entry and transactions;

  • Require real personal documents as well as manual approval from webmasters to greenlight huge transactions.

Compromised administrator accounts. is a number of checks and balances in place to prevent and limit unauthorized activity in case one of the admin accounts gets hijacked:

  • Every significant administrative feature is divided from the others by being placed on a different page and accessed by a different person;

  • Limited personnel account access. Each employee can only access the functionality within one’s range of responsibilities;

  • Collective access. High-value operations cannot be accessed by a single person and require multiple individuals for execution;

  • Platform development runs independently from the production. The head of developers triggers the automated launch. High-ranking officers monitor the operation.

Malicious processes. Can be brought in due to malware exposure or by a perpetrator. Sinister processes can quickly penetrate an unsecure server and cause significant damage. Here are the features meant to stand between your cryptocurrency trading platform and malware:

  • Every service is situated on a different machine, physically facilitating any unwanted activity;

  • Admin notifications for when trading gets unbalanced and transactions become unreasonable for the exchange platform;

  • Live log displayed in code, showing all financial activity;

  • DDOS defense via an active firewall. A request has to go via three separate servers and only certain IPs and ports are granted access;

  • When using cloud servers, each has to be encrypted;

  • Cold storage devices to keep unused cryptocurrency deposits with a separate device for profits. The devices are hidden in safe boxes and can only be accessed by chief executive personnel with signed paper notices.

This should cover all the measures used to secure the exchange from intentional harm. On this page called Blockchain Graveyard, you may find the world statistics on major cryptocurrency exchange hacks with case briefs.

However, cybercrime is not the only nor the biggest threat to your exchange.

4.2 Unprofitable service provision. Various factors can mess up the trading dependencies and cause unreasonable transactions that will quickly deplete all the funds away from the exchange. Unlike partial monetary loss with hacking, this type of issue can lead to full bankruptcy. Here are the actions used to maintain stable work of the exchange.

Excessive trading volume volatility mitigation

  • Virtual orders regulate the low trading volume via the Market Maker;

  • The rates updated by the Market Maker are refreshed almost simultaneously with the source exchange;

  • Deposit/withdrawal fees help to negate loss of trading volume;

  • Market Maker service is closely monitored via a live volume dashboard to prevent malfunctions with notifications sent to admins.

A popular feature for currency exchanges is offering loan credit, generally referred to as leverage. Exercise caution as users owing you money are a liability with high likelihood of abandoning you in case of their disadvantage.

User loan return failure prevention

  • Users are allowed to borrow only 40% more than their overall fiat balance with this feature;

  • Enabled only for customers with good transaction history and manually approved;

  • Not allowed if there are no funds in the user’s wallet;

  • When the user approved for leverage is facing a negative balance, custom service is monitoring the state. It sends a series of repeated notifications about the owed funds both to the user and admins.

4.3 Technical malfunction. Things get broken. Damaged software or hardware can trigger a series of negative changes that will break the trading algorithm. When dealing with huge amounts of money, such bugs can be detrimental to your capital. Here are the best practices meant to minimize the losses in case of such events:

  • All changes are calculated and reversed if they prove to be wrong;

  • Double-checks by multiple services. The system is checking the balance in the interface layer and transfer service;

  • Sum validations. The account balance is periodically checked to match the resulting amount from all operations done by the user;

  • Regular backup of the order book, accounts and all operations;

  • Admins are notified in case an abnormal state arises;

  • User activity log available to admins in order to backtrack all the changes.

This is the general layout of the internal structure you need to put together in course of your cryptocurrency exchange platform development. There are a lot of specifics involved with each element of such project, and we will try to cover them in further pieces dealing with this topic.

See you in our next post

Author: Andrii Horiachko More

11 iOS 11 Features You Must Know when Developing Apps for iPhone X

iPhone X is hitting the shelves pretty soon. Ahead of the official release, Apple has been encouraging the techies to start creating and publishing their Xcode 9 (beta) apps long in advance. All to power up the hype for the new addition. And it’s a tease!

Aside from the crisp 5.8” Super Retina Display, the developers will finally get their hands dirty with the most cutting-edge firmware for face tracking, augmented reality, machine learning and more. Our company has already begun testing some of these goodies. Here are the main highlights, you should consider when planning to develop app for iPhone X:


1. Machine Vision

iOS now features ARKit. Together with TrueDepth camera, the brand new toolkit will enable space awareness capabilities to plant 3D objects into the camera view. Origin and orientation of the coordinate system are fully customizable.

2. World Tracking

Key to enabling AR with changing camera view is the awareness of the device’s self-positioning. Here, at play are the aforementioned computer vision together with internal motion sensing hardware. This process is called visual-inertial odometry. It tracks parallel horizontal surfaces to plant objects and is also able to estimate the room lighting, adding appropriate amounts to the rendered 3D object.

There are 2 types of requests to handle for image processing: VNImageRequestHandlerfor a single image and VNSequenceRequestHandlerfor multiple images which are outputted intocobservations.


3. Face Tracking

FaceID is not the only asset that goes with facial recognition. There are dozens of potential applications to this nice feature that come as part of ARKit. The front camera attributes the face with a number of anchors representing the position, orientation and topology converted into readings about the facial expression. These can be used to gather facial data and, say, mirror it on a 3D character.

The particular handlers with face tracking are VNDetectFaceRectanglesRequest to detect general faces and VNDetectFaceLandmarksRequest to track separate facial features and capture them in the “results”.


 img img


4. Information Tracking

Less promoted but, nonetheless, new to iOS devices, now, available with ARKit are:

VNDetectTextRectanglesRequest – camera view image text detection;

VNDetectBarcodesRequest – barcode information processing.

You might be stoked about all this new technology coming your way quite soon. However, many of these things are not yet fully adapted to harsh scenarios. For example, with AR, environmental details can be difficult to measure:

  • Unclear exterior, as well as poor lighting can be challenging to adequately plant a 3D object;
  • Quick camera motions disrupt the tracking. Extreme distances will also produce bad results;
  • Refine the image with slow camera movement in order to capture the surfaces from changing angles; This will gather relevant world tracking data on your device;
  • When plane detection is complete – disable it to preserve a clear estimate of the environment.

In the process of iPhone X app development, you should be aware of these limitations and test how much your app is constrained by them.

Also, the old devices won’t be able to support the new features. Here, we’re talking only iPhone X, however, for a startup, backward compatibility can make a huge difference, so mind that it might not happen. The ARKit firmware will be available for iPhone 6s, 6s Plus, 7, 7 Plus, but the joys of Augmented Reality are forever locked away from any devices below iPhone X. They don’t have TrueDepth frontal camera. As a business owner embarking on the road to build app for iPhone X you should consider that a large portion of the user base will not transition to the new model right away. The main reason is the cost.


5. Machine Learning

iOS 11 now comes with native machine learning framework. Core ML is finally addressing a number of issues iOS has had in the past due to relying on custom third-party apps. Such as granting access to non-native software which had raised huge iPhone X app security concerns and performance issues. No need to stay connected to the internet to use the framework now as well.

This figure shows the complete sequence of how Core ML works with data:



You may also take advantage of a few Core ML models that are readily available or use Core ML Tools to convert your models into Core format.


6. Natural Language Processing

Together with ARKit, the new NLP is starring a whole bag of its own features. These are meant to greatly enhance NSLinguisticTagger. It’s the main API that goes far beyond only tagging and even further with IOS 11 NLP.

The interaction happens between tag schemes and tag options.


     let tagger = NSLinguisticTagger(tagSchemes: [.ENTER SCHEME NAME HERE], options: 0) is the requested outcome.

     [.token] – identifies the type of every token;

     [.language] – identifies dominant language in the text;

     [.nameType] – let’s you know if the word is a proper name;

     [.lemma] – gets you the stem from every word token;

     [.lexicalClass] – each token’s lexical class;

     let options: NSLinguisticTagger.Options = [.OPTION1, .OPTION2] are the conditions we add to filter the unneeded elements, etc.


Remember that the addition of Core ML for Apple is more of a catch-up rather than a technical breakthrough, though. It does not offer more than there is with Machine Learning apps in general, which are pretty limited and laborious to build so far down the road:

  • No learning on the fly, only from the past and processed data;
  • Every app needs to be trained individually;
  • You need to manually process, structure all the data prior to inputting it as “experience” and hire a personal life-coach for your AI to supervise the training;
  • Only able to process a minor part of human language;
  • No causation or ontological connections, only correlational conclusions;
  • Unable to handle symbolic meanings;
  • Low transferability and reusability of learned data;
  • System opacity makes the AI difficult to debug.


7. New Screen Shape


Relevant for development, the new screen now takes almost the entire surface. This time, curvier than ever.

The upper part of the screen is giving some space to the sensors, though, not entirely. Mind your app view when placing the device horizontally. Here is a nice working model:



       img


Also, think about leaving the upper status bar unhidden. It might provide the user with additional information that wouldn’t spoil your UX.

As for the bottom of the screen, you will pay a heavy price if you don’t heed the following designlogic: don’t place the app controls there. Bottom is the place for the Home button. Users will confuse the interactive elements and hit Home, resulting in frustration with your UI decision, to put it mildly. Also don’t hide the Home button away, unless it’s a passive user experience.


   img

8. New Aspect Ratios

New iPhone means new layouts and these will be quite different. A primary consideration to both update your apps for iPhone X and create new ones from scratch is the Safe Area. This area is not occluded by ancestors and your future apps will have to live with that.

The Safe Area is referenced with safeAreaLayoutGuide in the Interface Builder or tweaked with the layout margins. You will also have to turn on Use Safe Area Layout Guides in the Interface Builder Document.

Mind that with old iOS storyboards, enabling the Safe Area Layout Guides will override the constraints for top and bottom layout guides, as well as causing trailing edges. Always test the constraints when you do this.

These are some of the key UI ideas. Though, if you’re creating apps for iPhone X that don’t exactly walk the edge of the latest AR and ML features, don’t consider yourself left out. Both core hardware and software are getting their boost as well. There are tons of updates that will push the limits of what’s newly possible and provide thoughtful improvements to workflow.


9. Xcode 9

An extensive toolset for developers working in all Apple environments is getting some too. Aside from revamped editor with improved scrolling for any-size code document and search, here are the new features within:

  • New Refactoring Systems – thanks to these, it gets easier for developers to make changes from one place all across of their apps;
  • GitHub Integration – free GitHub Libraries are accessible right from the integrated development environment;
  • New iOS Playground Templates – made specifically for good performance both on Swift and Xcode;
  • Multiple Live App Testing – simultaneously testing a single project on many different devices;
  • Enhanced Debugging – new debuggers for Metal 2 graphics, unidentified behavior sanitizers to fight unexpected behaviors as well as the ability to debug iOS devices wirelessly;
  • Built-in Xcode Server – this one removes the need to install the macOS Server.


10. Swift 4

The core programming language couldn’t be left out either. Made open source in 2015, the fourth iteration now comes with a gamut of great improvements:

  • Access Changes – private methods and variables have long been restricted for usage by properties with the same definition. Even if they were all within one file. This issue has been bypassed by changing the private to fileprivate. In Swift 4 you can finally get access to privatefrom extensions within the same file;
  • Code size cuts – now Swift 4 analyzes which parts of the code are not accessed by the app and removes them. E.g., when working with a huge library, the methods you’re not using don’t get into the code;
  • Sequencing – no more need to use Iterator.Element to reach out to extensions thanks to newly added Associated Types. You may now simply use Element. Be warned though – these new association types may conflict with an already defined Sequence or Collection. Also, there are new methods that allow direct changes in sequences;
  • Combined classes and protocols – you can now make a declaration defined as multiple classes, types and protocols;
  • Strings revamped – strings.charactersnow removed and the new result for operations (such as division of string) called substring now added;
  • No Objective-C support, unless tagged with @objc – methods, functions and properties no longer generate compiled Objective-C copies automatically. For these cases, you will get a warning, but it might not be enough to properly address every needed instance.


11. A11 GPU and Metal 2

A treat for game and graphics developers. Together with powered A11 GPU, Metal 2 improves rendering, computing and more.

  • The new GPU now does not rely on CPU for resource allocation and other tasks;
  • With GPU Frame Debugger, developers will get their hands on hardware performance metrics which will help them do more intricate adjustments;
  • The new GPU is now 10nm after the previous iteration with 16nm, meaning more battery life and more capacity for GPU transitions.

These are some of the key new features and capabilities that are coming with the release. iPhone X ships November 3 and you can already build app for iPhone X with Xcode 9. The above will cover the changes and additions that developers should study to prepare.

Good luck!

Author: Andrii Horiachko More

Top 10 Best Chatbot Platform Tools to Build Chatbots

Messenger apps have become more common and are used more and more to substitute emails and phone calls. They are now a conventional form of correspondence, but it takes too much time to manage if you are talking business. Over 60% of 20-45-year-old consumers use messaging platforms to an inquiry about product or service, get business advice or solve business-related issues. Many of these questions is quite basic and simple to answer, and by introducing some of the best chatbot platforms, your company can cut cost on customer services reps and concentrate on developing a chatbot that can serve the company for years to come. Chatbots work 24/7 and benefit your customer’s experiences by providing seamless and fast solutions to many issues.



So what is a chatbot?

A chatbot re-creates a regular chat flow with a customer service rep. Its primary aim is to lower the number of people, especially in peak times that need to be employed to answer basic queries on messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger, Telegram, and Slack, as well as built-in on-site chats.

In reality, chatbots are quite diverse and have numerous applications depending on the platform or website that utilizes them. Most often it functions as a customer rep, but we’ve seen it offer weather reports, product shipping times and so on.



How Does a Chatbot Benefit You?

You still have to pay for a chatbot development, so how a chatbot can be truly beneficial for your business?

It lets your company grow without making you recruitment department do over-time in search for new people. We’ve created a comprehensive list of the services that offer basic, but effective chatbots. Have a look at them and if you decide that you need something more tailored and sophisticated, feel free to outsource chatbot development. It’s an easy and cost-effective way to get exactly what you need at the right price and time.



So here are the ten chatbot platforms you need to consider:



1. Faqbot is aimed at providing advanced customer support options that aim at transforming your company's FAQs page. With the bot’s help, it turns into a conversational on your website or Facebook and Messenger platforms.



2. ManyChat is another bot that works on Facebook Messenger. Its primary use is for marketing, sales, and support. The key benefit is its free to use, and quite easy to set up. No programming skills are required, you can simply connect and start using it in no time.




3. Pandorabots is chatbot that lets your business not only a text-based chat support. It actually offers voice chat which received from customers. Its services come with a steep price-tag, and they offer employee training and engineering support packages.



4. Botsify offers various plugins that help you integrate your chatbots on any type of web-based platform. Just drag-and-drop the interface, no coding required.




5. Meokay is highly recommended as a universal conversational bot. Just follow some easy steps and within minutes your you can have a both with several conversational scenarios and more features that help smooth conversations.



6. Beep Boop is one of the best chatbots for Slack. It uses GitHub source code and requires you to be a skilled developer to utilize it. But the versatility of what you can do is extensive.




7. Chatfuel is a dedicated Facebook & Telegram chatbot makes that requires no coding experience. You can simply link to external sources through pre-set plugins and have a basic bot available.



8. FlowXO is a unique business chatbot platform suitable for most messaging apps like Slack and Telegraph, as well as your website and even SMS! You have to spend some time to tweak it to have a fully functional automated bot or hybrid.




9. Api.ai is a brand centric chatbot. It offers conversations that are similar to natural. It also offers integrations across all social media networks and is straightforward to deploy.



10. Statsbot is not a chatbot per se, but an add-on to your chatbot that examines patterns via machine learning prowess. The company takes care of building mathematical models to upgrade your bot.



Conclusion

Chatbot development can be simple or complex, depending on your needs. For us it is a piece of cake, but what type of icing would you choose for it? Your customers are already used to speaking to chatbots, so choosing the right way to go about is key.

The above top chatbot platform tools give you enough power to try the technology out, but for something more sophisticated you need a company with a lot of great chatbot development tools in their arsenal. This way you can better communicate with your customers in a clear and natural way. Go ahead and take your business to the with next level tools for building a chatbot.

Author: Andrii Horiachko More

How to Develop an App with Artificial Intelligence?

Are you thinking about developing an Artificial Intelligence (AI) app? Most successful entrepreneurs that utilized app development with AI capabilities consistently state that you shouldn’t get overpowered by implementing this complex technology just for the sake of it. Firstly, you need to pay attention to the pains of your customers that AI can help you solve. What benefits will your users get that justify AI application?

Artificial intelligence in mobile applications is a hot topic, and with every day more tech companies and investors are showing their interest in its benefits. The recent acquisition by Googles of DeepMind for nearly half a billion dollars is just one of the examples of how committed companies are.  Having AI development capabilities is among the most promising areas in tech. That is especially true for AI in mobile.

And the concept of a personal mobile assistant that is always there to help you have caught on. Tackling everyday tasks through such an AI app is very appealing. But AI apps are not limited to only this one use. Mobile AI has a number of purposes that are commonly explored right now, such as security of data and e-commerce purchase assistance. AI is generally applied in mobile apps to change the customer experience for the better.



Artificial Intelligence substituting Natural Intelligence in Apps

Fundamentally, Artificial Intelligence is a computer system that is able to substitute problem-solving by humans to some extent. Humans natural intelligence has been key in helping customers, but with AI that is no longer the case.

AI has a number of purposes and applications, but when thinking about developing a mobile app with artificial intelligence, the main use is in chatbots. This lets companies decrease the staffing-cost of their call/chat-centers and to engage with customers deeply. That is possible to the AI’s ability to leverage a large pool of data and offer the best option to users.

According to Gartner’s latest predictions, companies believe that such application of AI will be in the top of strategic efforts in 2017 and further. AI apps are actually more than chat-bot assistants, they can, for example, prioritize your email flow. Moreover, AI is likely to enter the majority of mobile enterprise apps with more than 200 large companies developing artificial intelligence apps this year alone.




Users are Demanding Personalized Experiences

Your users are like any other ones and demand personalized experiences that can be offered through AI technologies. Outsourcing AI development is beginning to take hold for small and large enterprises alike, as creating an in-house team is considered too costly and takes time. For example, Starbucks recently announced a mobile app powered by AI. With its help, coffee-lovers can tell the app by voice the drink they’d like, and the order is instantly placed. Another large company that used AI app developer services is Taco Bell. By introducing its TacoBot, the business was able to boost both customer satisfaction rates and profits, by not only taking orders by voice but by making suitably recommends on menu items. Such AI-dependent applications are now at the forefront of helping people with their routine daily tasks.


Mobile is actually the perfect platform to provide artificial intelligence app development as it offers extensive personalization capabilities. You might not notice it, but your smartphone tracks user location, for example, so an integrated AI application can use it to assist you even better in a more relevant way according to your location. Newer phones, such as iPhone 7 and Samsung Galaxy 8, have AI capabilities hard-wired into them, so creating an app is even easier. With a well-versed team of AI developers, these technologies can help boost your AI as it can learn from users’ behavior, purchase patterns and every single user session. This lets you increase the overall retention rates and boost your app’s abilities.



Mobile AI Impact on Businesses

Retail industry giants like Amazon have proved that AI integration on mobile apps is a success. But for smaller enterprises, the impact can be even bigger. The new advancements in AI technology require support from a partner company that can take of all AI-related research and software execution to meet the ever-shifting consumer demands. AI app development for small and medium-sized enterprises is the next big thing.

With such a help you can rest assured that creating and integrating AI algorithms into the products your business offers will lead to a strategically enhanced brand ecosystem. Amazon’s Prime delivery service is a great example as it pairs up well with AI-enabled Echo device. Forward-thinking enterprises can capitalize on personalization advantages of AI, before others and start leading the pack in the chosen niche market.



AI is Exceeding User Expectations

Presently AI solutions are just starting to roll out, and many companies have just grazed the surface with their app offers. Its true potential is far from being fully understood and implemented. Its ability to understand, decipher and categorize information coupled with its retention is important to understand and promote as they open up new horizons of your products’ abilities. But at the very start, you can expect your AI interfaces to start slow and learn, and only after some fine-tuning can it be true to the AI promise.



Summary. Impact of AI on Mobile Application Development

  • AI technology brings rich benefits when combined with great mobile app development services. This results in great ways to assist users in collecting and storing their preferences and analyzing their potential behavior when using the AI-enabled app.
  • AI utilizes gathered information: location, contacts, times of app use and other data points to serve customers in a more specific way better every time.
  • AI is considered to be among the best tools to boost the app experiences in every way. This can be achieved through recent evolution in software development and is beneficial as it’s one of the very few ways that can track and consistently analyze the change in user demand. This is particularly appreciated by retail and service industries.

Author: Andrii Horiachko More

VR app Development: Cost to Build Own Application

VR app development is one of the key areas where mobile app development will drastically evolve. Being the future of tech the market is exploding thanks to consumer-friendly prices of such VR gear as Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. The cheap old-timer - Google Cardboard launched in 2016 and from that point on the VR technology is constantly evolving price-wise solutions.

This technology is already successfully adopted by healthcare, architecture, and other industries where a VR mobile app is a great way for businesses to familiarize their staff and customers with new goods and services that are in the early stage of creation. Still. Very few companies are on the market, and even fewer can offer VR app development at a reasonable price. But still, there are ways to get the right VR app development services if you approach this task wisely. To cut to the chase, how much will it cost your company to build a VR application? This thorough overview will provide you with the needed insights, such as developmental stages and product estimations that will help you calculate the costs of employing a virtual reality application development company.


The financial prospects

  • According to Statista, VR and AR will generate a $143 billion market worldwide by the year 2020.
  • VR jobs start at $75k/year and range up to $200k/year, as stated on MediaJobs.com
  • In a recent article by Forbes, the response was as follows: “One of the more vibrant, up-and-coming sectors of the tech industry these days is virtual reality.”

Regular app development has been around for a while, and the prices for their development are clear-cut according to region and types of apps required. But your financial prospects when getting an app work not on a rectangular screen, but to work in a fully immersive environment is far from clear as of now. It can seem daunting, as the VR landscape has been mostly untouched, and the situation was very similar to the usual mobile app development just several years ago.

And as with everything new, the cost barrier may be too high. But the opportunities are as extensive. You should also take into account the new developments, hardware, and solutions that are rolled out by the industry giants that simplify and ease the financial burden of VR app development. When you are among the early adopters, you can catch the wave and be among the first ones to dive in and reap rich rewards.

Just look at the revenue projection by Digi-Capital, and the market-share of VR/AR in a long-term perspective lets almost any business find a sweet spot and get a piece of the action:



Factors That Affect VR Development Cost

The main issue affecting VR development costs lays in two options you have: 1) develop a mobile VR app; 2) develop a mobile VR game. The bottom line for a non-game VR app is $40K, and the cheapest option for a mobile VR mage is $60K with time-lines of at least 6 months. These numbers are a basic reference point, and development costs, depending on various factors, can easily be in early six digit figures.

The ultimate cost and profit from VR software development are dictated by the following key factors:

Research & Development

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Most of the aspects of your app development project are generally considered “research and development.” It all starts with the research of your ides, creating user stories to things like distribution planning. And your R&D efforts have a sometimes fatal impact on the final cost of your app in a very specific way.

For every phase of your project to fall into place correctly, app developers have to pause and think of the ways this or that function or feature will fit in the general concept. That is especially true when a development phase involves some complex VR implementation techniques or more unique app capabilities. This process is far from straightforward. It requires trial and error and can cost a lot in the long run. It can actually increase your budget two-fold unless you do your best to reduce the unknowns. Only after that can you hand the project over to a professional developer and not worry about the extra time spent on it.


Content & Software

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A major part of your VR development budget will be given to content and software development. For budgeting purposes, it is correct to assume that the two are interconnected. And the more complex VR content you require, the more sophisticated software should be developed.

Do you want a simple 3D environment that boosts your users’ experiences or a multi-player interactive VR game? The decisions you make regarding the content will have a direct influence on the complexity of VR software and its cost.  Try to answer these questions before you give the project into developers’ hands: What type and how extensive your content should be? Will you provide the content to your developers or do you need to subcontract a content-creation unit on outsourcing? These are among the few vital factors you need to take care of from the onset of your project.




Platform

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Taking into the importance of content that you want to offer to your customers, you need to factor in the platform you choose to base your services on. That can add or subtract a lot of cost from your project. For Google Cardboard the cost is comparatively low, but developing a full-fledged solution for something like the Oculus Rift may cost you a fortune.

 Answer these two question to choose the platform and, ultimately, the VR development cost:

  • What does your target audience use?
  • Which platform suits best in providing the features you want to offer?


Developer Location

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You can have your VR software developed in a number of places all over the world. You can hire an in-house team or use outsourcing. Eastern Europe and Asia are considered among the cheapest regions for VR app development. On the other hand, companies based in the United States are best. But if these companies have development offices in other countries they usually provide high-quality solutions, customer service at a cheaper dollar rate. Developers’ teams in Eastern Europe have fair outsourcing rates, and you may consider Softermii that is among the best ones. The company is US-based with a development center in Ukraine. It is among the leaders in providing great quality VR app development at a fair cost.


The Bottom Line

So how much will it cost you to develop a unique VR app? Take into account our advice, and you may end up spending less and getting more profit when you start with the right mindset and thoroughly plan your VR app. Think through your app idea and come for advice to a top-notch VR app development company that can make your idea come to life on time and without breaking the budget.

Author: Andrii Horiachko More

Hot Trends in Blockchain App Development

The demand for Blockchain app development and professionals who can successfully implement it across enterprises & startups alike is growing. More businesses than ever are taking a closer look at their business efficiencies and new ways their business model can be bettered by the Blockchain technologies. At this point acceptance of bitcoins, Etheruem and other blockchain-based currencies are on the rise. They encompass both large and small companies, and this requires a creation of blockchain payment applications, as well as other solutions that use this new technology.

The blockchain application is now considered to be at the forefront of fast, transparent and secure financial operations. When the blockchain was initiated, it was equaled with Bitcoin by many, but the blockchain technology has outgrown the first decentralized digital currency legs and became a master of its own. 

The blockchain software development is on the rise and growing, and various opportunities in blockchain technology are exploding. In this article, we discuss the current blockchain applications and trends in blockchain app development:


Ethereum

When we talk about blockchain development post-bitcoin, Ethereum is leading the pack of blockchain platforms. It got a firm footing last year and offers faster, more mature and up-to-date solutions compared to Bitcoin. Ethereum technology is the next level complexity, but it’s worth the effort as it has more to offer. In its essence, it is a cryptographic ledger that can store financial and other types of information that is 100% tamper-proof. Such data stored using blockchain cannot be changed historically.

Key benefits of Ethereum:

  • encompasses the use of all cryptocurrencies, making it a prime place for blockchain financial transactions.
  • fully supports smart contracts and applies them extensively.
  • has its own programming language, Solidity that was designed for developers that need to write secure, error-free and robust code for the platform.


Smart Contracts

The term “smart contract’’ may confuse you if you take it literally as it does not involve making or signing contracts per se. Basically, a usual smart contract is a program based on the blockchain. To understand why you need to have it on the blockchain, we must dive in deeper into the blockchain benefits: security and resilience of the distributed system and fast execution are among the top priorities.

Smart contracts are usually programmed to controls digital assets and release them when all pre-set conditions are met. Below are the most common examples of how smart contracts operate:

  • They can release funds gathered on crowdsourcing platforms only when a minimum number of contributions have been made by a pre-set date. If not the money is returned to investors.
  • With their help, you can create and send legal contracts for attorneys only when the signatory submitted the required digital credentials and attached a payment confirmation.

Smart contracts are at the forefront of blockchain trends, although we’ve only scratched the surface of the ways they can be used and how they can benefit your digital business. Such security, resilience, and ability execute numerous programs and release assets on blockchain (financial being among the key ones) offer a world of opportunities in this new age.


Decentralized applications

At the core of Ethereum is the concept of decentralization of all things. Its advocates feel electrified by the applications that can be built on this computing platform. The decentralized apps can be subdivided into two major categories: 

  • apps that help users manage money and its flow
  • apps of the “other” type, like voting systems

The most widely known is the first app type, where users can hold or exchange funds, settle contracts and employ the network's distributed computer nodes to distribute this data.


Emerging Markets for Blockchain App Development

Blockchain technology is a powerful and exciting force. When developing apps on blockchain you should think through the niches where they would be highly requested.  As mentioned before, the key advantages of blockchain are speed, security, and flexibility. And according to these markers, we should consider the following markets:


Healthcare

Securing data is of paramount importance in the healthcare industry, and this is where app development on blockchain is of the essence. Considering that multiple parties require having instant access to large swathes of data blockchain becomes invaluable. Presently only a few companies offer app development on blockchain for healthcare, and professionals that can deliver such solutions are in high demand. This niche is still wide open, and the first healthcare companies to enter it will get all the rewards. 


Gaming

Gaming is not something that clearly relates in people’s mind to the blockchain, but it should be. Many gaming companies launched ICOs on the basis of building an app using blockchain technology to support their business. It makes easier to share, sell and incorporate game-based asset-sharing. This can be even done across games and platforms! The emergence of blockchain to support gaming is in the early onset, but developers are already making use of it to give certain gaming platforms an edge over competitors. On top of that gamers love new technological advances and enjoy testing new tools in their favorite games.


Fintech

Fintech was on the books when the blockchain technology was created. Indeed, the fintech disruption caused a tidal wave of blockchain implementations. Many financial institutions thought that the fintech disruption would pass them by, but the wide use of blockchain left these ideas unrealistic nor self-preserving. Actually fintech blockchain offers very interesting ideas to regular financial institutions that can improve their operations.


Summary

The blockchain is no longer a simply buzzword, as applications based on it gain traction and gather millions in funding. This decentralized and disruptive force will take over the usual ways of doing business. Many companies that get on board soon enough and request the services of blockchain app developers will make a name for themselves and reap rich rewards. Your company may be the leader in your industry in a matter of years, much of it determined by the ways you approach the question “how to build blockchain applications that improve the services you offer?”. It will be determined by your commitment and your competence in building applications using blockchain technology.

With is a leading outsource provider of technology solutions like Softermii, getting the right blockchain app developers is made easy through the required skills and experience offered by their team. If you need a custom blockchain development solution, reach out for a no-cost consultation.

Author: Andrii Horiachko More

THE STORY BEHIND JIBJAB APP SUCCESS

JibJab is “the Greatest GIF messaging app ever,” according to Gizmodo. PandoDaily illustrated it as a “chock full of... gems.” That’s what people say about JibJab these days. It didn’t all begin with a mobile app that is integrated with the Facebook iMessage and has millions of users. It all started over 18 years ago very differently, and the company had to evolve to reach the point where it is associated almost entirely with its mobile app.

Intro about the company

JibJab is a company that specializes in digital media content. Its primary goal is to create funny pictures, GIFs and short clips that gain viral traction and get shared thousands of times online. Being a true pioneer in producing and distributing online entertainment for over 18 years.

Recently the company decided to go mobile heads-on and ordered an advanced mobile app developed by Softermii. This app lets users add their photos to the cloud GIF creation system and get some of the funniest Internet’s memes starring themselves.

As stated in the company’s profile, JibJab works only with the best developers, designers, technologists, and business people to produce world-class original entertainment on the Internet.

How it all started

JibJab had humble beginnings when two brothers decided to start producing animated projects for media giants like Disney. Gregg, one of the brothers, recently said that it all almost crashed in 2001, when the need for such services and economic hardship in the US factored in.

The breakthrough unwittingly happened in 2004. JibJab’s presidential electoral animation parody "This Land" amassed millions of viewers. The initial way to start making money was by charging customers per video download on their website, or for a DVD shipment.

From website to mobile app

JibJab initially used only its website to provide fun ways to interact with your friends. But that changed and more and more users embracing their smartphones, it became evident that a great mobile app will open new options for them compared to a mere web version. That’s where they employed Softermii to work together with the in-house team to offer customers the real JibJab experience on mobile. By updating their product, we were able to push the company’s public image, and the app was written about in the USA Today and on TechCrunch. The more important thing is that the app has an average 4.5-star rating on App Store and Play Market with 3500+ reviews on each.

JibJab’s functionality and intuitive design in the mobile app

A key part of JibJab’s strategy is boosting mobile app functionality and providing an intuitive design that increases the time consumers spend in their apps. The major challenge was in envisaging and developing such a unique app that beats the competition and enables users to seamlessly create funny content on their smartphones and share it with their friends and family in a blink of an eye.

JibJab already had a great mobile website for its users. The goal was to convert users from the web to a mobile platform to boost retention rates and achieve high mobile app downloads for iOS and Android. They required professional mobile software development services that Softermii could offer.

Preserving complete access to all of JibJab features while designing and creating a cleaner and updated look that is resilient in the future is a challenge of its own.

“Softermii made it incredibly easy to use the app and create fun pics. I love how you can choose between various GIFs and eCards while preserving great usability and speed of the web version.”

– Marketing Manager at JibJab

Features behind app’s success

JibJab needed to provide its users with a pioneering and premium content, so Softermii added the following new features and updated the old ones:

- Easily connect the app with all major social media or email

- Instant selfie snap to use in funny GIFs and videos

- Straightforward access to the pictures of your friends' faces to easily create animation

- Provide proper levels of synchronization when creating new animations

- One-click sharing of JibJab app with friends to install on their mobile devices, and more.

iMessage integration as a way to further gains

On September 12, 2016, Apple launched its iMessage App Store during, and JibJab was among the first ones on the marketplace. Such a move is statically confirmed to be of benefit, as all the entertainment app publishers that enabled and embedded their core functionality into iMessage have an average boost in downloads of at least 39%. With this new update, users can launch JibJab app from within the iMessage that was pretty much turned it into an app platform that boosts communication in its various textual forms.

Such cooperation led to a tremendous growth for JibJab that was an early mover and got featured in the new App Store. And such growth happened within just a few days after launch. JibJab grew 1583% in a week! If you are interested in how such successful mobile app development is possible, then visit our dedicated web page.

“The level and amount of work done by Softermii is just outstanding. They literally changed the mobile look of JibJab.”

– Chief Designer at JibJab

Summary

Not many users remember JibJab as the first viral video production company. The company’s mission has always been to influence people on a daily basis and let them have pure fun, not just on special occasions like birthdays or holidays. Through a new mobile app, JibJab realized this dream and became handy and simple for all to use.

Gregg Spiridellis, JibJab Co-Founder, recently said to a group of young entrepreneurs that they should understand and appreciate what’s been done in the past. But they shouldn’t get stuck in the old ways, as the only way to go forward is to reinvent yourself. That was the only way how JibJab survived for 16 years.

Author: Andrii Horiachko More