It’s time for another “Ask the Editor” post today. Thanks to everyone who sent in their questions; keep sending them in (via form at the end). It’s great getting the opportunity to help out with your web-related queries.
Some of the topics covered this week include protecting the data you store in web apps from potential loss by either app developer mistakes or closure of the app, task management apps and how to retain users for developers.
Read on for plenty of handy web knowledge; hopefully you’ll find most of it useful for your own situation as well!
How can we protect ourselves from losing data stored in web apps should they suddenly close or have issues?
Backups! Just as with your home computer(s), it’s a good idea to maintain backups even for data stored in the cloud. While web apps are generally very robust in this area, offering redundant backups and multiple levels of failsafes, failure or closure is almost always still a possibility.
Recently Flickr accidentally deleted a small number of users’ photos — permanently. This wasn’t the first time Flickr has done this either. And even more recently, Google pushed a software update through that resulted in a small percentage of users’ email data to be temporarily lost. Thankfully Google maintains tape backups so it was just a matter of time before the data was restored.
However, even a temporary interruption of service can be detrimental to some people. So how can you protect against this? Only use web apps that allow you to export or save your data in some form, somewhere other than on their servers.
Backupify is a fantastic online solution that can automatically maintain backups for many popular web apps such as Gmail, Twitter, Flickr and many more.
Alternately, you could setup a desktop mail client to automatically sync your mail at set intervals. As an added backup, you could also save the mail client’s mail database to another backup location. Other types of apps may require that you manually export and save your data, so you’ll just have to get in the habit of doing so regularly.
If a web app provider is going to close down, they’ll most likely give their users quite a bit of notice ahead of time. In many situations, they’ll also offer a way for their users to retrieve their data if it wasn’t an option before hand. I hope this helps to answer your question!
Can you recommend a task management web app capable of separating tasks for different sites?
There are tons of fantastic task management web apps available so there are surely several options that will fulfill your needs. It sounds as though you need an app that’s capable of separating tasks based on categories or groups.For example, NirvanaHQ allows you to create areas of focus. You could create focus areas for the different sites you work with. Within these focus areas you’re able to create your regular tasks with tags, due dates, notes, etc. You can also create projects with their own set of tasks, all within their own focus areas.
Another fantastic, feature rich task management web app is Producteev. This app has more capabilities than almost all other task management apps I know of but still maintains a great interface and solid usability. It supports individual users as well as teams of users for individual workspaces, etc.
These are both great task management web apps and it really just depends on how you integrate them into your workflow. Be sure to let us know what you find works for you or if you found a completely different app that met your needs!
How do you make your users keep using your web app and encourage them to contribute more?
Great question from an app developer’s point of view! For starters, I don’t believe that any app developer should attempt to force their users to continue using their web app. In fact, there’s nothing more frustrating for me than when it’s difficult to close a web app account or downgrade my service.
Often times I have actually continued using a web app because there was an easy option to delete or downgrade my account. That gave me piece of mind that I could easily decide to do that at a later time without any fuss.
What seems to be a popular method for going about encouraging your users to continue using your app is to first obtain feedback as to why users no longer want to use the app in the first place. Requiring this feedback for users that are leaving will help improve your app such that people want to continue using it.
A popular method for encouraging users to contribute more is some form of rewards system. The rewards don’t have to be monetary either; they could be based on status, reputation, special privileges, self-promotion, etc. People enjoy challenges and especially reaping rewards!
You might consider looking at other web apps that use varying types of reward systems to encourage participation to get some ideas to build a system best suited to your app and your users.
Didn’t See Your Question?
If you asked a question but didn’t have it answered today, don’t worry! I’ll do my best to get to it in a future week. Unfortunately it isn’t possible to answer every question that’s sent in.
If you’d like to submit another question for next time around, you can do so here: