Monday, May 21, 2012

Mobile Website (

OMG.  Five Lakes Studio is a mobile casual game company, but we had no mobile website.  What's even worse is a majority of our traffic is coming from mobile devices (surprise!!!):

How did we get here?

We don't get much traffic to our website, and we don't want to spend a lot of time on it.  We focus our business on our users and our apps.  For example, we just integrated AppsFire's AppBooster SDK into Picross HD so users can contact us and we can communicate with them directly within the App.  I plan on writing a blog post just about it.  So far the results are looking promising.  However, you have to have a website.

While we could hand code HTML, we ended up using iWeb.  Our pages are mostly static, and we wanted something that was fast to create and gives us creative control (not ridged templates).  When we first launched Euchre HD we had some user complaints because they didn't understand how to setup Game Center.  I was able to quickly (minutes) create and post visual step by step instructions on how to do this by using iWeb and Snagit.    

The downside with iWeb is it doesn't help with the creation of a mobile website, and the HTML produced isn't well suited for mobile.  Also, I'm not sure what the future of iWeb is going to be.  I think it is an amazing tool and I wish Apple was doing more with it.

What are we to do?

I started searching for a mobile website creation tool.  I ended up finding an interesting online/hosted solution from  They have an ad supported model and a paid model  ($9.00/month).  The paid model also supports connecting to your domain so now we have

Getting Started

Its very easy to get started.   Dudamobile walks you through setting up a new site.  You can pick from several themes.  The nice thing is you aren't locked into a theme.  During editing you can customize the page headers, footers, background, colors, layout, and so much more.

You can interact directly with a preview of a page and choose from many highly customizable interesting drag and drop widgets:

My favorite widget is the Image Slider.  You can add up to 3 images in a slider style control.  You can see it above in the preview (currently showing Kento).  

Page Import and Syncing

One of the nice things about dudamobile is that it can import and sync to your existing website.  When you add a page, you can give it the URL to one of your existing pages.  It will then important the page. I was surprised this even worked for iWeb sites.  I did have to do some basic cleanup and reformatting on the imported content.  It was mostly deleting extra stuff I didn't want in the mobile site.

I haven't tried syncing content.  Most of the content we have is fairly static so I turned it off.  Plus I am doubtful syncing will work well with iWeb, but I might be surprised again.


I was impressed with the dudamobile support staff.  I had some issues getting the slider to work the way I wanted.  They where very responsive and helpful.


It has only been live for about a week and so far I am pleased with how this turned out.   I still need to setup redirects on all the web pages to redirect to the mobile website.  Currently, only the main page has a redirect.

Please feel free to follow me on twitter at @fivelakesstudio.  I would love to hear how others have solved their mobile website needs.

I hope this was useful.  Please visit our site and try out our games for iOS.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


We are looking at adding interstitial ads into Picross HD.  We have been talking to people on the subject trying to get tips and suggestions on how to do this in a way that doesn't drive our users crazy and yet allows us to gain some additional revenue that we can use to keep making our games better.

One point that kept being made was to use AB Testing for figuring out how to optimize what we are trying to do.  This of course can be applied to many more things then ads, but I finally had a real need to solve this ABTesting problem.

The Problem

I wanted a simple ABTesting platform that would allow me to do the following:

  1. Test different variables
  2. Change variables without have to republish the App
  3. Track / Report on the results


We use a simple XML file to define the test cases we want to experiment with.  Here is a simple example of the XML definition we use:

   <testset name="AdTime">
      <casedef name="Normal" weight="33"/>
      <casedef name="Agressive" weight="33"/>
      <casedef name="Lax" weight="33"/>

      <vardef key="minTimeBetweenInterstitials">
         <case name="Normal" value="10.0"/>
         <case name="Agressive" value="5.0"/>
         <case name="Lax" value="1440"/>

      <vardef key="numStartsBeforeShowingInterstitials">
         <case name="Normal" value="4"/>
         <case name="Agressive" value="2"/>
         <case name="Lax" value="10"/>

This was developed so that we could have multiple test sets and run multiple ABTests at the same time. The example above just defines a single test set.

With a test set, we can define multiple test cases we want to evaluate and we can define a frequency or weighting used to determine the percentage of users/devices that should be assigned that test case. In addition, each test set can have multiple variables and each variable can have values for each test case.

We wrote a simple objective-c class that manages the loading of the XML and provides a simple interface for reading variables from the ABTest.
   @interface FLABTestManager : NSObject
   + (FLABTestManager *)defaultManager;
   - (void)activateABTest;
   - (NSString *)stringForKey:(NSString *)key 
             withDefaultValue:(NSString *)defaultValue;
   - (int)intForKey:(NSString *)key withDefaultValue:(int)value;
   - (float)floatForKey:(NSString *)key withDefaultValue:(float)value;
   - (bool)boolForKey:(NSString *)key withDefaultValue:(bool)value;

The XML file is included as a project resource and then within the apps delegate method applicationDidBecomeActive you call activeABTest:
   - (void)applicationDidBecomeActive:(UIApplication *)application
      [[FLABTestManager defaultManager] activateABTest];

Once activated, the App will randomly pick a test case by weight for each test set defined.  It should be noted that once picked, the app will keep using the same test case even if the app quits.  This effectively locks a device into a particular test.  If the app is uninstalled and reinstalled a new test case may get chosen.

We choose to only activate the test cases from within applicationDidBecomeActive so we only activate once per session.  This is because it is possible to have a different configuration chosen during activation (see Changing Tests) and for reporting/tracking purposes we don't want to mix test cases (see Tracking/Reporting).

In order to read a variable under test, simple accessors methods are provided.  For example: If we where configured for Agressive Ad display and we had the XML definition above then the variable minTimeBetweenInterstitials would return "5.0":
[[FLABTestManager defaultManager] floatForKey:@"minTimeBetweenInterstitials"

We supply a default value for the case when the test hasn't been activated or if there was a problem determining the value.

Changing Tests

We wanted the ability to change tests without having to republish the App. This allows us to refine settings as we learn. In order to do this, a copy of the XML is stored and retrieved via a GoogleAppEngine service.

When an app doesn't have an AB Test loaded, it just uses the built in XML definition and a request is made to the web service for an updated version.  If there is an updated version, it will be downloaded and kept ready for the next ABTest activation.

When a new, downloaded, version of the ABTests are found the app will adjust to the new values accordingly.  For example if the apps current test case is no longer available in the XML definition, it will just pick a new test case.

Tracking / Reporting

Whenever activateABTest is called we log events to Flurry for the active test cases.  For example if the above XML definition is used and the device chooses Agressive for AdTime then the following two events would be logged:

   AdTime <== with parameter of Agressive

This is enough information to allow us to create a segmentation on "AdTime.Agressive" so we can see how it compares with other tests.  We also log "AdTime" as an event by itself with the parameter set to the test case picked so we can validate the distribution of test cases.


We are still finishing testing on this new framework and we hope to submit to the AppStore next week. I think this has some nice potential to allow us to do more ABTesting on the work we do in order to improve the user experience of our products.  I will report back on our findings.

If you would be interesting in using this framework, just let me know.  I can't really hook you up with the GoogleAppEngine side of things, but I would be happy to share what I can on the iOS side.

Please feel free to follow me on twitter at @fivelakesstudio.  I would love to hear how others have solved this AB Testing issue.

I hope this was useful.  Please try out Picross HD and our other puzzle games for iOS.