The Layar Creator is based upon the concept of Campaigns, which have Pages that are overlaid with Buttons.
Campaigns & Pages
When you create your Campaign, you are asked what kind of Campaign Type it will be. Based upon your input, different types of buttons will be suggested in the editor.
Each Campaign can have an unlimited number of Pages, each of which can then include an unlimited number of Buttons.
Fundamentally, all Buttons are variations of the same theme – text or an image is displayed with an action behind it. All buttons can be positioned and resized anywhere on the Page. The nice thing about resizing is that the aspect ratio is automatically retained.
Almost all of the options allow for you to modify the background color of the button using either HTML color codes or a color wheel, as well as select from a pre-defined animation. During my testing the color wheel was unfortunately not working. The animation is played when the Page is first successfully scanned and can be tested during the design stage.
One additional feature of the interface that I appreciate is the ability to cancel your Button edits without saving. While this is something that I’ve grown to take for granted on most programs I work with, I am increasingly seeing applications that auto-save everything, including your mistakes, without the ability to undo. Layar also confirmed Button deletions, which more vendors should pick up on.
The variety of available buttons is exceptional. Broken into 4 categories, they are Basic, Media, Social and Advanced:
- Open a Website
- Call a Number
- Vote in a Poll
- Buy a Product
- Send You an Email
- Download a Mobile App
- Add to Contacts
- Show an Image
Open a Website
Call a Number
Call a Number is a button with a phone number behind it. Clicking on the button will iniate a call to the number. Personally, I consider this a very dangerous button, as you never know if the user is roaming – which we all know can be incredibly expensive.
Vote in a Poll
Vote in a Poll is an interesting button that displays a question and up to four images. To respond to the poll the user simply clicks on one of the four images and the vote scoring is automatically displayed. Once you publish the page, you can find the results of the polling in the Page statistics. The “Vote in a Poll” button deviates from the norm the most, as it doesn’t allow you to have an animation or to change the background color.
Poll Widget Dialog
Buy a Product
Send You an Email
Send You an Email is the standard button controls plus the target email address and a subject line. When tapped, an email will be created but not sent. If the user does not have an email client set up, a system error will be thrown.
Download a Mobile App
Download a Mobile App is the standard button controls plus two URLs – one for the iPhone App and one for the Android App. There is no option to add different App platforms, as the Scanner only runs on iOS and Android.
Add to Contacts
Show an Image
- Play Video
- Show a Carousel
- Show a Linkable Carousel
- Play Audio
- Show a SoundCloud Widget
Play Video allows you to provide a URL to a file or upload the video directly. If you upload a file it will be converted to an internal format. Although I was not able to find any documentation explaining the Video size limitations, the Layar support team informed me that the limit is 250MB and once loaded, they optimize the video for mobile use. Once the URL is supplied you are required to add a cover image. If the video file is uploaded, the cover image is taken from the video’s first frames.
While experimenting with video, I noticed that when I move away from a Page with video the video will pause and resume when I return to that page. While this could be desirable behavior for most applications, I wouldn’t assume it for everyone. It would be good to have an option to restart the video when the Page is re-scanned.
Show a Carousel
Show a Carousel is a button that will allow you to upload up to 12 JPG or PNG images. There are no restrictions on image size or resolution. The image displayed is the 1st image in the Carousel, however, it is somewhat obscured by the swiping instructions.
Show a Linkable Carousel
Show a Linkable Carousel is the same as Show Carousel, except that each image is given its own URL. The Widget is kind enough to highlight images in red when they are missing a link and to not allow you to save the dialog until all images have a URL.
Show a SoundCloud Widget
Show a SoundCloud Widget is a bit friendlier, as it will take the album cover and recording information from SoundCloud and display it when scanned.
- Show a Twitter Feed
- Like Your Page on Facebook
- Share a Message on Facebook
- Follow You on Twitter
- Share a Message on Twitter
- Share a Message using Email
- Share Page
- Pin It on Pinterest
Show a Twitter Feed
Show a Twitter Feed is an interesting button that puts a short Twitter feed onto the scanned image.
Twitter Feed Dialog
Like Your Page on Facebook
Share a Message on Facebook
Follow You on Twitter
Share a Message on Twitter
Share a Message using Email
Note – the difference between “Send an Email” in the Basic buttons and “Share a message using email” on the Social button is that the Basic button has a fixed recipient address and allows a subject but no body, the Social button allows you to enter a default subject and body, but the user must supply the email addresses.
Share Page allows you to share a page via the standard iOS and Android sharing facility. However, sharing by Email currently only works on iOS.
Share Page Dialog
Scanner Display upon Clicking
Pin It on Pinterest
The Advanced buttons, which were not tested as part of this review, are only available to premium account customers and comprise the options:
- HTML Frames
- Play video with Alpha channel
- Hack your own button
- Launch a Geo-Layer
- Launch an App
Layar has an on-line preview facility as part of the editor interface. Simply click on the Test button at the top of the page and the Page will be displayed for scanning. One nice feature of the preview functionality is that you can easily test numerous pages sequentially by clicking individually down the list of pages that are shown on the left of the editor. Please note that you cannot test printed Pages until they are published.
The Layar Scanner runs on iOS and Android. The Scanner must first be pointed at a Target and the screen needs to be tapped to initiate a scan. If a target is not located in five seconds, the scan will time out. When the Scanner is in the process of scanning, the image gets a blue tinge to let you know it is working. Once a Page has been scanned, if you move away from the Page you will get a “Pop out to continue” prompt at the bottom of the screen. Tapping this prompt will generate a reproduction of the scanned Page and Objects that can be zoomed and dismissed.
Image Off Screen
The Scanner was fast and generally reliable even when images were partially occluded, however, it was confused with the tree images. If I transitioned from anything to either tree, the tree was reliably recognized. However, if I transitioned from Tree 1 to Tree 2, the transition was not recognized. Oddly, once Tree 2 was correctly recognized, a transition to Tree 1 was also successfully recognized. It was only the transition from Tree 1 to Tree 2 that caused problems.
The Scanner has the inconvenience that it needs to be restarted when content changes.
Layar does an excellent job of error handling. Invalid URLs and email addresses are caught. A missing “http://” prefix is automatically added to URLs.
Demo Account Limitations
You can create what you want and do screen testing, but you cannot publish until you pay. Additionally, a Premium account will get you some reporting and allow you to use the Advanced buttons, described earlier in this review.
Layar has three pricing tiers – Basic, Pro and Premium. A detailed comparison of the options is available here. All account types give unlimited Page scans. Basic and Pro are differentiated by the duration of publishing, as well as add some additional statistics and the ability to have bundle pricing for the Pro account.
Please note, however, that the Layar pricing does have a catch. It is only valid if all of the conditions below apply:
- You or your company generate a yearly revenue of less than EUR 2 million.
- You or your company employ less than 10 people.
- You’re using the Services to serve an audience in one country only.
- If you’re using the Services on behalf of a customer, your customer also meets all of the above conditions.
What’s to like
- The Layar Creator interface is quick, clean and intuitive
- Very good error handling and edit checking
- Large array of button options
- Allows cancellation of button modifications
- Did not convert City and Tree images from Portrait to Landscape
- Good recognition of all Pages with exception of moving between Tree images
- Scanner restart not required when previously scanned content changes
What’s not to like
- On-line help is almost non-existent for this tool
- No configurable Trigger Events. Only Event is a Tap.
- No Media Library access
- No scan quality indicators
- Lack of 3D capability using this interface
- Lack of reporting capabilities
- Only on-line scan testing
- Very short scanning time-out