Hands-on Tips on Building Apps for Mobile

Issues and Answers from Our ‘Mobile’ Webinar

Here are 11 tips from SIPA’s recent Webinar on Going Mobile for Publishers: Developing a Content Delivery System for an Increasingly Portable World – presented by Andy Swindler, president of Astek Consulting, and Joanne Valentino, director marketing & communications for The Medical Letter Inc. The actual webinar is now up on the SIPA website member page and the excellent Q&A will be printed in the upcoming November Hotline newsletter.

From Andy Swindler:
1. One, [remember that] you’re trying to distribute your content, whether it’s paid or free. That’s…the biggest objective.

2. Something to consider on the app side is that testing for each of these [mobile] platforms tends to be a little different, and in some cases you can use actual physical devices, like an iPhone or Android. In some cases, especially with a BlackBerry, you tend to use a lot more simulators to test these apps as they’re developed, which can get fairly laborious, just in terms of actually educating people how to install a simulator and things like that.

3. Netbiscuits is a proprietary platform that—it’s kind of all or nothing. If you buy into their model, you’ll manage all of your mobile publishing through that; and then they actually have a number of solutions for sort of automatically pushing those out.

4. A big advantage to publishing with an app is that apps give you maximum control over the brand, user experience and rights management. Right now there is not anything that gives you more capabilities, especially specific to a platform, than building an app.

5. Apps tend to be better for media-rich content [though]… HTML5 is going to enable almost all or eventually maybe exactly all of the functionality you would get from an app.

6. [Another advantage: apps] have enhanced ability for offline content. This is very important if you think about [specialized] published content;

From Joanne Valentino:
7. …to bridge the gap between our website and our decision to ultimately bite the bullet and invest in creating platform-specific apps, we created a mobile website that was pared down to format more readily to mobile device and their screen sizes. We simplified the layout, removed extraneous content, and pared it down to providing only our core subscription products, the two newsletters, plus a search function.


8. Later on, for good measure, we also included a quick-reference drug and disease index, which simply was really a different way to search the same content. That bought us some time, but eventually we knew we would have to give the readers what they were asking for because, yes, customer service began reporting that subscribers were specifically asking if we intended to have an app for iPhone.

9. The hype over the apps trumped our skepticism as to whether or not there would be any measurable return on investment. We felt that in order to remain relevant and reach the younger generation of readers, it was necessary to allow our subscribers to access our content any way they wanted.

10. The app developer worked with our IT people to ensure the content would be delivered only to active, paid subscribers. Cooperation between those two entities went well, but it did consume quite a bit of time to ensure our content was protected, and accessible only to paid subscribers. Eventually we were able to come to a consensus about the main functionality of the app, but not without a lot of last-minute requests and feature changes, made by internal departments here.

11. …be prepared to table endless tweaks and save it for the next iteration.
If you can get away with it, that’s the wisest thing to do… Get it out the door, and gather the feedback from your users to see how they would like it improved. Remember, this app is not the only one you will likely do. It’s not permanent.


At today’s SIPA TwitterChat (Noon, Eastern time),
Andy Swindler will continue the mobile conversation.
Log onto your preferred Twitter client and search for
the hashtag #NicheInfo.
You then can join the conversation
from there (just make sure you include the hashtag in
your tweets as well so others can see their conversation)!
See you soon!

Bring your online publishing business up to par with this FREE white paper that will help you introduce new media into your online business model: Mobile Site Design Tips for Content Publishers.

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