Archive for the ‘Mobile’ Category
It’s no mystery to me why news organizations feel they have to create “apps” to deliver their news. What I don’t understand is why we feel compelled to use them. The usual argument offered by the publishers is that an app allows them to enrich the reader’s experience in various ways, but that doesn’t wash any more. I don’t really want a snazzier interface or richer experience. I want news that I can get to quickly without getting bogged down in labyrinthine menus and promotional links.
Especially on my Android.
I’ve tried a lot of the leading news applications. At best, all they do is bog down my handset by using up memory. (I’m referring to apps produced and marketed by the news media themselves — not the third-party news apps like NewsRob and Google Reader, which use RSS feeds to deliver news. I don’t like those either, but that’s a different story.)
The real reason all these news organizations want their own apps is to track who’s reading what and to eventually sell you the app. I’m all in favor of creating revenue streams for our troubled media, but that’s not the way to do it. Humble HTML for years has provided a universal medium for presenting news. And if there was a gadget missing that we simply couldn’t live without, it’s available in HTML 5.
Best of all — from the standpoint of the poor user who’s just trying to get his news without crashing his smartphone — HTML allows me to get all my news without installing a bunch of programs and worrying about sloppily written code and viruses.
Publishers, of course, want me to use their apps so that they can lock me into their version of the news (usually for advertising reasons). But I don’t want to be locked in. I want to move freely from CNN to The New York Times to Huffington Post to Drudge to ABC to Mashable to NPR to Time to (name your favorites). And if I use all those publishers’ apps, I’m going to spend more time pulling my battery to reboot my smartphone than I am reading the news. (Trust me, I’ve tried.)
The publishers would be better advised to put their resources into better sites. My friend Wade Kwon today shared a link to an excellent story about how news sites can be designed to make it easier to get to the news we need. Bravo.
If the venerable Adobe PDF format were a person, it would be old enough to vote, and it hasn’t changed much in all that time. It’s an easy shortcut for posting anything from academic papers to brochures. But for any purpose related to marketing, it’s time to bury it.
A new report from the Pew Internet Project finds that 25 percent of Americans are now doing most of their Internet browsing by phone. And if you’re relying on PDFs to reach those people, you’re missing a big chunk of your market. Why? Because phones — even the smartest of phones — hate PDFs. PDFs are bigger than HTML files, so your user has to wait longer to see them. Just like our laptops, they generally need a third-party application to even render a PDF. Even then, they do it poorly. Your poor would-be reader (soon to be a former reader) is likely give his pinch-to-zoom a few tries and give up, hitting the home button and moving on to something that is more considerate of his needs. And that “something” will likely be one of your competitors.
Relying on PDFs for your content today sends all the wrong messages, including these:
- We’re lazy. We can make a PDF in a minute and post it, but it might take us an extra 10 minutes to give you an easier-to-use HTML version. Deal with it.
- We don’t really get technology.
- We’re getting calls on our marketing stuff. Don’t worry us with details about how many we could get if we did it right. We’re content with the status quo.
- Why the hell do you want to see our stuff on your phone anyway? If it’s worth seeing, it’s worth seeing at least on a laptop.
- Quit-yer-bitchin’. We finally gave you a web site that works with something besides Internet Explorer. We don’t cater to malcontents.
Still think ditching PDFs is too much trouble? You win. By all means, keep dumping PDFs on those 87 percent of smartphone users who check the Internet or email on their phones, including the 68 percent who do so every day. Maybe this whole smartphone thing is just a passing fad anyway.
And the cow jumped over the moon.
Sure, you have a gorgeous web site. You spent a fortune and endless hours on it. But how does that beautiful site look on an iPhone?
Or a Blackberry? Or an Android?
With some 60 percent of cell phone users now using handsets to access the Internet, it’s increasingly important to make sure your site is functional on handsets as well as on big desktop screens. iPads and other tablets such as the new Android devices aren’t such a big problem, because their screens are big enough to render most sites pretty well. (On the other hand, if your site uses Flash, it’s worth keeping in mind that iPad doesn’t support that technology.)
Fortunately, making your site mobile-friendly may be easier than you think, especially if it’s built using one of major open-source content management systems such as Joomla! or Drupal. These CMS systems not only provide enormous power and flexibility, but they also allow you to install readily-available plug-ins or various functions. For example, I build my corporate web sites in Joomla! and can easily add calendars, shopping carts, RSS feeds, customer service “back ends” and other functionality. On my Joomla! sites, I used a plug-in that allowed me to use a simplified template that looks better on handsets.
If your site uses a proprietary CMS, you’re pretty much on your own. You’ll probably have to go back to the web developer and ask him or her to install software to recognize handsets and use a simplified template that is more accessible on small screens.
Whatever system you’re adapting for handsets, you will hopefully have several choices. Some scripts simply strip out the photos and graphics and render the text on the handset. These are the easiest to install and configure, and you may be able to get by with one. But if the information identifying your site is embedded in pictures, keep in mind that you’ll need to make sure visitors have a way of identifying where they are.
A more sophisticated approach is to use a script that identifies the handset and uses a different template for it, giving you more control over what the visitor sees. For example, I designed a “mobile” template for each site, with no graphics more than 500 pixels wide. (Some scripts will also downsize other photos to keep things proportional.)
Also be sure to make sure you don’t compromise too much on functionality. For example, if you have a shopping cart on your site, you still want it to work for mobile visitors. And if you’re selling products, you probably don’t want the photos eliminated completely.
iPhones, Androids and other smart phones have changed the game when it comes to reaching consumers. In fact, one could argue that people on the go often have more time for reading your email blasts and even visiting your web site. After all, what do we do when we’re sitting in a waiting room or waiting in line? We pull out our handsets to check mail and read some news.
In March, the Pew Research Center reported that 33 percent of cell phone owners now access news on their cell phones. And they’re not just kids: 45 percent are 30 or older. One in three lives in a household with an income of $75,000 or more.
So these people can be important to your business, so here are a few ideas for getting your message to them:
1. Make sure your website is mobile friendly. That means it needs to comply with current web standards. Heavy use of Flash and Java can make your site less accessible on handsets.
2. Enable RSS feeds on your website. If you use a content management system (CMS) for your site, you can usually do this simply by enabling the option or installing a plug-in. With this in place, visitors can get automatic updates on their customized home pages and mobile phones. Each time you add a new auction to your website, it will automatically show up in the RSS feed.
3. When sending email blasts and newsletters, keep the graphics to a minimum. Remember that many users read most of their email on their phones and can delete those that don’t capture their attention. This means if your picture-heavy email blast doesn’t grab the reader on his or her iPhone or Android, you may not get a chance at that same reader on the desktop. If you’re still sending e-mail blasts that consist of one big graphic, you’re missing a big chunk of your audience. On the smart phone, text rules. Remember, too, that many users have their e-mail set to block e-mail images, so you’re missing them on their desktops as well.
4. Reduce your reliance on PDF documents. We’ve all become addicted to PDF, especially for sending multi-page documents and electronic copies of brochures designed primarily for print. These are excellent as long as you’re sending them to someone who’s expecting them and who will get them on a desktop or laptop. But PDF documents can be difficult to view on a handheld. Whenever possible, render your information in either text or HTML so that the text can wrap to fit a small screen.
Amazon has announced that its Kindle software will be available on Android handsets this month — a move that will likely clear the way for the Android-based tablets that are expected to appear in the coming months.
It’s a big move, because it means that manufacturers of Android tablets will have a ready-made application that lets users buy books through the app itself (something Kindle doesn’t allow in its iPad and iPod versions for competitive reasons) and begin reading them within a minute or so. Perhaps more importantly, it will allow users to do the same with hundreds of newspapers, magazines and blogs in a touch-screen interface similar to that of the iPad.
Some industry observers predict that up to 50 tablets will be introduced in the near future, powered by a variety of operating systems including Android, Windows 7 and even Blackberry. The Wall Street Journal also reported recently that Google and Verizon are working on a Google-branded tablet. With Android handsets outselling iPhones during the first quarter, the time seems ripe for some new rollouts.
So you’re on Facebook, Twitter and the Web. Congratulations. But what about the consumer’s phone?
That’s where a growing number of consumers are getting their news and other critical information. And the numbers are reaching a point that communications professionals can no longer overlook. A recent major study by the Pew Center for Excellence in Journalism found that:
- One-third of all cell phones users use their phones/handsets for getting news.
- 18% use some type application for news content.
- 11% get news via email or text.
Still not convinced? Here are a few other “straws in the wind”:
- Google exec John Herlihy says most of Google’s online sales now target handsets, saying that “in three years time, desktops will be irrelevant.”
- Comscore reports that access to mobile Facebook access jumped 112 percent in the past year, and mobile Twitter access soared 347 percent.
- As of 2Q 2008, monthly texts outnumbered cell calls by 357 to 204 — per person.