What’s the best way for brands to make online magazines for their customers? We’ve talked about this before, but it’s so crucial that it’s worth mentioning again.
Fact. More and more people are using smartphones and tablets NOW to access content.
Fact. Mobile devices will be the primary devices for accessing content in the future.
The question is: what do content marketers and the brands they represent do about it? And the answer: if your core audience has gone mobile, so must you – you have to deliver content in the way that works best for your readers.
It sounds simple enough, but it isn’t because content producers have a choice to make between using a native app or a web app for content delivery.
Don’t be confused by the terminology. A native app is simply an app that is downloaded to a mobile device, that runs on a particular mobile operating system (such as Android, iOs or Windows Phone), and is specifically designed to work with the features and functionality on that device. Generally, most users will pick up a native app in an app store.
In contrast, a web app uses the latest web technologies to mimic the functionality of an app. Most people can’t tell the difference, but if you want to really understand it, check out this article from NNGroup.
Which should you choose? Here are some of the advantages of each kind of app.
Native App Advantages
Most importantly, a native app will always feel just a little bit smoother because it’s made to work with a specific mobile device and an operating system.
One of the best things a native app has going for it is the ability to use all the features built into a mobile device. That means if your online magazine includes a map, it can open in the built in maps application. And if you have a phone number in the app, smartphone users can call your business with one tap or swipe.
Another feature is the ability to access content offline. Think of something like Google Currents, where people can sync the latest news with their mobile device and read it even when they don’t have a connection. Of course, some web apps offer offline access as well.
But of course, native apps have major disadvantages – the need to have a different mobile app for every operating system and to keep these constantly up to date as those systems change. Also, mobile app development can become costly very fast.
Web App Advantages
Mobile web apps also have a lot to offer users. For example, mobile web apps are universal, no matter what mobile device they are using. And the user experience can be the same as a native app including swipes, user interface, etc.
They are much, much better for SEO because they are spidered like other websites. That’s an important consideration for content marketers.
No-one needs to install anything special to use a mobile web app and to keep them updated. They are easy to update and maintain, likely more affordable and a very important element is that no-one has the hassle of trying to get the app into an app store.
For more on the differences between the apps, there’s an excellent slide deck on the Business Insider site.
What Content Marketers Must Do
Whichever format wins out the imperative for content marketers hasn’t changed. To keep readers happy now and in the future, content marketers must make their online magazines:
- Easily obtainable (i.e., minimize steps to obtain it)
- readable on mobile
- readable by email (on mobile devices)
- easy to navigate and share
- small and adapted – easy to download
- optimized for search (which is why we’re betting on web apps)
This last point is important, because as marketers produce more content, discoverability will become even more important. That’s why web apps that include offline capability, speed and the ability to use mobile device features Nick Heath suggests on ZDNet seem a good bet for the future.