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When we slid into the mobile app game everyone was still trying to figure out the best solution (hey, it’s an evolving sport even today). Since then we’ve built native apps, HTML5 apps, shell apps, responsive websites, mobile sites that compliment the full site. We even wrote the book on it to help clients figure it out.
It’s funny when you start to talk mobile strategy—seems like everyone has a really strong opinion. I was talking to someone the other day that was so anti-native and so pro-HTML5 I could barely get a word in edgewise.
Our really strong opinion is that you have to choose the right strategy for the project, no reason to put a stake in the ground and declare your position across the board.
Different Mobile Strategies Explained
Let’s look at what we’re talking about here:
- Native App: An app built to run on a specific platform (iOS which runs on iPhone/iPad/iPod, Android, Windows Phone).
- Pros: Works really well on the specific device; can access device features like the camera, contacts and email; can work offline; is easy for users to get from an app store; easy to charge money for the app.
- Cons: Expensive to build; has to be redesigned slightly and redeveloped completely for additional platforms.
- HTML5 App: Also called a web app, uses new web technology (HTML5, CSS3, jQuery) to produce a product that looks and functions almost identically to a native app.
- Pros: Design and develop once to hit every platform, even the ones with smaller market shares like BlackBerry; can be developed by a traditional web developer instead of finding a specialist; easy to push updates anytime; best bang for the buck if you can sacrifice certain features.
- Cons: Difficult to charge money for; some users will have a difficult time “installing” it (saving it to their devices homescreen); cannot access some device features; can be slower than a native app.
- Shell App: An app that uses HTML5 or another kind of programming language that is then wrapped with a piece of software (PhoneGap, Appcelorator) to function like a native app and be released via the app stores.
- Pros: Develop one app and release on multiple platforms.
- Cons: Hybrid apps don’t always look right cross platform—iOS has very specific design patterns that are different from Android and vis versa; many developers find they spend as much time trying to learn yet another system as it would take to do it natively; many people find that they are just not quite right. As of yet, this isn’t a course we recommend taking, although it has a lot of promise.
- Responsive Website: A website that changes layout depending on what device you use. The website uses the same HTML5 code and then controls the display with CSS3.
- Pros: Works well on a variety of devices and platforms; the only strategy presented that includes a view for a traditional desktop/laptop as well as mobile and tablet; easy to keep all views in sync so there is only one place to update code.
- Cons: Can be expensive to build if it’s not truly needed (some designers/developers are pushing for always including a responsive site—great idea if your client has the budget); needs to be really well thought through to decide what is dropped on the mobile view versus the desktop view to make sure each experience is complete and not just a crummy fail over.
- Separate Mobile Site: A site that compliments the regular website, but is developed to be completely separate.
- Pros: Works exactly as intended on the mobile view; can be designed/developed to use the same content as the main site (so there aren’t multiple places to update things); can be a cheap and easy add on to an existing website without touching the current code.
- Cons: Even though you can use the same content, it’s a different set of code so if something major (like the logo) changes it will need to be updated in multiple places; it is not as complete in the information as the complete site and often includes a “view full site” button.
Different Mobile Strategies in Action
We built this app natively for Boart Longyear. Why: This app is used on tradeshow floors where there often isn’t internet available; the app connects to the device’s camera to scan codes and pull up the related information.
We built this app using HTML5 for Boart Longyear’s Drillers Connect. Why: This app is used all over the world, most workers in the field will use an Android or iPhone to access the information, but some will look it up on a desktop.
Despite our best efforts to use Dreamweaver/PhoneGap we just cannot get an app to come out and install on the other side.
We built this website to be fully responsive. Why: Each view had to have full access to the entire site. Many people search for their next job while on their lunch break at their current job, and they do with a mobile/tablet device. To include the same information on something as small as a phone or tablet we shortened the logo and introduced alternate navigation.
Separate Mobile Site
We added this site onto the current Chow Truck website, we also have two more of these in the works. Why: There are very few businesses that we would recommend doing this for — but a restaurant, especially one that is in a different place every day—is going to see the most traffic from mobile phones. When you are in the car, on your phone there are very few things you want to know: where the place is, if they are open and what’s on the menu. About us, history, news, awards, etc are not as urgently important. Plus, we’ve recently learned that Open Table strongly encourages restaurants to have a mobile site and menu.
The Future of Mobile Strategies
Mobile strategies are evolving quickly. We look forward to the day that a shell app or good HTML5 to native wrapper works well, native apps are expensive—but in the right light give the proper ROI (anyone else taken out a second mortgage to support a Candy Crush habit?). We were fully onboard thinking that everyone needs a responsive component, but then we looked at the additional design/development and realized a lot of smaller clients are good with a single target site—as long as that site still works on a mobile it doesn’t have to exactly fit the mobile.
What are your experiences, either as a consumer or site owner with different mobile strategies?
I was going to use one of these book covers for my first book, some of you even helped by voting on them. In the end, even though they were clever, they were scrapped for a design that allows you to read the entire title from the Amazon thumbnail image.
I’m posting them here for reference on a future post about how to publish a book.
I’ve been updating several websites lately and focusing on cleaning up titles and adding meta descriptions. This was all kicked off when I rebuilt www.buildingamobileapp.com to take advantage of Google Author Rank and rich snippets. So now when you search for “building a mobile app” you’ll see my face next to my site.
2013 Best Practices for Webpage Titles
- Make your titles descriptive, include your brand name, but separate them with delimiters like a hyphen, colon or pipe.
- Make sure every page on your site follows the same protocol. You can set this up to work in WordPress, or do it by hand on a small site.
- See Google Webmaster Tools Reference Article ›
2013 Best Practices for Meta Descriptions
Below the title in your HTML you should add a Meta Description (please note, these are different than Meta Tags). This is a short sentence about each page that describes the PAGE, not the site.
You use code that looks like this:
<meta name=”description” content=”We serve only the best, high-quality, fresh ingredients prepared in authentic Middle Eastern style. We also have vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options.”>
Before & After
So, does it work, does it matter? Originally on the Mazza website I had a whole bunch of different titles, like:
- Mazza Middle Eastern Cuisine – Menu
- Locations & Reservations – Mazza
See, I didn’t have a pattern, I just put whatever. I also had no meta descriptions, so the text under the title looked like an unholy mess when you searched for “mazza cafe”:
The screen shot above was taken on February 7,2013.
I went through and put in titles that all follow the same protocol:
- Dinner Menu | Mazza Middle Eastern Cuisine
- Locations | Mazza Middle Eastern Cuisine
- Reservations | Mazza Middle Eastern Cuisine
I also added meta descriptions to each page, like:
- We serve only the best, high-quality, fresh ingredients prepared in authentic Middle Eastern style. We also have vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options.
- Mazza Middle Eastern Cuisine has two locations to serve you, 9th & 9th and 15th & 15th.
- Mazza Middle Eastern Cuisine now accepts reservations at both locations through Open Table.
So what does the search for the same term return a couple weeks later on February 22? This magnificent view:
I think my meta descriptions are too long, and I also think I can drop the brand name (Mazza Middle Eastern Cuisine) from them. All in all though, I’m very happy to see that in a couple short weeks the search experience is much cleaner.
As promised, here is my quick round up of how to write and publish a book.
Just Get Started
Seriously, just start. Get Evernote, or use Google Dos and write pieces of the book as they come to you. Some days you will just make a list, other days you’ll write a few chapters, just get it all out there. I did this for about a year before my first book became a reality.
Once you are ready to get your outline together and pull the trigger you are going to sprint to the finish line. Don’t let this ruin your life. Get. It. Done.
Get Your Outline Together
Once you feel ready to get serious — write your outline. You’ll know after this what you still need to write and where your book is headed.
This is an article that helped me finally make the leap and get serious › He has a lot of say on the matter in different posts.
From your outline you’ll complete your first draft. You will be on top of the world! You’ll fell like you are almost done! You will tell everyone that it will release in a few weeks! You will be a liar! You are now… 2/5ths finished? 1/10th? This is where it got tough for me.
Send your book off to someone to proof and edit it. Hire it done or get someone you trust to call you on your crap to do this. Thank you Karen for your time and talent here.
Design and Editing
While your book is being proofed start designing it. Chapters, charts, icons, all of that. This just about killed me — and I’m a designer! I had to call in Kira to help out and I cannot thank her enough for her hours on this. Again, hire this done and have someone help you — right now you need some distance from your book.
Once you have the design styles — add in your newly edited copy and start reading it again. If you’ve given yourself enough distance between the first draft — editing/proofing/design — and this new formatted draft you’ll see your book with new eyes and be able to be objective in your updates. Get all your updates in and then send it through the Create Space process and order a physical proof.
The first thing you will see back from Create Space is a proof version. An ACTUAL BOOK! A PHYSICAL THING that came from your MIND (thank you Karen for that phrase). Suddenly you will hold it and you will think, “what was I thinking with this thing here?”. I cannot stress enough how the change from digital to physical will give you another fresh perspective on it. Keep editing and ordering proofs until you are happy.
I honestly wasn’t going to do this. I wanted to write a book, maybe sell 100 copies and go on my merry way. And then I met Dave Hendrickson — he launches products, and he took my book and ran with it.
After all you’ve put in to write, design, edit and publish a book, push it as far as it will go. Here is a quick overview of the elements of my book marketing:
- Author Website
- Amazon Author Page
- Book Website
- Video on Book Website
- Sign up for App Planning Blueprint on book website
- Launch Party
- Press Releases (thanks to Melissa at Red Queen Book Arts for her help on the last two)
And a whole bunch of behind the scenes SEO, price adjustments, etc, etc. Seriously, just hire Dave to take care of this for you.
The 6 Hard Lessons I Learned
- You need a team. I needed an editor, a designer and a marketer to pull this off. And of course my partner Steve. I’m DIY to the bone, and more than capable of doing all of this myself—but it would have never happened.
- Amazon’s services are not very interrelated. I now have different accounts with:
- Amazon – regular old shopping/customer account.
- Amazon Affiliates – for revenue and link tracking
- Author Central – for my profile page
- Look Inside the Book – for that preview on the paperback
- Create Space – for the publishing
- KDP – for publishing on Kindle
- Everything will take just a little longer than you think. From editing to waiting for your proof approval, proof printing, author page, kindle edition, blah blah blah. Things I assumed would be instant had 5-7 days lead time. Oh, and don’t fix a quick typo and reupload your book before launch — it marked mine on Amazon as “out of print” for a few hours, thankfully just a few hours though.
- Don’t write a book if you want to make money. Ok, maybe this will change in the future, but I think at this point I’d need to sell like 2 million copies to break even. That’s an exaggeration, but the time and money I’ve spent on this endeavor will only be recouped in other related ways—more/better app projects, additional book revenue, speaking engagements, etc.
- Get it out the door. Your own project is painful, it will never be what you want it to be, it will never be finished, the cover will never be what Kira envisions, it just won’t — but you have to let go and get it done. Suffer over new ideas and the next big thing—don’t die over a typo.
- Only have one version. I wanted to release a color version (deluxe), but it made the book more expensive than I would like, so I released the black/white (standard) and then the Kindle. There are now three files to try to keep sync’d. The thing I’ll do next is drop the deluxe version and then redo the InDesign file to work for both the printed and Kindle edition so there is only ever one master file.
ARRRRGH! Why can’t I comment as myself on a client’s Facebook Page? Why can’t I post this picture with my phone on my business Facebook Page?
Yeah, I’ve been there. For a while we had another account to manage our business Facebook pages. As an agency we help admin a handful of Facebook Pages — but just because I liked something one of our clients does (Age Performance in this case) doesn’t mean I want to post “Great interview, guys!” as Age Performance.
Facebook finally released a way to better manage everything from your personal account. If you have created two accounts (a business and a personal account) you should know that this violates Facebook Terms of Service and can cause accounts to be shut down and access denied.
5 Things to Know About Managing a Facebook Fan Page from a Personal Account
Make sure you understand the difference between a profile (your personal Facebook account, in my case the one that lists my name, Amber Sawaya) and a page (your business’ fan page, in my case Sawaya Consulting or Age Performance).
1.Choose the correct persona.
In the top right corner there is a drop down to choose to “Use Facebook As”. If you are already using it as a page and want to switch back to your regular profile, choose your name from the list.
Choose if you are the page or the profile, this shows at the top of the page.
3. You need a separate app on your phone to post as a business.
The Facebook app your have on your phone is for your personal profile only. There isn’t a way around this in the app that I’ve seen. You need a separate app to do think (post, add photos, etc) as a page.
4. You can add new admins and specify privileges in the Admin Section
This is an update if you have been doing the old “find the user and make them an admin” game. Just go straight to the admin section and add an email address. Then choose what this new admin can do:
5. Double check to make sure the icon you are posting as is the correct one.
With all these different tools you just need to be careful. Check the icon as you post and make sure it’s the right one—no one wants to see the social media faux pas of posting the wrong thing as the wrong page.
Do you need to take a minute and close down any alternate accounts you’ve been using? While you’re at it, make sure your profile picture and cover photo are up to date and look great.