How to make a killer news app for the mobile first world
What do you need to know?
The present state of news reading via mobile applications have increased dramatically over the past 4 years and the pace is yet to grow. The key performance drivers for this massive shift of reading news via newspapers and magazines to reading news and magazines on mobile are:
1. cheaper smartphones
2. cheaper internet
3. saving time and money (also paper)
4. Extreme advantage of customised content consumption from multiple sources across multiple devices.
5. Better analytics for publishers to study user persona, likes and dislikes enabling them to publish better content.
In this blog, we are going to directly jump into the problems faced by news publishers & enterprises to deliver the experience their readers crave for in the age of facebook instant articles and Google AMP.
Quoting from above, as you know Facebook Instant Articles and Google AMP has done a massive progress in caching/speeding up loading speed by indexing articles or pages for readers enabling them to click on any link and get the page loaded in their device with proper formatting, font, images and embedded videos in under 1-2 seconds despite slow internet.
Now the biggest problem for publishers today is to keep their readers hooked in their app(let aside UI/UX), which means:
- They need to come up with a mobile strategy which actually has all the capabilities like facebook instant articles along with displaying custom content as per an individual reader’s taste and preference without losing the user’s attention in the process.
- In-depth user behavior analytics to produce better and yet personalised content.
- Letting users consume their content in low bandwidth connections/offline or even better, without even downloading their app! You heard it right, today we have a solution for that.
- Reduced app size.
Sodio Tech Solution:
We have done extensive research on the challenges both user experience and technology wise.
So let’s get started:
1. Develop a native app:
In this argument, native always wins in the 2017 era since cross platform apps have limited functionalities, permission levels, and scalability challenges. Of all the top grossing apps in the play store and app store, 100% of them are native apps. The advantages of building a native app is not only great UX but also a stable and scalable architecture to keep up well with future releases. We prefer using MEANSTACK to develop our apps ensuring maximum scalability and robustness as per the future and state of the internet.
2. Caching data:
Caching data from the app end and from the server end ensures your content is loaded almost instantly with every click a user is making. For client side or app side caching, the data is first stored and then passed from the local device without requesting the same data over and over from the server.
In server side caching, all the required resources are stored at the server end without having to repeat the process of building a document again and over completely from the database upon each request.
Ideally, Memcached (used by Youtube, Wikipedia, Twitter) and Varnish (used by BBC, Wired, Business Insider, Zappos) are used for high-end server side caching.
Server-side caching can be a bit tricky to execute properly because of the in-depth knowledge required to do so. Though, if done properly smart caching and memory consumptions can really give the feeling of browsing through Facebook Instant Articles in your News app.
3. Run your apps without installation:
Yes you heard that right Google recently launched Android Instant Apps enabling users to experience the exact look and feel of your flagship Android app without even directly downloading them to their device, which means directly accessing your news app beautifully through social media, search, messages and deep links,
Though as of now Android instant apps are available on Android 6.0(API 23) and Google is yet to extend support to Android 5.0(API21). Android Instant Apps can also be brought to existing apps without altering the source code/APIs.
To get started with implementing Android Instant Apps to your news app download the latest version of Android Studio 3.0 here.
As of now, there is not a similar feature available for IOS apps/devices yet but it is definitely going to revolutionise the way how content is consumed among Android users also giving a competitive advantage towards brands who are first to adopt.
4. Making content available to read offline:
We have already talked about server side caching and making content load faster, there is yet another way to engage readers who prefer reading in areas which have little to no internet connectivity.that is by enabling caching at app end in the form of a Call to Action button. Which means people can save content they wish to read later by simply hovering over to the CTA and the content is saved directly to the local device without being parsed from the server upon each request.
5. Targeted and Personalised User Experience:
Though all content is fetched from the backend and database, it is always advisable as a top mobile app development company to deliver definite and relatable content experience to users. Look around yourself, of all the top grossing apps who are in the content business deliver a personalised set of articles, blogs and videos for you which match your taste, browsing behavior and preference.
Each user will have a different and friendlier experience with your News app if people are happy with the content that they see, to achieve this you need to have an effective content management system at the backend of the app which automatically relates an article and prompts the user to read it by learning the reading patterns of the user from the articles the user has read before.
The best way to effectively organise content in your app and also at the database end is to define the distribution of content under categories like “USA”,”ASIA”,UK, sub-categories like “Tech”, “Arts”, “Politics and tags like #USElections2017 or #DonaldTrump to achieve more perfection.
If you dig down deeper effective machine learning & NLP techniques could be introduced to study exactly what a user’s persona is like and automatically learn and show them relatable content but that is not required here as we are talking to build the MVP of your mobile app in the agilest way.
This is the most important if you talk about design perspectives, a good news app should have an easy user onboarding process. At Sodio we keep the entire signup/sign-in flow including SMS verification under 5 seconds.
Following that a small set of tutorials/slides explaining the main features of the app or highlighted buttons with help texts bloating on top of sections just to familiarize the first time users with the UI, helping them navigate without any problem.
As per the last point, displaying a set of tabs/sections to categorise the news articles for example under nation, international we can add sports, tech, and health. Also adding a trending now slidebar would be an icing on the cake to navigate your readers from their preferred topic to know what is really going on in the world.
The next part is having a share button on every article to share it across every possible social media/messaging app also deep linking using Branch.io. Having an easy sharing option will always help grow your audience by bringing more audience to read your content.
Optimising content for tablets and Ipad is extremely important since a 2016 research has shown growing number of audiences using tablets and iPad apps to read their news since they have larger screens and thus provide a better experience.
With all that being said, we hope you are set to launch your killer news app for the mobile first world. There is one more thing we did not talk about that was how to deliver videos in your articles which also has a fast buffer speed just like youtube but without using youtube API, well you can use Apache Kafka, Amazon Web Services Cloudfront CDN,Amazon S3, Wowza for that.
Also, an Admin Panel/Dashboard with our advanced set of solutions could give you valuable user insights and analytics on how people behave in your app, where do they lose interest and which age group reads more at what time and a lot more.
In case our approach interests you, you could always be in touch with your resourceful team at Sodio to brainstorm here!