The Nontechnical User’s Guide to Taking Content Mobile: Distribute
This is the second post in our series, which helps you make a plan to create mobile-friendly content.
After choosing which devices you need to optimize for, it’s time to choose how to best distribute your content onto those devices. In this post, we take a look at the three major distribution options for mobile: native apps, mobile-optimized web apps, and ePub (for e-readers). To start, here are three framing questions to think about when choosing a distribution method for your content:
- What environment will your user be reading this content in?
- What kind of technical resources will your content team have access to?
- How would you like to hand off this content?
The answers to these questions will inform your decision, whether that means choosing a mobile app for employees on the go, or an e-reader for text-heavy content. With these three question in mind, let’s look into the pros and cons of three major distribution options for mobile so that you can better understand what will work best for your organization.
Whether you develop a custom app or get an “off-the-shelf” app, distributing your content through an app allows employees to easily reach your content on their devices, online and off. Apps are a great option if your employees are constantly on the go and, since apps are fixed on the device home screen, access is just a click away.
- Can create a customized, branded reading experience for user.
- Typically implies a highly polished, interactive experience.
- Offers a higher degree of control over level of offline/online availability.
- Consistent user reading experience tailored for each supported device and operating system.
- If building your own, you’ll need a lot of technical resources, including engineers and UX designers.
- App store updates can be a time consuming and costly upkeep.
- If building your own, you’ll need to construct separate apps for each of your chosen devices operatings system. This will require a skilled engineering team.
- If your mobile strategy is BYOD (“bring your own device”), you might not able to provide apps for every operating system, like Windows or Blackberry.
What to look for:
Building an app is time-consuming and demands a lot of your resources (if you have them). At the same time, you shouldn’t have to outsource that work to an agency, which will require redevelopment each time you want to make changes. Instead, look for an “off-the-shelf app,” such as Inkling Axis, that you can uniquely brand to your company. Specifically, this app should offer you an end-to-end publishing experience, where you control both the authoring and content ingestion into the app, as well as the end-user experience. One of the more important aspects is the ability to edit and update content quickly, across all devices, which comes from a cloud solution.
A Mobile-Optimized Website
Mobile-optimized websites are perfect when you need to distribute content to a large audience—simply send out a link, and you’re in business! However, this also means that your users must have wi-fi, which may not be the case for traveling employees. Also, if your website needs to be password protected, your users may tire of having to login each time, whereas an app would remember the user on their personal device.
- No app store hassle.
- Can be maintained by any in-house web team.
- Frictionless access for end-users, which is especially important if the content is primarily public-facing, instead of for internal use (such as marketing collateral).
- Requires internet to view or read.
- Requires technical staff to maintain and update the website, including web designers/developers and IT.
What to look for:
Building a website to house your content not only requires development and maintenance time, but also means that your employees have to bookmark yet another site. If you don’t want them jumping from page to page, consider an embed option. For example, Inkling has an embeddable version of the Axis framework that can be branded for your organization, Inkling Axis for Web. With this option, your users can read content in context, whether that’s sales material on Salesforce.com or HR documents on your company intranet.
An ePub or Amazon eBook edition of your content doesn’t require Internet access, which means it’s perfect for employees with limited wi-fi capabilities. Be forewarned though, EPUB readers offer very different (and at times frustrating) reading experiences and will require much more testing.
- Once downloaded there’s no internet needed to read an ePub.
- Creation can be handled in-house by one HTML and CSS-savvy individual.
- E-readers often have page turn buttons, which makes it easier for employees who use gloves on the job to move through content.
- Limited visual design and interactivity options.
- Reading experiences will vary drastically between eReaders.
- Some devices require a different ePub format (Kindle).
What to look for:
There are several platforms out there that allow you to export to ePub, so if that’s your only distribution need, it won’t be difficult to fulfill. However, if ePub is just one of several distribution options that you need in addition to print or mobile-optimized content, for example, then it’s best to look elsewhere. Look for a platform that allows you to easily export content to multiple outputs, such as Habitat, Inkling’s cloud-based authoring environment.
That’s more than enough to think about today! Next time we’ll cover the most important piece of creating a great mobile reading experience–content testing strategies.
To learn more about building managing successful digital content, read our how-to guide on the 5 Must-Ask Questions for Successful Digital Content.