When planning for 2016 consider these 6 trends to stay ahead in the ever changing digital landscape.
New innovative touch based technologies will allow readers to interact with your app in fresh engaging ways, notifications will become more relevant, useful and interactive. The wrist will become home to important alerts and quick digestible information. Customer support and participatory design will play a larger role in the product development cycle. While we expect to see publishers and news apps incorporate these trends to stay leaders in the digital space, understanding and utilizing Apple News may have the largest impact.
Apple News should be a high priority for publishers and news orgs who want to innovate and stay relevant. Top news organizations and indie publications have already taken to the new platform to test the waters.
The service isn’t available yet in Canada but publishers can prepare for the transition by registering through iCloud News Publisher. You can register today and set up a channel. Upon signing up, publishers are told they will be notified when Apple News Format is available. Until then it’s possible to add content to Apple News via RSS feeds. iCloud News Publisher currently allows those who register to set up multiple channels, create multiple sections per channel to organize news categories and add multiple RSS feeds per section.
Eventually Apple News Format will provide a plugin that works with current CMS platforms and will provide analytics and tools to measure engagement.
App Search Improvements
iOS 9 provides users with new ways to find and engage with content from their favourite apps. Publishers can now index app content enabling users to search for, engage with and deep-link into apps more quickly using Spotlight Search.
There are a few approaches to take when considering app search improvements. The first method is to index all content as an app receives it. However, Apple recommends that content should not be blindly indexed, advising news apps to only index trending topics and articles that readers are engaging with.
The second method helps make local search more relevant. This is very similar to the previous method except it allows an app to index content only when a user interacts with it. The logic being, if the content was important enough for the user to interact with it, they may want to find it later.
Lastly, the third method requires the most effort to implement but will provide the best user experience for readers and the best value for publishers. Additional web markup and metadata can be added to web content so that search results within Spotlight Search display more useful and engaging information, such as images.
Apple states that by adopting their search-related APIs appropriately, publishers can improve the relevancy and ranking of their search results in Spotlight Search. What’s great is that publishers get to control what content gets indexed and what information will show in search.
Do you ever find yourself frustrated with the amount of notifications you get? Do you find that sometimes “breaking news” isn’t really that urgent? Your readers do. Readership segmentation already tells you that your audience has different needs and wants. Offering personalization of notification types allows people to be notified about what they truly care about.
Notifications can be fun, useful and rewarding. To make notifications more engaging turn them into interactive notifications. Interactive notifications have been available for quite some time now and enable readers to not only engage with notifications in new ways, but provides publishers with more data on how their audience interacts with their app. Some news publishers use interactive notifications to allow their readers to save or bookmark stories for reading later, share a story immediately to their networks or just say “Woah” when a story or headline really shocks them.
The unconventional “Woah” feature that Breaking News uses to see which stories are resonating with their readers isn’t the only innovative digital approach their taking. Location tracking and geofencing provide Breaking News readers with Proximity Alerts.
“When big news breaks near your location, we’ll let you know. Our editors control how big the radius of the alert is to make sure it reaches you at a relevant, important time (iOS only).” – Breaking News
Along with personalization, contextually aware notifications can add a significant amount of valuable functionality by supplying the right information at the right place and time. For example, a morning traffic alert could be sent to readers who are identified to commute daily to work every morning, or an evening briefing can be delivered upon arriving at back at home.
Notifications on Apple Watch are an especially powerful asset that you should leverage to keep your current audience engaged. If your readers have notifications enabled, all notifications that are sent to their iPhones and iPads are sent to their Apple Watch as well. It’s a global on or off switch per app, this is why notification preferences are key to keeping readers engaged in a hyper connected environment.
Apple Watch does an amazing job of providing contextual and timely information, displaying it succinctly in a manner that can be digested in seconds. Glances on Apple Watch provide a solution for this through scannable summaries of information that your readers want to view frequently. It’s important to think about what information you could be delivering to your reader that’s relevant, useful and ideally actionable.
Glances are useful but requires an action from a user to become visible on the watch face. In order to bring information to a user before they even ask for it, Apple has taken the idea of Glances one step further by introducing Complications.
“Complications are small elements that appear on the watch face and provide quick access to frequently used data. Users can customize most watch faces and install the complications that they want to see. The system provides built-in complications for weather information, upcoming calendar events, the user’s activity, and many more types of data. Apps can also add support for complications and display app-specific data.” – Apple watchOS 2 Transition Guide
Open Dialogue with Readers
We often use analytics to measure engagement and assume we know what users want based on how the data shows they interact with an app. While we can glean a lot of valuable information from analytics, sometimes having a conversation with your readers is even more valuable. Readers feel valued when their feedback is taken seriously and acted upon. Involving them in the design process is a great way to ensure their needs are met and that they find value in the product and service you are providing.
Show readers you understand their needs. Turn occasional detractors into promoters, give support agents the tools they need to empathize and align themselves with the point of view of readers. Customer support channels allow agents to deflect negative reviews from the app store and instead turn those comments into actionable items for design and development teams to consider and improve.
By integrating customer support channels into your app you create a communication channel directly from your readers to your development team. Product designers can leverage support conversations to better understand bottlenecks and pain points in the user experience, improving the experience for a lot of readers by listening to only a handful.
Other Innovative Technologies
3D Touch brings a heightened level of intimacy and engagement to mobile apps. By taking advantage of pressure sensitivity in the display, Apple has enabled a new means of interactivity with their mobile devices. Haptic feedback is used to reward and encourage using the new interaction paradigm, or how Apple describes it “not only will you see what a press can do — you’ll feel it.”
3D Touch also brings Quick Actions to iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus users. Quick Actions allow users to—as the name implies—interact more quickly with your app, by displaying shortcuts that become visible when pressing firmly on your app icon from the home screen. Up to four quick actions can be displayed at once and can be dynamically created. Think of Quick Actions as navigation shortcuts that can adapt contextually and be aware, updating based on variables such as location, time of day, and app usage behaviour.
While 3D Touch and Quick Actions may be newer technologies, one often overlooked feature that has been available for a few device generations and even offers a layer of security is Touch ID. Touch ID also allows users to sign in and purchase items easily using a quick tap of a finger.
Interactive notifications become more relevant, turning the wrist into a mini dashboard for bite sized information. Customer support becomes a tool to unlocking the qualitative data that analytics alone cannot provide and Apple News may very well change everything.
Publishers, when preparing for 2016 consider these new technologies and mobile news app trends. Enable readers to interact with your apps in fresh engaging ways.
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