An important facet of maximizing the impact of a business’s product or service is to make your potential customer base as large as possible, by not excluding any possible mediums of distribution. In the early years of computing the Personal Computer (PC) was the only device web services would be required to cater to. As the PC was a very defined unit, the content would be designed specifically to work on this device and this would work for all users.
However the PC is no longer the only device that can access internet applications and as such web services must design their website for all devices, or risk reducing the value of their business by being limited to users of a single device. An important development in computing is the emergence of mobile devices as a large source of accessing the web. Users want to be connected to the web at all times, which is done easily via mobile devices, and although there is still not seamless access to the web it is of vital importance that businesses make themselves available as much as possible.
An important case worth discussing against this technology pattern is the distribution of news. Originating from newspapers this method of distribution thrived on its ease of access and mobility, now with the rise in mobile web access these features can be repeated by supplying news via mobile devices. This post will concentrate specifically on 7 News’ use of multiple platforms to distribute news to a wider audience and how it has used this pattern successfully.
1. Design from the start to share data across devices, servers and networks
Although Seven News is quite successful as a television program and desktop website, news is most successful when it is easy to access on the move (eg. Newspapers), as most users will wish to access it while commuting to work. With the rise in mobile devices this has been made possible digitally, via the Seven News App available on the iTunes and Android stores. By developing a separate application for the use on different devices and connecting them to the same servers, Seven News is able to provide a tailored experience to each device while providing users with the same news stories.
2. Think Location Aware
The iPhone and Android apps make use of the location tracking setting to provide local news relevant to where the user lives. Therefore each user will be able to view both national news and news stories that could potentially effect them. As most mobile devices will be running of their mobile data, the app allows users to download stories through their free WiFi at home and access the saved stories on the move. Therefore allowing access to news stories even when an internet connection is not available.
3. Use the power of the network to make the edge smarter
As servers will always be more powerful than individual’s mobile devices, Seven News (as with many internet services) perform any heavy calculations on the server side and simply provide the result to users. The Seven News app simply receives HTML pages in response to any news story the user clicks and videos can even be streamed off the main servers aswell. This reduces any calculations on the users devices to simply requesting and receiving HTML code.
4. Leverage devices as data and rich media sources
By allowing users to share and create content on their mobile devices you allow a constant and up-to-date stream of media. Seven News lacks in this respect as it does not allow users to comment on news articles which could potentially bring a social aspect to reading the news. Although comments would have to be monitored, the resulting discussion of news articles would be highly beneficial to providing users with extended viewpoints.
5. Make one-click peer-production a priority
Due to the smaller size and processing power or mobile devices, the limitations in input and display need to be considered to minimize usage barriers. Seven News has developed this external iPhone and Android app to compensate for these differences in devices, by providing the user with a simple and easy to use interface. This allows articles to be easily accessed and read on smaller, touch-screen devices.
There are however potential issues and debates around the improper use of services over multiple devices which will be discussed below.
With the wide range of devices available that can access web services it is important that applications are developed to be compatible with as many as possible. For Apple devices an App Store application will need to be developed, along with a similar application for the Android store. By developing downloadable applications you can ensure compatibility with the devices in that medium, rather than just relying on a simple web page.
As most mobile devices rely on WiFi to download data, or otherwise use up expensive mobile credit, it is important to provide ways for users to be connected at all times. Seven News has accomplished this by downloading news stories whenever the user has a WiFi connection available, allowing users to access these at later times.