Posts tagged ‘digital’
Earlier this month the European Parliament launched the mobile version of its ever popular (at least in the Brussels bubble) website. Hooray! Forgot the room number of the MEP you are meeting? Well now you can go on your mobile device and find it with ease.
In seeing the new site, we asked ourselves why an organisation would choose a mobile website rather than one of those trendy apps we spend far too much time (and money) downloading for our iPad/iPhones? Well, call us curious, but we decided to phone a friend far more knowledgeable than ourselves to find the answer. Gwen Foutz, SVP and Director of Mobile and Social Platforms in our Washington D.C. office and global co-chair of FH Mobile practice group happily picked up the phone. Here’s what she had to say.
What’s the difference between a native app and a mobile website?
A native application is an application designed and built for a specific operating system, e.g. iPhone iOS, Google Android, RIM BlackBerry, etc., that users download and install to their devices. A mobile website (or mobile web application) is essentially a mobile optimized website – a site designed specifically for the smaller screen and mobile context. Mobile websites are accessed through a URL and work across all web-enabled mobile devices.
Is there anything you can do with one that you can’t do with the other?
Mobile websites provide the best opportunity for a single platform to reach a majority of mobile devices with an enhanced experience, including lower-end devices not considered smartphones. Mobile websites can vary in complexity from static, information-based experiences to more robust, feature-based experiences similar to those of native applications.
Mobile apps provide the most feature-rich approach for mobile as they offer access to native device features such as GPS functionality and cameras. An app generates the highest level of engagement through an ideal mobile user experience that is tailored to the specific device it was built for. However, with the advancements that HTML5 has brought to the mobile space, the line between what is possible with mobile web vs. native apps continues to blur. More and more developers are building application-like experiences via the mobile web that can be accessed through the browser.
When would FH’s Digital Practice counsel an organisation to use one rather than the other?
We first ask the organization three critical questions before recommending a mobile solution:
1) Who is your target audience?
2) What are you trying to achieve with mobile and how does that fit with your overall business objectives?
3) How will you tell people about it?
Based on the organization’s goals and resources as well as audience research and insights, we may recommend an optimized mobile website, a native app, a text message campaign or all of the above.
Mobile optimized websites really should be seen as a starting point for most organizations before jumping into the mobile app space. Main company “.com” websites should be viewable and usable from any device, especially as mobile browsers become users’ primary browsers. Furthermore, mobile web provides the largest reach, regardless of the type of phone people are using and allows you to be found the same ways users find you on the desktop web (via direct URLs or search).
Native apps are recommended (as an addition to a mobile website) to serve a focused purpose that addresses a user need – usually in the form of providing utility or entertainment. Apps are chosen over mobile web when there is a need to offer robust functionality and features, such as those that are transactional in nature (e.g. shopping, banking), highly customizable or account-based services (e.g. photo tools, cooking/recipe assistants, travel tools), entertainment focused (e.g. streaming video and music, games) and those that are used frequently (e.g. social networking, mapping/navigation services).
What’s the easiest to develop, mobile website or app? Is the process very different?
Mobile websites typically require less overall effort to design and develop, and have a much larger reach than native apps alone. They are also easier to update and maintain once released, as updates can be pushed to all users at once and accessed via the browser, rather than a user having to download and install a new version.
Native apps have to be built platform by platform (i.e. iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, etc.) – there is no one size fits all – which requires a significant investment. Each version of the app across platforms can and should share similar user experience and design aspects, but ultimately will be built independently. Another factor is that apps have to be selected by the user, usually from an app store, which requires a significant investment in promotion and awareness-building to make people aware that it exists.
Is it common practice for public institutions to use mobile websites rather than apps?
Yes, it is fairly common for public institutions to provide mobile websites rather than apps. This is due to usually having limited development and promotional budgets and a desire to reach the widest audience possible. If the public institution desires to provide a more robust experience, they may go the native app route, but at the cost of reaching less people with their content.
Where can we find out more?
Check out these two posts from other FHers in the mobile space:
“Are You Really Ready for a Mobile App?” by Erick McNett, FH Kansas City
“There’s An App for That! Cutting Through the Clutter to Find the Best Branded Mobile Apps” by Radu Iancu, FH Cleveland
Our survey of the digital habits of Members of the European Parliament is now live at www.epdigitaltrends.eu.
The findings show that MEPs are increasingly using digital channels to reach out and to inform themselves on issues of importance. In parallel, the survey also indicates that personal contact and traditional media remain essential, highlighting to anyone engaging in communications that digital is not replacing established modes of communication, but living alongside them.
Here are ten key findings:
- 69% of MEPs use social networks whereas previously only 33% used social networks extensively.
- 29% write a personal blog, compared to 40% in 2009.
- 34% are on Twitter, up from 21%.
- 57% of Twitter users say the greatest benefit is ‘expressing views directly’ while only 28% chose ‘engaging with people through dialogue’.
- 30% of those who blog and 33% who tweet use two or more languages (English being the predominant second language).
- 99% use search engines every week, 93% every day.
- 80% are looking for simple summaries of issues when searching online.
- 78% think specific issue websites are important when informing their opinion on policy, more than the organisation sites.
- 90% name coverage in national media as an important source of information, 51% of those very important.
- 86% state that position papers from stakeholders are important, while personal contact with stakeholders is still the most important channel for interaction at 93%.
When we last conducted the survey, we were at a pivotal moment: digital in politics seemed to have gone mainstream following the French presidential campaign in 2007 and, in particular, Barack Obama’s successful campaign in 2007-08. Eighteen months on, given that enthusiasm from across the pond had abated and the European Parliament was no longer in election frenzy, we were being asked if 2009 had just been a blip. It’s great to have the figures to confirm that the trends we first detailed in 2009 have persisted, and that MEPs are increasingly connected.
Over the next few weeks we’ll be analysing a few of the findings in more detail e.g. the rise of Facebook vs. the fall in blogging. I hope many of you will be involved in the ensuing discussions, and please, fire away with comments and questions.
There has been much written in the UK media that this will be the first truly digital general election campaign. This is true to an extent, with the numbers of blogs and websites devoting themselves to politics and the election having increased widely since the last General Election in 2005 – it is hard to believe that neither Facebook nor Twitter existed the last time Britons went to the polls. So it was perhaps somewhat surprising that one of those bloggers, Iain Dale, told a packed Fleishman-Hillard London breakfast event last week that in his view, digital content and information will not dramatically influence the outcome on election day.
Dale’s analysis was that initiatives such as myconservatives.com (a tool which enables local campaigns to recruit volunteers and collect small donations) were launched too late by the Conservatives and should have been introduced earlier in the election cycle in order to have a real impact. Labour strategists are keen to point out that their version – membersnet has been operational for several years now, where initiatives such as the phone bank (where members can phone other members and voters using an online database) have been successfully deployed. However, such online phone banks are merely digitally advanced versions of more traditional campaign methods – i.e, a compliment to the long established tactics of canvassing and cold calling rather than a digital step change.
Dale also suggested that the UK should look to political systems closer to its own parliamentary democracy such as those in Europe or Australia for inspiration, as opposed to the vast Presidential election campaigning in the USA. He’s right, but not only because of the difference in style (and resources) but also because the digital elements of that election were built on a grassroots campaign for change – in the UK, there is no such instinct, with voters turned off from politics by the expenses scandal and no great desire shown for either Brown or Cameron.
Where the bloggers and political websites can be influential is in their attempts to create news agendas either as virals or in the traditional media. After some caution, journalists are beginning to report on stories created by bloggers, with Guido Fawkes having claimed senior scalps, including Peter Hain MP and Brown’s former press adviser Damian McBride. However, it is worth remembering that the UK’s biggest political scandal this year – MPs expenses – was uncovered not by the new media, but by a very old and traditional title – the Daily Telegraph.
Recent episodes such as spoof versions of David Cameron posters have perhaps best shown how virals can attempt influence. Its owner, Clifford Singer, posted spoofs of the Tories’ main billboard campaign on his website but realised the idea could grow when he almost immediately started receiving hundreds of similar versions from viewers. Within days, a simple website was created which allowed anyone to ‘invent’ their own professionally completed versions of the Tories’ campaign posters. The Labour MP and blogger Tom Watson MP has said about the viral: “MyDavidCameron.com is an example of people taking an idea and reusing it to add to a discussion and make a point. Political party managers might not like it, but it has given election billboards new relevance and interest for the forthcoming general election. It is making electioneering interesting, unpredictable and, dare I say, more fun.”
So although the internet will not control this campaign entirely, it is already challenging political strategists, campaign advertising executives and candidates to think in new ways and to respond to challenges that they would never have envisaged just a few years ago.
You can check out more about the UK elections at the F-H London blog.
Last week saw Fleishman-Hillard host a panel debate on the use of digital tools in public affairs and politics at the European Public Affairs Action Day. The videos of the contribution of our three speakers (Alexander Alvaro MEP, Pat Cleary of FH DC and Mark Redgrove of Orgalime) are now available on our YouTube channel here.
Here is the contribution of Alexander Alvaro MEP in two parts. The Q&A session of the panel discussion will be uploaded in coming days.