The App landscape is evolving like never before, and the transition from web to the application front is proving to be a norm that is being followed by a lot of big companies. Moreover, with mobile marketing and engagement by users being at the helm of affairs, it is even more imperative for companies to enhance the transition between web to applications.
In tune with all these trends, is a strategy that is proving to be the focal point for major app developers. The crux of my article here is deep linking, which improves the UX and app interaction (and hence engagement) in a contextual manner!
EASING INTO THE BASICS: WHAT IS DEEP LINKING?
I have already discussed the point of context in a large number of articles before, so I won’t delve much into those. We are living in an era where app interaction is increasing at an amazing rate, and deep linking is just one of the ways of improving the overall app experience for the end user.
The web experience has made us used to lengthy URLs to connect the user from one web page to another, but in the world of apps, URLs are pretty much phased out. As VentureBeat put it nicely,
“Imagine a web without URLs. That’s what the mobile app world looks like now.”
So, to understand deep linking, let’s break down a standard web URL. The scheme, domain, path and query all enable us to directly jump to a particular page without having to be redirected to the home page of the website. Think of a simple Google Search: the links that show up on the search results are all direct links to the required content, bypassing the home page of the website.
Within an application, however, the conventional modus that is adapted by the end user would be to go to the home page of the app first and then navigate across multiple pages to reach the content of the user’s choice. App UX is crucial, and even a few steps reduced would imply more time saved, thereby improving the overall app engagement.
ENTER DEEP LINKING
Deep linking is the approach that is aimed at reducing these steps. Through deep linking, certain states of the application are accessed contextually (from the previous screen) to directly redirect to the screen which the user want to access.
A lot of context is involved here, as the application needs to interpret what the user wanted to access and which state of the application can respond appropriately to the user’s action. This creates a streamlined experience through more efficient and effective UX, and increases the overall app engagement and app retention!
But more than just improving the experience, deep linking provides the flexibility that app developers – specially those developing across multiple platforms – need so that they can cater to a larger audience. Let’s face it, URLs are lengthy, and multiple versions of the application on multiple platforms require different variants of the URL. Ergo, deep linking proves to be beneficial in this regard.
The strategy of deep linking has been envisioned for a couple of years now, and major companies are joining the bandwagon on improving the app UX. Cross platform deep linking standards, in particular, define how app developers can represent their in-app URL schemes in a simple, smooth and unified manner which could be understood by multiple users across multiple platforms. Notable followers of the trend of deep linking involve Google, Facebook and Twitter.
Google’s take on deep linking is through App Indexing, which basically enables app developers to get their application featured on Google Searches. If the application is already installed on the end user’s device, then the Search results directly link the user to the relevant context state / screen within the application.
Facebook employs the usage of AppLinks, which is an open source, cross platform solution for deep linking.
Twitter has, perhaps, the most interesting approach to deep linking. App Cards from Twitter recognises when URLs are included within a tweet, and Twitter’s crawler scans through the site to gather the most relevant Card type and content. Again, similar to Google’s approach, it will provide the user with a link to install the application (if the application isn’t installed in the first place), or will link the user to the most contextually relevant state/page within the application.
BENEFITS OF DEEP LINKING
Deep linking has a lot of benefits for developers and users alike. Improving the app experience is just the tip of the iceberg, and a simple approach to presenting various types of content in an application can go a long way in building a powerful ecosystem.
IMPROVED APP ENGAGEMENT
This is perhaps the most important advantage of deep linking. Deep linking enables users to access content faster and in a more streamlined manner, enabling smoother transitions from app to app or from web to app. This improves the overall experience, and increases the app engagement figures.
EASE IN DEVELOPMENT
Suppose a developer wants to develop an application on multiple platforms. Outreach to the end users, mobile marketing and a unified ecosystem would be the key point to consider, and deep linking provides an efficient approach to enhancing this experience from the developer’s view of things.
All this boils down to retention – growing the audience and then encouraging them to keep using your application. Organic distribution enables for future growth, and this potential is realised only through effective deep linking techniques.
Emberify has always maintained its stance on Context – the future of mobile, analytics, applications and understanding consumer inclinations lies in the power of Context. It enables applications to intuitively understand what the user wants, before the user actually makes a request to a particular application.
Deep Linking and Context will together provide developers the platform that they need to improve their applications and evolve holistically into a force catering to not just an audience, but to an ecosystem!
(Cover Image Source: Google’s page on App Indexing)