How to Manage the Digital Development Process
In this post-digital age, publishers are in a position to reach audiences across many different devices and digital platforms and package their products in increasingly creative ways. Stories can be brought to life through interactive ebooks, games, mobile apps, and more. These channels offer powerful ways to monetize content, grow loyal audiences, and stay competitive in an increasingly mobile media landscape. But how exactly can publishers approach the development process to create profitable apps and interactive ebooks? In this article, I’ve provided some basic tips to get started.
It’s important to distinguish which books are suited to which purpose. Some in a portfolio may be best as content-feeder ‘freemium’ apps, such as cookery books and health guides, while others could work well as an interactive ebook, such as kids books, learning books, and short novels. Competitor analysis will help to establish what works, and surveying your existing audience’s opinion also helps. Research the different platforms and marketplaces (Android, iOS, Kindle, etc.), plus the typical time and monetary investment required.
Before you dive into building a product for a specific platform, you need to understand the benefits and limitations of certain technologies. Different templates and coding languages are suitable for different devices, and some are more transferable than others when expanding to other devices. iOS developers use the programming language ObjectiveC or Swift, while Android is Java. A hybrid framework may be another approach worth pursuing if you plan to release an app across multiple devices. A hybrid framework can facilitate development across both iOS and Android, for example, using pretty much one piece of code.
While not getting too bogged down in the technical details, it’s important to understand the benefits and limitations of what’s being built. Ask your developers about how adaptable the product will be in the future, how much budget to set aside for upgrades and updates, and what support contracts are required.
Build the Team and Product:
Once the plan is in place, it’s time to build the team. Hiring an in-house technical team is risky to start with, so it’s often better to source freelance designers and developers to minimize long-term commitment. Find these on sites like Upwork and PeoplePerHour, or ask industry peers for recommendations. You will need a project manager, too. Ideally, they’ll be dedicated to the project and harbor relevant experience in project management on digital products or websites.
Remember, an intricate interactive ebook will take longer to create than a freemium Android mobile app. Set realistic project timescales according to the product, allow space in the budget for hiccups, and build something beautiful.
Test and Release:
Once the project is completed, it’s time for comprehensive testing before release. While it’s good for an internal team to spot snags, it’s worth enlisting the help of independent specialists to do the more detailed technical testing. The people at Testbirds are an increasingly popular choice, but there are others such as Applause, TestElf, and more. There will be a whole new load of tests completed after release, when users get their hands on the product.
Market and Promote:
The job isn’t done when a product is released to the app or ebook marketplace. Promotion is key, and this involves tapping into existing and new audiences. Ensure your existing email list and social media followers are informed, and offer incentives and an easy route for them to download. Furthermore, consider budgeting for Facebook and Twitter advertising, as the targeting capabilities are second-to-none.
For apps in particular, you’ll need some ASO (app store optimization) skills. Key tips here are: include your main keyword in the first paragraph of the description, add translations, and include screenshots. Here’s a comprehensive guide.
Measure and Take Action:
It’s rare that something’s a global success the first time around, but even if your product does exceptionally well, it’s good to know why. Monitor user behavior through the standard app store analytics, or install a third-party analytics software such as Flurry, Google Analytics for Mobile Apps, or APSALAR -- all free. Request in-app user reviews and incentivize users to contact you about what can be improved. Use this info to inform future decisions, and to release updates with a fanfare.
Data is key to understanding how your audience experiences the product, so dig in and reveal actionable points. Key data interpretation should revolve around acquisition, engagement, and outcomes. Number of downloads is important, but so too is retention and in-app purchases. Your marketing may be getting people to download it, but does the product live up to their expectations? Do they spend a long time using it? Are they incentivized to buy a premium version? The measurements certainly don’t stop at the download stage.
3 Quick Tips To Develop Your Digital Product:
- Use templates: Using predefined templates and themes for apps and ebooks may help save time and money, and can usually be heavily customized. You can find these on sites like CodeCanyon and ThemeForest.
- Innovative pricing: People don’t always want to pay the same for a digital product as they would a book. Be flexible with pricing arrangements. Analyze competitors to see what they’re charging; you have the option of going free, freemium, paid, or paidmium.
- Start with Android: For apps, it’s easier to launch with Google Play store than iTunes (much less certification and review), although you still need to match some criteria. Start there, but develop the product using a hybrid framework so you have to option to publish it for iOS later.
Matt Goolding is Head of Digital Marketing at Ribbonfish, a London-based tech company that builds enterprise solutions for the publishing and media industries.