At the DeveloperWeek conference in San Francisco, industry experts were talking about some of the challenges and best practices for improving the integration between Web and mobile applications on the client-side through deep linking. "Enterprise architects need to take a thoughtful approach to this kind of front-end integration in order to improve app usability and engagement," said Beth Kindig, developer evangelist at Personagraph, a mobile engagement service.
Kindig discussed how leading companies like Twitter, Facebook, Spotify and Etsy are developing the infrastructure for deep linking, which essentially directs a user to the appropriate landing page within a mobile app. This is important, since users often attempt to engage with links outside of the mobile app via shares, push notifications, emails and other sources. A deep linking strategy enables a complete shift in the mobile paradigm and gives the enterprise more avenues for engaging consumers and providing value to business partners.
Lost engagement opportunities
Many mobile applications today do a poor job of sharing links with each other in an actionable way. Part of the problem is the lack of a standard approach for specifying Uniform Resource Identifiers (URI) for mobile applications in the same way that Uniform Resource Locators (URL) have standardized Web application integration.
Kindig argued that leading companies like eBay and LinkedIn are losing significant value from their mobile applications because they have yet to adopt a deep linking strategy. As a result, small companies like Etsy are getting more profits from their mobile apps than more established providers, she said. When users attempt to click on an email link for most sites they are directed to a landing page on a website that requests the user sign in via the browser. Getting to the content that attracted their interest becomes a multi-step process, and many users give up along the way.
Two years ago, Kindig was involved with a popular content blog that was getting 40,000 views per article. She thought that creating a mobile app for the blog would help create a more engaging experience for users, but was disappointed by the limited adoption of the app. She believes the main culprit was the lack of support for organic search through deep linking.
Make links actionable
Deep linking provides better integration between applications and notifications and can lead to higher user engagement or sales. For example, when someone receives a birthday notification link from a friend on Facebook via email, the link will send the user right to the page for sending the friend a happy birthday message. Someone would be far less likely to engage with Facebook if they had to sign into and navigate to the appropriate page to do so.
When the Catalog Spree app implemented a deep linking strategy, they quickly improved mobile app revenues by six times, Kindig said. Users could come to the site and be directed to products of interest from email or push notifications and end up spending far more time in the app and buying more products.
Deep linking has relevance to improving the relationships and integrations between mobile applications in new ways as well. For example, Uber is now working with Google Maps to make it easier to call an Uber car right from the Google Maps application using a URI.
Develop a deep linking architecture
One of the big challenges for executing a deep linking strategy has been a lack of standards. URIs are implemented with a slightly different syntax from enterprise to enterprise. Another challenge is that companies with established websites face a significant burden in generating new links for their existing content.
Kindig recommends that enterprises stake out the URI scheme name from the Apple and Google ecosystems. These replace "http://" in traditional links with something like "Twitter://" or "Youtube://" in a mobile deep link. The process is not as simple and straightforward as securing a domain name like "twitter.com," from a domain registry. Two companies could conceivably use the same URI scheme name.
Kindig hopes that industry wide efforts like the Mobile.Deep.Linking open source project could help address this challenge. The project has created a GitHub library and SDKs for helping to create and manage URI deep links for mobile apps.
A Netflix engineer that was attending the session said Netflix committed to a deep linking strategy. She said this allows Netflix to better engage users through email and push notifications by driving them to movies they might like and that are relevant to their usage. Netflix has developed the infrastructure to algorithmically determine what is relevant to the users as part of this push. In addition, Netflix implemented a deep linking architecture to drive users to appropriate links through the browser as well.