NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – We chatted with app developer Mark Freeman in late March, and he gave us some helpful app SEO tips, as well as an in-depth explanation on the differences between websites and web apps. Another thing we discussed was the difficulty of searching for certain apps on the App Store and online. This follow-up interview explores a few more mobile questions I had, including the epic battle between the Google-owned Android and Apple-owned iOS.
Jessica: Why do you code for iOS over Android devices? Do you prefer iOS to Androids?
Mark: Yes, I do prefer iOS to Android. As a coder and a user, iOS is better because it’s a unified system. When you use Apple devices you’re also using Apple software, and there aren’t that many different versions of it. Android, however, is extremely fragmented. There are thousands of Android devices made by different companies, and these devices are running different versions of Android’s operating system. If I coded applications for Android devices, I would have to consider at least 100 different scenarios, whereas for iOS I have to consider three or four. When I code I only have to consider the different hardware versions of iPad, the iPod Touch and of course, the iPhone, and that is still fairly difficult. Sometimes people haven’t updated their iOS software, and that can cause bugs in their applications. With Android, there are countless bugs, devices and combinations of software. Your app isn’t going to work universally across Android devices. To even test for all the Android devices and combinations of software is nearly impossible, especially for small development companies such as mine. It’s a nightmare for developers, but it’s also bad for users. Some apps will be buggy, they won’t look great across multiple devices and sometimes they won’t work at all. The user experience is compromised with Android since there’s less control.
Jessica: Should Google back off the mobile platform and stick with what it’s great at – Search, Gmail, Maps, Drive, etc.?
Mark: Not necessarily. The Android philosophy is the complete antithesis to Apple’s philosophy, and I can see some real benefits to it. Android software is open source, which means anyone can develop for it and anyone can see the code. In contrast, developers for Apple have to sign agreements saying they won’t discuss new features for operating systems that haven’t been released yet. Android is really cool because it allows the development community to help advance the software. The fragmentation problems I discussed earlier though limit how well developers can do their jobs. I think Google could certainly benefit from reeling in the Android market and having some oversight, at the very least in versioning.
Jessica: How could Google improve their search results for apps?
Mark: Most apps have websites that should obviously come up first in Google’s search results. Most of those sites have links to their download pages. If you’ve searched for apps before, you may recognize the standard call-to-action button that says “Available on the App Store.” These are normally black rectangular buttons with rounded edges, but sometimes the button is white or gray.
When users search for apps from a device that supports the desired app, ideal search results would include this button so users could easily visit the download page. Google could do this for their Google Play apps, also. These call-to-action buttons would be extremely useful from a search results page, especially if a user types “download” into their query. I know I would like that, and I’m sure other users would appreciate fewer steps preceding the option to download an app.
Interestingly enough, people have complained about Google down-ranking app pages on their search results. On April 2, MacRumors reported that Google was down-ranking iTunes links. Links that used to show on the first page of Google search results were now showing on Page 8, even if users included “iTunes” in their search queries. The reason for the drop could be relevancy. For instance, maybe users searching from their mobile devices are looking for an app’s download page, whereas users searching from their laptops may be more interested in information about a specific app. Google stated after these reports that the down-ranking was simply a glitch. Either way, we talked about the problems with searching for apps in our previous interview, and I think the system needs improvement.
Jessica: A recent study Google conducted with Nielsen revealed that 77 percent of mobile searches occur at home or at work. Equally interesting, the study found that 55 percent of mobile conversions (including phone calls, purchases or store visits) occurred within one hour. What implications do you think this will have on website development?
Mark: I think the increase in mobile searches will make people reevaluate the look of their websites. Lots of companies create websites made for laptops and desktops. It’s also pretty popular to have a mobile version of your website, but these are generally poorly done. Creating a mobile version means developers have to either code your website twice, or they send your website’s code through software that creates a mobile version from it.
My philosophy is to design your website for mobile first. A significant number of people are using their mobile devices to search the web. Even my mom searches the web on her iPad. So what I think people should do is design their websites for mobile users first – it’s called responsive design. Responsive website designs look great on small mobile screens, and they look equally impressive on midsize tablets and larger laptop and desktop screens. Responsive design also means no redirects are necessary. It’s the website of the future, and the best SEO companies will design your website to work on a variety of platforms.
Jessica: Thanks again, Mark. It’s been a pleasure!
If you have any app or mobile questions, feel free to ask them here or find Mark on the web at Red Room Software.