De Tijd/L'Echo iPhone app
Timeframe: released in June 2010
The case for an iPhone app
The newspapers De Tijd and L'Echo have had their mobile sites for a long time already. But with the industry-wide focus on the Apple iPhone and the fact that a large part of the Mediafin userbase was browsing mobile with iPhone (as analytics had shown), Mediafin wanted to more strongly support both brands by creating an iPhone app.
This would also allow better serving of the consumers across the fragmented smartphone landscape. No longer a one-size-fits-all mobile site, but navigating towards a mixture of device targeted apps and a browser experience that maximizes compatibility for other devices. Within an app it is possible to bring additional features and functionality, but in a device optimized way. Important in this aspect was also a good integration with the existing backend logic already in place for the online environment.
Features and functionality
Focus was not to get overly creative with the app, but to bring the valuable business-related content of De Tijd/L'Echo in an optimized format. The app exposes more content than the mobile site and has a faster, better user interface to navigate through it. Optimized data exchange with the backend also means less data transfer, making the app in fact cheaper to use than the mobile site.
Extra features are an optimized stock browsing interface: offering the user a quick market overview and using landscape mode to give access to more historical charts. The iPhone app also provides the user with an easily readable text version of the printed newspaper, something that is not available on the mobile site.
Because the news sites of De Tijd and L'Echo are subscriber based with a paywall mechanism, the decision was made not to provide offline reading functionality, but to implement the same set of business rules as on the normal websites, up-to taking a subscription from within the app.
Although two apps were created, functionality in both apps is identical. The difference is visual design and language of the content. From a business point of view it was obvious to go for two apps: De Tijd and L'Echo are two entirely separate brands with a different target audience (Dutch speaking/French speaking).
Foreach was lead in the entire development process of the iPhone apps: clarifying the business requirements, creating the visual design and implementing both the app itself as the required server-side logic.
An iteration-based approach with a longer acceptance test period was used: multiple internal releases were deployed to a set of key users at Mediafin, feedback of the key users was then matched to business requirements and possibly incorporated in the next release. After the internal sign-off the apps were sent to the Appstore for technical review and approval by Apple (which was given on the first go).
Some of the business advantages of the iPhone app:
- Taking advantage of the growing iPhone userbase and Apple marketing power to support the brands
- Providing consumers with a user experience optimized for their device (more and better)
- Having both an extra advertising and up-selling channel
From a tech point of view
The app itself was developed in Objective-C, and it communicates with the backend servers using XML integration. At the backend special interfaces were designed to expose the required functionality if not yet available. To maximize integration with the mobile site, re-use of existing code and interfaces, and to implement a secure paywall mechanism the app uses a mixture of fixed interfaces and remote HTML-5 webpages.
Project Size: small
Release Year: 2010
Foreach has created several websites with Umbraco and was recently named Certified Partner.October 25, 2012