How Marketers can Navigate Platform and Device Compatibility Issues in Deep Linking
Deep linking can significantly enhance the user experience by creating a seamless transition from external sources such as emails, social media, ads, and other apps directly to the desired content within your app.
Deep linking refers to the practice of using a uniform resource identifier (URI) that directs users to a specific location within a mobile application, rather than simply launching the app. This can significantly enhance the user experience by creating a seamless transition from external sources such as emails, social media, ads, and other apps directly to the desired content within your app. However, implementing reliable and effective deep links can often prove challenging due to various technical factors, including platform and device compatibility.
The Challenge of Platform and Device Compatibility
Deep links need to be configured differently for different platforms (Android, iOS), and variations even exist between different versions of the same operating system. This inconsistency can lead to deep links working perfectly on one platform or OS version but failing on another. Android and iOS, the two dominant mobile operating systems, have different deep linking frameworks. Android uses Android App Links, while iOS uses Universal Links. However, these were not always the standard.
Navigating Through Android's Deep Link Evolution
Before Android 6.0 Marshmallow, Android deep linking relied primarily on custom URL schemes. However, these posed several issues, such as the potential for URL scheme conflicts if multiple apps used the same scheme. To address these, Android introduced Android App Links in Android 6.0, which allow app-specific links to open directly in the corresponding app, given the app is installed. For example, clicking a link starting with "https://www.myapp.com/" in an email would open the app directly if it supports Android App Links and is installed on the user's device.
However, the introduction of Android App Links posed a new challenge for app developers — maintaining compatibility across different Android versions. While Android App Links are more reliable and secure, they're not supported on Android versions older than 6.0. This means that apps aiming for broad compatibility still need to support the older custom URL scheme method for deep linking on these versions.
iOS and The Journey to Universal Links
Similar to Android, iOS also started with custom URL schemes for deep linking. However, iOS 9 introduced Universal Links, a more secure and flexible method that uses standard HTTP or HTTPS links that point to a website domain. When a user clicks a Universal Link, iOS checks if a corresponding app is installed, and if so, opens the link content in the app.
Despite the advantages of Universal Links, they also introduced compatibility challenges. Universal Links are not supported on iOS versions older than iOS 9. Therefore, just like with Android, apps that aim for wide compatibility on iOS also need to maintain support for custom URL schemes for older OS versions.
Overcoming Platform and Device Compatibility Issues
Given these complexities, how can you ensure your deep links work consistently across different platforms and OS versions? Here are a few strategies:
Use a Dual Approach
Implement both custom URL schemes and the more modern Android App Links or iOS Universal Links in your app. This way, your app can use the superior method on devices that support it, while still falling back to the custom URL scheme on older versions.
Testing Across Devices and OS Versions
Thoroughly test your deep links on a variety of devices and OS versions to ensure they work correctly in different environments. Include both newer and older versions of Android and iOS in your testing matrix.
Utilize Deep Linking Platforms
Consider using deep linking platforms that provide a comprehensive solution to handle these complexities. These platforms often have features to manage deep linking across different platforms and OS versions, ensuring a consistent user experience.
Why Marketing Leaders Should Care About Platform and Device Compatibility in Deep Linking
As a marketing leader, you are likely interested in how technology like deep linking can drive user engagement, app retention, and overall ROI for your mobile app. However, understanding the technical nuances, like platform and device compatibility, may seem too in the weeds. In reality, these technical aspects directly impact your marketing strategies and outcomes.
Driving User Engagement
A deep link that doesn't work as expected disrupts the user journey, leading to frustration and potential churn. For instance, consider a scenario where you run a promotional campaign directing users to a specific product page within your shopping app. If your deep links aren't compatible with the user's device or OS, they might end up on the app's home screen or, worse, on the app store page if the app isn't installed. Such a frustrating user experience can reduce engagement and negatively impact conversion rates.
Enhancing Campaign Effectiveness
Deep linking can significantly enhance the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. For example, personalized push notifications or emails with deep links that take users directly to the relevant content can lead to higher conversion rates. However, if these deep links fail due to compatibility issues, your campaign effectiveness suffers.
As a marketing leader, understanding the nuances of platform and device compatibility can enable you to plan and execute more effective campaigns. For instance, you might decide to segment your audience based on their device and OS version and tailor the deep linking method used in your campaigns accordingly.
Building a Seamless Brand Experience
Today's consumers expect a seamless and consistent experience across all touchpoints with your brand. A deep link that works flawlessly on one device but fails on another can harm this consistency. Therefore, ensuring your deep links work across different platforms and OS versions is crucial for maintaining a positive brand image.
Adopting a Customer-Centric Approach
Deep linking is not merely a technical feature but a tool to create a better user experience, which is the ultimate goal of any marketing leader. By keeping the customer at the center of your deep linking strategy, you can better align your technical and marketing teams towards this common goal.
Bridging the Gap: Collaborating with Mobile Engineering and QA Teams for Effective Deep Linking
Creating a seamless deep linking experience that works consistently across platforms and devices is not solely a technical challenge. It's a goal that requires close collaboration between marketing and technical teams. As a marketing leader, understanding how to effectively work with your mobile engineering and QA teams can significantly enhance the effectiveness of your deep linking strategy.
Developing a Shared Understanding
A common language is a powerful tool for collaboration. Having a basic understanding of deep linking technology, and the challenges associated with platform and device compatibility, allows for more productive discussions with your technical teams.
Conversely, help your technical teams understand marketing goals and metrics. A feature that may seem minor from an engineering standpoint could have a significant impact on user engagement or conversion rates. Establishing a shared understanding of both marketing objectives and technical challenges creates a strong foundation for collaboration.
Involve Technical Teams in Strategic Planning
Include your mobile engineering and QA teams in the strategic planning process. When discussing new campaigns or features that involve deep linking, their input can be invaluable. They can provide insights on what's technically feasible, potential challenges, and how different approaches might affect the user experience across different platforms and devices.
For example, if you're planning a campaign that involves personalized deep links, your technical teams can advise on how to handle different user states (e.g., whether the app is installed), how to encode and decode additional data in the deep link, and potential compatibility issues.
Collaborative Design of User Journeys
Designing effective user journeys is a collaborative process that requires both marketing insights and technical expertise. Work closely with your technical teams to map out the user journey from clicking a deep link to achieving the desired outcome. Discuss different scenarios, such as clicking the deep link from different devices, operating systems, and user states.
For instance, a common challenge is handling the case where the user doesn't have the app installed. In this scenario, the deep link could open the app store page for the user to install the app. But how do you bring the user to the original destination in the app after they install it? This requires a feature called deferred deep linking, which your technical teams can help implement.
Regular Cross-Team Meetings and Feedback Loops
Establish regular cross-team meetings to discuss ongoing initiatives, share updates, and address any issues or concerns. These meetings provide a platform for both marketing and technical teams to voice their perspectives and foster mutual understanding.
Moreover, create feedback loops to share insights and learnings. For example, if a campaign's conversion rate was lower than expected, discuss with your technical teams whether there were any deep linking issues. Conversely, if the technical team identifies a pattern of deep linking issues on a specific platform or device, they can alert the marketing team to adjust their campaigns accordingly.
Leveraging Data Together
Data is a common language that both marketing and technical teams understand. Collaborate with your technical teams to track and analyze deep linking performance. For example, how often do deep links fail to bring the user to the intended destination? How does this rate vary across different platforms, devices, and user states?
By analyzing this data together, you can identify trends, troubleshoot issues, and uncover opportunities for improvement. Moreover, it can help justify the resources needed to address deep linking issues. For example, if data shows that a significant portion of your users are on an older Android version that has deep linking issues, this could justify the development effort to address these issues.
Platform and device compatibility is a crucial factor to consider when implementing deep linking in your mobile app. With the evolution of Android and iOS operating systems introducing more secure and reliable deep linking methods, it has become even more important to handle these transitions gracefully.
Deep linking can significantly enhance the user experience and engagement with your app. However, achieving a reliable and consistent user experience across different platforms and OS versions requires careful planning, testing, and a solid understanding of the nuances of different deep linking methods.
By incorporating both modern and traditional deep linking methods, you can ensure broad compatibility while still leveraging the benefits of newer technologies. Regular testing across different devices and OS versions is also crucial to identify and address any potential issues.
Although managing deep link compatibility can be complex, the benefits of providing a seamless user journey from various external sources to specific content within your app can greatly outweigh the technical challenges. With the right strategies and tools, you can effectively navigate these complexities and unlock the full potential of deep linking in your mobile app strategy.