Content, value, and Nepal: web standards aren’t just for web sites

Brancel Medical Guides

I am Dr _____ from Nepal, and this app is really very up to date for OB-GYN physician. Looking forward to future updates. Thank you!

I don’t know how many personal emails you get from happy customers in Nepal — it’s certainly not common for me. But these and many similar emails are some of the deepest joys I experience as a result of designing iOS apps.

Sure, I experience similar highs when developing for the web, too. But the web still wrestles with how to make content valuable without making it annoyingly valuable (I’m looking at you, Mr. Advertising and Ms. Paywall).

With native apps, there is no such wrestling. And Apple, in particular, has made mobile transactions as frictionless as possible. Trust me, I know this from two perspectives: not just as a product provider to the App Store, but every time one of my daughters asks me to tap in my Apple ID’s password to approve an app purchase. People are still more than happy to pay for an app.

I’m certainly not saying that selling apps is for everyone, nor for every use case. But for me, it’s good business as well as meets other people’s needs. As a standards-based web designer, I can use great frameworks like Phonegap and Nimblekit to create hybrid mobile apps all on my own. Or as a product manager, I can pay for a few hours of iOS developer time to help me make an app like the one pictured here, Brancel Medical Guides: it’s a fully native iOS app, but the content is all web standards and I can continue to update the content and publish new versions to the App Store by just using a text editor, Xcode, and a handy build script. And I can use in-app purchase to sell new annual subscriptions.

App stores have helped prove the case that content (and reliable offline access to it) can have value — enough that people will pay for it. Just like with books, music, and video. In my case, I collaborate with a medical publisher who has been selling print versions of his content to physicians for 20 years. So I’m not trying to make the next Angry Birds; I’m designing an iOS app product for a specific group of customers who clamored for apps like this. All I had to do was help meet the demand. With web standards. Yet not on the web.

Web standards are awesome. And so is the web. But until the era is over, we’re still also living in an era of iOS (and, to a lessor degree, Android) apps being a great platform for publishing and selling content that has proven value. Don’t overlook a great opportunity just because you’re devoted to the web. Look beyond the web, and be open to working on other digital products that can leverage your web standards knowledge. Even if the distribution channel isn’t the web itself.

Because it’s pretty darn cool to have a content distribution channel start at your kitchen table and end in Nepal, and have it be easy to use.

Thank you, Apple. Your App Store is fantastic.

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