Commentary

The Role of Apps In A Responsive Web World

David Plant, director, mobile, PGA Tour Digital, takes MediaPost Mobile Insider Summit attendees through the process of the brand’s iPad App redesign.

The mobile landscape is evolving. Devices are changing, users are changing and publishers are changing.

Most devices are bigger, have faster processors and more memory.

Most users have smart phones, many have tablets. They are extremely attached to their mobile devices and mobile is a primary touch point.

As for publishers, the desktop and mobile worlds are converging.  There is an increased focus on mobile users and there is more content being published into the mobile channels.

“Knowing that, the mindset is how do we embrace this change? How do we go forward in taking advantage of that all of our users are on mobile?” Plant asks. “We had to start thinking about what a mobile-first design for our product would like.”

The mobile first design approach included considering best practices on phone and tablet and scaling up for desktop instead of down for mobile.

The web is no longer a “desktop only “experience and it’s no longer appropriate to maintain a separate mobile site, which often has an inferior experience.

The web can be used as an effective cross platform method for covering a broad array of content, he says. 

“Over half of PGA users are accessing the PGA website through mobile device. So an app is not the primary way,” he says.  The PGA decided to leverage apps as a differentiated product offering complementary features and functionality.

PGA Tour released a new iPad app in March 2015. The app delivers unique contextual stats and data visualization. It is distinctly different from the website.

“This is not at all like a website experience,” he says, showing screenshots of what users of the app will see, including details on the golf course’s specific holes, including views from the hole. FedEx is a sponsor of some of the views.

The app got positive feedback from fans and media critics. But some feedback from fans was negative, he admits.

The biggest thing they learned from the process is that change is really hard. Some fans preferred the old app. The response is to use the website, which functions like the old app previously did.

“We are going to lose some users to the web,” he says. “We are still listening to the feedback from fans and internal stakeholders, but the key is to remain true to the mission. We will incorporate feedback, but we are taking more a long-term perspective.”

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