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Mobile Marketing

Why Mobile UX and Native Advertising Can Be Best Friends

John Ruhlen  //  March 30, 2016  //  4 min read

Mobile User Experience (Mobile UX for short) has always been an important part of mobile app development. Mobile UX is defined by the Nielsen Norman Group as achieving the best trade off between the constraints and strengths of the mobile device on behalf of a user.

The challenge of developing a natural mobile UX that manages these constraints has traditionally been seen as the preserve of developers and designers alone. But, as a result of rapidly rising CPI (Cost Per Install) costs, Mobile UX is increasingly becoming a concern for other professionals throughout the app industry.

Unless you have Supercell’s half a billion dollar marketing budget at hand to cope with increasing acquisition costs, big spending rivals will be able to lure your users away from your app and further inflate CPI costs at the market level.

This is why user retention is becoming increasingly important. App developers must think deeply about the trade-off from monetizing a user in the short term, versus the impact it has on valuable long term retention.

But native advertising offers a solution to this. By trading out disruptive banners and interstitials, which provide short term revenues but drive users to churn, app developers can retain user interest for longer and monetize their apps more effectively by seamlessly integrating user-friendly native adverts.

The Specifics of Mobile UX and the Trouble with Banners

The Nielsen Norman Group highlight four constraints for mobile UX designers to consider: small screen sizes and how to effectively display content on them; single window usage, which forces a designer to focus on presenting only relevant information; interruptibility and how to deal with short sessions and fragmented mobile device usage; and variable connectivity and how to avoid lengthy load times as users move around.

These principles may seem like common sense. But when we apply this way of thinking to ad-funded monetization through banners and interstitials, it becomes clear that these popular formats actively oppose best practices:

  • Both formats reduce the amount of space that a user has to interact within an app by either totally or partially blocking a portion of the screen.
  • Banner adverts go against the single window principle by distracting a user’s attention. They rarely disappear when a user scrolls or moves in app, meaning that the user can’t focus totally on the product they’re using.
  • Banners and interstitials cause disruption. The latter is the most disruptive, physically invading the screen space without user permission.
  • Both formats can disrupt the user experience when accidental interactions remove the user from the app they want to use, which leaves the user at the mercy of their situation. If they’re in a wi-fi hot spot, they might pick their place up quickly. But forcing them to reopen and potentially reload your app in an area where data coverage is inconsistent could turn an abruptly ended session into a point of user frustration.

Going Native

In short, banners and interstitials offer a short-term business gain for long term mobile UX pain.

By reducing the quality of the mobile user experience, you’ll likely harm retention rates and user numbers meaning that, in the long term, you’ll have created a false economy where ad revenues don’t get close to covering incoming costs. And with advertising formats becoming increasingly sophisticated, featuring rich media and video, there is the potential for banners and interstitials to become even more disruptive.

Fortunately though, there is an alternative to this type of advertising. Integrating native advertising into your app offers a genuine solution to this problem, for marketers and users alike, because it works on principles that complement best practice in mobile UX design.

As we have previously discussed, native advertising is a framework and not a format. What this means in practice is that a native advert, at a conceptual level, is about providing the right content to the right person in the right context. And it also works on a practical level, as the following two examples show.

The first is Facebook. Though you can see an advert within your feed, you’re able to scroll past it as you please without it getting in the way. If you do choose to interact with the link, you are taken to a separate dismissible window that, once you’re done with it, you can close with a tap of the cross. It makes maximum use of the screen, is non-disruptive and allows the user to return to the key experience quickly.

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 12.22.58 PM

As for the second example, Crossy Road demonstrated the value of designing with the natural user flow. Foregoing banner and interstitial adverts, players are directed to video adverts after a round has ended. Whether they watch to continue a play through or gain extra coins, adverts fit naturally within the design of the game to avoid interruption and allow engagement on the user’s own terms.

And the results for both companies indicate native as the best advertising solution for mobile. Facebook’s native ads have helped it reach quarterly revenues of $5bn, inspiring spin off or copycat native offerings from Instagram, Twitter, Google and more. Meanwhile, implementing native advertising within Crossy Road helped the game to generate $10m in revenues for its three man team: helping them to fund their future work.

Conclusion: Keeping the Customer in Mind

Ultimately, you need to take Google’s old mantra: focus on the user and all else will follow.

And it still applies to what we’ve just discussed. You might think that a mobile user needs your app, and you might even be right. But in a market where the very best have the money to poach those users, where you may have tens or hundreds of competitors and where a new app is just a tap or two away, those people can easily leave you behind.

So, if you’re funding your app using mobile adverts, do yourself a favour by abandoning the banners and going native. By naturally integrating adverts into your user experience you’ll build a foundation for improved monetization performance and happier users down the line.

About John Ruhlen

John is the Associate Director of Business Development at PubNative, the mobile publisher platform that is fully focused on native advertising. Having previously worked at Smaato and Nielsen, John understands the ad tech industry from a supply, demand, and data perspective.
View all posts by John Ruhlen >

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