In the rapidly changing world of enterprise mobility, it is important to keep an eye out for new directions, for trends that may arrive sooner than you think. Recently, I have been seeing references to the term “deep linking” with regard to app development and functionality. One definition of a deep link is “any link that directs a user past the home page of a website or app to content inside of it; e.g., linking directly to a product instead of the home page.”
Here is a brief guide to this new term.
The problem solved by deep linking is that today’s enterprise smartphone and tablet apps don’t link to one another. In fact, the creation of over 2 million apps available in the app stores has meant the creation of 2 million new silos, at a time when we know that silos in business are a bad idea, and we try to eliminate them to free up knowledge flow. But, indications are that this is about to change with deep linking.
While links are the glue of the World Wide Web, apps have tended to be proprietary, standalone programs that really don’t form a coherent ecosystem of business activities. As Lauren Orsini at ReadWrite explains,
“Mobile is a different story. Most mobile apps live in their own silos, and offer no way to directly access photos, stories, messages, and other information to which they control access. Instead of letting you tap through to a relevant page, mobile links generally direct you to the app’s own home page—leaving you to search around the app, often in vain, for whatever you’re really looking for.”
The problem with deep linking as a solution to this problem is that there is no standardized way of creating links among apps, especially beyond the opening screen of the app to which you want to link.
There are several good reasons as to why you would want to do this. These include sharing resources across apps with simple navigation, especially if they form a suite.
Instead, now you must open each app separately, and from the home page of the app manually find what you are looking for. Another business benefit is pointing from a web page to a product within an app, a concept known as “web-to-app” marketing.
Because there are no standardized methods for deep linking, companies need to use custom development to implement this approach, an area in which Float has considerable expertise. There are several approaches to deep linking among apps, including:
- Apple revealed a new mobile deep linking search feature for iOS 9 at their 2015 developers’ conference.
- Google allows app developers, for both iOS and Android, to surface in-app content via mobile Google searches, rather than through web pages.
- Software is being developed to facilitate deep linking such as Branch, a free deep linking, attribution, and analytics SDK and API. Deeplink is software where no SDK is required, and provides one link for iOS and Android operating systems. Flowfinity Wireless Inc. recently unveiled deep linking capability for its enterprise mobile app software, allowing organizations to drive efficiency by seamlessly integrating Flowfinity apps with other external applications. AppURL, DeepLink Kit, and URLgenius are other deep linking products worth evaluating.
- There are a number of open-source initiatives summarized in this guide to deep linking. In addition to guidelines and best practices, this document also contains links to open-source software development kits (SDKs) so developers can implement effective deep linking strategies as simply as possible.
Vijay Tella suggest that the current thinking on deep linking doesn’t go far enough, and is skeptical of current efforts to solve this problem. He writes,
“Currently, deep linking requires serious engineering on a custom, one-off basis. App vendors must create mini-products for each app-to-app linkage. They must be prepared to handle the unique variations for how customers want to make their apps work with other apps. This engineering-intensive model inherently limits how much deep linking can occur.”
But, over at Techcrunch, Chris Maddern in his “brief history of deep linking” predicts:
“The industry is still waiting for a standard way to interpret, build, and discover deep links — a problem that a number of companies are focused on, and a problem that I expect to see solved in the coming years.”
Have you implemented deep linking in any of your enterprise projects?
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