April 9, 2014 Last Updated 7:37 am

Wednesday column: a walk-through the portal-based app system PageSuite Live

Each Wednesday, Talking New Media invites industry leaders to discuss industry topics involving digital publishing. This week’s column is authored by Sean Seymour of PageSuite. who walks the reader through the platform’s app making process.

Here’s the misconception… most publishers believe that for an app to look truly bespoke, it requires a custom build. Maybe this was the case at the start of the app-era, back in 2009-2010, but developers have come a long way since then either through streamlining their own design, development and deployment processes or through putting common features into portal based systems and letting their clients pick and choose which commonly used components they want to utilize, pre-built and ready to go.

It used to also be the case that an app such as the London Evening Standard would be at least six months in the making and would absorb huge amounts of resources, time and importantly money, not just through development but also the ongoing maintenance. As a company that specifically works with publishers, we wanted to create a portal based app system where these issues could be addressed. We now have a system in place called PageSuite Live; although not long out of the beta stage it’s been a great success, not just for the London Evening Standard but also Waitrose Kitchen magazine, The Independent and the Irish Independent.

The system works by giving the publishers a staged approach to creating their own apps. So first of all the publisher would select the “create app” option, from there, they would then select which platforms they would like to have a presence on; each platform features a native container application, so those available at this stage are iOS, Android and Kindle Fire with all variants of those devices currently supported and also with the option to expand onto Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 with future updates. After the platforms have been selected, the publisher simply selects whether they are a magazine or newspaper and the kind of style or template they would like to use. Not only can the publisher select a pre-defined template but they can also work directly with our design and development team to create custom templates. For example, imagine a publisher with numerous titles wanting a uniform look across their apps but all with completely different content and USPs, put that into a simplified creation process and you’ll come close to a vision of what can be put in place. These templates can either be provided by the publisher, created by PageSuite or a combination of both. Once they have been created they then sit in the account for the publisher to use at will.

1.Create-Your-App

The next step would be to plug in your feeds, currently supported are XML and JSON although we do have a “diet” version of the basic application that supports RSS. It’s a simple case of adding in the URL of the feed then pointing to the components within that feed; image nodes, headlines, main body, sub-headline etc. with the goal of populating the application with content and stories that would then be displayed in an easy to digest format.

The feeds can be related to sections within the publication and displayed as such, not just with left to right navigation but also up and down to display additional content. The main image, headline and sub-headline can display as a tile or story within the application, once the preview has been tapped, it then brings up the full article view.

With the option of signing into the app using social networking credentials, cross promotion of content through relevant channels is easily achieved with the end user not only having the option to share but also to comment on articles.

Something that is often overlooked with apps and portal based systems is the ability to amend the flatplan of a publication dynamically. With the PageSuite Live portal, not only can you amend the content in the app but you can also shift the content around. This gives the option of being able to adjust which content and section pages sit where within the application. So, if one of those sections is for “Sport” and that day has a special sporting related event, such as the Super Bowl, you can re-adjust the flatplan to show that content on the cover page and the next day, move it back to the sports section. This gives a huge amount of potential for publishers to promote special events, breaking news and to even monetize their applications and content by dropping full page interstitials, banners, MPU’s and interactive HTML5 pages, all through one simple URL.

Other key components of the PageSuite Live portal are the ability to build, test and submit your own applications. Even with just a small amount of experience at using iTunes Connect, Google Play or the Amazon App Store, you can have your apps live with minimal fuss. Analytics can also be plugged in and can provide event tracking for numerous functions of the app; currently supported analytics providers are Google Analytics and Omniture along with ad-server integration including DFP, YOK, AdTech, YuMe and Amobee

So with the PageSuite Live portal, not only do you have the potential to completely control how your app looks, feels and functions but you also have the potential to massively cut your development fees, not just for the initial costing but also on an ongoing basis for the life of the application.

Sean Seymour is Corporate VP at PageSuite where he currently manages the company’s US operations. Part of his role also requires him to manage manufacturer relations and as such, he is constantly up-to-date with the latest industry news and product developments.

See more screenshots from PageSuite Live ➤

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