Why developers should add mobile print to apps
|Patrick Chen in Mobile Tech Friday, May 4, 2018|
How mobile printing adds value to apps by improving engagement, promoting, retention and driving revenue.
- Despite digital advancements, printing is still the standard. Printed materials such as contracts, government forms and hardcopy reports remain the accepted and unavoidable norm in today’s society.
- Printed information engages the human mind more than digital info. A recent study found that printed material generates more emotional connections and leaves a longer-lasting imprint on the mind than digital materials.
- It gives us a welcome respite from digital’s dominance. People are getting tired of staring at their screens all day - in 2016, Nielsen estimated we spend more than 11 hours a day consuming media on smartphone, television, radio and computers. Print is simple but effective, giving us the same value without the same toll on our eyes and brains as a screen.
- It creates credibility. Print carries more weight as a professional communications medium than digital does. The look and feel of a paper document in hand adds extra importance to any communication.
Printing is even becoming intertwined with the digital realm, as many applications are adding a print-from-mobile component.
And if they’re not, they should be.
Printing from Mobile: The New Frontier
Most mobile app users want to print from their mobile devices - 95 percent of consumers and 67 percent of business users. While 75 percent of users say mobile printing has a business value equal to PC printing, 15 percent say mobile print has a greater business value than PC printing.
Consumers demand apps that can print information like:
- Boarding passes
- Flight itineraries
- Event tickets
- Hotel reservations
Meanwhile, businesses want to print:
- Medical imaging
- Legal forms
- Drawings and designs
- Regulatory/compliance material
- Sales and manufacturing documents
- Marketing materials
- Medical forms
- HR documents
- Accounting reports
Adding print to an app adds value to that app. An app that includes print functionality has better retention and engagement among its users. Users stay in the app 20 percent longer and are twice as likely to use it again. From a revenue standpoint, it’s even better; users are twice as likely to click on ads and share to other sources, and three times as likely to make in-app purchases.
It also increases the app’s relevance. As the demand to print from mobile grows, developers are realizing that it’s integral to add to an app to keep eyeballs and thumbs within their apps.
Not every app has the ability to print right now, and the ones that do rise above their competitors. For example, say a boss recommends her employees download an app to help jot notes during meetings. She is more likely to recommend one that allows the employees to print their notes on the fly than one in which the notes need to be downloaded to a PC before they can be printed, which would reduce the time savings gained from the note-taking app.
There also are ways app developers will be able to monetize an app’s ability to print based on existing business models. For example, for apps with a pay-to-play business model, a user might pay an extra dollar or two to unlock printing capabilities. Human behavior shows that we still place a higher value on printed items than on digital ones; greeting cards and wedding invitations are still largely sent and received on printed paper, not via digital delivery. Users will pay for the ability to print because of the value they see there.
Easy to Add
Android developers should understand how easy it is to add a print functionality to their apps, either as the app is being built or as an update: Simply add the print coding to the app’s back end, and add a print button to the app interface. When a user hits the print button, the app hands the print request to the system, which handles the rest.
Android apps can now print any type of content over Wi-Fi or cloud-hosted services such as Google Cloud Print. Android 4.4 includes native platform support for printing, along with APIs for managing printing and adding new types of printer support. The platform provides a print manager that mediates between apps requesting printing and installed print services that handle print requests. The print manager provides shared services and a system UI for printing, giving users consistent control over printing from any app. In print-enabled apps, users can discover available printers, change paper sizes, choose specific pages to print, and print almost any kind of document, image, or file. The print manager also ensures the security of content as it is passed across processes, from an app to a print service.
For more in-depth instructions, Google Android Developer's Website has information on how to deploy the Android 4.4 Print APIs, with excellent training materials on the API and how to add the print button to an app and enable users to activate the print process.
Because it’s all handled by the OS, app developers don't need to worry about writing the print code themselves; all apps need to do is supply printable content. Some tips for developers when designing this content include:
- Design printable content around common page sizes, such as A4/letter and 4x6 photo media.
- Use color to create fun and interesting experiences. Users can always choose black-and-white output if that is their preference.
- Unless your app is photo-centric, think in terms of delivering PDF pages instead of screens of data.
- Test your print function on different printers to ensure consistency and quality.
- Consider including your app logo/icon in your printed output to reinforce your brand.
- Consider how this new feature will help you market your app, and be sure to highlight it in app store/marketplace descriptions.
For more suggestions and tips, the Android Developer Website on Print, the Google Print Team and GitHub’s mobile printing SDK (which supports both Android and iOS) are all great resources.
Stepping it Up
When creating apps, a developer works hard to ensure optimal functionality and a great user experience - so it’s critical that an app is the best it can be for its audience.
While most mobile app users have a strong desire to print from their devices, not all of their apps have that capability yet. Even though adding print capabilities to applications would be attractive to many users, most developers have yet to address this need.
In today’s competitive mobile environment, developers must find ways to differentiate their app with powerful features that satisfy customer demands. The greater the user engagement with an app, the better chances an app will succeed in terms of downloads, retention and revenue generation - and mobile printing is one way to boost this engagement, ensuring developers’ work does not go to waste.
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