By Allan Maurer
At the beginning of 2010, less than 2 percent of social discovery site Quepasa Corp. and myYearbook’s traffic came from mobile sources. “Now it’s more than 60 percent of our traffic,” says Catherine Cook, vice president of brand strategy for company, which is rebranding as MeetMe in July.
The company’s product feed is location based – it shows you where other people near you are – actually works better on mobile. “We’re turning into a mobile company,” Cook says.
Cook, 22, co-founded myYearbook, with her brother Dave in 2005, while they were still in high school. She recently was graduated from Georgetown University in 2011, but didn’t face the problem many grads do – landing a job.
The company merged with the Quepasa Corporation in Nov. 2011. Catherine is responsible for creating some of the most important applications on myYearbook and has been instrumental in driving the site’s growth by conceiving of the next popular features. Stories about Cook have appeared in CNBC, MTV, ABC News, Fox News, CosmoGIRL, BusinessWeek, the San Francisco Chronicle, and CBS.
Participating in two Digital Summit panels
She is one of dozens of Internet gurus, digital marketing mavens and thought-leaders participating in the upcoming Digital Summit in Atlanta May 9-10. She’ll participate on two panels, one on designing for multiple platforms and one on entrepreneurship.
We asked Cook for three tips on designing for mobile platforms.
First, she suggests, “Figure out which platforms you want to be on in the beginning. The more work you do in the beginning, the easier it will be to migrate to different platforms without completely rebuilding the app. Make it versatile and similar across the platforms.
Second, Make as simple as possible for the user. “Use the same type of interface as other popular apps. Make navigation easy on a small screen. It has to be less complicated and more intuitive. Narrow the focus to the features you need. Which do you really need? It can be a problem if you have a clunky app that’s hard to use.”
Third, “Try to figure out if there is something new you can introduce that you couldn’t do on the web.” She suggests doing the same thing when going to a larger screen such as the iPad’s. “You don’t want to have to completely rebuild the app, but at the same time, take advantage of everything a platform has to offer.”
Monetizing mobile apps still problematic
Cook says monetization of mobile apps via ads can be a problem. “The mobile ad market just is not there yet,” she notes. “You have to think more creatively about how to make money. The way most apps are doing it is via in-app purchasing. We’ve had some success there. Anyone on myYearbook with an iTunes profile is two taps away from buying as opposed to the web, where you have to fill out a form and provide credit card information.”
It’s not quite so easy on Android mobile devices she says. “Plenty of people with an Android phone never buy an app. My boyfriend has had one more than a year and never bought an app.”
She readily admits the mobile app landscape has heated up. One of the firm’s hardest business decisions early-on was to figure out its exact strategy after launching in 2005. At the time, Facebook was still only used on college campuses and there were a lot of people on MySpace. “We decided to narrow our focus and move into a new category. There weren’t a lot of meet-new-people networks then.”
Now, she says, “There is a new app coming out weekly in the same space, so there is a ton of competition, all trying to crack the same nut, how to engineer serendipity.”