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Preserving the UX: How To Avoid The iOS “Stutter Step”


This is the first in a three-part series of entries in which we’ll look at the behind-the-scenes processes that occur when resolving URLs from within an app, and what actions you, as a developer, can do to preserve your affiliate commissions and the experience of your users:

Have you ever clicked on a link within an iOS app, and then watched helplessly as your device jumps from the app to Mobile Safari, then to another app or into the iTunes Store, App Store, or iBookstore? There’s a name for this user experience faux pas, and it’s called the “Stutter Step”.

The stutter step happens when an app isn’t prepared for multiple http-based redirects, such as the resolution of an affiliate link. As the URL resolves it will first trigger the app to close, load Mobile Safari, and then once the link has resolved, Safari will close and another app will open to load and handle the final link.

The process of being bounced into Safari, then into another app or one of the iOS Stores, is not ideal for your users. In a world where impeccable design and a seamless UX can sometimes say more about an app than the actual app itself, it’s important to avoid things like the stutter step wherever possible.

There are two ways to work around the stutter step when dealing with affiliate links for the iTunes Store or App Store:

By creating a “short URL” where the relevant affiliate tracking parameters are added to the end of a raw iTunes link, the user is taken directly into the iTunes or App Store App upon clicking a link. It’s important to recognize two downfalls with this workaround.  First, you loose reporting on clicks and tracking tags. Additionally, because you are only able to affiliate the link with one set of parameters, you can’t earn commissions from more than one country’s affiliate program (and could be leaving significant revenue on the table).

Alternatively, you can process the affiliate redirect in the background of your app. Here, the user is also taken directly to the iTunes or App Store App to make a purchase, but this method allows for click reporting, tracking tags and use of global linking services like GeoRiot. While this is the preferred method of the two, it is a bit more technical, as it requires you to update code in your app instead of just swapping out a link.

In our next entry, we’ll introduce QA 1629 – Apple’s code snippet for handling redirects, as well as some code specific for GeoRiot links.