Monthly Archives: March 2014Blog

Questioning the Value of Apps

We all know it’s an ‘app world’ now. Users love the simplicity of elegant one-trick apps that can perform a needed function. But the following article sheds some light on why apps aren’t always the answer. It asks why some apps are created in the first place and points out frustrations due to the significantly reduced feature sets and restrictive interfaces that come with mobile devices in general.

Have you ever tried actually using the Amazon app on iOS, Android, and Windows? … the Amazon app is a frustrating morass of missing and incomplete functions from the website. Sure, maybe you don’t need the full breadth of Amazon functions on your phone, though that’s debatable on a tablet. But natural web conveniences like opening links in new tabs, sharing links, the back button, searching within the page, and zooming in and out are available inconsistently, if at all.

There’s also the issue of privacy. What exactly are some of these apps accessing on your device? And how much additional data can they collect when users choose an app over the website?

Ultimately people will choose the best experience. Just because you offer an app doesn’t mean anyone will want it. App strategies must offer something unique or valuable that users can’t live without. Convenience on mobile devices is a good reason for creating an app, but not if it is poorly executed and frustrates users.

I use lots of apps — mostly clever utilities that allow my devices to do useful things like photo editing, FTP, or synchronized note-taking. But I usually reject apps and use websites for research, e-commerce, and search. I even resist mobile versions of websites because many of them are feature-restricted and inconsistent with their full web counterparts. In fact, my favorite link on most mobile websites is the ‘view desktop version’ link, usually found in the footer and only present if the website owner understands that users want to decide for themselves how to interact with the site.

It may be an ‘app world,’ but that doesn’t mean that every app is necessary, or even good. There’s no need to create an app for its own sake. But do create one when you can offer something so good that there’s no better way to deliver it.

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