Do you really need to make an app?
When the iOS App Store launched in 2008 and the app craze took hold, businesses have been developing mobile applications with the same frenzy observed throughout the 90s and 00s, at the advent of the Web.
As we approach the 10 year mark, let’s consider whether applications are critical for every business.
Recent data by ComScore shows the average smartphone user downloads zero new applications per month, and those that do make the cut are often abandoned after just one use.
Before investing time and money into app development, know what apps excel at and whether your product relies on this.
So what are apps good at?
Accessing hardware features
Think ‘Snapchat’ and its use of cameras, or Uber and its need for GPS location, speed and gyroscopic sensors. Having quick and reliable access to in-built features like these, make most applications possible and purposeful.
Well-designed notifications can substantially increase the usefulness, and subsequent usage of, native applications. Getting a notification when your pizza is about to arrive or simply when your timer has elapsed are valuable use cases.
Tighter design control
Applications allow designers to have tighter control of the user experience. Unlike mobile browsers, native applications can take over the entire screen, meaning more scope for complex menus and navigation tools.
A perception of permanence
Once an application is installed and setup, it is better at retaining information. It is also easier to locate an app as an icon on a screen – especially if a user has positioned it on their first screen.
What are apps not so good at?
Typically, to access an app you have to visit the app store, search for the app, install it and then navigate through a long onboarding process. For something simple like placing an order, this might feel like overkill.
Smartphones have a limited amount of space and apps eat into that space. Is it really necessary to have an app for an online store? It might be, depending on the needs of your users, but often it just forms part of the clutter on your phone.
Any other options?
The Web has changed a lot since the introduction of smartphones. It’s had to. The previously held belief that the Web can’t accomplish many of the things that apps can is no longer true.
Payment services like Apple Pay have eliminated the need to store credit card details for individual websites; appealing for users who value security. You can add your credit or debit card to your phone, so that you don’t need to re-enter your details for every minor transaction on each different site. This means that sites no longer need to build out complex login systems.
Little flowers at https://www.littleflowers.com.au/ do a great job of designing their site for buying a single bunch of flowers that changes each day. Their website is responsive and optimised for completing this task on most devices.
Another upside to designing for the Web is that you don’t have to create native apps for multiple platforms. You are accessible to everyone by default. This makes a strong case for the Web being the first choice for platforms.
Chatbots have recently been hailed as the next big thing in how we interact with services. The concept gained massive popularity in China through the messaging apps WeChat and LINE. These apps made it easy for users to do things like book a hotel and replace support lines for common, repetitive questions.
Part of the appeal of chatbots is that you can enter your payment details, addresses and more at the messaging app level and not have to re-enter this information for every single service that you interact with. LINE and WeChat made it easy to interact with new services through the ability to add them by scanning a QR code.
It’s still early days, but chatbots appear to be taking off outside of China. Facebook just launched the Messenger Platform 2.0 which increases their chatbot capabilities. You can now take payments, integrate menus, show web views and display other standard user interface elements in the conversation.
There are numerous platforms that businesses can use to reach users, each with their pros and cons. Native apps, the Web and chatbots are only some of these options.
Get in touch if you’d like help finding and designing a platform that will help to achieve your business and user goals.