Most vocal mobile development gurus I’ve heard claim that apps are faster and are the preferred choice for direct interaction on mobile devices over mobile web sites. In this logic, mobile web is the choice for indirect use, as a landing platform when someone clicks a link using a mobile device in twitter, facebook etc. However, the app market is getting crowded and I’m of a different view and belive that apps have a vastly more narrow use. Think about it, which is faster and requires the least amount of effort for the user:
- Open the app store
- Find the wanted app
- Click install (or “Free” and then “Install”)
- Click “Accept terms” (or enter the store password)
- Waiting for the app to download and install
- Find it somewhere on the device
- Find the item to purchase or wanted information
- Open the mobile browser (or tap a link on the homescreen, then jump to the last step below)
- Enter the URL (or use a bookmark)
- Find the item to purchase or the wanted information
Mobile apps can only be seen as direct communication when the user already have an established relationship with the company or service and have the app installed and regularly use it. For new relationships it’s a very time-consuming and energy-wasting detour. A problem also arises if the app is not up to par with the effort level of downloading it and figuring it out, more than 26% of iOS apps are only used once and then deleted (if they don’t just lie around on the device without ever being opened again). In this case a mobile website is much more appropriate, we don’t want to force our customers into downloading, installing something and then taking up screen real estate for a single interaction and for this the web is the appropriate medium.
I’m not saying that there’s no case where apps aren’t preferred over web, there are many of those (in-app purchases, advanced functionality, games etc). What I’m saying is that apps are only appropriate if they provide something more that isn’t available in a web app and the user already have a relation to the provider so they trust that the app and the content is worth the trouble.