The Pursuit Of App-iness Is Yielding Fewer Dividends By The Day

27/06/2016 7:21 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:27 AM IST
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BERLIN, GERMANY - JUNE 17: In this photo illustration the app of facebook is displayed on a smartphone on June 17, 2016 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo Illustration by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images)

Back in 2012, if a website prompted me to install an app on my phone, I'd do it in a jiffy. In 2014, if a website wanted me to install an app, I would think about it first. But today, if a website asks me to install their app, there is a very good chance that I will not do it. And if the said website is insistent, sending me constant reminders, I will just stop using the website as well.

We have reached a stage where everything on and off the Internet has an app. And, anyone who doesn't have an app wants to make one. Chances are, that even the neighbourhood chaiwala has a hyper-local delivery app. Sure, apps are great but there are already too many apps on phones. No one is going to use those apps too often.

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The old truism about quantity versus quality applies here as well. Most apps today do nothing extraordinary. They don't offer any added functionality over what they could have delivered in the form of a desktop or a mobile website. Take for instance, ordering food. Very often that activity takes place where you are within the reach of a computer. And, if you were to install the app, they will bombard you with tons of notifications per day.

True, in order to gain users and eyeballs, many apps offer discounts on your purchases. But then the service has deteriorated in many instances. For example, it is great to have a large choice of grocery products and have your order delivered at your doorstep quickly. But very often now customers find that the delivery time has gone up by quite a bit.Often, the payment system too is broken and you find yourself talking to a customer care executive. Naturally, you begin to feel nostalgic for your neighbourhood bania who is just a phone call away and is happy to deliver even one item in minutes flat.

Practically every website now has an app and most of them are no fun to use. Making an app is very easy now. You do not have to know how to do coding and it can cost as little as a couple of thousands of rupees. As a result, app makers neglect to ask that simple question -- is the app really needed?

Unless you are a Facebook, Snapchat, Uber or Twitter, no one is going to use your app daily. In fact, you can count yourself lucky if someone uses your app even once a week. All the app does is sit on your phone occupying memory and using bits of data as well.

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As a service provider, when you decide to make an app, you should consider the following questions. Would my app provide something that is not available on the website? From a design perspective, can we achieve the ease of use that is greater than any other possible solution that we have? Could there be any better alternative to an app?

Technologically, we are already seeing the steps being taken to ease the headache of installing yet another app. One of them is bots. Facebook Messenger recently allowed access to developers to include bots that you can chat with and get things done. For example, you can chat with an Uber-bot and call a cab without needing to install their app. This removes the overhead of having to download the app. Many other messengers such as Slack, Telegram, and WeChat already allow bots and apps on their platforms.

Another solution, recently demonstrated by Google, is called instant app. This allows you to load a part of an app on your browser to allow you to complete an action without having to install the app.

Even though overall app downloads are on a decline already that doesn't mean that there is no demand for new apps. Good apps are always needed if designed well. Over the years, apps have made many things simpler and solved many problems. But, the time is ripe for potential app makers to first think if designing an app is really the best way forward or if there are better ways to achieve their goals.

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