Apps are dead? Optimize your mobile website!

[This is a repost of an article published on LinkedIn in Jun. 2016]

We read in the news these days that apps are not the hype anymore, as explained by my friend Dennis on this article, developing an app for your digital service is not the alpha and omega of success.

I personally start being annoyed by the invasion of apps on smartphones: we are accumulating a *%@#-load of apps on our smartphones, and many of them just do the same thing: news apps (every single news website has its own app), chat apps (who does not have 3 of these apps on their phone: Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber, Line, Google Hangouts, IMO), music and radio apps (Deezer, Spotify, Google Music, Shazam, TuneIn), etc.

With this multiplication of apps come some disturbances:

1. The number of updates and the data volume sucked up by Google Play has become annoying and can be costly: on an average month I have seen Google Play consume 1 GB of mobile data just to do updates, as I used to let Google automatically update apps when needed. As it was most of the time in the evening while I wanted to view videos, I decided to turn off automatic updates to remove this hassle and save some MBs on my data plan, skipping some of the daily update of my apps.

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2. The notification panel is becoming crowded with useless alerts and the smartphone keeps buzzing. Although I remain careful on this, I could see some of my family members’ phone completely crippled by updates, and the notification bar becoming useless as it was flooded by information.

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3. The phone becomes slower and it is not so convenient to navigate between so many apps. The battery life I guess is somewhat impacted with the multiplication of background services running to manage those notifications. We sometime have to do a good-old Factory Reset to start from a fresh ROM, which reminds me of the old Windows 95 times, when we had to do the same after installing too many shareware.

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4. A new vector of malwares for all those basic apps that you done need (like tools and games). I noticed more and more infections, such as browser cache poisoning, where some JavaScript files are replaced and start redirecting your Chrome session to unwanted websites while you are just surfing on regular websites. I even suspect those malware also spread over the Wi-Fi hotspots feature of infected smartphones.

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The first effects of this phenomena can already be observed, the relative number of “Zombie Apps” on app stores increase, which basically means there is more junk than useful apps out there nowadays and people start to reach their limit of apps installed on their smartphones, being fed up with the process and invasion of icons on their device.

It becomes more and more probable now that your new customers will interact with your service through your traditional website for the first time instead of going through the cumbersome process of installing your app.

Unless your service is really innovative. To have your customer install your app, you need to propose something really new or have converted him into a loyal customer. With a well-done mobile website, (i) you develop once for all platforms using web standards, (ii) you can allow potential customers to test your service without installing anything, (iii) and you can push them new features and bugfixes without having them do an update.

So don’t throw your HTML/CSS/JS developer skills in the bin just yet, the hype of Objective-C/Swift and Android Java/Eclipse expertise might be already behind us.

In a next article I will give some tips on how to enhance your website for mobile browsing taking advantage of HTML5 and JavaScript APIs for Mobile.

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