Do you really need to launch an app?

There is an app for pretty much anything these days. But are apps always the best way to get the message across?

 Do you really need to launch an app?

As Apple often tells us, there’s an app for pretty much everything. But are apps always the best way to get the message across?

Since the Apple Store launched in July 2008 more than 50billion apps have been downloaded – only slightly more than Google Play’s 48billion.

When the iPhone launched, apps very quickly became a must-have accessory for many site owners. If you didn’t have an app then you weren’t down with the kids.

It didn’t matter that many of these were just mobile-friendly reproductions of their existing websites.

But with developments like responsive design, the argument for these kinds of apps is rapidly being eroded.

The interaction cost of an app

Apps demand an interaction cost – the effort needed for users to open the app store, find the app, download it, install it and finally, use it.

So apps need to offer something to users that they can’t get anywhere else, like making a task easier or offering exclusive content which isn’t available on the main website.

But all too often, apps simply replicate the functions and content of a website.

Take Skyscanner as an example – it launched 3 different apps for Android, iPhone and Windows devices that allow users to search for cheap flights. Just like the website.

But surely a well-optimised mobile site would be a better fit? You only need to invest in developing one site and it works across all devices. There’s only one platform to manage and it reduces the burden on the user.

Or how about the new app from anti-racism campaign Kick it Out? It’s designed to make it easier for football supporters to report racism on the terraces.

But to report an incident, you have to go through all the effort to download and install it first – often in a large crowd where mobile internet reception is patchy.

How’s this for a slightly easier approach: a free text service? It’s instantaneous, there’s less effort involved and it’s much more likely to have the desired effect of cataloguing and dealing with racism.

An app is not always the best way to launch a new service. So before throwing everything behind an app, ask yourself whether it’s the best route – quite often you’ll find there are more effective, and often cheaper ways of getting it done.