Losing its ‘app’-eal

Anyone who knows me knows that I am passionate about the benefits of technology to modern life. I am rarely without my iPad or smartphone and always ensure that Twitter, Facebook and the news websites are just a short click away. The online world has brought so many advantages to the individual and also to organisations and businesses. The online can help bring people together, share conversations and build communities.

There are so many benefits to the online developments but there is one thing that I find increasingly frustrating – the development of apps. There are hundreds and thousands of them now being created. New ones appear every day and they cover all aspects of life and all areas of interest. My issue is not that there are too many or that they can be expensive. Personally, I think there are some fantastic apps out there that are really useful and can enhance both personal and professional life. The thing that I do find makes my blood boil are vanity apps.

Vanity apps are those that are obviously developed only so an organisation can say they have an app. They are usually little more than a duplicate of the company’s website that can be accessed by mobile device. So why do they annoy me? Firstly, it is because they don’t consider what the user wants or even if someone would want to use the app. They usually fail to take advantage of the mobile nature of technology and will tell you the same things no matter where you are in the country or in the world. And finally, they are created, they exist and they are not updated. They become a representation only of a particular time and if they can’t be developed then they are not truly making the best use of the technology and what can be achieved.

Apps must provide something new and extra to what currently exists. They must enhance the user’s life and provide an additional experience in some way. There are some great examples of apps that do this well. I love being able to use Audioboo on the go and always learn something when I use Night Sky to look at the constellations. But for all the good ones that exist there are hundreds of poor ones that are created.

So if you are working for an organisation or business that is considering developing an app, please make sure it is for the right reasons. Know what you want to achieve by doing it and be sure that an app is the way to achieve those aims. If it isn’t and you are not even sure who the user of your app may be then perhaps it is time to venture down another avenue.

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