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How to Create a Mobile App Nobody Wants (In Seconds!)

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Part of my position at CQL is to keep up with technology and business news to find content our followers would find interesting. You’d be surprised how often I come across articles that read something like “Build an App in 30 Seconds!” or “The End Of Developers: Automatically Generate a Mobile App!”

It’s often both entertaining and educational to pass these articles along to our development team to see what they have to say about such and such “game-changing” technology. Most recently, I shared with them an article from Fast Company titled “Turn Your Website into an App in Seconds,” (emphasis mine).

The article covered Dwnld, a “new app that can suck in a website and spit out a beautiful application.” For $15 per month, businesses can turn their site into a inexpensive and user-friendly app. Sounds great, right? I mean, it IS the year of mobile after all. Your business can have a mobile app for a low cost and without all that pesky development time.

Sure, in theory it does sound like a great idea. Until you start to break down what these apps actually provide.

The first response, from one of our developers, Nick, succinctly sums up what pretty much everyone was thinking: Looks like a great way to cash in on the “we need an app” craze that seems to affect many companies.  However, I doubt an app that creates an inferior copy of a website would be very useful to anyone. Wish I’d come up with the idea though – I’d be making bank!

Nick’s statement is spot on. While the push for mobile optimization grows, some companies look for the fastest, easiest, and cheapest way to cross mobile off their to-do list without giving it much thought. The problem with that is mobile is significant enough to warrant a lot of thought. Considering a substantial portion of your site’s visitors will be mobile, it’s worth putting in the time and effort to create a valuable mobile experience. Why shortcut the main way your customers will interact with you in the future. 

What’s more, Dwnld can’t turn your whole website into an app, only your "blog or publication." So, this would only be helpful for companies with a huge blog following of people who, for whatever reason, would rather have the company’s specific app instead of using a feed reader.

Customers already have ways to access a company's content. They can go directly to the company's site or use a feed reader like Feedly. So why would a consumer choose to download an app from the app store specifically to view content from "Company X"? It seems unlikely a company could find many willing users, particularly when the app offers no additional benefits to simply viewing content in a browser.

The function and purpose of the app left some of us, including Chris, with a lot of questions: So a company can build a custom content application? Why would a person want to download the company's content application? And how do I update the content contained in it, as it seems like I would need to re-run the application and have this company update the app, then everyone that has downloaded it has to run an update?  I suppose the Dwnld company may be taking care of refreshing the content on some regular basis, but I’m still stuck on the fact that you want me to install an app to view the same content I can see on the website but minus anything dynamic that the website can do?

The Marketing Director at Dwnld answers some of these questions in the comments of the Fast Company article: Your app will cache content for offline viewing; it will open up the ability for you to send push notifications, remarket, use in-app engagement messaging, notification center widgets, etc.; it pre-fetches content so that everything loads much faster; the interface is more sleek, snappy, and responsive than a mobile site; you get an added brand presence in the app stores; you can acquire readers/customers using nascent mobile app install advertising. 

To me, this sounds like mild benefits sandwiched between a lot of tech and marketing buzzwords. Ooh a sleek interface?! Snappy and responsive! Not to mention added brand presence. Sign me up!

No, don’t. Please.

Because even if there are substantive benefits for the company to use Dwnld, the benefits are still lacking for the user. It would require a lot of convincing to get enough users to use these apps to make them useful. They have to download the app, let it take up space on their device, accept any necessary permissions, and all they get is the same content they could view online? Sounds like we may need to update our mobile pet peeves blog.

“Well, the content in the app is formatted nicer than the web might be,” says Chris. “Basically, this is a good option for a company with no budget and a non-mobile-friendly site to give people access to their content.”

Photo via Flickr

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