Requiring users to use apps instead of mobile sites
One of the little things that annoy me greatly are sites that try to force me to download their app when I browse them on a mobile device.
Each click, tap, or required user input is a barrier to usage, and installing an app requires going to the app store, agreeing to the permissions, and clicking download. Then I have to wait for the installation to finish before I can go back to searching to whatever it was that I was trying to do before.
Rather than hopping over these barriers, whenever I am prompted for an installation, I simply give up and find another source for the information instead.
Yelp, for example, is a site that I use often on my desktop to find restaurant reviews. I typically Google a restaurant name, and the Yelp listing for it will inevitably come up in the first few results.
Doing the same thing on my mobile device and navigating to the same Google result, however, results in a page that looks the image to the left (all screenshots taken by me). It’s a mobile version of the desktop page, optimized for a smaller screen size.
There is an “Open in App” button in the upper left hand corner, and it looks as if I have a choice as to whether I want to use the app, or stay and look through the mobile version of the page.
Scrolling down shows a list of reviews, which displays the rating and the first part of each description.
Clicking on the “Read More” button, however, does not result in an expansion of the description. Instead, it asks me to install the Yelp app, and brings me directly to the Google Play Store. Pressing install results in the screenshot on the right. I am asked to give Yelp access to my identity, contacts, location, photos/media/files, camera, and microphone. Why would Yelp need all of this information to allow me to read reviews of food?
Even though I use Yelp as an example, I have experienced this problem with other sites as well. Given that these companies continue their push to drive users’ to use their apps, they must be profiting from it. Pinterest’s product lead for growth, Casey Winters, defends the rationale behind pushing users towards app downloads, by answering the question “What’s going to make me more money, or make my company have more engaged users?”
Pinterest conducted research by doing an A-B test. Winters explained it this way: “[s]ome people come to your mobile website, you tell them to download the mobile app, and you don’t allow the mobile Web. And for some people, you just go through the mobile Web experience. And you cohort those users, you can basically see where you get more engaged users and more revenue over time.” (source) They found that mobile app users was the winner in this regard.
While this choice makes sense from a profit-generating perspective, from a UI/UX perspective, companies should be creating good, usable interfaces for both platforms, and allowing the user to choose which one to use according to their personal preferences. If one interface exists only to direct users to another one, then it should be presented as such, instead of having misleading buttons that generate unexpected behaviour.