Minting Apps

I have been obsessed by pulling apart groupings that exist today and think about how they could be more loosely coupled and what benefit that would bring.

One of these notions is the idea of an application being tied to an icon in the way that it is on some OSes. iOS is very strict and simple (1 to 1 other than bookmarks) and Android allows for more launch targets as well as beyond-the-bookmarks with PWAs.

When you think about deploying an app into an app store you are often tying together multiple concerns:

  • Distribution practice
  • Technology choices
  • User experience.

Do you have an umbrella app or multiple apps?

One app allows for:

  • One download of everything
  • Your brand is simplified in app store search results
  • Easy up-sell of new features into the app that is already installed
  • Clear notification channel
  • One place for ratings and reviews.

However multiple apps allow for:

  • Only download what you need (size matters, and even more so once you get outside of the bubble)
  • Features aren’t hidden, one app for one use case
  • Apps can be cleanly annotated in an app store
  • Clarity on what the ratings and reviews are for.

On the distribution side:

  • Many wrap web experiences via cordova + others just to get into the app store (as well as getting the escape hatch to native functionality)
  • Native apps have to deal with the promotion / install flow from the web side (with instant apps on android looking to help with that problem)

Searching for a Mint

When I saw the Google Search team post about the new inline games that show up based on certain results, and I add to that how I experienced the Olympics (seeing the results in search), I got to thinking.

What if Search, and many other experiences, minted home screen access. Why is “The App Store” the place to install? With PWAs we have brought that to the Web in an expanding number of browsers and it makes total sense for me beyond the “just make this one thing an app”.

Let’s take the search games. You do a search for [tic tac toe], you can play it right away, and then if you like it you can pack it away somewhere for later. This not only works for the internal experience itself, but for external ones. They can work in a similar fashion. For the internal ones though you get to play them very much inline, especially when you have a larger screen.

You can also see doing this for apps that have a master details experience. Let’s take an app that tracks particular counters, for example: number of push-ups you do daily, or the number of days until an event. Normally you have an area in the app that lists them all and then you narrow into a particular. Another approach could be to have the master view let the user spit out the push up counter “as an app”. The same experience then works from the home screen but also from any device that has the URL.

Speaking of URLs, these give us the simple ability to scope this all out. The main umbrella app is mycounters.com, and then mycounters.com/push-ups. Or maybe you go for pushups.mycounters.com. You can slice and dive it in any way that makes sense.

You can also do some of this in the app world by pushing between apps, and I am hopeful that this becomes easier too, giving us more capabilities to slice and dice there.

Users actually care about these things. Do you remember the uproar when Facebook took the messaging piece out of the app?

I am looking forward to seeing more experiments in how we can piece together great experiences, and how to allow for choices that aren’t as coupled together.

Have you seen any interesting approaches to tying together various experiences?