"I wish Ello had an app for my smartphone." "Where's the mobile app?" "I can't believe Ello launched in 2014 without a mobile app..."
I see these comments being made by many folks trying out Ello, and while I do sympathize, I have to wonder how we got to this point. Why should Ello have to have a "mobile app"?
Why is a "mobile website" not good enough?
Why has the mobile environment shifted to an "app" environment instead of a "web" environment?
If I analyze my own behavior on my iPhone, I know that I like apps because they are easy to find. I can put them on one of my screens with an easy icon. When I pull down from my home screen and get the search box, I can easily find the apps.
Sure, I can add a mobile web page to my home screens - but here's a more important difference: it is easy to switch between apps. I can just double-click my home button on my iPhone, see the list of open apps, and switch to the one I want.
I can't do that with a mobile web page... it's one of the bunch that I have inside of mobile Safari. So instead I have to
1, switch to the Safari app 2. press the button to show all the open pages 3. find the page for the appropriate web site and tap it
That's more steps than just switching to a mobile app.
But with a mobile app:
* someone has to code the app for each mobile operating system * someone has to upload that app to each o/s app store * some app stores (Apple!) have to approve the app * people have to install the app before they can start working with your site
It's a lot more work and expense. Yes, it can provide a better user experience in the end, but at the cost of all of the above.
And yet now we have the expectation that "there MUST be an app". Mobile web sites aren't good enough.
Where did we go wrong on this?
UPDATE - It was pointed out to me in another comment thread that mobile apps can trigger "notifications" on the smartphone that can appear as pop-ups, on lock screens, in notification centers, etc. I don't know that this is possible with a mobile web site.
UPDATE #2 - On my iPhone, I saved Ello to my home page so that it got its own icon... and I was very pleased to see that it comes up now very much like an "app" in that I can rapidly switch between it and other apps. I remember doing this before on my iPhone and it did NOT work that way... in fact, it doesn't work that way now for some other sites I've saved. I'm not sure if it's something Ello did to their mobile web site... or it's something Apple did to iOS since the time I saved the other sites, but this behavior is MUCH better for a user experience.