Monday 9 May 2011

5 minute post - when is an app needed?

I'm going to start a new experiment with this blog. 5 minute posts. 5 minutes to write them, hopefully only 5 minutes to read them.

I've been talking about apps a lot recently. I've just read Digital by Default by SOCITM in which it states that it's little flash up survey dialogue box responses say 8% of respondents have downloaded an app. It goes on to state apps are 'popular'.

Reaching 8% of your audience as a result of at least a £500 initial investment (and that's for an app done as a test piece by a bunch of local students) of public money, seems to me, madness. There must be better ways to spend £500 to communicate, broadcast or permit residents to report problems over the web.

I'd like to propose that it comes in the more boring and yet effective way of providing a version of your webpage which recognises when it's being accessed by a mobile phone and automatically presents a stripped down webpage, limited scrollbar usage needed to navigate with no images, only text, and the top 10 tasks for your site displayed right at the top. Along with a phone number.

That last sentence, by the way, is almost entirely based on the contents and learning from that SOCITM report. So it is worth reading.

5 minutes. Done.


  1. yes, i think the first question that people forget when they see a shiny app as the answer is "why?"

    why would I download a localgov app?
    why would I make my life better?
    and why should public money be spent on it?

    of-course behind that is the what, specifically what will it save or do.

    Mostly it's a "if we have an app then we can say we have an app".. it's much more appealing then saying we have improved find-ability on the site by 5% (which would save 1,000s of pounds a month)

    Your right, it's quicker cheaper and faster to mobile the site than create an app. There is very little an app can do for localgov that a mobile site couldn't do cheaper and on more phones.

  2. The times when an app is needed in place of a well designed mobile site are a) they need to work offline (HTML5 will of course blur this line considerably) b) they need access to something in the hardware the browser can't use or c) performance reasons.
    So for quite a lot service or informational based stuff in local government creating a mobile friendly set of templates should be the way forward with (hopefully) the added bonus that this can be applied to a lot of content at once, whereas apps tend to be of a narrower focus.
    Finally we all need a way to permanently banish SOCITMs annoying pop up surveys.

  3. As long as said mobile web page also gives a way to go to the full site if you wish. Many mobile browsers these days are capable of displaying and interacting with full websites, and should be allowed to do so, if the user wants to.

    I can think of a couple of websites that have some issues in this regard.
    One didn't have all the features on the mobile website and on the other, the mobile website was actually broken and you couldn't do what you were supposed to be able to.

    Neither site allowed you to go to the "full" site that would be by default presented to desk top browsers, which meant that I had to wait until I had access to a computer in order to do what I wanted to do.

  4. @all I agree wholeheartedly with all your comments. Especially having a 'I'm not actually on a mobile you numpties' button.