A curious thing happened this week that got me thinking. I know, a dangerous thing, but there you go. The happening was, that I started using FaceBook in my iPad’s web browser and abandoned the FaceBook App. Not a very radical step I hear you say, but its strange because the App interface is supposed to be better and makes best use of the multi-touch interface on the tablet.
Why did I stop using it then? Its simple really, I just find the web interface easier to use and more attractive. Quite a lot of the stuff you can just glance at on the main Facebook page, such as latest comments are hidden in the App. The main picture on this blog is a snapshot of my FaceBook page. So you know what I mean, here is a snapshot of the rather sparse App interface. You can see that comments aren’t previewed anymore and the main screen to me, takes minimalism a bot far.
Why is this significant? Well, the App is the great innovation of the age, isn’t it? Everyone expects there to be an App for everything and well, you can get everything from a bubble-wrap simulator, a spirit-level to something that makes a farting noise. Now I’m a great fan of Apps and it has to be said that I use quite a few. I love StarWalk (fun) and DropBox (practical document management) for example. However, ask me if I could only have the software built in to my iPad, making me do most things on the Web would I leave it home. Certainly not, the only thing I would have Apple add (and this would be another rant) is the support of Flash.
The thing is that there is a difference between the type of App which is genuinely needed, and does something you can’t do with a web site or is especially well engineered, and those that are simply cut-down front-ends to web sites. The point is that web sites ARE front-ends and in the days before Apps, web site developers simply had to make their web sites work with mobile browsers. Now they are under great pressure to produce an App interface to their web sites and the results are often poor. These “skin” Apps, of which FaceBook is a prime example, don’t add sufficient value to the website, they don’t even pre-download content to make the response times faster and they make you have to learn a whole new, uninspiring, user interface.
Next time I may have a rant about e-magazines but thats a different story. Apps are here to stay but hopefully as the mobile web gets faster and web developers get the hang of mobile, the “everything must be an App” hype will wither away.