As I went through user testing for my first app build, one of the fundamental questions I asked (and you should too) was “is an app the right thing for our users?”
There are generally two sides to this debate: everyone needs an app vs. UGH, stop building useless apps. During the discovery process and in the months since our deployment, I’ve solidly been on Team No App for my current clients. I believe our energy is better spent adding functionality and useability to our sites when accessed via mobile devices. Anecdotally, the web professionals in my network are generally against apps in our personal use as well. Yet Yahoo’s Flurry reports that 90% of mobile media time is spent using apps vs. browsers.
This got me thinking about the different user profiles we can consider when it comes to use and comfort with technology. Consider these personas the next time you’re doing user testing.
Child of the ’90s
This person places a high value on bandwith and storage because they lived in the time where there was a huge cost to both. They tend to be a bit more forgiving of slow load speeds and functionality as a tradeoff to downloading your app, but give them a smart, bare bones mobile site version and they will be exceptionally loyal.
This person has automatic updates turned off, which means they will wait two or three versions by the time they jump onto the wifi and update the 56 pending updates. Okay fine, this person is me.
Tech-savvy and impatient, this person wants the easiest, fastest experience. They update apps automatically, and they always have the latest mobile device so storage is never an issue. Apps are easier, so as long as that user experience does what it should, they are on board.
This person never cleans out old apps, and will have no tolerance for how slow your mobile site loads, or if the functionality is not as robust as your app or desktop version.
Won’t Be Left Behind
Your parents or even grandparents might belong to this user testing group. They are not even close to as tech-ignorant as they were even five years ago. Now, they Tweet, Facebook and maybe even Snap alongside you, as long as none of the buttons move in your layout. This group has no problem with using apps (they are easier) and will wait for wifi to use them.
Hopefully you are already doing accessibility testing, but this user group is a great example of how good accessibility makes for better design for all of your users. Consider your design from the point of view of that grandparent holding their iPad two feet out from their face while trying to single-finger type on the virtual keyboard and the changes you make will no doubt help everyone.