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Managing User Expectations - When Native Apps were Not Built Natively

Posted by C.S. Hsia on · Comments

The team behind Pay4Bugs have diverse interests, which is why in addition to Pay4Bugs, we also make iPhone and Andriod Apps. In fact, the early reviewer's severe bashing of our first iPhone app Instant Supercar only reaffirmed to us the importance of using our own sister product to test software products thoroughly BEFORE releasing them.

When apps first came onto the scene, every company wanted to build apps because it was relatively cheap, brings great PR, and makes a firm seem technologically advanced. However as time moves on, and technology continues to fragment, the decision is no longer just iOS and/or Android, but also the many different versions of the OS software..... plus tablets.

With so much demand for apps, and increasing fragmentation, some companies attempt to save money by choosing a one size fit all solution. There are plenty of development shops, many outsourced overseas, that will build an app for you that is then "ported" to work on all major mobile platforms. One size fits all...... or is it?

What Mobile Platform to support, a dilemma.

Despite the trend in cell phone design. Touch screen, 4G, candy bar form factor. Users have very different behaviors, and expectations about how an app, on a certain phone, should behave. When you build an one size fits all application, it just might not fit any of them.

Case and point. Scottrade recently released their iPhone app, which was also ported to Android and Blackberry. The app looks nearly identical across all 3 platforms, but due to the difference in user expectations, are not faring well at all. iPhone users expected Retina Graphics, Android users were disappointed by the use of screen real estate, and Blackberry users were just disappointed it didn't work well. While the company can claim that they "have" an app, the reviews are overwhelmingly negative, and many users state they're leaving because of this.

Cloned, but flawed and unloved.

On the other hand, E*Trade also has apps on all 3 of these platforms, and all 3 look remarkably similar. However, any user can tell that the apps were purpose built for the devices, taking advantage of all of the hardware and OS features. The high rating confirms that users are satisfied with the experience.

Similar, but each with unique talents.

Our thoughts as purveyors of mobile technology? For the growing, dominant platforms of iOS and Android, still with building native apps, natively. As for BlackBerry, Windows7, WebOS (whatever HP ends up doing), or Symbian, start by making a wap based website that does what your users expect. If you must build apps, then I suppose one size fit most solutions are somewhat acceptable.

Regardless if you build it in house, or build it via a porting tool. Remember to test extensively. The 1 and 2 star ratings can be vicious.