Reviewing email on my iPad, I get a message from LinkedIn reminding me that I have important invitations waiting. I’ve been remiss! Fortunately, LinkedIn totally gets convenience: there’s an “Accept” button right here in the email, which I tap thankfully. Being a web link, it takes me to a LinkedIn URL in Safari which, detecting I’m on a tablet, informs me that “Opportunity is tapping” so I should get the LinkedIn app for iPad. Frown. I already have the LinkedIn app for iPad, but there are no choices on this page other than “Get the app.” So I tap and I’m transported to the app store, where I learn the LinkedIn app has a mere three stars and I’m due for an update. Again I have only one choice, so update it is. Next comes the challenge for my Apple ID password, which fortunately I’ve committed to memory – such is Apple’s rarified role – and, after a brief 30 second delay while the update downloads and installs, I’m finally invited to open the app.
But here comes another challenge: I need to log in to LinkedIn to use the app. That’s a problem. Although I’m extremely fond of LinkedIn, I have not committed my LinkedIn password to memory since my PC browser knows it, and I’m the kind of paranoid who actually keeps separate random time-based passwords for all of my websites, generated automatically by a program I use for this purpose. So I leave the LinkedIn app and load my password app, find and copy the password, go back and paste it into the app, but, alas, the password is not recognized.
Now I’m down the rabbit hole: there’s no way to reset the password from the app on my tablet. Determined to prevail, I put down the tablet and head for my laptop, where I open my browser and go through a simple five-step process to reset my password (“resetting your password is easy!” reminds LinkedIn helpfully) and, returning to the tablet, at last I’m in. Success! What was I trying to do again?
I don’t mean to single out LinkedIn here. This sort of pattern is repeated across so many sites. As the debate pitting mobile apps against websites continues to rage, it often seems to me that the attraction of superior app-based user experience hides the usability costs of going native: the loss of simple web linking (with parameters to establish context); browser-based security and authentication; ease of distribution and updates; universal standards-based implementation; search-based discovery…these are not virtues to be taken for granted.
This is not to say mobile apps don’t have an important role to play, but the essence of customer-centric design is to understand the entire customer experience, from impulse to fulfillment. Consider that as you plot your native app strategy.