Why would a company promote a native app over their perfectly usable website?
We’d have to ask them, I suppose. But it’s hard not to see this push to native as a matter of priorities: that these companies consider native applications worthy of their limited time, resources, and money. They’re a worthy investment, to hear these banners tell it.—Ethan Marcotte, “Locus.”
Ethan shows off that the web is absolutely covered in amazingly obtrusive “get the app” banners, often covering up perfectly usable websites.
What I always think of when I see banners like this is a comment I remember Tim Holman making one time that was something like,
What would it feel like to work on the web team at a company like this? There are a bunch of people in the world that work on websites that only exist behind big stupid banners telling people not to use the thing they work on all day.
Sure would be nice to get to a point where companies didn’t really care which method you used, because it’s probably all built with one technology anyway and is fully capable of anything the device can do.
And some huge portion of those apps are just webviews…
I know, right? Even desktop apps are like this. The desktop-version of Whatsapp, Spotify, and even Figma are all essentially just Chromium-rendered web apps powered by
Electron.js. Hard to understand why they would even do something like that, but then again maybe it’s just for the pyschological assurance that, hey, our “native” app is bigger, better, and faster.
It’s about keeping the customer’s attention. Apps are easier to send notifications from, and can keep the user captive on your site. (And a lot of these “apps” do seem to just be the normal website repackaged. Even the
In a web browser, the user can switch tabs, to a competitors site or something else entirely.
Yeh, I can’t even imagine why people are thinking like this. Apps are the real deal for any company. For example, I do go to amazon.com for shopping but sometimes I see the icon on my phone and I’ll just open it for spending some spare time. This is a big difference for any company. And entertainment apps are the epitome of this trick. Tiktok would’ve never be this, if it wasn’t sitting there in your phone’s corner, because it’s safe to say that most tiktok users are just aimlessly spending thier time doing nothing.
Native apps display only the creators’ content and can send notifications to drive engagement. Browsers also include access to their competitors.
This is usually due to storage limitations on Safari; Apple would rather have developers pushed towards the App Store rather than have them develop PWAs.
Apps are out of reach for adblockers and such, this matters for some of those sites.
But honestly it’s likely mostly inertia as well. They do like having their icons on the phone’s home screen and good support for PWA is still a relatively recent thing. It will take a while for the mentality to change.
Ads can’t be blocked as easily on native apps eithrr
The more interesting question how to build these banners not being obstructive and don’t lose Lighthouse points because of CLS increase…
I assumed it was because apps aren’t subject o any privacy or security browser settings
Absolutely: Apps get a ton more valuable user-data, id, location, microphone, camera and so on. Selling user-data is a business-model of its own.
And apps can notify users and increase interaction. I’ve seen some nasty dark patterns there too. Like giving a ring even, when the user slienced its phone.
It’s deeply frustrating. I sent a gentle nastygram to the team at NYTimes Cooking, where the “Get the app!” violator pops up on every single recipe page, no matter how many times you dismiss it. And, the app lacks functionality that the website has — the website lets you open multiple recipes in multiple tabs, lets you send links to friends, and has pretty good predictive search.
I would likely to think my browser protects my data better than an app, maybe stronger privacy rules…I don’t know that’s true but still always prefer the website even with the constant get the app banners.
I have been involved in many projects where managers quite naturally express the wish for an app when a web site is planned – or has been launched.
They seem to think that an app is the natural way to many users’ hearts.
And they may unfortunately be right.
A lot of users will download apps for Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp as well as content driven sites like IMDB, various news sites and whatnot, even though the web sites are essentially identical to the apps and have the same basic functions.
In some cases having the app loaded on the users’ gadgets allow for push messages like little red numbers and noisy message alerts. These can of course attract the users’ attention and create traffic (and maybe business). These push alerts aren’t quite as easy to get through in a browser (users close browsers, you know), but in general well designed web sites can do what most apps do, especially the ones that mainly convey content rather than offer functions or hardware integration.
But there’s an odd willingness in many companies and organizations to pay for app development and maintenance, which essentially just creates work for developers, and doesn’t give any real benefits to the client beyond what’s on the web site already.
Strange and irrational considering the added cost, which is often more than the price of the web site.