Crap Facebook apps are great for mobile web
I caught the Zuckerburg interview from TechCrunch Disrupt this evening and mobile was pretty much the only topic. Ignoring all the Facebook Phone nonsense some interesting insight into apps was gained. But you can read about that anywhere right now.
One statistic which really got me thinking:
More people use Facebook on mobile web than they do on iOS and Android apps combined.
That’s not a new stat, but for the first time I started thinking about why. It aligns with the patterns I’ve been seeing from user testing where time after time we’re being told people don’t use apps. They just use the browser, even without a mobile website.
What’s causing this behaviour?
The top app downloaded on any app store is Facebook. It’s probably the first app a “normal person” downloads when they get their shiny new smartphone. Why? Because it’s the site they use the most and they want access to it on their phone. People are entering into a fairly un-know territory so it’s only natural for them to download something familiar. They’d also be forgiven for thinking that Facebook will build one of the best apps, because, well they’re Facebook.
They’ve created their iTunes or Google account and eagerly await whilst the app downloads. Finally it does and they have to log in. Beyond this point they’re greeted with a world of slowness, confusion, annoyance and are generally left with a feeling of great disappointment.
They brought this fancy phone to run apps and the Facebook app is crap. You can understand then why they never bother downloading any more apps. “If the Facebook app is crap, they must all be crap” is a statement I wouldn’t be surprised runs through the majority of “normal people”.
What happens next?
They try a more familiar route, this time opening the web browser and punching in facebook.com. They log in and WOW, “this is much more what I was expecting”. It’s fast, easy and just works. “I can spy on all my school friends, see who’s just been dumped and browse the embarrassing photos from last nights work party”. Zuckerburg admitted himself mobile web is a far superior experience to the native apps.
You’d be understanding therefore if the person never opened the app or downloaded another app ever again. With Facebook working well in the browser, the next thing they look up whether it be a film, train ticket, weather will be in mobile web browser. They’re now comfortable using the browser, they understand it and have no need to bother with apps.
This is great.
If this hypothesis is accurate, it means there’s probably a whole group of people with no desire to ever use an app again. Everything they want to do on mobile they will do in mobile web browsers because that’s what they’re used to and they like it.
As more sites develop intuitive mobile web experiences this behaviour will hopefully spread, with more and more people seeing the clear benefits of the browser over having hundreds of apps. When their friends get a smartphone they’ll advise them to steer clear of apps and just use the browser.