The Impact of Apps
iPhone and Android apps changed our perception of what a mobile experience could be. With the advent of Chrome apps and the blurring of lines between browser-based, mobile and desktop software, what will the impact be on consumers' expectations of any Internet experience? In 2011, I'll be watching to see how the app experience across mediums changes people's expectations for all digital engagements.
By Carlen Lea Lesser, VP/Director
When iPhone launched the concept of "apps," it revolutionized how we think about digital experiences on mobile phones. Until then, the prevailing wisdom was to keep it simple and give people the basics. This was primarily due to the fact that before the iPhone, Web browsers on a mobile phone could only manage basic elements. Apple, through iPhones and especially iPads, has created the expectation that dynamic, rich interactive experiences can exist in a mobile environment, but not necessarily through a Web browser.
Google followed the trend in 2010 with robust offerings of Android apps, but possibly more important was something from the very end of 2010 that few people really took note of - Chrome apps. Now instead of just mobile apps, we have browser-based apps, which sets an expectation that the "app" will have a rich experience and not just provide information. Unfortunately, many current Chrome apps are just normal websites with a pretty way to bookmark them in your browsers. Others, however, like Gilt, The New York Times12
have used this as an opportunity to redefine the website. NPR's Chrome app is a completely new experience because it mimics the look, feel and functionality of their groundbreaking iPad app. There are even Chrome apps that have a cost to "install" them.14
This is not unusual for an iPhone or Android app, but Chrome apps are browser-based like websites. Implications and Action Items
With the advent of browser-based apps, content creators will need to follow how this shifts consumer perceptions in both positive and negative ways. While the majority of the cultural impact is most likely going to be from mobile apps in 2011, content creators should still plan to begin creating richer, more dynamic and ultimately more useful interactive experiences for consumers.
The website as we know it is not dead just yet, but 2011 seems to be the beginning of a monumental transformation. As Chris Anderson said in his Wired Magazine article, "The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet"15
, 2011 is the year the website will be transformed, and we have apps to thank (or not) for that.
- Experiment: Don't wait until browser-based apps are mainstream. Start experimenting with bringing the app experience to your websites today.
- Launch: If you don't have a mobile app yet, now is the time to plan one. Even if your audience is not currently app-savvy, they will be in the next few years.
- Utility: With both mobile apps and browser-based apps, focus on utility, not just sparkle. Start by thinking about what would be useful to your customers.
- Experience: If you don't use apps, start using them. The only way to understand why they are different is to use them yourself.
The New York Times for Chrome: http://tiny.cc/85kws13
NPR for Chrome: http://tiny.cc/saisc14
Dreams 2: http://tiny.cc/dx2oq15
Chris Anderson, Wired Magazine. "The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet," September 2010. http://tiny.cc/60i62