Dear websites, please stop asking me to download your mobile app

Dear *insert website name,*

Please stop asking me to your mobile app. I don’t want want to use it. I don’t care if you think your app is the bees-knees. If I wanted to use your app, I’d go to the app store and download said app. But I didn’t do that. Instead, I’m writing this letter to make my stance clear:

I prefer to access your service within the comfort of a browser, thank-you-very-much.

It’s fine to tell me to download your app the first time I visit your page, or even send me a reminder now and then. You have to let people know your app exists, sure. But constant reminders, massive banners, or worse, flat out preventing me from using basic features on your mobile site — looking at you, Reddit — is just hostile.

I get it. You paid developers a lot of money to create an app for the smoothest native software experience. You can probably implement fancier features. But I still don’t want to use it.

Here’s the thing: an app may offer the best experience for your app, but it’s not the best experience for using my phone. Guess which experience I care about more.

Today’s phones are powerful enough to do a whole bunch of stuff that used to require a proper PC. And like on my PC, 80% of the stuff I do, I can do from a browser. It’s nice to be able to keep various pages and services organized in one place, rather than switching between multiple apps for basic content consumption. The modern browser is basically an operating system within an operating system and oftentimes the in-app experience simply isn’t superior enough to win over the convenience of just visiting a web page.

But it’s not just an organizational preference. Quite often, I find being forced to use an app leads to frustrations and limitations I don’t have to deal with in a browser. To list some off the top of my head:

  • I can’t open links/pages in new tabs
  • I can’t have multiple instances of your app for multi-tasking or research
  • Apps often introduce unexpected bugs with updates that are rare to see on a mobile site
  • I can’t bookmark content for easy retrieval
  • Even if I can bookmark things, I can’t keep pages organized with content from other apps/services
  • It takes longer to open an app than to simply type a URL or open a bookmark when I’m already in a browser
  • I often can’t copy and pastetextfrom pages without workarounds
  • I often can’t easily save images
  • More apps clutter my phone’s launcher
  • I can’t see my history
  • Navigation and UI behaviors are often more consistent in a browser — I know exactly where the back gesture is going to take me
  • Apps require extra storage and often request unnecessary permissions
  • Apps will often bombard my phone with notifications I didn’t ask for. Even if I can disable them, it’s annoying

That’s a lot to deal with if I’m just trying to read comments on a stupid meme or watch a cute animal video.

There’s a reason people tend to do so many things from a browser on their PCs — it’s just more convenient. There may have been a time when using a native app was unequivocally superior on a phone, but unless your software requires a good deal of processing horsepower or fancy code for its most basic functionality, chances are I’d rather use it from a browser.

This brings me back to my opening paragraph: if I wanted to use your app, I’d already be doing that. Heck, sometimes I do download the app to use occasionally, but I still don’t want to use it every time I  access your service. Annoying your users into submission isn’t good design.

So, pretty please, stop pestering me.

Sincerely,

Everyone, presumably.



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