How Appification Is Transforming The Internet
Apps have taken over the internet in recent years. In 2013, just 7 percent of companies had implemented a mobile app strategy, and 51 percent of companies had no plans to develop one, a FeedHenry survey found. By 2015, these figures had virtually reversed, with the number of companies deploying app strategies rising to 52 percent and the number avoiding app development shrinking to 11 percent. By the end of 2017, 67 percent of small businesses will have built their own mobile apps.
These numbers point toward a paradigm shift, where apps are replacing web browsers as the primary way products and services are consumed over the internet. Here’s a look at how apps have become the predominant paradigm for internet access, what this means for businesses, and how appification impacts developers and designers.
The Appification Revolution
The primary driver behind the internet’s appification has been the mobile revolution. The number of American adults who own a cell phone grew from 62 percent to 95 percent between 2002 and 2016, according to Pew Research Center data. Among cellphone users, smartphones have increasingly become the preferred mobile device, with the number of smartphone owners rising from 35 percent of American adults in 2011 to 77 percent in 2016.
As smartphone ownership has grown, mobile devices have overtaken desktops as the primary means of accessing the internet. Concurrent with the rise of mobile internet usage has been the rise of apps. Steve Jobs originally unveiled his vision of apps as a new way of delivering software via download in 1983, foreshadowing the launching of Apple’s App Store in 2008. By 2014, smartphone users were spending 89 percent of their device time using apps and just 11 percent using the mobile web.
In response to these trends, Google has begun favoring mobile friendly websites, as well as developing special tools for indexing apps. In 2015, Google announced that it was testing ways to index apps and app only content for inclusion in search results. Soon, the company plans to roll out a separate mobile first index which will serve mobile users different results than desktop users, presumably including app content.
Doing Business In An Appified Economy
The appification revolution has significant implications for companies doing business online. Companies must now adapt to the fact that 40 percent of customers are now accessing their websites and services through both mobile apps and web apps. For instance, Uber customers might use their mobile app to find a ride, but then use the web to leave their feedback.
This creates an imperative to deliver a seamlessly integrated experience which is consistent between mobile and web apps, with similar navigational and control features. It also makes it vital to share user account data between mobile and web platforms, keeping settings, preferences and information updates synced. And it makes it necessary to create information flows that guide users from one platform to another as they seek to complete tasks initiated on a different platform.
In addition to keeping up with this trend toward integrated mobile and web experience, companies are developing apps to achieve several major business purposes. Apps help companies boost sales by making it easier for customers to shop, checkout, and pay for items over their smartphones. They also improve user experience by enabling companies to continuously engage customers with valuable information updates, such as sales announcements, location based offers, and rewards for loyal customers. And they help companies compete by enabling them to maintain a constant presence on customers’ phones.
How Appification Impacts Developers and Designers
As appification continues to move forward in 2018, apps will increasingly incorporate GPS based data to deliver value based on customer location. This will include applications of augmented reality, such as directional maps that include information about local shopping and sales opportunities. Apps will also incorporate information from devices besides smartphones, such as wearables, smart TVs and smart cars. This information will be processed through analytics tools as artificial intelligence (AI) becomes a growing part of app design.
AI is memory intensive, making tapping into the computing power of cloud servers an essential part of app strategies. To deal with the storage limitations of smartphones, apps will increasingly rely on the cloud to make up the difference. To support this, smartphone manufacturers and network providers will continue to accelerate the speed of wireless connections. Qualcomm is already rolling out cellular modems capable of supporting 5G connections, which will deliver data 100 times as fast as today’s 4G networks. Also, 5G networks should become available soon, so app designers today should bear this in mind as they prepare for the future.
The mobile revolution has made apps the primary way consumers interface with online businesses, creating a mandate for businesses to deliver app friendly user experiences. For designers and developers, this creates a challenge to make app experiences consistent with mobile design standards, as well as compatible with emerging mobile oriented technology such as location based marketing, augmented reality, the Internet of Things and cloud based analytics. Designers and developers who want to be on the cutting edge today should start thinking in terms of the technology mobile users will be using tomorrow.