Applications are trendy right now. Like a digital bandwagon rolling into town, ‘apps’ are touted as the latest must-have for our smart phones and mobile devices. Similar to the proliferation of browser add-ons in recent years, designed to improve our Web surfing experience, apps are seen as essential tools enhancing our increasingly mobile connected lifestyles.
I am a huge proponent of well-designed applications—especially those able to improve our experiences with technology, empowering us to better utilize information. However, recently I’ve become slightly weary of the flood of applications upon our collective consciousness.
As of November 2009 there were over 100,000 applications available for the iPhone through Apple’s App Store; by March 2010 30,000 applications were available for the Android platform -these numbers continue to grow each month as more and more people enter the mobile market. I imagine we’ll soon have an app for everything including, ironically, an app to help us sift through the sheer cornucopia of apps available to determine what’s worth installing and what we could perhaps do without.
Don’t get me wrong, I think apps can be extremely useful in our daily lives—but do we really need a Huffington Post application coded specifically for the iPad platform?
Last time I checked, you could access all the great content available on huffingtonpost.com through Safari—on the iPad of course.
There’s also an app for Wired Magazine which has received a great deal of press lately. But I wonder if Wired just wanted to hop on the tech bandwagon just to say “Hey, we’ve got a Wired app”.
Naturally, technology is Wired Magazine’s bread and butter, so it might be strange if they didn’t offer an app-ified version of their traditional Web site. Then again, does the Wired app really offer anything unique above and beyond their existing Web site? I honestly don’t know because I personally haven’t tried using the Wired app, so I’m not really in a position to critique the user experience. Others however, have weighed-in likening the experience to (ehem) a 1990’s CD-Rom, among other things.
While the popularity of app-ifying Web sites continues to rise on closed platforms like the iPad, ironically of late, we see established plug-ins like Flash demonized by Web standards groups and open source proponents who would very much like to see a Web—and a mobile Web for that matter—completely devoid of proprietary technologies, like they somehow inhibit the Web from moving forward.
Perhaps it’s just me, but I really don’t see a difference between a site designed to run as an iPhone app and a site designed to run with the Flash Player plug-in. The Huffington Post and Wired apps aren’t really apps in this sense—just Web sites re-purposed for smaller mobile screens with multi-touch interactivity in some cases.
I suppose I am more of an idealist, because I envision a Web free (or at least with a minimal number) of competing platforms designers and developers need to contend with when coding and building our clients digital assets.
If I own an iPhone or similar mobile device, does someone out there envision a world where I would need to install a separate app for each and every site I visit online?—oh but wait!—I, like many other people, visit 100’s of sites each month—that’s a lot of apps to install. Seems a bit over-engineered of a way to experience digital content wouldn’t you say?