App Police Episode 1: Hybrid apps can lack authenticity

App Police Episode 1: Hybrid apps can lack authenticity 

In this installment we review challenges with deploying hybrid apps, sometimes called “wrapper apps”, which are essentially mobile web sites wrapped in a an app container and deployed to public app stores.

Hybrid apps seems like such an easy thing to embrace – develop once, launch and maintain in one place, create apps, and send to multiple platforms. It’s a no-brainer! If you’re in a product management role and have been involved in launching mobile apps for your company or brand then you’ve heard this conversation at least once in your career.

(click image twice for animated gif to load – I know..we’re trying to figure out a better way)

Case Study: AutoNation

However, the reality is that hybrid apps are nearly impossible to execute without losing the authenticity of the native app mobile experience. Take a look at this car buying app launched by auto mega retailer, AutoNation (click on the graphic above – animated gif may take a minute).

It’s clear that AutoNation wants people to buy cars from them using apps. Tall order for sure. But what happens in the app is the user is blasted with essentially a web site – and a very long one that requires a significant amount of vertical scrolling. What’s worse? Several options take the user out of the app!

The truth is…mobile is hard. It’s time consuming and developing and maintaining multiple platforms is challenging so it’s natural to take the easy way out and launch a cross-platform app like AutoNation has done.

People want real native experience

To truly engage with your app users you have to be authentic. If I’m shopping for a car and I decide to use an app to do it, and the choose AutoNation, it’s disappointing to have to deal with a web site inside an app. I want to get things done quickly. Show me a way to get to cars quickly using native user interface design rather than forcing me to use a web site inside of an app.

And never take the user OUTSIDE the app. I have news for you…most people get lost trying to figure out “what just happened.. I was in the app,.. and now I’m in a web browser outside the app”.

Hybrid and Cross-Platform apps have a place

There’s nothing inherently wrong with trying to save time and effort and maintenance by using hybrid apps and cross-platform tools. The trick is in execution. If you’re taking this path at least make the effort to develop a native mobile UI and not subject people to a web site experience inside an app.  Take the time to really make the user journey “app-centric”. And if your application is too complex for native then think about one or two valuable activities that will directly address a pain. People will write and thank you for it.

App reviewed: AutoNation

App store rating: 2.5 stars out of 5