“Why Your App Got Deleted…” Behavioral Antipatterns for Product Design

Many apps get deleted. How can you make sure your app doesn’t get deleted? This essay shares patterns and antipatterns for product design

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Notice how many the apps on your phone don’t get used.

80% of the apps on your phone get used less than once per week

Ain't Nobody Got Time for That

This is why I absolutely love it when I can delete phone apps. Minimizing the amount of apps I have on the iOS home screen is like minimizing decisions in the morning. The less I see (even a minuscule extra icon or notification) the faster my attention can go back to using my phone.

When I go on an app deleting spree, it comes in one of two forms:

1) Every time I have an ios update and don’t have enough space on my phone

2) I have some pressing need for a product and am deciding which one is best. This happens about once every few months. I’ll realize I have wanted to fulfill some need and install many similar apps to find the very best one. Recently, I downloaded 10 different calendar and todo list apps. I enabled notifications for all of them. Each app was on the secondary screen of my phone. In one week, I went back and deleted all the apps that don’t work for my use case. I test apps similarly to how I learning courses: I’ll take many potential solutions and test each until I find the one that works for me.

My Current Home Screen

The app that survived the great calendar purge was timeful, which I highly recommend. More on the current home screen [1].

Patterns for Application Churn

Many people in the corporate world have used a product called Microsoft Sharepoint. For those who haven’t used it, it’s Microsoft’s web-based tool to share and receive documents, securely. In each workplace where we used it, Sharepoint was more of a hindrance to receive files than a welcome solution.

Faxes with Sharepoint

Sharepoint presented Windows Explorer in the browser. This screenshot has a fax import for Sharepoint. Image credit Visendo

Why was sharing files painful?

  • The product was one-off. The product does not exist in within an ecosystem of other use. I use Sharepoint for one reason, to receive files. Yet, I already receive files through email just fine. IT required the sharing of massively distributed files through Sharepoint
  • The product aligned with a business need that didn’t fit with “actual” work. Sharepoint had nothing to do with the thing I was working on, instead it was simply a way to receive a file from the file creator
  • The product didn’t offer offer easy access points. Emails occassionally had a link to the team’s Sharepoint (IT departments frown upon attaching files due to access control). Accessing Sharepoint usually required another login to the company’s sharepoint site. Furthermore, if I was working remotely and off VPN, this required yet another login through the VPN software. Simply opening to a document may require up to two extra logins and the cognitive tax of doing so

Companies today have options to share and reeive files: Box, Dropbox, Amazon Zocalo, Google Drive, Apple’s iCloud Sync. I’m checking out Sharepoint 2013 as part of Office 365 (ref), it appears to be better integrated with the file system itself, much like the competitive offerings.

Faxes with Sharepoint

Dropbox is a popular consumer solution to sync files between computers. The interface fits what I already see throughout my computer. It looks just like a folder. Only it syncs between each of my computers. I can put the Dropbox folder anywhere on my computer, and I can put whatever I want in it. This application presents a simple interface to the complex problem of sharing my own files between all of my computers. They helped people do what they were already doing as part of their workflow

The Damn Easy Principle

Recently I started to listen to podcasts regularly. And it was because listening and using podcasts became really easy after I moved away from Apple’s default Podcast app.

Opening Apple’s Podcasts wasn’t the issue, it was consistently using it.

I had no trouble opening the Podcast app. I had no trouble subscribing a few podcasts. However, this Podcast app showed far too much complexity every time I tried to use it. Listening and using the product was the bottle neck. Podcasts did not automatically download and every time I wanted to listen to podcasts, I had to select the individual to listen to. Until recently, I never listened to more than podcast episode per month. Here’s what I saw every time I wanted to listen to podcasts:

  • Open Podcast. See new episodes need to be downloaded
  • Open iTunes (or plug in my device to my computer)
  • Wait for my computer to download episodes
  • Press sync on my iTunes after the episodes have finished downloading
  • (Bonus pain: Make sure I am syncing podcasts with the correct computer. Only one of my computers can sync Podcasts with my phone)
  • Play new episode

A friend recommended Downcast. Within my first day of using Downcast, I knew I would be using it for a long time. It aggregates podcasts I want to listen to in to a playlist of unplayed episodes, synchronizes between devices, and downloads new episodes automatically.

Here are the exact same steps to play new episodes of podcasts in Downcast:

  1. Open Downcast. The application automatically starts downloading new episodes
  2. Play new episode. Listening became Damn Easy

Summary

Many apps get deleted. How can you make sure yours doesn’t get deleted?

  • Make the product integrated into the workflow of the task the user wants to perform
  • Make the access points straight forward and similar to what the your user already goes through
  • Make the product use / consumption process an absolute ease. Creators of content may be fine going through tedious tasks, but consumers of the same task may not be fine going through the same tedium

Notes

[1]

  • Apps on the Homescreen
    1. Clock
    2. Timeful for managing my daily reminders and calendar items
    3. Mindfulness Bell I use this to time meditation or pace work sessions
    4. Downcast (described above)
    5. Google Maps
    6. Swarm for checking in on Foursquare
    7. Camera
    8. Settings
    9. Caltrain Official Caltrain app, the largest value add? Rider advisories
  • Apps on the Dock
    1. Phone
    2. Messages
    3. Spotify for listening to music
    4. Simplenote Simplenote is part of my information processing workflow. It’s an incredible tool by Automattic that lets you have have synchronous editing between devices

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Author: frankc

Crafting long term growth is hard and important. Oftentimes, this isn't intuitive. I have the opportunity to wake up every day and do something I love: to help people uncover purpose and create massive change. The key is to connect people with what they already do, and then design change in technologies and habits. I write on Wordpress to share my personal challenges and strategies as I encounter people, cultures, and ideas