App Unbundling: Simplifying Apps by Breaking Out Their Experiences
Things like the hamburger nav and off canvas navigation have become the staple of most mobile experiences -it’s become a problem though. We’ve taken advantage of these features to cram in more stuff and have overloaded experiences beyond what they should be.
Mobile apps aren’t meant to house everything plus the kitchen sink, in fact, most users only use 20% of your experience. All of those added features might never be used, not to mention the money spent to implement those features, wasted. Mobile usage is meant to be fast and focused.
Lets Look at the Numbers
Flurry’s five-year report states that the average US consumer spends 2hrs and 42 minutes per day on a mobile device, 2hrs and 19 minutes of that, within an app. That time spans across the average number of apps used per month, which is 26.8. Combine that with the average app installs, around 25 apps on per phone.
Add all of that up and you will find users don’t spend a lot of time in any one app. They use a variety of apps and their time spent within an app is fast and focused, and they focus that usage based on the context. Whether the user is checking their bank account or finding a good restaurant nearby, their mentality is to complete the task in as little time as possible - that’s the nature of these devices and experiences.
We also see, based on those stats, there’s a limit to how many apps people utilize. There may be an app for every need, but there’s not a need for every app.
The by-product of efficiently unbundling is the ability to iterate faster. Without having to complete the Q&A and testing of an existing app needed to push a new build, a new unbundled app can have its advantages with faster iterations to customers. Be sure to avoid the trap of, “let’s throw something at the wall and see if it sticks.” Instead, make thoughtful decisions on what should be unbundled and how so.
Let’s take a look at how Foursquare unbundled. Foursquare found that 5% their users were opening the app simply to find friends and a restaurant. That left 95% of its users opening the app to find either a recommendation-based result or to check-in — hence the decision to split the app into two apps: Foursquare and now Swarm.
We’ve seen some consumer executions of app unbundling - Facebook, Foursquare, and LinkedIn to name a few - however, this isn’t just a consumer focused problem. There are several companies that have large, cumbersome internal applications that could benefit from taking the correct approach to unbundling… think time sheets, expense reports and annual reviews.
If organizations are neglecting making improvements to internal applications (whether that includes unbundling or not), they’re essentially saying that their internal employee experience isn’t as important as the external facing customer experience. Your internal employee experience directly affects your outward facing customer experience, plain and simple.
Prepare for Unbundling
Don’t look at unbundling as an after thought. If you’re unbundling an experience just because your current app has became too large, or if you want to break out features because of internal organizational challenges, then you need to hold off. First, look at user feedback - do some observational user research and look at some user data. Analyze that data and understand what’s happening at a user experience level. Then, prototype, prototype, prototype. As they say, prototyping is worth 1,000 meetings… and we all know how much we love meetings.
Unbundling Made Easy
When it comes to executing the unbundling approach, several new and interesting approaches have come about. On the Apple iOS side, they started to allow apps to be bundled in the AppStore, giving the customer the ability to not only download a single focused app, but to “complete the app bundle” and download all related apps with one tap.
Another interesting feature called, App Extensions, is most commonly described as a way for third-party applications to talk to each other. This feature simplifies inter-app communication making unbundling even more powerful and efficient.
Simplifying the process even more is the on-boarding process of these unbundled apps. Take a look at LinkedIn, for example. If you already have the original LinkedIn App and then download the LinkedIn Connected App - because the apps are communicating - it automatically knows who you are and prompts you to login as the same person. This makes the on-boarding/sign-up process seamless for the customer, adding to the holistic experience across all apps.
Think holistically about the experience and it’s interactions. Ask if it makes sense. Look at the data. Gather user feedback. Prototype. Execute the approach.
It’s all about how these fast/focused experiences effect the overall holistic experience.