Functional Websites are Normally Far Superior to Apps

An email to I just sent to Uber

I understand the regular Uber app not having a functional website.

Uber Eats not having a functional website is super lame. It strikes me similar to Walmart 15 years ago telling people “we only have stores go to them, we just use the internet for advertising our stores.” Today for Uber: we only have apps, “we only use the web for advertising our apps.” Both you and Walmart want to use a limited function service that you both are comfortable with and want users to just put up with annoyance because neither of you want users using the connivence of the web.

When you bother to create a functional website maybe I’ll use it (I use several food delivery services now).

Using limited apps is rarely wise (unless you are crippled by the lack of a real computer and are stuck having to use just an app). Uber cars is a rare exception where the needs are so simple a limited app is ok. Picking restaurants and food on a tiny screen with a crippled app is just a lousy experience for anyone that uses real websites. The Ux for the app is horrible.

Just like old school businesses were only comfortable with their old business models and didn’t create functional websites (instead using the web just to advertise that you should go to their store, or giving you forms to complete and fax back to them…) new businesses are often stuck on only using apps even though they often provide a lousy user experience compared to a functional website.

There are some apps that are very useful and not having a functional web app can make sense, but it is fairly limited. Getting a ride apps I can see as only apps. Driving instructions and live maps using GPS to locate you is another great app use. Boarding passes can make sense (though I do question some of that whole process conceptually this could be a good example of a app with no functional website).

But most cases not having a functional website is just lousy Ux.

Now there are some times when using technology to provide good service just isn’t worth the effort. Often though businesses just are stuck in their fax-thinking or physical-store-thinking or app-thinking and fail to use a technology that would provide great benefit to their users. I find it odd how often app vendors seem stuck in their app mindset. It wasn’t so surprising old businesses that were not based on technology didn’t take advantage of the incredible opportunities provided by the internet and the web. But it is less understandable when companies that are thought of as technology savvy are as blinded by their history (can’t see out of the app-mindset).

Certainly smart phones are a huge and rapidly growing market. But I think far too many businesses are ignoring the many cases when functional websites would be far superior for their customers and potential customers by only letting customers use apps to use their services.

As with most things, time will tell whether those business are insightful and realize that people won’t bother with functional websites and will just accept the limits of apps or whether ignoring useful technology solutions to provide customer value will prove unwise. But my guess is that users will want the better experience possible with a functional website.

Smart phones are great tools and some apps are the perfect solution (at least as close to perfect as I can imagine now) but far more often apps are just a very crippled version of a decent website that you might have to tolerate because you don’t have access to your computer right now. But which are certainly only something you want to use in emergencies.

The most likely way that we lose the usefulness of functional website is if too few people have functional computers. If most people only have smart phones then ignoring the better usability possible with functional websites could be largely lost. The advantages functional websites offer are often greatly reduced if you only have a tiny screen to work with. There are other advantages but if the screens can’t be bigger it may make the advantage of functional website not great enough to be worth the effort. There are also aspects of the limits of smart phone functionality that greatly reduce the advantages of functional websites. So the huge and obvious advantages of functional website is largely a matter of using a real computer with a reasonable screen (laptops and desktops).

It is possible that smart phones will develop much better functionality and perhaps projection screens (or googles). That could retain the advantages of functional web sites even on smart phones. It is also possible apps could be made much better with these advances so they are not crippled versions of a decent website.

Unless there are drastic changes to the usability of apps I certainly hope companies provide functional websites and win business away from those trapped in what seems to me to a limited view (app focused while ignoring the many advantages offered customers with a functional website).

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