This article was published on January 13, 2022

Dear websites, please stop asking me to download your mobile app

I'll stick to a browser, thanks


Dear websites, please stop asking me to download your mobile app
Napier Lopez
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Napier Lopez

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Napier Lopez is a writer based in New York City. He's interested in all things tech, science, and photography related, and likes to yo-yo in Napier Lopez is a writer based in New York City. He's interested in all things tech, science, and photography related, and likes to yo-yo in his free time. Follow him on Twitter.

Dear *insert website name,*

Please stop asking me to your mobile app. I don’t want want to use it. I don’t care if you think your app is the bee’s knees. If I wanted to use your app, I’d go to the app store and download said app. But I didn’t do that. Instead, I’m writing this article to state the obvious.

I prefer to access your service within the comfort of a browser, thank-you-very-much.

It’s fine to tell me to download your app the first time I visit your page, or even send me a reminder now and then. You have to let people know your app exists, sure. But constant reminders, massive banners, and flat-out preventing me from using basic features on your mobile site — looking at you, Reddit — is just hostile.

I get it. You paid developers a lot of money to create an app for the smoothest native software experience. It probably lets you implement fancier features that are hard to incorporate on a website. But I still don’t want to use it.

Here’s the thing: a native app offers the best experience for your brand, but it’s not the best experience for using my phone. Guess which experience I care about more.

Besides, sometimes using a browser is just better.  The modern browser is basically an operating system within an operating system, and the in-app experience is rarely worth it over the convenience of just visiting a website. Worse, native apps are often plagued with frustrating limitations compared to their web equivalents. To list some common ones off the top of my head:

  • I can’t open links/pages in new tabs
  • I can’t open multiple instances of an app for multi-tasking or research
  • Apps often introduce unexpected bugs with updates that are rare to see on a mobile site
  • I can’t bookmark content for easy retrieval
  • Even if I can bookmark things, I can’t organize bookmarks alongside content from other services
  • It takes longer to open an app than to simply type a URL or open a bookmark when I’m already in a browser
  • I often can’t copy and paste text from apps without clumsy workarounds
  • I often can’t easily save images
  • More apps clutter my phone’s launcher
  • I can’t see my history
  • Navigation and UI behaviors are often more consistent in a browser (I know exactly where the back gesture is going to take me, for instance)
  • Apps require extra storage
  • Apps often request unnecessary permissions
  • Apps will often bombard my phone with notifications I didn’t ask for. Even if I can disable them, it’s annoying

That’s a lot to deal with if I’m just trying to read comments on a stupid meme or watch a cute animal video.

There’s a reason people tend to do so many things from a browser on their PCs — it’s just more convenient. There may have been a time when using a native app was unequivocally superior, but unless said app requires a good deal of processing horsepower or fancy code for its most basic functionality, chances are I’d rather use it from a browser.

I repeat: if I wanted to use your app, I’d already have downloaded it. Even when I do download an app, I still don’t want to use it all the time. Annoying your users into submission isn’t good design.

So, pretty please, stop pestering me.

Sincerely,

Everyone, presumably.

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