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FOR A while, there was this notion that once a developer creates an app or a software application for a mobile device, the world would download it, making the developers wealthy. The app economy was born and developers began to appify the universe.

Well-meaning folk, the author included, imagined that the app economy would create millions of jobs.

 The allure of apps even persuaded Apple to create the memorable byline: “There’s an app for that.”

Millions of apps sprawl the technology market space, proclaiming they can do any and everything for you including banking and shopping online, reading books to you, ordering takeaway and even telling you where you parked your car.

During 2018, 190 billion apps were downloaded. Do remember that Facebook and Snap Chat are also apps. Google Play has 2.8 million apps, while Apple store has 2.2 million available for downloads.

Apps have spawned a new condition termed “app fatigue”, a general resistance to download anything out of frustration for the dozens we downloaded and endured. Juxtapose our South African high data cost and our app resistance increases considerably.

We are starting to see a trend which indicates people are using fewer apps. A 2017 survey found that half of the American smartphone users downloaded an underwhelming zero number of apps. Research confirms people are creatures of habit, using just nine apps a day and less than 30 a month. Sadly, users execute as few as one-third of the apps they downloaded.

During lockdown, many developers will be tempted to develop the app they never got around to write. Herewith some other advice: Downloads are no longer sexy.

“The rush to create applets has led to an appicide”

The current wave is chatbots. If you cannot appify then do consider to botify. Getting folk to download an app is much like winning Lotto because you need an elusive hook to force it to go viral. Unlikely but boy, oh boy, if you hit the jackpot!

Remember, the unwritten rule of the web is intuitiveness. Know your market. Consider that there does not exist a manual for huge software such as Google, Twitter and Instagram. Anyone should be able to use your software with a little experimenting.
Does your app offer usefulness or convenience? Ask yourself what is in it for the user. How and to what extent does your app displace some human awkwardness or inconvenience?

The rush to create applets has led to an appicide where the well-meaning developers bravely rush to market with a great idea with inadequate product testing. You may well promote appheimer’s syndrome in your users, which occurs when the developers update so often everyone forgets how to use it. Is this an appgrade too far?

I am reminded of Wunderlist, a popular cloud-based management “todo” application which is scheduled to be discontinued this year because it was taken over by Microsoft, which launched its replacement app called To Do.

 Download the To Do app? Me? Sadly not. I am reverting to the evergreen Post-it sticky note together with my humble pen.

* Dr Thakur is the Inseta Research Chair in Digitalisation at the Durban University of Technology. He writes in his personal capacity

Daily News: 7 Jul 2020


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