Most people who use an iOS mobile device are suffering from application fatigue. Our appetite for apps seems to be insatiable. A recent analysis by Asymco shows that since the launch of the iTunes App Store, it took approximately 67 months to hit 10 billion music downloads. App customers, however, needed only 31 months to download 10 billion applications.

Asymco analyst Horace Dediu states in an article that more than 60 apps have been downloaded for every iOS device sold. Dediu offers three conclusions:

  • Apps are a new medium that will impact all other media;
  • As the number of apps on a device increases, users incur increasing switching costs, and;
  • App consumption is growing so rapidly that the market will soon eclipse  the PC software market.

You can feel the digital ground shifting.

But while we download a lot of apps, how many do we actually use on a daily or weekly basis? According to Localytics, about one in four app downloads are used only once.

This high disposability rate makes me wonder about the efficiency of the app model…. Are people really only purchasing apps for one time use, or are designers just making apps that “look cool” but serve very little purpose in real life?

The mobile application world is a closed system that doesn’t allow for much inter-app integration. The sharing of daily tasks is limited, and even cross platform integration is elusive. I wonder what our overall efficiency is like per app? Even our ability to find the right app must be pretty low, especially if you’re like me and have difficulty locating that ‘weather app’ or that ‘translation app’. “Is it in a folder… which screen does it live in… the 5th one or the 6th one… okay fine, I better use the search feature….”

The question is, how do we avoid creating apps that get lost in the mobile wilderness? Understanding why the application matters is the first step. But we must go deeper still. Who are the real users and what are their real world experiences? We need to gather information and formulate a foundation for application incubation. The goal is to design an app that will support your key goals, satisfy the user needs, and create a harmonious, efficient, emotive, and purposeful application. Avoid the dustbin or the digital application wasteland. Design with purpose, design with evidence.

Ian Chalmers

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