App Discovery Needs to Cater Better to the User

The app economy as we know it today is a fragmented and ultimately frustrating place. Each entity that houses pieces of software we call apps, be it carriers, manufacturers, or mobile operating systems, traditionally packages apps into app stores — “walled gardens” of content dominated by top 25 lists and categorical browsing. This model governs our view of apps, turning them into little boxes we “collect” and display on our smartphone homescreens.

The deficiency with this model, beyond scalability issues (there are over 2 million apps in the entire ecosystem), is the lack of emphasis it places on the user. The sure-fire way to create great products is by taking a user-centric approach, and if that was the case for app stores, we’d see a lot more emphasis on bringing users the content that they want in a seamless, quick way.

The power of apps lies in the natural evolution they’ve taken from the blue-link, information-based content of the web. Each app provides a specific function, and when users want to download an app, in reality what they’re looking for is that function. With this in mind, it becomes crucial to view apps currently as locked-boxes of functionality. Keyword search and top 25 lists may be enough to bring you to the front door of select apps, but they’ll only scratch the surface of what’s available.

According to Flurry, 90% of apps in the App Store are free — a big leap from the estimated 24% that were free when the App Store opened in 2008. This five year trend makes a lot of sense, proving that users largely don’t want to pay for apps, similar to how they wouldn’t want to pay to access a website. That being the case, why do we still treat apps like we treated websites in the earliest days of the web — categorically, by list, within list, within list?

It’s time to listen to how users access and use their apps, and refine our app discovery tools to better accommodate those trends. By understanding what users want to do, we can break the current mold and stop serving apps based on what platform the user is on. The bottom line when a user is searching for an app, whether they know exactly what they want or not, is that a solution to their problem exists. Why should it matter what platform that solution comes from?

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At Quixey, we’ve been working endlessly to solve the app discovery by asking users a simple question: “what do you want to do?” We want to encourage users to find apps they never could have found before, just by explaining in natural language what they need — “tune my guitar,” or “find nearby hiking trails,” for example.

Later this month, we’ll be launching a product that we feel greatly enhances user experience when it comes to this big issue of app discovery. We always think user-first, and we can’t wait to show you what we’ve come up with.

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