“No, but ask me again every time.” Brilliance from xkcd
Many of you may have seen this bit of humor from XKCD, but this is no laughing matter. Sites across the web are limiting their usability and are starting a dangerous trend.
I believe this trend is being perpetrated by “growth hackers” that are trying to squeeze the site’s existing traffic to achieve the highest engagement numbers. The thought is that if a user finds Quora through a search engine or social media link on mobile web, the user should be prompted to download the app. Users who have downloaded the app are more likely to consistently use Quora and will create more UGC and increase engagement numbers.
This is not inherently a bad idea, but crippling the user experience of a mobile website to get downloads is a terrible idea.
An excellent critique of Quora’s choice to cripple the mobile web was written by Scott Hanselman. I’ll quote Scott to solidify why Quora’s choices specifically are crap.
Check out any Quora answer while on a mobile device not logged in. See that scroll bar there? The entire page actually loaded. I can scroll around! The white area is on top, blocking the content.
Don’t believe me? Gobsmacked? Here’s a screenshot of a View Source from my iPhone of this page. Sure the markup is really awful, but squint and you can see the content is there. All of it.
I love thatmy mobile data plan was used to download the full contents of a page that I’m not able to see.
No, I don’t want your app. I want to use the web my way. You’re not doing it right, therefore I reject you. You need to change your ways.
Yes, it’s your prerogative on how you want to run your website, but I propose that just like ExpertsExchange and others before you, the open web will reject your chicanery.
I said Good Day Sir!
That was a bit lengthy, but you get the picture. Quora is still downloading all its content and answers, but won’t allow users to see them. They want to force users to operate the site their way. This strategy might encourage growth initially, but this strategy is already bothering many users and will most likely cause Quora to lose users.
Apps have their place, but users should be able to have an equally good experience using your site purely through mobile Safari or any other browser. While Quora is obviously a free service and can do as they please, it will not serve them well in the long run. True growth hackers are concerned with giving their community a great experience and making sure users can truly and fully USE the site. If you want to grow your site, listen to your community and respond, don’t force them to use your site a certain way to get certain engagement metrics up.
As an app developer myself, I believe that apps have an important place in society. They should have an independent value that is unique from the mobile web experience. If we make apps that are just copies of the mobile web, or provide minimal additional value, we are just frustrating customers. Make sure you create great mobile web experience and great native app experiences. Don’t sacrifice the usability of one to “grow” the other.