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    • We've been developing an app for the iPhone and, internally, we've been using it for a few weeks as we make progress. I think the consensus is most people like the mobile web version but prefer the actual app.

    • 👆 The comments were fascinating.

      Thank god for Mozilla. Throughout the whole story, they have consistently been the best actor. They don't always have the resources or the marketing push or the or the brand recognition as the big players but for better or worse their actions are usually centered in what's best for the community.

    • I'd say that if you want high user retention, to be a destination (as opposed to something where users come, do a thing and leave, like a webshop), mobile app is not only necessary, it's essential:

      Close to 90% of usage minutes on mobiles is in apps (it certainly is for me). The experience is simply better.

    • Nah. The numbers in this article start with a flawed premise, namely: "All mobile sites are created equal, and all mobile apps are created equal". For example, it makes these sorts of generalizations:

      "But the checkout and overall experience of mobile websites don’t meet the needs of users. Therefore the shopping cart abandonment on mobile sites is the highest of all."

      That is one of the silliest assertions I've ever seen in an article purporting to be fact based. One need only point to Domino's Pizza, whose mobile website works exceedingly well, but who also tosses out those conventions completely by doing things like allowing people to order a pizza by tweeting to an account on Twitter.

      Amazon's mobile website works fantastically, and they do billions of dollars in sales through it. I've never once thought to myself "Hey, I should download the Amazon app!".

      A good mobile experience is indistinguishable from a mobile app experience. What's more, bad mobile apps are rampant, and have a significantly degraded experience from what's possible through a website.

      Recommended reading:

    • Also, "90% of usage minutes on mobiles is in apps" is explained by four apps: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. Using those numbers to support a mobile strategy makes no sense.

    • Huh. I wonder what you're doing that I'm not? This is what I see on my iPhone when I try Amazon in a web browser. All these years I assumed it was unusable and went for the app instead.

    • I wonder how much of that has to do with Amazon's amazing selection & reviews? I suspect their customers spend a lot of time on the site researching products with all the reviews. For example, this caught my eye and I thought, "Really? Amazon installs tires? I need to read some reviews and see how that's working for people."

      But on my phone, this is how the reviews look in a web browser:

    • I’ve never felt a need to install Amazon’s app.

      This is what Amazon’s website looks like on my iPhone 5S on the Safari Browser. I didn’t have to expand it or manipulate it in any way. It looked similar on Google Chrome.

      Maybe this is too small type for some but it works for me. Perhaps there are other app features that I’m missing out on, such as getting push notifications of deals on stuff I actually want.

    • It looks like you're using Chrome. Try using Safari.

      While the underlying browser engine is the same on iOS, it's possible that Amazon thinks Chrome on iOS is a desktop browser (or it's possible Chrome on iOS is telling Amazon it's a desktop browser) so you're not getting the mobile experience.

    • Yeah, that's what it seems to be. It gives me the mobile experience on Safari, although with a banner prompting me to use the app that I don't seem to be able to dismiss.

      It's strange because everywhere else I go with Chrome like Target, eBay, & Facebook I get the mobile experience on Chrome, usually with a dismissable prompt to use the app. I tried to Google what was up with Amazon but wasn't able to find an answer.

    • I’m seeing the mobile site in Chrome, so my new theory is that you must have toggled on the “Request Desktop Site” option at some point and Chrome remembered it.

    • Oh! I didn't know about that option and was pretty sure that must be it, but here's what my menu shows. Toggling it back & forth doesn't seem to make a difference, I get desktop no matter what.

    • I'd say it exactly is the strategy if you aim to build a destination, a place where people come by active choice, regularly and directly. I may see a CNN web page a couple of times a day, but I'll never install their app and start it from my home screen. I'll go to CNN if a link from Twitter points me there. I won't even care that it's CNN, as far as I am concerned it might as well be NBC or NYT or whatever. But I'll fire up my Twitter client a dozen times a day. And that's why it's an app and has a prominent place on my home screen.

      I believe Cake's aspiration is to be like that, somewhere where users start, not somewhere they end up by accident or a drive-by link.

    • Oh sure, I get what you're saying. But as Chris has noted, they're a long way from social critical mass. The reason people hit those four apps is because of the size of the audience at each of those places, and the robust flow of new content. Adding an app does not accomplish the reason *why* people use an app.

      For Cake, it's far more important at this stage to build that audience size and steady flow of new content. Will an app help that? Maybe. But the only real benefit would be push notifications, which are also available through the browser (and with much less engineering required than deploying a native app).

      Much of the "apps are necessary!" mentality present in the iPhone audience was a conscious creation of Steve Jobs as a function of creating the walled garden. It's not a universal perspective. It's the outcome of a strategy to get users to willingly buy in to isolation in the name of an "experience", despite the fact that multitudes of apps are nothing more than a native wrapper around an HTML5 viewer.

      David Weinberger and Doc Searls (both of whom I wish participated on here) were part of the original group that wrote the Cluetrain Manifesto back in 1999, a movement I was part of. They released an update called "New Clues" in 2015 that included this:

      The Gitmo of the Net.

      We all love our shiny apps, even when they’re sealed as tight as a Moon base. But put all the closed apps in the world together and you have a pile of apps.

      Put all the Web pages together and you have a new world.

      Web pages are about connecting. Apps are about control.

      As we move from the Web to an app-based world, we lose the commons we were building together.

      In the Kingdom of Apps, we are users, not makers.

      Every new page makes the Web bigger. Every new link makes the Web richer.

      Every new app gives us something else to do on the bus.

      Ouch, a cheap shot!

      Hey, “CheapShot” would make a great new app! It’s got “in-app purchase” written all over it.

      As I mentioned in my "Fuck Your Mobile App" piece, if an app doesn't offer substantive differences in either audience size or functionality which actually require native device libraries, they suffer from low adoption. The apps I mentioned aren't audience builders; they're access points to the massive audiences that already exist on those networks, audiences that were all built on the desktop, through the browser (with the exception of Instagram and Snapchat, who offered substantive differences in actual functionality).

      @yaypie , what's the current breakdown on desktop vs. mobile traffic for Cake?

    • I would imagine more native apps are being built than web apps which would influence the stats you are sharing. So supply and demand might factor into this. Also I believe web apps are gaining in the ability to access local functions on the phone. https://stackoverflow.com/questions/35504194/what-features-do-progressive-web-apps-have-vs-native-apps-and-vice-versa-on-an. My point is creating experiences that render the same regardless of device size is a more frictionless approach to improving user experiences. Just because something is popular does not necessarily equate to it being better in my opinion. But if we ever want to get to a point where we share information between all devices with a swipe of the hand, (i.e. phone to tv or kiosk) a web centric approach may be a better long view. This of course coming through the lens of a non-developer so take it with a grain of salt:-)

    • @yaypie, what's the current breakdown on desktop vs. mobile traffic for Cake?

      Our mobile vs. desktop split is actually really close to 50/50, with mobile typically just barely beating desktop.

      We've taken a lot of care and spent a lot of time making sure that the Cake website works great on every device, but it hasn't been easy, and it imposes a lot of design constraints. In many ways I think those constraints result in better designs for everyone, but it can be a real challenge sometimes.

      For us, I think a native app provides two primary benefits that our web app really can't compete with:

      App Store distribution. There are a lot of people who simply don't want to use a web app, for whatever reason. Having a native app in the App Store allows those people to discover Cake, and having an app icon on their screen helps prevent them from forgetting about Cake.

      Push notifications. Push notifications let users know when important things are happening and keep them coming back. As you said, @ChrisJenkins, browser push notifications are possible, but the problem is that the browser push notification user experience kinda sucks. The built-in authorization prompt to enable them is ugly and annoying, the notifications themselves are really ugly in some browsers, and iOS doesn't support website push notifications so they're not a good solution for iOS users.

      There are other things that are possible in a native app and still can't really be matched by a web app, but they're mostly minor.

      I think the best path for a service like Cake is to have both a great web app and great native mobile apps, and to not try to railroad people into using one if they're happy with the other.

    • Fascinating, Chris. This is kinda long but interesting:

      One point he made is we've trained an entire generation to search for your service/app first in an app store. I'm always curious when people message me and say that they looked for Cake but couldn't find it, and I point out that it works just fine by going to cake.co. Some of them have said they didn't think of that, maybe because for services like Instagram you really have to have the app.

      I get the feeling Apple has been trying to crack down on apps that aren't native enough, no?

    • His experience matches my own, and you see we come to similar conclusions about the state of apps on the web.

      All of the problems mentioned which prevented him from just deploying a strict PWA?

      Apple only.

      The hardest store to get an app in, and the most expensive? Apple.

      The userbase most likely to not think of using the browser? Apple. (And of course, given the state of Safari, no surprises there).