Friday, August 05, 2016

What's next for apps? [361Podcast S13E07]

In writing my book and with some other writing I've been doing, I've been thinking a lot about what comes next in the world of apps.

To broaden my thoughts and opinions on the subject I reached out to Ben, Rafe, & Ewan of the 361Podcast with some questions to get their thoughts. They took a whole episode to respond to my questions and it was published last night.
Go and have a listen at

While, or before, you do here are a few notes I made while listening.

This is what the future looks like:

The norm will be for there to be a variety of interactions with a company/product/service across different devices.

The challenge will be to combine micro-interactions in a way that doesn’t feel fragmented, even though it’s disparate.

The way we think about apps will change.
There will be a move from the idea of siloed or contained experiences.
Apps can become the container and distribution process for functionality. They are likely to become less about the direct visual presentation of the interaction.

The current options for integrating with a mobile OS are a start but deeper integration with virtual assistants (Siri, Cortana, Alexa, etc.) are likely to be more important in the future.

There are lots of uncertainties about future virtual assistant (VA) interaction:
  • How will service integrations be configured? Will it need some custom UI?
  • How will service integrations be discovered? Not everyone can rely on being recommended by a VA.
  • What does this mean for the relationship between consumer and service provider when there’s another party sitting in the middle of all interactions?
  • If this becomes the standard way for consumers to interact with other services are there potential regulatory or anti-competitive issues to control what a dominant VA can or can’t do?
  • How transparent can or should such interactions be? Let’s consider wanting to buy some toothpaste.

“Siri, order me some more toothpaste.”
It seems a simple request but it’s a highly loaded task and full of uncertainty and possible variation.
  • What make and size of toothpaste?
  • What if that’s not available?
  • Where from?
  • What if they don’t have it?
  • Does it matter how much it costs? Even if it’s gone up since you last ordered it?
  • How will you pay? What if you have credit with one store but it costs more than
  • Does it matter if it comes from a retailer you’ve not used before?
  • Rules about what you should get from where based on cost and availability can soon get complicated. Do you really want to preconfigure all this for something as basic as toothpaste? Not everyone can afford to ignore things like price
  • How much information will be given to the company that fulfills the order? Does it matter if one retailer wants more than another? How will this be managed and controlled?

If you’re Amazon/Alexa a lot of the complexity is avoided. If you’re another retailer (even if really big) but don’t own the infrastructure of the VA there’s a lot more to think about.

Thinking about discovery, and commission on sales, maybe the VA or OS will monitor what you do on the device and make suggestions for things that might be of interest to you.

Data privacy is a big potential issue here. How much information will be shared with an “app”? And how much information will the companies behind the OS and VAs now have and what can they do with it?

The biggest issues for VAs and apps that will provide functionality is that of context.

Quick side note. I know context is important. I spend 82 pages on it at the start of my book ;)

As we ask more of the services behind apps they need to know more to be able to make the right choices and suggestions.

Creating great, refined apps will be the key to success and differentiation. As experiences won’t be able to rely on a strong visual identity to reflect their brand they will have to focus more on the quality of the user experience to maintain brand loyalty.

There will be a greater need to avoid assumptions about the people who will use the app and create something that is genuinely “consumer-centric” and tested with and by the real people who will actually use the app.
It’s not just the people using the app that it’s going to be increasingly important to understand. A deep knowledge of the devices, operating systems, and platforms that people use and directly interact with will become increasingly important for creating great, intuitive experiences.


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