Friday Rant: Mobility Apps — Why "We Suck Less" Isn't Good Enough!

It's about time we start to expect and even demand higher quality from our mobile apps. The software company "Barebones Software" has a slogan around "it doesn't suck" -- I even think it used to be "we suck less" (even though their text editor app is excellent). "Sucking less" seems to be the competitive standard many firms try to attain with their mobility apps these days. I'd like to see the bar raised to actually provide great apps.

I already wrote about the excellent job SAP has done with SuccessFactors mobile apps -- POS and HR were two examples I looked at. I love those apps, but for those who think I go too easy on SAP, I'll also give you an example of where SAP goofed -- their mobile SAPPHIRE app. This was presumably built to help keep track of your conference schedule and events, but I was unable to pull in the agenda that the SAP team had created for me. As a result, I walked the SAPPHIRE floor with a hard copy printout and a pretty (but fairly useless) app on my iPhone. Fail.

As a more substantial example of what not to do (since we can attend a conference even without a fancy iOS guide) I'll pick a more critical business-related app that many among Spend Matters readers have tried: LinkedIn. Both of their mobile iOS apps (iPhone and iPad) are flawed to the point of uselessness. First of all, it's convoluted to find content (searches are unintuitive), and the click (tap) count is high (someone forgot UI design basics and made a mess out of finding content). Secondly, and far worse, critical contact information that is available online is inexplicably missing from the iOS apps! To show what I mean, use the web browser version first -- search for one of your contacts, find that person's email/phone number. Next, try to do the same thing in the iOS apps -- that content is not available in the iOS version! If it is there, I don't know where to find it. Editing your content is also missing -- why? Degree of foreign language fluency is slammed into a single level in the mobile apps, which is completely misleading. One nice feature is single-click contact requests, which is better than the web version. To be nice, since it's free, I'll give it a C-.

This goes back to the use case. And from reviewing apps on a regular basis as well as being an early adopter tech geek in general, when I don't "get" the reason behind an app, I suspect I'm not alone. If the use case calls for it, you should ideally deliver a unique UI to interface with your data in a way that only a pressure-sensitive tablet can, or, at minimum, don't cripple the interface by leaving out important data points.

While I'm harping on use cases, why oh why do websites redirect iPad users to their mobile interfaces? Really, my iPad has much higher resolution than even my HD desktop monitor; it can handle the full site, thank you very much. By all means, send Blackberry users to the crippled version, but not iPads.

On a lighter note, here is a more humorous take on some bad iPhone apps.
From a procurement point of view, I think the "Cry Translator" has potential if we can get it to work with suppliers and their sales efforts instead -- when buyers push them, do they really hurt, or is it just a game, hmmmm?

Reaching out to our audience: do you agree with assigning LinkedIn's iOS efforts to the mobility Shack-o-Shame? Do you know of any other business-related mobile apps that have missed the boat? Even better, any great implementations that I should look at? And what are the best procurement and supply chain focused mobile apps you've seen or worked with?

- Thomas Kase

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First Voice

  1. Thomas Kase:

    I’ll add a comment to my own post after banging my head yet again against Linkedin’s laughable attempt at a mobile interface. I found this review of LinkedIn for the iOS user that I’d like to share:

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