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Monolithic Mobile Apps vs Specific Function Apps

In mobile apps, there is no right or wrong when it comes to having one app that covers many functions or smaller separate apps. Each app opportunity needs to be assessed from the user perspective to understand what the user is trying to achieve (their gains) and what their current challenges are (their pains).

Swiss Army Knife of Apps – Is there a place for mobile apps that deliver diverse business functionality?

In mobile apps, there is no right or wrong when it comes to having one app that covers many functions or smaller separate apps. Each app opportunity needs to be assessed from the user perspective to understand what the user is trying to achieve (their gains) and what their current challenges are (their pains). Using the 5 Key Success Factors (KSF) for mobile apps, the UX / UI factor needs to be assessed to determine what functions the app should include to drive adoption and engagement and whether the user journeys make sense to have all functions in one app.

Generally speaking, smaller apps that deliver one to four specific functions mean the user journey is very clear and intuitive to the user, creating an enhanced UX. By focusing on specific key journeys the information displayed is relevant and contextual to what the user is trying to achieve and not diluted by information/feature overload. Bigger apps are at risk of doing too many functions that confuse the user. Examples of successful companies that have smaller more specific apps rather than one large app include –

  • Aviva – deliver a suite of apps for a range of different business functions such as life insurance, health insurance, fitness trackers and more.
  • Google- also has a suite of apps such as calendar, mail, maps, docs, translate and more.

In recent years, changes to the iOS and Android designs have seen a best practice emerge of a tabbed navigation bar at the bottom of the app. This generally indicates that an app should have a smaller number of core functions that are always accessible from any screen, rather than the older ‘side’ menus where lots of information can be stored. Ideally only secondary information should be made available from a ‘more’ option on the bottom tab bar.

It is also important to remember that apps are not websites and they should not recreate all of the features a website has. Apps are better used to ease users into particular journeys.

From the view of the technology KSF, larger apps are likely to create more QA effort – for every update that is made, more regression testing is required.

Most often developing smaller, more specific apps will help deliver value to end users over monolithic apps that perform many functions. Where required, a suite of apps can be created, where two or more apps, each performing defined functions, can be integrated together. Fundamental to making any decision on monolithic vs more task specific apps, is looking at the end user and intended use case to weigh up trade offs to decide on the best approach. Inevitably, the best user experience will be the driver behind adoption and delivering returns for the business; so make sure you start there.

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