Dear websites, please stop asking me to download your mobile app

Dear *insert website name,*

Please stop asking me about your mobile app. I don’t want to use it. I don’t care if you think your app is the bees knees. If I wanted to use your app, I would go to the app store and download said app. But I didn’t do that. Instead, I am writing this letter to clarify my position:

I prefer to access your service from the comfort of a browser, thank you very much.

It’s fine to tell me to download your app the first time I visit your page, or even to send me a reminder once in a while. You need to let people know your app exists, of course. But constant reminders, massive banners, or worse, outright preventing me from using basic functionality on your mobile site — looking at you, Reddit — is just plain unfriendly.

I understand. You’ve paid developers a lot of money to create an app with the smoothest native software experience. You can probably implement more sophisticated functionality. But I still don’t want to use it.

Here’s the problem: an app can provide the best experience for your app, but it’s not the best user experience my phone. Guess which experience interests me the most.

Today’s phones are powerful enough to do a lot of things that once required a good PC. And like on my PC, 80% of what I do I can do from a browser. It’s nice to be able to keep various pages and services organized in one place, rather than switching between multiple apps for basic content consumption. The modern browser is essentially an operating system within an operating system, and often the in-app experience just isn’t superior enough to earn the convenience of just visiting a webpage.

But it’s not just an organizational preference. Quite often I find that being forced to use an app leads to frustrations and limitations that I don’t have to deal with in a browser. To list a few off the top of my head:

  • I can’t open links/pages in new tabs
  • I can’t have multiple instances of your app for multitasking or searching
  • Apps often introduce unexpected bugs with rare updates on a mobile site
  • I can’t bookmark content for easy retrieval
  • Although I can bookmark things, I can’t keep pages organized with content from other apps/services
  • It takes longer to open an app than just typing a URL or opening a bookmark when I’m already in a browser
  • I often can’t copy and paste text from pages without workarounds
  • Often I can’t easily save images
  • More apps are cluttering up my phone’s launcher
  • I can’t see my history
  • Navigation and UI behaviors are often more consistent in a browser – I know exactly where the back gesture is going to take me
  • Apps require extra storage space and often ask for unnecessary permissions
  • Apps often bombard my phone with notifications I didn’t ask for. Even if I can turn them off, it’s annoying

It’s a lot to deal with if I’m just trying to read comments on a stupid meme or watch a cute animal video.

There’s a reason people tend to do so much from a browser on their PC – it’s just more convenient. There may have been a time when using a native app was unequivocally superior on a phone, but unless your software requires a lot of processing power or fancy code for its most basic functionality, I probably prefer to use it from a browser.

This brings me back to my opening paragraph: if I wanted to use your app, I would already. Damn, sometimes I To do download the app for occasional use, but I always I don’t want to use it every time I access your service. Boring your users into submission is not good design.

So please stop harassing me.

Truly,

Everyone, presumably.

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