The App Store Breaks User Flow

You know the situation. You follow a link on Twitter or Facebook or from an email message to a website from your mobile device. But, instead of being permitted to access the content, you’re met with an overlay screen recommending that you download or buy the site’s app from the App Store to access the content. “But,” you think, “I’m right here! I already clicked the link.” If you dismiss the message, you may in fact be able to access the article or post that you were trying to read, or worse, you may be taken to the homepage for the site and be forced to re-find the content you were thinking of reading. Or, more than likely, you’ll just leave the site.

What makes it even harder to understand is that many of the sites that have mobile apps for reading the content, also have well-designed mobile sites. 

Flickr's #doorslam

The internet has even named this phenomenon: the DoorSlam. So named because the site is essentially slamming the door in your face and not allowing you to access the content directly. Want proof? There’s even a Tumblr blog devoted to it called I Don’t Want Your Fucking App.

Apple has made it possible for app owners to include a special tag that allows users to install a site’s app directly from their site via a special banner that appears at the top of the site. This is relatively unobtrusive. However, since many sites have apps for multiple platforms, the moment that they detect an inbound link from a mobile device, they throw up the multi-platform DoorSlam. If users choose to download the app (some may even think that there’s no other way to access the site), they have to leave the site they were trying to visit, tap the app store link, sign in to the store, click to download the app, wait for it to download and then try to find the article that they were attempting to read in the first place. Many simply won’t bother, or they may get distracted by other apps or content.

To me, this is interaction flow design at its worst. Site owners create content that they hope will be interesting for users and then put road blocks up that prevent it from being easily read. Attention on the internet is always at a premium. Make it easy for people to consume your content–don’t force them to download an app they don’t need to access web-based content.

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