Someone sits looking at their home screen and goes to push on an app icon. What do they expect to happen?

Congrats to the housing team on their new pwa!

That seems pretty obvious. They expect the app to load quickly and get them into a reliable experience.

But you quickly get caught on the particular context:

  • Did the user just add this to the home screen and has expectations on how it is “the same” as the browser version?
  • e.g. “I have added mobile twitter to the home screen because I prefer that experience”
  • Is the user coming back to this after several months and just wants “something that feels right”?
  • Does the user want a URL bar at the top, or accessible?
  • Jeremy Keith and other users may want one, but many will not
  • Does the user experience this service on desktop and beyond? Do they feel connected and understandable?
  • Is this a brand where the user has a lot of engagement and understands that context vs. ending up on a new site where they prefer to fast track through “this is how I buy something, and this site maps to that mental model?”
  • If the experience was launched via a URL vs. tapping on the icon what would the user want to see?

How the user has been trained by their usage (both in general, and by this service) will greatly change their expectations. If the app hasn’t worked well offline in the past the user may know that and not even go to launch it when in a spotty area. I find myself doing this all the time. For example, I would record into the default notes app and then transcribe over to the other app later. I don’t do that for “web” apps, I do it for any app that has been flaky for me. E.g. Asana used to not work well offline, but it has since been fixed, and I am building up trust to go directly to it.

As you watch people using apps there is a complicated set of expectations at play, and many of these are changing.

  • The platform is adding new behaviors and ways of working that apps need to consider (it is somewhat obvious that core capability such as being able to manage a PWA vs. a “native” app should be unified)
  • The developer needs to both add capability and also nudge users when appropriate (e.g. how early offline capable web apps are more explicit about their connectivity)
  • The user keeps changing and learning.

One thing users aren’t doing when they go to tap on the icon is think “I wonder what technology is used to build this app?” They care about output vs. input. Does it feel good for them and solve their problems. Is it fast enough and accessible.

As a community we are working on the challenges of new platforms and the fact that users are coming to us from many angles. We have browsers and apps and bots and various screens and on and on. We engage with these services in different ways and from different entry points. Tapping on a home screen icon is one of them, but launching via links, or push notifications, or voice may vastly out number that method.

Thus, it is interesting to read the thoughts of Jeremy or Owen or Jason (who has been going very deep!).

As we see the platforms that users use evolve, and as we see more PWAs shipping, it will be fascinating to experiment and see what works well and what doesn’t.

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