16 May 2013
Are native apps faster than web applications? Do they feel better than web applications? Maybe.
As a user, there’s a bigger problem with web applications. They can be changed at any time, without notice.
The ability to change your product quickly and often is also a huge boon to creators of web applications. The godfather of startups, Paul Graham, in his seminal startup bible ‘Hackers and Painters’, calls this out as a huge advantage to startups: Release early, release often. Iterate!
The new ‘Lean’ literature is also full of this kind of thinking: Make a hypothesis about a change to your system, quickly build a barely-sufficient (sorry, ‘minimum viable’) version of a feature, deploy it to your users, then measure their response to test your hypothesis had the desired effect.
Now, rinse and repeat until you’ve attracted enough users to be aquihired by Google. Now you can become a V.C.
Circle of life.
Once in a while, this process of rabidly churning out changes to a product results in a beneficial long-term invention for users. It’s a hap-hazard approach akin to throwing shit against a wall and hoping that a masterpiece eventually reveals itself: If it eventually happens you look like a genius, but in the mean-time we’re all covered in shit.
I’m sick of having to re-learn the interface for your half-assed web app. I’m sick of your tweaking and polishing and rearranging and pivoting. It may be the most cost effective way for you to “innovate”, but you pass some of that cost to me, your theoretical, quote-unquote non-customer. Now I have to spend my time and and attention learning how to attach an email again, or figuring out why the workflow that I depend on is suddenly, maddeningly ever-so slightly different than it was five minutes ago.
There’s a reasonable argument that web apps feel less snappy than native apps, and sure that’s important to me. But it’s far less important than the feeling of relying on your web app for something and, in exchange, exposing myself to your shit-slinging innovation process.
I’m sick of being your lab rat, running desperately through the new maze you’ve dreamed up, frantically searching for that piece of cheese that I know you’ve hidden around here somewhere.
Why are web apps worse than native apps? Because they encourage you, big-shot startup entrepreneur, to experiment on me instead of thinking through the job that I’ve hired your software to do. And you’re not entirely to blame. I should be more discerning with my time and attention. I should be paying for a well considered, thoughtfully designed service that solves a genuine problem. I should be more circumspect about the use of my time and attention.
And so, it is with regret, that I must decline to sign-up for your shiny new web app. I will pass on your revolutionary new gadget. I really don’t need another way to watch my extremely limited time on this earth slip through your sweaty fingers in the name of “innovation”.
Good luck with your acquisition.