How Mobile Apps Can Inspire Website Design

by Jason Falls |

There’s a really good reason people love apps, and in particular applications from brands. They are often streamlined and simple versions of a company’s website or serve a specific purpose. There’s no annoying copy in marketing speak, no flash banners slowing down the page load, no pop-ups and, often, no confusion on where to go to get what you want. Why? Because mobile or tablet/iPad apps are supposed to be simple, serve 1-2 purposes and get out of the way.

Which is precisely what most users want from a corporate website.

A couple of years ago, everyone wanted to build desktop widgets. The thought was to take the core functionality of a website and make it easily accessible from one’s computer desktop. For Nationwide Insurance, for instance, it might have been a widget that helped you search for a car insurance quote by model and make. It probably didn’t do anything else, but that’s okay. It was a desktop widget.

iPad home screen from Amit AgarwalThe problem with desktop widgets was simply that tech people called them “widgets.” Mainstream consumers don’t know what a widget is. From 2006-2008, “What is a widget,” was in the top three or four questions I answered in every client meeting.

Now that Apple has made mobile and now tablet apps all the rage, what do we really have? We have a streamlined, narrowly purposed function-driven subset of your corporate website in an application that resides … on your device’s desktop. It’s a desktop widget for a smart phone or tablet, only we call it an app. Nationwide’s app — Cartopia — allows you to easily comparison shop for cars and find appropriate insurance afterward. It’s a neat app. And, to my knowledge, contains no pictures of company executives. (Thank goodness!)

Want to make your website kick-ass? Build it like you’d build an app. Think of the 1-2-or-3 things your main audience wants from your website, or cool stuff you can give them. Then just deliver that. And while you’re at it, build a little app-like icon that can reside on any desktop that takes people right to your website. Give them a mobile app that can live on any device … even a PC.

You think I’m crazy? Wait until you see the iMac Touch. (Which wasn’t rumored to be what Apple announces Wednesday, so we’ll probably have to wait.) What do you think will populate the desktops of Apple’s next big idea? Apps. Why not take them to everyone’s desktop now and beat Apple to the punch?

Don’t worry. Mr. Jobs has already conditioned the masses. As long as you don’t call it a, “widget,” it’ll work.

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About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).