App walls or how to annoy your mobile users.

Published on Jun 20, 2013

I usually complain about the sites that are using pay walls as ways to monetize their content and how frustrating some of these implementations can be.

I understand the need to monetize the content on those sites and I don’t blame then for trying. I think that is just annoying and there are probably better ways to do so.

There is another annoying trend growing in the web community and is what I like to call the use of “app walls”.

What’s an App wall?

You probably encountered app walls multiple times while browsing the web from a mobile device (usually following a link from an external source).

You clicked the link and were grated by a full page modal window that completely covered the content you are looking for.

The modal window is usually and add for the mobile (native) app of the site, with a link to the app store of the device you are using.

Penalizing the user with large downloads and load times.

You are using a mobile device and this “app walls” are extra bytes that you have to download from (in general) a connection with limited bandwidth, and to make things worse, most of these windows are very reach on graphics.

Are you really, really sure you don’t want our app?

The “app walls” are in many cases insidious and keep showing up each time you hit a link to the site, in some terrible cases, even while navigating between pages.

This totally disrupts the flow and it will more certainly convince you to stop using that site and move on to something else.

There are many ways to prevent this and is probably one of the places where the use of a cookie makes sense.

Bear in mind that most of this app walls actually set cookies in your machine for tracking purposes.

Our app is tailored for the mobile experience!

A lot of these sites are content sites and not applications, thus the value of a native app is debatable at best.
In many cases the native experience is worse than the full website in the sense that you can only access a limited portion of the content or the navigation follows a totally new paradigm that you may have to re-learn.

We have a a mobile version for you fully capable full size screen tablet!

You manage to navigate into the site and you are redirected to a “mobile friendly” version. This is “again” a reduced version of the full site with only a portion of the content instead of a responsive version of the main application.

Can somebody explain to me why some sites direct tablet users to the mobile site at all?
The only difference is that you are in a touch device and just using a few meta tags and sensible CSS brake points should deal with most of the cases for simple content heavy sites.

I will grant that applications are a different story, but even in those cases paying just a little bit of attention while working on the app will help you in 90% of the use cases.

I’m aware that is not really that simple, but I prefer a not optimized desktop website in my iPad than a cripple version intended for my iPhone.

Be a good on-line citizen

If you really think that a native app is a good idea, find a different way to promote it. One example is suggesting to the user to install the native app the first time they ever visit the site in a given mobile devise but without hiding your content.

Maybe one of those little top banners that some sites use.

Even better, add a link to download the app (or a small banner if you want to use graphics) at the end of the article.

That way you guarantee that the audience is somebody that really like the content you offer.