Windows Store and Windows Phone Store: Website Apps “Problem”
By on July 1st, 2014

I have noticed a slightly disturbing trend in Windows (and Windows Phone) apps, and that is “big brand” apps being released as a website wrapped in an app. I am going to refer to three specific examples I stumbled upon recently, but please note these apps are not the only ones with this issue.

Let’s take a look at United Airlines app to start with. Here’s the app’s opening screen:

 

United Airline App Home

United Airline App Home

Even at the first glance you can tell this is the website being rendered inside the app. I don’t have a problem with HTML inside apps, but just throwing the website as is into the app makes for terrible user experience especially on touch. For example, you can see that the links are so dense that they will make it hard to tap:

 

United Airlines Travel Info Page

Travel information page

Even some other “pages” in the “app” where the density is not so high, the layout does not feel native at all:

 

United Airline Products Page

United Airline Products Page

Finally, compare the screenshots above to the United Airlines website:

 

United Airline website

United Airline website

So yes, the Windows Store team can claim we have a genuine and official app for United Airlines, but as a user I’d much rather just go to the website than use the app.

It gets worse in the evite app, whose main screen is shown below:

 

Evite App Home

Evite App Home

When I tapped the header image in the app, I was brought to the details page. So far, so good. The touch targets are big enough, the layout does not look like a website but it is because evite’s website is designed that way.

 

Evite App Section

Evite App Section

However, the issue arises when I tap something in the details page, it launched the evite website! That is terrible, because the app itself is the website, so why should it throw me out of the app and open the website?

 

Evite App Clicks To Website

Evite App Clicks To Website

For comparison, here’s the evite website:

 

Evite website

Evite website

Finally, the Orbitz app, where you will see a link to their mobile apps!

 

Orbitz App Home

Orbitz App Home

See the Orbitz website below, which looks exactly like the app:

 

Orbitz website

Orbitz website

Starting from scratch as a distant third in the mobile ecosystem wars, Microsoft is in a bad situation when it comes to breaking the Catch-22 of users not buying Windows devices because of lack of apps and developers not building apps for Windows because of low volume of Windows devices sold. I have seen other desperate attempts by Microsoft, like encouraging student developers to submit apps without much regard to quality of the apps. We have also seen Microsoft getting caught submitting web wrappers in their own name, for popular products and services like Southwest Airlines. This could very well be another such attempt to get big brands in the Windows and Windows Phone Stores, but I am unclear how it benefits the end users. The fact that several such apps have been released recently points to some level of green lighting by Microsoft, even if they are not the ones making it.

The least Microsoft can do now, is to make sure the layouts are modified to make them touch-friendly. Don’t get me wrong though, there are a lot of good, big brand apps coming to both Windows and Windows Phone lately, and I am really happy about that as a user in that ecosystem. Also, increasingly the apps are being released as “Universal” where you buy/download on Windows and it becomes enabled on other Windows/Windows Phone devices (and vice versa). This trend is also great news for the ecosystem.

Do you agree that these apps are close to “junk”? Are you ok seeing such “apps”? Let me know in the comments!

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Author: Romit Mehta Google Profile for Romit Mehta
Romit writes about mobile news and gadgets, and is currently a Windows Phone owner (Nokia Lumia 920). Find him on twitter @TheRomit. Personal site is http://romitmehta.com.

Romit Mehta has written and can be contacted at romit@techie-buzz.com.
  • http://promtmedia.com/ Jonathan CARTIER

    It seems that the new operating system concept start to bring confusion between app, content, and software. Everything functionnality seems to be artificially “appified” as if it would be a new concept when it is no more than a new way to name, and maybe display and access, the software. Well as Gabe Newell said: windows 8 is the end of the PC….and the beginning of Valve assault on the gaming console!

    • JamesSB

      Gabe is looking pretty silly now. Windows 8 now has a market share of 25.11% on Steam.

      • http://promtmedia.com/ Jonathan CARTIER

        That doesn’t mean he is wrong. It would be like occulting that console
        manufacturer try to put an end to the old business model (physical
        support that can be lend to friend or resell, or broken and lost for
        what matter) and replace it with a new one: digital copy bind to an
        account, available online everywhere.

        MS also, by adopting this approach, might force other actors into a model that doesn’t meet their needs. Many companies run their machines and robots on custom software that have nothing to gain from windows 8 and its “applification”. In the case of steam it might just make steam irrelevant on the long run as it
        would be a market place in a market place.

  • http://downloadmp3.tv/ mehwishmishi1122

    Everything functionnality seems to be artificially “appified” as if it would be a new concept when it is no more than a new way to name, and maybe display and access, the software

    http/downloadmp3.tv

 
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