From the very first day I started at PageUp, “Mobile-First” was The phrase.

It bounced off the walls on to our strategy decks and backlogs, ensuring everything we built was mobile responsive for our burgeoning client base.

About a year ago, we took our “Mobile-First” approach to the next level and launched into the mobile app space. Our Everyday Performance app focused on creating an even simpler experience for employees to manage performance conversations in the moment.

6 months ago, incoming from Stage Right, we identified and validated another problem to solve. But, this problem is very specific to another one of our products — Learning, and we decided the it was best solved via a mobile app experience as well.

Naturally, we had to consider what our mobile strategy was going to be knowing that we would probably have a lot more problems across our suite of products to solve that could best be served via a mobile app experience.

So, the question became: Do we build a mega app (a.k.a Beyoncé) or do we have multiple apps with very specific value propositions (a.k.a The Spice Girls)?

What concert do we go to?!

The Headlines

1. There are two terms to become familiar with:

  • “Bundling” (or Beyoncé) — A “mega” app, built out via the merging of a single set of apps
  • “Unbundling” (or The Spice Girls) — The conscious uncoupling of products, taking what was once a large app and breaking it into single purpose apps

2. There is ambiguity around which approach is most beneficial. Both have proved successful for a variety of companies

3. The key driver for pursuing a Beyoncé or Spice Girls approach is the same — User Experience (Mic. Drop)

But which one is more viable? What are the benefits and considerations?

 

The BEYONCÉ

BENEFITS

  • There is less risk that you will silo your user base. A bundled app approach aims to target all key use cases ensuring relevance to all segments
  • Migration to an all-in-one app is said to be inevitable because what tends to happen with single purpose apps is your users end up wanting more anyway
  • There’s a reduction in fatigue when it comes to upgrades — only a single upgrade at a time is a required
  • There’s the potential to reduce user anxiety around security as the more applications a user stores sensitive data, the more vulnerable they feel
  • Resourcing at all levels, from development to marketing, is dedicated to the one product

CONSIDERATIONS

  • Mega apps have a lot of functionality. This has the potential to make users worry about being locked-into one app without needing to leverage most of the functionality
  • On the same vein, it’s possible some features you build could be overlooked by your users
  • There is potential to deliver a great user experience in a mega app that is based around primary then secondary functionality. The challenge is working out what is primary vs secondary

 

The Spice Girls

BENEFITS

  • Single apps focus on a core task or value proposition and doing it well. There is general sentiment that these apps have higher engagement levels because of this
  • Due to a key focus, the complexity of the interface and navigation of these apps is reduced enabling a user to complete their key tasks efficiently, increasing their rate of return
  • Generally they have a quicker speed to development and iteration, an important point given constant device updates.
  • Additional revenue streams can also be created through the single-app approach and positioning as separate products in market
  • Users are becoming more and more used to surfing between apps. They expect to switch from app to app depending on the outcome they are trying to achieve

CONSIDERATIONS

  • The need to download multiple, single apps is said to be a deterrent to download.
  • Maintaining several apps can be just as time consuming as maintaining an large “all-in-one” app (depending on the number of apps in the portfolio)
  • Being conscious of the duplication of functionality is necessary as it may increase the likelihood that a single purpose app in your portfolio cannibalizes another

Reviewing the options, it seems like the Beyoncé approach could win the award. I mean, take WeChat. It is by far the most compelling example of a successful “mega” app, literally becoming the default home on Chinese user’s’ smartphones.

But, when we look at some of the most successful app companies in the world, many of them have executed a single-purpose app strategy. Facebook splitting Messenger out into a separate app was controversial. It is now one of the world’s most popular apps with 1.2B users. Commentators directly link its high growth to the fact it was unbundled.

Instagram,too, has created a variety of standalone apps for photography enthusiasts outside of users who prefer the simplicity of the main app. Their strategy also points to a theory that the more home screen space an app brand grabs, the more time users will spend with the brand thus leading to more advertiser spend. Either way, their users don’t seem to mind!

Understanding the pros and cons got us closer to finalizing our approach. The only thing missing was looking forwards to the future of app technology. I’ll cover that and our decision in Part 2.

Which option do you think is best? Would you prefer to sing Formation or Wannabe? Holla at me, I am keen to hear your thoughts!

P.S I have linked some video clips for you to jam to if you have no idea what I am referring to :p


By Steph Sudano
Product Strategy Manager @ PageUp
Twitter: @steph_sudano
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/stephaniesudano/

Concert Photo Credit: Caroline Delaney
Beyoncé Photo Credit: Ana y María Quintana y González