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The future of apps lies in… apps

If you’re reading this on an iPhone, the chances are you have already updated the operating system to iOS 10. You have probably also downloaded the first update, iOS 10.1, which fixes minor bugs in the new operating system and installs a new camera feature on the iPhone 7 Plus that creates a bokeh-like effect.

In the meantime you might have noticed that apps have acquired a habit of communicating with each other. Your calendar might have reminded you that you need to leave to get to an appointment on time. It knows, because it has checked the traffic in Google Maps. Whereas app developers used to ask ‘What can my app do in the iOS framework?’ Now they ask, ‘What can my app do in other apps?’

These days, apps are rarely isolated programs that need to be opened by the user. They are far more likely to act as an extension of other apps. Take TripAdvisor, which opens Maps for you, so you can see which restaurants are nearby, or the fact that Apple’s Siri now enables you to order an Uber.

From eggs to spiders

Apps used to be stand-alone applications: an egg with a shell that had to be entered from the outside. The same was true of websites, until Google and Facebook made it possible for users to upload more and more of their own content onto their platforms. The eggs evolved into spiders with legs throughout the web. It’s no longer necessary to go to the IMDb database to find out about a film or an actor, I just type in the title or name and the relevant information is summarised at the top of my search results.

This aspect of app development is accelerating. So it’s important to ensure that your app is up to speed with this system: a world in which data is available through different interfaces. In other words, the question is, how do you get your content into other apps?

Integration within other apps

Apple has clearly given this a great deal of thought in its new iOS. And Google has done the same in its internet search engine. In order not to miss the boat, companies need to be aware of this. The future of apps now lies in integration within other apps. This means that there’s a lot of work to be done, because the possibilities are endless. It’s not difficult. In fact it’s pretty much the same as optimising your website for Facebook when you post a link. You want the picture, text and other data to display correctly, so Google indexes all of the metadata properly. That way people can find your content quickly and easily.

Findability and completeness

So here’s a quick tip for companies considering launching apps as part of their digital strategy. Be sure to establish a presence on mobile platforms such as iOS or Android. But don’t do it in a closed environment. Especially with online payment transactions now entering a new era. Payments made through Whatsapp, iMessage or Siri, rather than a banking app, are only a matter of time. How accessible do you want to make your system in order to support this? Are you there already? If not, how close are you?

It’s all about the findability and completeness of your content. If you have developed an app that offers content or interaction, how do you intend it to be accessed? If you offer information that can be displayed on a map, why aren’t you in Apple Maps?

Content is becoming richer and richer, and it is being offered in more and more different forms. The easier and more enjoyable you make the experience of accessing it, the more satisfied people are. And a satisfied customer is a… Precisely! In that case, what are you waiting for?

This article has been published in Dutch on Fonk