A case against Unbundling

The news broke that Foursquare is splitting off part of their functionality to build a new app called Swarm and it got me thinking about this unbundling situation.

I'm disappointed, frustrated and angry.

I use Foursquare daily as a social tool to engage with friends around the world, a personal log book of places I have been and want to go as well as a way for me to discover new experiences when I am travelling.

I primarily use the mobile interface but really enjoy the desktop interface and the ability to view history.

I also quite like the gamification layer with mayorships and badges which enhance the whole experience. The entertaining messages that the team has built into notifications, when you achieve different badge levels, show how much thought and personality they've put into this product.

Unbundling is Lazy

It seems to me that software and social media companies have now completely lost their way with this unbundling trend.

Unbundling as a product design strategy is lazy and means additional code bases to manage for developers. It might make team management easier as development and design resources could be divided amongst your unbundled products. This approach to development is however, exchanging innovation in design and thinking, for splitting off features of their product into individual products of their own.

Those in favour of Unbundling would argue that it allows them to build a more immersive and engaging user experience around the specific feature set. I'm sure, if they were to be totally honest, it's because they could not think of a better way of doing it within their main app and this boils down to lack of creativity, problem solving skills or pure laziness.

Next thing you know, I'll need an app to check my bank balance, an app to load beneficiaries and another to make payments. Come on people, an app per feature or use case is not a way to build software.

I'm not saying there is no need for stand alone products or that these stand alone products can't get special attention or secret sauce but unbundling is not innovation and it's not solving the real problem. Unbundling is a quick fix for a dev team to implement a new experience while creating more apps for a user to manage.

Fighting for the home screen

I am selective in what I install and I am sure many other people are too. Each new app consumes disk space and some of them simply just drain your battery whether it be for GPS related usage or polling for updates. If you want to get onto my home screen you better offer me something of real value in one package.

New apps are launching regularly and competing for attention. Mobile devices are small and people have even developed methodologies for managing the limited space on their home screens.

Your unbundled products are competing for a spot and if you're lucky, one will remain on the home screen or quite possibly neither will end up there.

You're forcing users to either use all of your apps on their mobile devices or lose out on part of the experience or functionality. What if they decide to jump ship all together? Do you care?

A good example is Facebook which has built-in messaging, for now, but Facebook decided to launch a separate messaging app. I now keep getting prompted to install Messenger. I don't want it, I don't need it. The primary Facebook app caters for messaging just fine already.

If you're concerned about user experience rather spend time and effort on ehancing it in your existing app, instead of splitting off functionality into a whole new one.

If you do decide to invest time in a whole app for a feature, don't keep prompting me to install it and don't rip it out of the main app feature set altogether. Let me, the user, decide which apps I want installed and how I want to engage with the platform.

I am sure some users will love having an app per feature experience, so develop these if you wish, but let adoption be up to the user. Don't destroy an already functional solution.

It's time for this to stop, right now, dead in it's tracks.

Focus on quality not quantity

We need fewer apps to do more and do it better, instead of more apps doing less.

Use your brain and your budget to design a better, more intuitive user experience, instead of trying to create a lot of separate ones.