1174: App

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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If I click 'no', I've probably given up on everything, so don't bother taking me to the page I was trying to go to. Just drop me on the homepage. Thanks.
Title text: If I click 'no', I've probably given up on everything, so don't bother taking me to the page I was trying to go to. Just drop me on the homepage. Thanks.


Some websites have a mobile app designed for use on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. In theory this is because the main website will be more difficult to navigate on the small screen of a mobile, or some features won't work. In practice, this alternative is frequently worse than simply viewing the standard web page, for reasons offered in the comic:

  • You cannot zoom or change the text size in most of these apps, a feature available on mobile browsers.
  • The app is often of poor quality and is incomplete, lacks part of the content, or lacks features available on the standard website.

The comic offers a brutally honest version of such a promotional popup.

Compounding the frustration is that some sites aggressively promote their app/mobile version with a popup message that repeats the suggestion on every visit to the site, and as the title text notes, if you reject the popup, you end up on the site's homepage, rather than the subpage you may have been trying to reach via a web search. A similar effect (where the mobile version will only load the site's main page) is described in more detail in 869: Server Attention Span.


[A popup window on top of a webpage displayed in a smartphone browser that looks like Safari.]
Want to visit an incomplete version of our website where you can't zoom?
Download our app!
[OK] [No, but ask me again every time]

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Interestingly, Scott Hanselman just made a blog post about this very issue. Note how the page in its entirety was downloaded using his mobile data plan, but it's still in no way viewable. --Buggz (talk) 08:27, 15 February 2013 (UTC)

By "in no way viewable" you mean mobile browsers don't support editing page's DOM like Chrome does out of the box and Firefox do with FireBug extension? (Try pressing F12). Not to speaking about the javascript-in-location-bar tricks someone already started posting on the blog post you mentioned. -- Hkmaly (talk) 09:29, 15 February 2013 (UTC)
I was talking about how the website is done by design. Since the whole page is downloaded you can of course start "hacking" your way through to the content, but that's besides the point. --Buggz (talk) 11:00, 15 February 2013 (UTC)
It may be seen as hacking now. But removing ads from websites was also seen as hacking until ad blockers becamed fully automated and popular. If those overlays becomes anoying enough, someone will code extension to get rid of them. -- Hkmaly (talk) 09:35, 18 February 2013 (UTC)
Most mobile browsers don't support extensions, but you COULD disable JavaScript before viewing the page then re enabling it after. 07:57, 4 November 2013 (UTC)

prompting mobile views = prompting people viewing the website from a mobile browser ("mobile views" is web designer terminology, not mainstream speech) -- (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Right, let's reword that (which you can do yourself, by the way, but I'll admit that from the main page it's not obvious for a newcomer). - Cos (talk) 11:45, 15 February 2013 (UTC)
Seems like Spongebog did actually. - Cos (talk) 11:49, 15 February 2013 (UTC)

Chainsaw Suit also made almost the same joke: http://chainsawsuit.com/2013/01/23/view-the-desktop-version-of-this-site/

It's been moved here: https://chainsawsuit.krisstraub.com/20130123.shtml Schmurr (talk) 19:58, 10 February 2023 (UTC)

It reminds me very much of the way tapatalk-enabled forums act. They keep prompting you to use the app, which - if you have the app - will not open the page you were on.

Related, I stopped using the BBC News App because part way through last year it insisted I use an account to access it (I now just view the BBC website). The BBC Weather App is now also starting to tell me that I will need an account (the same account, that I just don't feel like getting), so no doubt I will keep a tab open in my mobile browser for that, too, at some point.
I've been using the News/Weather Apps, on successive devices, for maybe a decade and they have worked perfectly well without needing any account-linking... Though the Weather App started to lose the ability to remember more than five locations at a time, without the login, which is a purely a designed-in reduction of functionality that has no technical necessity other than becoming more PesterWare to promote... something to do with branding/enhanced exploitation of user-profiles? Which I'm happy enough to do pasively (device-id, usual stuff) but I'll be darned if I'll actively help them. 21:16, 10 February 2023 (UTC)

What can we learn from this?

I've learned that there are a billion things in the world that still need to be improved and sometimes if you seeking inspirations for new inventions they sometimes stare you right in the face (Thank you Mr. XKCD). Software engineers among us, lets help them improve their designs and avoid their mistakes ok? - e-inspired 19:17, 27 February 2013 (UTC)

I have been heavily influenced by Randall's view on the browser vs mobile dichotomy, (https://xkcd.com/1367/ this being his best showerthought) but I have come to realize that native apps are a genuinely better product than any webpage can be. The fact that apps don't have zoom is a feature, who wants to zoom to a picture, then pan to a scroll bar to move down and then go back to the picture column. Mobile has caught up in terms of UX and product quality, the reason Randall was initially skeptical is because he was born and raised in an internet generation where the best products and users had keyboards and browsers.-- Tomás 00:16, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
Well, this comic came out 6 years ago, when the apps were not necesarily providing a better UI/UX, and phone screens were often so small, that only a limited number of characters would be possible to display in a size where they can be read, so zooming in and out to read text was often necessary. --Lupo (talk) 06:30, 14 October 2019 (UTC)