Add to my Home Screen?

If you you don’t follow the reference in the title of this post, you’re probably not alone. In fact, I would bet big money that very few people make it a practice to add web sites to their iPhone’s homescreen.

This is one of those rather esoteric iOS features that are often cited by those who adamantly defend web apps as being on equal footing to native apps, but rarely used by those customers that we’re all trying to please, equally. The idea is that a web site can “easily” be added to the Home Screen, just like any native app.

All you have to do is:

  1. Open Safari on an iOS device
  2. Navigate to mobile-friendly website
  3. Click the Share Action button in Safari, and select “Add to Home Screen”.

Easy. Right?

I think it’s easy to say the words “add to home screen”. It’s also easy to say that users will love doing this, and will thank you for not forcing them to download an app from the App Store. You can say these things, but I don’t think they’re true.

I’m definitely not saying that all mobile websites should be apps. But if someone tries to tell you that web app is easy to add to the Home Screen and therefore is a great Launch user experience… think again. I opened my eyes to this issue when speaking with a product person from a local startup. He explained that they created a Native App wrapper for their web app, for the sole reason that their customers did not know how to add websites to their Home Screen, nor did they have any interest in learning. All they wanted, was to download the app from the App Store. I encountered similar user behavior when creating an experimental app, Little Todos. Almost none of my users have launched the app from the Home Screen of an iOS device - they assume it’s a desktop experience, only, even though I took the effort to make the web app responsive. An interesting experiment, which taught me a lot about building web applications.

Don’t assume that just because your users can do something, that they actually will. Apple has trained us to go to the App Store for things on our Home Screen, and I believe that most users want that experience, and that experience alone.


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