Strategy question: "One app to rule them all" or multiple apps for different purpose?

over 6 years ago from , Teamlead

Hi fellow designers,

this is my first post/question to the community and I'm looking forward to your feedback!

So... me or better said, the company I work for currently struggles a little with the question what app strategy we should follow.

Currently we have multiple single-purpose apps for our customers. (develop before my time). Which is good because of speed in development and the possibility to make it more user friendly. (currently not user friendly, but that's why I join)

But if we follow this principle, then we can have 100 apps at the end. And always bothering our customers to download a new app is also not the right way. I'm suggesting that we combine some similar apps but overall still have more then one. Unfortunately there are some people that don't agree with me and are proposing one single app with every possible functionality you can ever imagine.

I'm now asking you:

  1. what's your opinion on this topic?

  2. do you have some good examples of big companies having multiple or only one app? good articles or even research?

Thx and wish you a nice day!



  • Matt BaxterMatt Baxter, over 6 years ago

    I think it all depends on how the user views the problem they're trying to solve or the service that they're trying to use.

    A great example is the new push from Facebook to make everyone download the standalone Messenger app. I don't know any user that likes this move. I think the reason is because users don't see the Facebook timeline and Facebook messaging as two different things; they just see it as Facebook. Its annoying to them to have to decide which Facebook app they need to open.

    On the other hand, I see something like Google Drive and Gmail as a very smart separation by Google. Not only would it be difficult to make those a single app, I don't think it would make sense conceptually to a user.

    A lot of this probably has to do with perception. Google has introduced its services separately and done a better job at keeping those separate than Facebook has.

    2 points
  • Nelson TarucNelson Taruc, over 6 years ago (edited over 6 years ago )

    I have real-world experience on this exact subject, and the answer in every instance is to use multiple apps that share data as needed through a single back-end CMS. Some advantages of designing a "suite" of single-purpose apps: Faster to develop, easier to update, and helps ensure better UX to "get things done quickly" via less complex navigation.

    Unfortunately I can't share specific examples from my design business, but what I can share is that in every instance where a mobile app was doomed to failure, it was because the scope and feature list grew way too large, and by the time the app was finished, the technology and business needs changed -- making the app less effective when it finally hit the market. Better to spend one month making an app do one thing well, than spend 10 months trying to make that same app do 10 things well.

    1 point
    • Kristjan Gomboc, over 6 years ago

      Hi Nelson,

      many thx for your reply! Definitely agree with the suite strategy and a very helpful link you provided. Wonder how I did not encounter it before :)



      0 points
  • Tom Martin, over 2 years ago

    I think this is not a good idea. There is a big problem of information security today. I can't trust access to all my applications to a single resource. I can lose everything. If you can convince users of security, then you can do it. I wish you success.

    0 points
  • Olivier Gillaizeau, over 6 years ago

    Hi there,

    Although, I come back and forth with this, I like to think about it with real world examples. So think of a Fork, we only use it for one thing. You can use it for a lot of things but it is was made for one sole purpose: Eating. Now it feels nice to have one object for one purpose. It feels really simple.

    Great question! O.

    0 points
  • Mitch Malone, over 6 years ago (edited over 6 years ago )

    The term for breaking an app into multiple single-purpose apps is called "unbundling" (or bundling for the reverse). Unbundling has been happening on the web for at least two decades but has been getting a lot of attention recently as mobile devices are becoming more and more important. Because mobile devices are so small, they demand more focused interfaces. So a lot of companies are unbundling their complex apps into smaller, more mobile-friendly apps (re: Facebook, Foursquare).

    Here's a really good podcast on unbundling: http://a16z.com/2014/08/15/a16z-podcast-the-topic-thats-lasted-the-entire-history-of-computing-bundling-and-unbundling/

    So to answer your question:

    1. I think unbundling is a great strategic and tactic product move.

    2. The link above. Here's another good one about why Foursquare unbundled:http://www.theverge.com/2014/5/1/5666062/foursquare-swarm-new-app. Another example of an unbundled product experience is what Square is doing. They have a suite of products are all tightly connected and work well together but are also completely separate. So the product experience can be focused on the core task that the product serves.

    Hope that helps. :D

    0 points
    • Kristjan Gomboc, over 6 years ago (edited over 6 years ago )

      Hi Mitch,

      thx for taking the time for answering.

      I'm familiar with the concept of bundling/unbundlig and the facebook/foursquare example but your podcast is something new - and very insightful! Also the Square case is something I did not consider before. Thx for the help


      0 points
  • Jeff ShinJeff Shin, over 6 years ago

    In some cases where the UX of having two apps makes sense, then yes, I think it's good to have two apps.

    We recently launched a second app at 500px called Insights, which is purely for looking at statistics on your photos and the community's photos. Want to look at cool photos? Use the 500px app. Want to obsessively check your likes / faves / followers? Use the Insights app.

    This is similar to Squarespace's catalogue of apps.

    0 points
  • Josh RJosh R, over 6 years ago

    It's my belief that the world needs less apps that do more, not more apps that do less. The research also supports this (I can't find the exact article but I recall reading one last month that said the avg. user only uses 12/16 apps or something along those lines ) here's a recent article.

    2014 = 25 apps (http://mashable.com/2013/09/05/most-apps-download-countries/

    I think there's definitely a sweet spot however, and trying to do too much is just as bad as doing too little. At the end of the day you have to ask your self what the vision for your company is and what is it trying to achieve and go from there.

    Hope that helps.

    0 points
  • Pedro Pimenta, over 6 years ago

    We don't really know what you're are talking about and can't properly give our opinion, but I'll try.

    If there may be 100 apps for all your needs, don't put it in one app. You can't. It's crazy and it doesn't make sense.

    But it also doesn't make sense that you have 100 apps for "one" thing (notice the quotes).

    So... could you structure it? I mean, could the apps be divided into categories? For example, maybe 2 apps are used for communication and you can jam it into 1? For example, email and chat? maybe those two could be one app with two goals.

    Can't help anymore, unless to say that 1 app to do 50 things is not great and will be an UI/UX nightmare. Also because you may need a new feature in the future that the current app architecture can't support and then you have a real problem.

    0 points
    • , over 6 years ago (edited over 6 years ago )

      Thx for your response.

      you're right - I should have been more concrete with my examples.

      Our company is producing specialized tools. Our mobile apps are more or less a supporter for those tools. E.g: a selector app which helps you to select the right tool to use. Or a calculator, how to use a tool by given condition. Then a troubleshooting app etc.

      Now since we have a quite big offering of different tools - there could eventually be a lot of apps. My suggestion is the same as yours: let's combine what seems logical. There's no need to have 10 troubleshooting apps. It can only be one.

      But my question is: to which extend to combine it? Should we have in one app the product catalog, order entry, selectors, calculators, troubleshooting etc... which some people around here suggest. Or should we have a few apps - which I suggest.

      Either way... what are pro and cons of both? Any good examples, research.. general opinion?

      0 points
      • Paul DessertPaul Dessert, over 6 years ago

        Hi Kristjan.

        You've been given two good answers based off of the limited information.

        You ask, "But my question is: to which extend to combine it?". The answer is, we don't know. We don't understand the goals, the products, the users etc. That's your job ;).

        I can however tell you this sounds like an awful lot of apps. I can't imagine a scenario where 100 apps from one company is a good decision.

        Step back, look at the big picture and figure out what you/the company is trying to achieve. You might just find that you can eliminate 80% of what you currently have and turn the remaining into one great app.

        0 points
      • Nelson TarucNelson Taruc, over 6 years ago

        Kristjan, this is useful clarification. Rather than do research on what other companies have done, I suggest building in usage metrics in the mobile apps you already have developed to see what apps and features your users are spending the most time with. Analyzing that data will give you way more actionable feedback (plus data to support a cohesive roadmap strategy) as to the number and type of apps you should build next. So don't worry about white papers or blog posts, get the info you need from your current pool of app users. Best of luck!

        0 points