Moving Beyond the App

Facebook introduced Facebook Home today, and unlike most Facebook news, I’m actually quite interested in this announcement.

Setting aside the features, the shift away from apps to focus on a holistic user experience is one that I’ve been investigating for several months.

From the Verge:

But from a user experience standpoint, perhaps the most significant thing about Home is simply the way it thinks beyond the “app” in a broader sense. It’s something Zuckerberg harped on continually: moving beyond apps. And that’s a big departure.

And further:

The idea of mobile apps as discrete, cordoned-off experiences is something Apple entrenched with the iPhone very early on. Build whatever you want on your own rectangular plots, Apple told developers, but this phone is ours, and we’re the ones responsible for how it looks, feels, and functions.

Being surrounded by iOS users, I often struggle to explain the benefits of the Android experience, since they tend to think linearly in terms of apps as discrete experiences, separate from the overall OS. This isn’t a fault; it’s just a byproduct of usage.

One of the most common knocks on Android is that it doesn’t have the same quality of apps that iOS does, but what Android allows apps to do provides for a much deeper integration with the OS itself and for a stronger connection with the user. I’m excited to see Facebook Home take advantage of this because, inevitably, it will lead other Android developers to expand their scope beyond the app.

Plus, Facebook Home will give me a nice example of what I mean the next time I try to explain the benefits of developing a holistic experience for Android users.

Although, since Facebook says they have no plans to port Home to iOS (and realistically, how could they?), I’ll still struggle to explain the user experience benefits. Even so, this is a step in the right direction.

As with many consumer technologies, expanding this paradigm for the enterprise may be easier. While we don’t know how successful Home will be, it’s easy to see how a similar work experience might be valuable. Your employer knows a lot about you, and that’s mostly OK because of the implicit trust relationship that exists.

So, while Google Now might be creepy and Facebook Home invasive, similar work-related functions could be much more successful, e.g. visual representations of your colleagues providing easy ways to communicate with them or assistant-type features based on your job role and functions tied to your calendar and email.

There are a lot of ways this type of experience could make working from a mobile device much easier, and maybe even pleasant.

Anyway, I’m interested to see how consumers react to Facebook Home, although it seems that at least initially, availability will be relatively limited.

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