Is Having No App Better Than Having a Bad App?

Avoid releasing an app that may not meet users needs

In response to a question from Andrew Marr last week, which referred to the length of time it was taking for the government to get the coronavirus tracking app to market, PM Michael Gove said:

"No app, is better than a bad app..."

Now, knowing politicians, this could have been a suitably cutting retort to divert attention away from the delay, but it did raise a very important point when it comes to the part an app can play in the digital strategy for your organisation.

Obviously, in the case of a health critical app (like the one Michael Gove refers to) it would be very dangerous for it to provide inaccurate information or very embarrassing for the government were it to crash constantly on a users device.

So, what are the important questions you should be asking - First, into whether to build an app and second, when it should be released on the world.

1. Do we need an App?

When most people use the term 'App' these days, they are usually referring to a native application that is installed on a users device. These are found online in app stores, such as Goole Play or Apple's App store.

The more recent alternative is the Progressive Web App (PWAs). Some big players like Twitter, Uber and Financial Times have all recently converted their main sites to PWA's - more on that later...

Do we need an App is quite a big question to answer. At Heavy Penguin, we always break it down for clients into smaller, more digestible chunks such as:

  • What is the primary goal of the App?
  • What will it offer that our website cannot already offer?
  • Does it solve a problem for our user?

Too many organisations rush their app to market, and it's nothing more than a repackaged version of their website.

They now have 2 different platforms to maintain and manage which can be both costly and time-consuming. Worse still, companies release an App that is not fully ready or functional, just to have some presence in the online stores or maybe to keep up with other organisations in the same arena.

The likelihood of its success is slim and it risks ending up in 'app junkyard heaven' very quickly.

The vital question Does it solve a problem for our user? is what the decision should really be based on. If the answer is No, then it's time to go back to the drawing board.

So, good news, native apps can offer real value when used correctly. If, for example, they help the user perform a specific task such as editing a video or they add value by being installed on your device such as using your mobile contacts to suggest connections for a social network or chat app.

Many companies have several apps that each relate to a specific digital service. Look at the NHS for example, they have NHS App, Ask NHS, NHS Online: 111 and more. All designed to help users on different journeys.

2. What are the consequences of a bad app?

According to Gartner’s prediction, 9,999 in 10,000 mobile applications fail, therefore having a mobile presence is not enough, especially as thousands of similar applications are getting released daily.

It's estimated that around 88% of users are less likely to return to your app after a bad experience. So it seems, second chances are few and far between. Release an app that doesn't work and those 1-star reviews will flood in.

The same rules for releasing any digital service or product should apply - make sure that your App has a purpose, works as it should (even as an MVP) and above all, fulfil your user's needs.

By not meeting your audience expectations, you risk doing more harm than good. They will lose trust in you and become frustrated with inadequate service.

"If it leads you into thinking you are safe, it's worse..." How very true!

3. What are the options?

So, you've decided you need that all-important app that will change the world. What are your options? There are many, including Hybrid options, but we'll just focus on the main solutions for now...

Native App

Native apps are installed onto the user's device via stores such as Google Play or Apple's App store. Appearing in these stores increases the potential of people finding you through keyword searches. They are generally more secure but can be costly, as you are paying for a separate application and need specialist app developers to build it.

Progressive Web App (PWA)

Progressive web apps have grown in popularity. Modern browsers have become more sophisticated and can replicate a large amount of functionality that have only been achievable with apps that live on devices in the past. Push notifications, offline content, camera access and much more. A few small development changes to your current website will offer a better, more app-like experience to your members.

App Platforms

There are several solutions, like Canvas by MobiLoud, that offer you an App without building from scratch. They are less flexible to your organisation (as a 'one size fits all' approach is taken) but they do save on development costs and can suit some smaller projects. Only go this route if you can live with it not being bespoke.


An App can offer real value if it fulfils a user need. Release an MVP and add value incrementally. They should not be seen as something your organisation must have to be relevant.

Ask yourself if the app can deliver something that your current website cannot. Look into how users access your information and through which devices and channels.

It's often more worthwhile to spend time getting your website in order than going down the app route too soon, as no doubt, this is where most of your traffic will be coming from.

With some simple adjustments to your current website, you can offer users the native app experience without hefty development costs.

If you have a great user need, then make sure you put the effort in upfront with user research and usability testing to give your app the best chance of succeeding.

Take Mr Gove's advice and don't release it too early if it's not ready. Aim for an MVP and improve regularly adding more features.

Heavy penguin can offer you advice on building native apps or maybe turning your current website into a progressive app. We'd love to hear from you and discuss your options. Email us