I was really excited to go check out this new Web app. I heard all sorts of great things about it. So I opened Safari on my trusty Mac, entered the URL and viola! I got to the site. I created an account - easy peasy. Got to the app - and I could do nothing! Absolutely nothing. Nothing worked.
I opened Chrome - same problem. I called the number on the site and they told me, "Oh yes, we support IE on PCs only."
I have only 2 responses to this:
- Why didn't you just tell me that in the first place?
Today, there are a number of ways someone can use an app - Web or mobile (and for mobile there is phone and tablet). This is good and bad.
- Good because there is always a way for you to use an app, anywhere on any device
- Bad because there needs to be at least 3-4 versions of an app available for users that developers need to build and maintain
Even though users today are pretty savvy, demanding and can easily figure out how to use Web and device apps, they can be understanding if you tell them why something may not work.
Back in the day, if someone was using an archaic browser, a message would appear to tell the user to upgrade and which current browser versions were supported. Sure, that's not ideal. But in some ways, the site was doing a service for the users.
If you are 4 browser versions behind and you don't know - someone should tell you. Almost like how someone should tell you if your deodorant let out or you have lettuce between your teeth.
Now if an app is in Beta and there is only an iPhone (or Andriod) version available, the company lets you know. And if you are lucky, they tell you when Android (of iPhone) will be available. If they are smart, they use it as an opportunity to build their mailing list - collect email addresses of interested people and let them know when it's available. And let them know when other updates are available as well.
So what is up with this "trend" that Web apps not supported by all major browsers don't notify users when their browser/platform isn't supported?
Users understand what Beta versions are. Users understand that you may have a new product that isn't available everywhere. Why hide that? Why let them go to your site, create an account and get into an app that they can't use - or better yet, can't understand why they can't use it? If you want to talk about lousy user or customer experiences - there you go!
Sure, everything should be supported, but not every company has the time, resources or staff to do that. So what's the next best option?
It's time to get back to honesty. It's time to look at the commonly used Web browsers and devices and let users know if the experience on that device/browser/app combination will be good, bad or better somewhere else. There's no reason to be ashamed. Sure, there may be missing versions or unsupported browsers; but if you are creating an app for businesses (mostly PCs using Internet Explorer) and the app isn't great to use on Safari, it's ok to tell users that if they come to your site using Safari. Or if your app doesn't offer a great experience for mobile devices - let users know that and offer a link to the App Store (Yelp and LinkedIn do that - and although it can be a little annoying, it reminds me that there are better ways to use their apps than Web). Provide users with alternatives to get the best experience.
And these alternatives don't need to be a screen that takes over the page as a modal, pop-up, or even as a separate page. Code exists to identify the browser/device being used - so that makes all of this fairly straightforward to do. The challenge is figuring out how to handle the compatibility challenge.
Here are some ideas:
- A simple message at the top of the screen - a module similar to an error message or other notification.
- A module above the browser that offers the app option (similar to what iPhone offers)
- A form to sign-up to be notified when the version you need is available.
- A form to sign-up for an invitation when a "Beta" version is available.
- A link to get the most current browser, app, etc.
I love signing up for an invite - it makes me as a user feel special and it is the best opportunity for a company to capture new users! Win-win for all!
In this crazy world of change, users are sympathetic when you don't support every browser/device combination under the sun. Just be honest about it so you don't waste their time. And don't forget to use that moment as a business opportunity!