Skipping descriptions is bad for users but good for business

As mentioned in a previous post, descriptions are the most powerful tool users use to choose between search results and category contents in a package manager.

The short description provides an initial relevance filter. All package managers I studied, except for Apple’s App Store, used short descriptions. In Apple’s App Store we saw the effects of having no short descriptions: users are frequently unable to tell whether or not a given package is what they are looking for, and waste time looking at packages that are not useful to them. That means that package managers should provide short descriptions if they want to avoid wasting users’ time.

It is possible that the lack of short descriptions in Apple’s App Store is a result of aesthetic prevailing over usability. It could also be a result of a lack of user testing. On the other hand, it could be a deliberate choice.

As noted by Jakob Nielsen, killing time is a killer app on mobile devices. If users take longer to find what they need because the tools to help them find what they need are lacking, users spend more time immersed in the App Store shopping experience.

It is also well known that the amount of time shoppers spend in a store, the more they spend. Intentionally wasting users’ time by making it harder to find relevant apps might actually increase sales of paid apps. Doing a disservice to users may actually provide a benefit to vendors, as users may end up buying some of the apps that they weren’t looking for while trying to find something else.

Of course, if an application has poor usability, users will prefer an alternative. Deliberately hampering usability to sell more product would be a bad strategy in the long run, if it means users will switch to a competing market. In Apple’s case, users normally do not have that option, so for them favoring vendor sales over user satisfaction may make good business sense.

This only applies to users who have not jail-broken their device, of course. When users have a choice between the official App Store and alternatives, they tend to favor the alternatives.

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1 Response to Skipping descriptions is bad for users but good for business

  1. Pingback: Packaging separately leads to better discovery and less fart apps | Brendon Robinson's Blog

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