One of the most common requests we've gotten so far from our early users has been "You need to make an app". Let's talk about that.
What is an app?
When you install an app on your smartphone, what is that and how is it different from using the website? Well, there's a few main differences. And they all revolve around having a mobile experience, meaning in situations where you aren't sitting on your computer.
1. Mobile-optimized UI/UX
Any mobile app worth its salt makes it easier to interact with the service on a small screen by means of touch. This means no wasted space, no banners, no columns. Just a single, narrow, vertical view filling up your entire screen. You switch between these views using buttons or swipe gestures that show lists/menus that take you to other narrow, vertical views that fill up your entire screen.
The advantage to this is that it's easier to use and everything is easier to find. The disadvantage is that you need more clicks (and usually waiting for things to load) to perform the same action. Another disadvantage is that you have less room to put stuff, so you have to either put it smack dab in the middle of the view or tuck it away in a menu.
In our case, our website has been designed from the ground up to be mobile-first (with very few exceptions). Meaning it was designed to work perfectly and naturally on phones, like an app. Basically we do all our testing to make sure things work well on mobile screens and when they do, we make any necessary changes to make them also work well on desktops.
TL;DR: Being a mobile-first website, the UI/UX is identical to what it would be in an app.
2. Push notifications
A lot of times when you install an app, it's because you want to get (reliable) push notifications, without having to keep refreshing or relying on email notifications. And to that we say, we hear you, loud and clear. We can't argue our way out of this one.
We are working on implementing push notifications through the browser that will only require you to click "Allow" when your browser asks if you want to receive notifications from Snip.City.
This is one of the very few areas in which the desktop experience is currently superior. Notifications work perfectly on desktops. For smartphones, it's a bit more complicated and clunky, but it's definitely coming.
3. Using your phone's hardware
This is a touchy subject right now, with all the news about pretty much every single tech giant using your mic and camera to spy on you. It's easy to forget that these features that they abuse are still useful features that are absolutely worth using, if implemented responsibly.
For example, using your camera to take a picture or a video through the app. Versus having to switch apps to take the picture and then coming back to the app to upload it. It's a much more fluid and natural experience. Or, another highly requested feature, voice memos. To be able to hold down a button and have your mic record everything you say. It gives you the flexibility of a phone call, without the time commitment. Best of both worlds!
Currently, we don't offer any of those features, so technically this doesn't affect us. But we do plan to implement them in the future. Also in the browser.
4. Lost Connections
When you're using an app and your wi-fi stops working or your phone loses service, the app lets you know. In the background, it's continuously trying to reconnect. Verses in a browser where you just get the Chrome "There's no internet connection" page with that stupid dinosaur and those stupid "helpful tips" that have nothing to do with why your connection dropped. This is especially annoying after you just got done typing out the perfect post or response to someone and it all disappears and you have to start over.
Rest assured, we hear you on this one too. And we're solving it. In steps.
First, we implemented a "Connection lost" page. It's not the prettiest thing in the world, but that at least matches our theme so it doesn't completely pull you out of the experience and back to the 90s trying to illegally download a song when your dial-up connection dropped because your mom tried to make a call and now she's yelling at you to get off the internet.
Next, we're going to make it so that the text you type doesn't go away if you refresh or accidentally go to another page. This is usually done by keeping it in your browser's cache. In fact, there are browser extensions that can do this on desktops. But we're going to try to turn it on automatically from our side.
After that, we're going to create a background service that constantly monitors your connection to our website and as soon as it drops, we'll show you a pop-up warning that lets you know and automatically tries to reconnect in the background every minute or so. It will also have a "Reconnect Now" button that you can manually use if your wi-fi is back on and you don't feel like waiting sixty whole seconds.
Finally, we're going to make the website automatically check if you're online before navigating away from any page. This way, your browser won't need to save your text. It simply won't go to another page in the first place if you're offline. It will show the pop-up we talked about and tell you that you can't currently perform this action because you're offline.
5. Honestly, it just feels better
You know what, this isn't a real reason but I'm sticking to it. Apps honestly feel so much more natural than websites. You forget that you're essentially navigating a webpage because it's so much more immersive that it feels like you're just performing functions that came with your smartphone.
I know, this completely goes against my whole position so far that "apps aren't necessary" which is true. They're really not. The internet has evolved so much that there's honestly no real, practical difference anymore between what you can do with a well-made website vs what you can do with a native mobile app.
But practicality isn't the whole story. There's something to be said about caring how our users "feel" when they're interacting with our service. And this is the mindset with which we've done everything so far. We don't only focus on what's practical, we focus on what matters, and that includes a lot of stuff that isn't practical. Every single day, on top of everything else I'm doing with implementing features and setting up integrations and talking to investors and translations and everything else, I fix a ton of tiny visual bugs that I notice here and there, or at least add them to my tasks to remember to do them eventually. In fact, I have an entire task list dedicated to this. It's called "Low priority fixes" (that you can see along with all my other task lists on my profile). Because just because they're low priority, doesn't mean they shouldn't matter. Just like your feelings.
The way we see it, an app is just a shortcut. Sure, we can make a perfect app and let the website keep sucking for anyone dumb enough to visit it (Remember m.facebook.com? Only their login page is pretty. Everything past that is U G L Y A F). Or we can improve our service overall, for everyone, and make it so that you don't need an app, but it's nice to have.
In summary, yes. We do plan on launching mobile apps eventually. There will be no ETA, but they will come. In fact, we already have a very buggy Beta version for brave Android users who wanna try it out as well as another version that is still in Alpha that fixes all of those bugs but is incomplete in other ways.
It's low priority, but it matters.