Devs rally against mobile web doorslams

Time called on sites obtrusively pimping native apps

Developer Zachary Forrest has chastised mobile sites that present doorslams rather than providing direct access to content.

In an article for Medium, titled The User’s Choice?, he noted how Tumblr’s entry screen provides you with the option to ‘Install Tumblr’, ‘Open the Tumblr app’ and ‘Use the web version’, with the first two entries appearing regardless of whether the Tumblr app’s already installed. “I’m using a browser. Of course I want the web version,” complained Forrest, adding that having already made the decision to go to in Safari. A choice had already been made that the site was apparently oblivious to.

Forrest wondered what problem these messages were trying to solve: “Did we think the user forgot they installed the native app? Maybe our web experience is less than awesome. Maybe we have better marketing tracking inside the app. I don’t know and that’s the problem. What I do know is that I can’t stand it.”

Speaking to .net, Opera’s Bruce Lawson noted how absurd doorslams, redirects and content restrictions would be elsewhere: “Every time you turn on your TV to watch your favourite movie, how about I stand in front of it and tell you the plot instead? Or, when you open a book, I put my hand over the page and tell you what it's about? Or when you're listening to your favourite music, I come round and sing it down a megaphone into your ear — just fragments, with a kazoo? Rubbish, isn't it? Then stop doing it to the web.”

Mozilla developer evangelist Christian Heilmann added that such aggressive advertising was why pop-up blockers ended up in browsers, and he wished people who “fail to deliver an exciting experience on the web would stop using it as a way to advertise the other solutions that may or may not be better”. He argued this was “not paying respect to the web as a distribution channel” and was a missed opportunity for those companies.

Don’t break the internet

For Heilmann, the main problem with mobile sites bouncing people to native apps isn’t ideological, though, but about usability and user experience. “When I click a link in an email and it opens a website that then tells me to first install an app, you have wasted my time and I will block your emails,” he fumed. “You chose to send me a link, so make it work to open where it is supposed to open. Apps don't have links and thus break the internet. If you want to keep using the incredibly useful thing called the hyperlink, make my click count [rather than it being] an exercise in frustration.”

UX expert Aral Balkan has long complained that “doorslams are the new skip intro” and he told .net that sites should respect decisions visitors are making: “When a user visits your site, they have already made the decision to visit your site. They made the decision when they entered the URL. That’s what entering a URL in your browser or clicking on a link means. It means: ‘I want to visit your site’.”

By contrast, Balkan likened doorslams to arriving at a restaurant and the owner asking if you’d like to go home and order delivery instead. “It’s daft and it’s annoying. Stop being daft and annoying! Stop making doorslams,” he said. “And if you want to inform people you have a native app, do it in an unobtrusive manner. The native iOS app banners are a good example, but however you choose to implement it, don’t block the user’s flow. Do not make it modal.”