Single-purpose apps: the new trend

Daren Fuchs


Mobile apps have evolved, and this year some interesting trends have surfaced. One of the more prominent trends of the year has been the rise of the single-purpose app. Maturing platforms, segmented audiences and saturated markets have encourages corporates and startups to build less complex apps.

So, what are they?

The core philosophy behind this kind of app is to do one thing really well.

Simplicity is key and understanding John Maeda's Laws of Simplicity will help. In a nutshell, consider the time it takes to build apps, what their context is, how information is organised and through the act of reduction, tasks become simpler.

Increasingly, tech companies are looking to offer one promise and one purpose to their users. This allows for clearer business decisions to be made, and thus purpose in the marketplace.

Who's doing it?

More like, who isn't doing it?!

All the tech bigwigs have been employing this mobile approach, including Foursquare, Dropbox, Google and Facebook.

  1. Foursquare split up its app into two, and introduced Swarm for check ins.
  2. Google launched standalone apps for its Drive suite, namely Docs, Sheets and Slides.
  3. And Facebook, well, they're on an unbundling mission. Their stable includes Messenger, Mentions, Slingshot, Instagram and WhatsApp, which all target specific audiences across various markets.


Many reasons.

In her 2014 Internet Trends Report, Mary Meeker suggests that "users want quick, straight-forward apps that nail a single purpose". And that "tech giants are buying or building standalone apps to give users the experience they want."

That's true. And below are some other reasons:

  1. UI/UX. These kinds of apps offer a cleaner user interface and generally smoother user experience
  2. Quicker to develop, test and implement. Attractive when building an MVP/new product
  3. Market segmentation. Address various audiences and thus capture more of that market
  4. Maturing platforms. Facebook and the likes have grown app. And they're seeing the need to either buy or create thin slices of value for users.
  5. Easy to use apps. Startups/companies can gain traction quicker and thus grow faster.
  6. iOS 8 app bundles. Apple are giving developers the ability to sell bundles of apps at discounted prices

Create value, avoid hassle.

If you're planning on building an app in the near future, consider the above mentioned points.

As Dennis Crowley, CEO of Foursquare says, "the best apps tend to be the simplest, the easiest and the fastest to use".

The man has a point.