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Take Note: Foursquare is Splitting into Two Apps, and they Aren’t the First to do so.

1 May, 2014 | Article Source: Rob LaPointe  |   (No Comments) | 16,455 Views

Foursquare is about to break up into two different apps. It’s a big deal, but this kind of thing has happened before. It wasn’t long ago that Facebook created a separate app for Facebook Messenger, and recently experimented with Facebook Paper for a whole new experience. It’s actually not unusual for big apps to avoid piling more features onto their apps, and there’s some intelligent app design behind that decision.

The news today, available directly from Foursquare’s blog post, is that Foursquare is essentially splitting their app based on two different modes of use. The current Foursquare app will continue to be used for exploring and discovering all the places around you, while an entirely new app, Swarm, will take over the existing social aspects and expand them.

Here’s the basic justification for the change: in the old Foursquare the “check-in” function was prominent, but not vital to everyone’s needs, and could be something of an obstacle to users who had no interest in sharing their location with friends. On the flip side, if you already know where you are going and what you are doing, and your sole interest is updating the world on your location, then all the fancy exploration capabilities are only going to slow you down. They felt that the two different uses were competing, and hampering one another’s success.

So they’ve chosen to split it up. If you want to keep tabs on friends and let them know where you are, get Swarm. Since it is it’s own thing now, they’ve streamlined the process of location-based social-sharing, and focused solely on that area of function. And on the other side, you can continue to use Foursquare for browsing locations around you, now with less distraction from the social side.

The two resulting apps are certainly linked, and can apparently even swap from one to the other from inside each, but they are distinct entities. As separate apps the core user experience on each will be improved by paring down the scope and dialing in on more specific features. It’s a good lesson for any app maker; not necessarily that we should all make multiple, connected apps, but rather that every app needs a single, clear purpose. Adding in the wrong functions can muddy that purpose and detract from the user experience.

Of course, making multiple apps is not an option for most people, who have tight budgetary restrictions. First think about cutting out some features; if they don’t get used, their presence will only distract users. Admittedly, it can be hard to predict how an app will get used before it goes live. So with that in mind, consider how drawing a sharp distinction between areas of your app could be helpful—if a user has to sort through a ton of options all at once, the app experience will be slow, possibly confusing, and overall less engaging. Instead, divide the experience into smaller goal-based chunks that give users exactly what they need, and no more. That’s what Foursquare is doing, on a large scale, but it all comes from the same principles of design.


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