Thursday, May 18th, 2006

7 More Reasons Why Web Apps Fail

Category: Editorial

Following up his previous list, Joshua Porter has posted seven more reaons why web applications can fail in today’s internet environment.

As will the first list, this list is by no means a complete account of every reason why a web app might fail. There are countless reasons, I’m sure, and most are part of a failing strategy and don’t do the damage all by themselves. I have focused on reasons made prominent by the current situation we find ourselves in: with extremely low barriers to creation alongside an explosion of social web applications. This combination is interesting and we’re seeing the evolution of social software in near real-time.

This time, the list includes:

  • They’re never built.
  • They don’t plan for change.
  • They don’t think holistically.

Each of the items has a bit of explaination below them, mentioning what it means to the end-user and to the foundation of the company creating the application. I’m not completely sure about all of them in the list (like the “they dont charge money” one), but there are some very valid points made. People still have some of that “if you build it, they will come” idea in their heads to really think sanely when developing their sites. They think that if they put this incredible thing out there, everyone will realize it for what it is and flock to it.

Too bad it doesn’t work that way, huh?

Posted by Chris Cornutt at 7:22 am

3.3 rating from 23 votes


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Maybe it’s a semantic quibble, but this list — like the last — has more to do with why .com business models fail, not why “web applications” fail.

If a web application (in the true sense) performs the job it was designed to do, can it really be called a failure, even if only 3 or 4 people use the tool? No, the application succeeded — it was the failure of something else that prevented it from being adopted by more users. Was it Marketing? Strategy? Planning? Or is it really something germane to the “web application” itself?

Comment by Marty — May 18, 2006

Hi Marty, thanks for the thoughtful response.

I would argue, however, that in many cases the web app *is* the business, and that separating the two is not possible. Countless businesses are hanging their hat on the fortunes of a single web application interface, to such a degree that one does not exist without the other.

So I view marketing, strategy, and planning as part of the web application, and not external, unrelated forces.

I come to this conclusion from the premise that the effectiveness of social applications actually *depends* on how many people are using them, what’s commonly known as the network effect.

Comment by Joshua Porter — May 18, 2006

I’d argue, that in a lot of cases, the web app isn’t the business – I develop a lot of internal web apps for where I work that will never be seen by the outside world, and their success or failure is only guided by a couple of the 14 reason for failure. Some of the reasons given cross both the domains of internal and external web apps (if anything, “They’re about making someone other than the user happy” is going to be even more prevalent in in internal apps, where the management who want the software aren’t the ones who are going to use it) but others really are down to business models (like “They don’t charge money.” – I suppose cost centres could come into play internally, but even then any money changing hands isn’t “real”).

Comment by Scot — May 18, 2006

So I view marketing, strategy, and planning as part of the web application, and not external, unrelated forces.

I don’t know which of us is right — I’ve always thought of an “application” as a specific piece of software. Bad software can kill a good business strategy, just as bad strategy can kill good software.

I guess i’m quibbling over semantics, but for my money “web application” is far too specific for the broader issues you are addressing here. For instance:

Well, we’re so used to the online world now that the web app is the store, in both a physical and non-physical sense.

No, the “store” you’re speaking of here is the business entity itself. The “applications” would be the point of sale: either the physical plant, or the online presence, both of which are merely User Interfaces — applications — to a business entity.

Comment by Marty — May 18, 2006

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