Why We Get Bored of Software Apps

Image by magnetme from Pixabay

There’s maybe that one app, perhaps a few, that are your everyday “go to” apps. You love them, you use them most every day. Then there’s those other apps. Some you despise using. If you work in an organisation with an ERP platform like SAP or Oracle, it’s probably that one. People also get bored of apps. Often without realizing that they’re bored with them. But the reasons are not what you might think.

I spend a fair bit of time working at the intersection of humans and technology, specifically in how they use devices and apps. Mostly in organisations. I’ve come to find there are essentially three types of people when it comes to app usage. The passionate who are always looking for new features and ways to use an app. They often become the SME (Subject Matter Expert) for an app or platform. Then there’s the realist. They may have one or a few apps that they prefer, but don’t necessarily get excited about. Apps are a means to an end. They often have the best insights to making apps work better. Then there’s the despondents. They use the apps because they have to. They have one or a few that they see as reliable. They also dislike it when apps or platforms change. Learning new workflows or usage patterns is frustrating.

And of course, we all get bored of apps over time. Perhaps it’s less bored than it is fatigue, or a perception another app will do things faster, better. In the ethnographic interviews I’ve done with people in organisations large and small, it seems to be two things. Overall boredom or fatigue with the job or the impacts of marketing.

Fatigue with apps tends to be around ERP platforms or messaging apps like Slack or Teams, especially ones that have been in use for a long time. The boredom comes from the routine, hum drum of every day. In a way that app or platform has become “invisible” in the sense that people just use it and, for the most part, it just works. For some it’s that there are many failings in the app or platform and they get tired of filing tickets for support or give up that the company will ever spend the funds to fix the problems or move to a new platform.

Then there’s the impact of app marketing. And it’s powerful. A few years ago, marketers of SaaS products and any form of digital product realized that one of the biggest barriers to selling their products was the IT department, which was even worse if a prospective buyer used managed IT services. IT departments ferociously protect their domains. Often for good reasons, such as security and high-cost issues like moving data from one system to another.

The message digital product makers for organisations use today, like Monday, Trello, Airtable and others use is that you don’t need the IT department to use the app. It worked like a charm. Now, operations, the PMO, marketing, sales, they could get that app and get rolling. These new apps also make the promise that their tool will solve all your problems and make work a breeze. Some do. Some don’t.

Often times, these new apps work well. Employees and teams love them. They’re far superior in design to ERP platforms. Even Microsoft figured this out and began making apps that are way better designed than ever before. Employees will also use newer apps on their smartphones, tablets and home PCs. They’ll interact with flashier apps with companies in their supply chain or service provider.

So employees are deluged with impressive alternatives to their every day apps. They’ve been sold on the “no IT needed” message and that, coupled with general app fatigue, and a belief a new tool will make life easier, is often what filters up to management for a desire to change the old tool. Sometimes it is a legitimate business reason, such as a product ending or issues of scale.

But in a world where we’re deluged with marketing messages to try something new, where every problem, real or perceived, is being solved for by an app, boredom is a reality. Newer apps where the creator has spent time on UX research and the UX designer or team has considered these insights, makes for far better software products.

In our digital world, the flurry of new products and clever marketing pushes at the parts of our brains that make us want more and new. It’s a message marketers throw at us in the real world too. New car models, new school clothes and work outfits. The real-world however, is slower and we have time to process things. The digital world is faster and hits at our dopamine receptors fast and furious. So, you may not be bored of an app so much as being stimulated towards a newer app. Something to think about when looking at your Tech Stack, either personally or organizationally.

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