Will forcing employees to use Android actually improve the miserable app?

Summary:Facebook made headlines today by requiring employees to use the company's Android app. Will it help?

More often than not, I use the mobile version of Facebook on my phone and Nexus 7 instead of the Android app. Although Facebook updated its iOS app this week and finally brought together the separate camera, messenger, and platform apps, the Android incarnation of the app continues to stink. It's slow, eats resources even on a speedy phone like my Razr, lean on useful features, and is generally, as BusinessInsider so diplomatically puts it, "subpar." Subpar is one way of putting it. I can think of other adjectives that are probably a lot more appropriate, but they aren't exactly fit to print here.

Now that the completely revamped iOS app is out, ReadWriteWeb predicts that we should

...expect an Android app update in line with yesterday’s iOS update. Facebook will probably continue to work increasingly closely with Apple, in part because Google is a competitor of both companies. But neither company can ignore Google and the market demand for its products, so it’s unlikely any of the three will break off ties with either of the other two.

It appears that, while Facebook went after the lowest hanging fruit with an iOS update (heavy Facebook use among iOS users along with standardized hardware platforms that ease development), they are taking the Android issues seriously. The BusinessInsider article notes that many employees are being "nudged, cajoled, and even ordered to give up their iPhones for Android devices." The goal of this so-called dogfooding (where employees use their own products or "eat their own dogfood", so to speak) is to drastically improve the Facebook experience on Android.

Will it work? Perhaps. I certainly hope so and it can't hurt things given how awful the app is right now. The problem, though, is the inherent difference between Android and iOS users. If Facebook is asking iOS users to deal with the Android app, they'll be approaching it from the perspective of iOS users, which means that the fixes may not actually sync up with the expectations of Android users. I'm going to make some very sweeping generalizations in the Venn diagram below, but I think most people will agree that those who gravitate towards iOS are often demographically different from Android users, as well as different in their approach to technology.

Android vs. iOS users

Obviously there is some overlap and there are no hard and fast rules about who can buy what sort of phone. But it would seem to me that simply shoehorning iOS users into Android devices and expecting them to fix the app in ways that make sense to Android users (particularly Group 2 in the picture) isn't going to get the job done.

Dogfooding works when the folks at Google only use Google Docs internally, for example. They are the target market for Google Docs, so of course can address how to make it better and will use it to its full capacity. There probably aren't too many developers and product managers at Facebook who fall into Group 2.

We'll see, but I can't say I'm holding my breath on a great Android Facebook App emerging anytime soon. Focus groups, anyone? Or better yet, how about a Facebook page where Android users leave comments and concerns and then Facebook uses their social graph to break out Android user subgroups and address features appropriately? That would probably make too much sense, though.

Topics: Android, Apps, Google

About

Christopher Dawson grew up in Seattle, back in the days of pre-antitrust Microsoft, coffeeshops owned by something other than Starbucks, and really loud, inarticulate music. He escaped to the right coast in the early 90's and received a degree in Information Systems from Johns Hopkins University. While there, he began a career in health a... Full Bio

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