Ben Evans has a good post on the history of content discovery on the web and the implications for app discovery. I want to talk specifically about discovery through search, and why search isn’t as effective as it could be for app discovery.
Inputting a keyword requires the user to have at a sense of what they’re looking for. They might not know exactly, but they have an idea. One difference that Ben points out is that apps are different since many users don’t know a certain app is available to solve a problem they have (i.e. Uber, Square, Soundhound).
I’ll propose another reason app search/discovery doesn’t work – it’s like trying to judge a book by it’s cover every time, unlike the open web. You can’t see deeper and truly get a sense of what the app offers (see any content within the app). All you see is the logo, name, # of stars, screenshots basic description, reviews, and a bit more. But the only way to go deeper into the app is to actually download it – an expensive task to ask a user to complete.
Web search as we know it today requires search engines to index, and hence users search for, content buried deep in a website. Not just the general information about the site – i.e. website name, description, and home page content. We discover web content many ways, and search is a big one. Search evolved in a way that made it easy for great content to be surfaced; not quite so for apps.
Applying this concept to apps would be like having an app search engine that downloads and indexes every app on every platform, every day. The questions is – when will app search evolve beyond the “front page” to the content of the book?
Then we’ll have true app search.