Then and Now: How These Top 5 Websites Have Become More Like Apps

We’ve previously written about the appification of the web, and how today’s websites are becoming more like apps in their functionality and feel. Apps represent a straightforward and efficient way to complete a task, and this inherent simplicity is something many brands are trying to emulate today with their web presence. 

Brand prospects, consumers and other digital users are looking for easy, interactive experiences, and the appified web reflects that change in expectations. Users today are demanding advanced functionality far beyond that of traditional websites, and big brands are adapting to suit. Websites have become web apps intent on becoming the day-to-day tools of users.

What are some of the features that make a website app-like? 

  • Two way communication and interactive controls
  • Automatic updating and real-time decision making
  • The ability to interface with local resources
  • Access to better sensors (location, contacts, etc.)
Together, these features yield a more personalized experience. 

But you don’t have to take my word for it: just look at how these five top websites have become “appified” over the course of 10 years.


1. Google Maps 

Then: 2005


Now: 2014


Consider the last time you used Google Maps - it wasn’t just to plug in two locations and find directions, was it? Most likely, your experience was far more interactive than that. Now, Google can pick up your current location and sense your location as you go, annotating your travel in real-time, and automatically updating as you move along your path (or change direction). It also allows you to add favorite addresses to your profile and save preferred routes. Google Maps has evolved from a traditional map to a dynamically updated, personalized travel guide. 


2. Facebook  

Then: 2004


Now: 2014


When Facebook started in 2004, it consisted of only your profile page, no “wall” or “timeline” as we know it today for interacting with information, updates, photos, links and more. Facebook has made many large-scale changes since it’s inception in 2004, and now, it has evolved to recognize where each user has left off on his or her timeline, ensuring that no update goes unseen. The news feed is personalized and relevant to you - it only shows you posts from your friends, or paid ads that are highly relevant to you based on your profile or organic articles of pages you've personally liked. Plus, it gives you a bi-directional conversation in that you control what you do or don't like seeing and how you see it. The social networking site also recently released a feature that allows users to “save” for later by flagging images, links, music and other items and revisit them at another time. 


3. Zipcar

Then: 2004


Now: 2014


Zipcar has always had the basic (read: simplistic) structure of an app, but recently, they’ve revamped their website to be more like their app, and offer some of the new new features their on-the-go users are looking for. Much like Google Maps, Zipcar can pick up on your current location and search out cars available, and saves your preferred location data for future endeavors. Online, you can also connect your personal calendars to the service so that your reservations are fully integrated with the web apps you use most. 


4. Yelp 

Then: 2005 


Now: 2014


While Yelp’s website design and brand aesthetic have not changed much over the years, their personalized features have. Originally, the default display was to San Francisco, the company’s home base. Now, even without logging in, Yelp remembers your city of choice, instead of displaying the brand’s preferred location. They also now feature “Tips,” or shorter suggestions from users that are reminiscent of FourSquare that are meant to supplement long reviews, and have added check-ins, which help validate positive reviews and add a social/competitive aspect by showing a check-in leaderboard for each business.   


5. TripAdvisor  

Then: 2004


Now: 2014


Online travel services are unique in that they are required to retain a lot of preference information, and can be visited multiple times before anything is booked, for research purposes, price comparisons, or just general browsing. TripAdvisor, for example, has grown from essentially what used to be just a search engine for trip locations to your one-stop for travel planning which remembers your search history, provides recommendations from friends, allows you to create your own travel map and provides more information over time to keep your trip on track. Many of these elements are also in their app, but TripAdvisor has wisely integrated multiple app features into one interactive site as well. 


Tracking the Appification Trend

Mobile apps are coming to the forefront as the way we interact with information, so it’s no surprise that traditional websites have adapted to follow suit. It’s a trend that we will continue to see as people respond more to this kind of functionality. Keep an eye on your favorite websites and look for some of the changes we’ve outlined here - you might start to notice the evolution sooner than you think! 

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