At LeWeb I met a number of startups. They ranged from not very interesting to very interesting. However the thing that really struck me when talking to them is that they are still so focussed on being the one platform for their users. Most ask you to import your friends, or ask you to at least invite them to their service. A lot of them work only with the information in their own databases and rely on their users to fill them. Frankly, I was disappointed. As an example, I was approached by a startup which operated only on the iPhone and which could recommend places to go based on what others had said about it. The good part of this app was that it connected with Facebook. One less account to worry about. The bad part was that they gathered the information my friends had put on Facebook through their social checkins through other apps. The main problem with this was that I needed to use the app to find a place where I could go. Then I needed to open an app to tell me where to get there. After I had arrived, I then needed to close the app and check in through a number of other apps. I would then use other apps while I would be at the venue for whatever I would want to share with my friends. And at the end of the night I would have to open their app again to rate the venue, tell others what I had done and share that through their network. Honestly? For me, that makes it useless. If you are building an app, try to incorporate the most obvious things into your app so that it your user is not hassled by it, but gets the feeling that the app makes life easier for them.
In the case of this particular app, it would have been much easier if they would have chosen to include checking in on the most available sites such as Foursquare, Gowalla, Facebook pages etc. And it is not that hard. Most offer an API which you can use, making it relatively easy to incorporate.
What it really comes down to is determining how your app can make your user’s life easier. Because that is the reason we use apps. We want them to add to our life instead of making it an extra something that we need to do. So yes, it is great if “there’s an app for that”, but it is even greater if there is a single app that follows through the whole process that the user is in. And better still if that is done regardless of whether the service the user wants to use is part of the developers’ stable. If that is something you can do for your customer, you might just be on to a winner.