Imagine this scenario. You want to get a reservation for four at your favorite restaurant. How do you do it? Chances are, even if you're on a smartphone, you open your web browser, Google the restaurant's URL, and click the "Make a reservation" link. You probably don't open an app like OpenTable or Resy first, even though the experience is better, because you just don't know which app or service your restaurant is partnered with . . . if any!
The makers of Button think they've found a solution, by allowing apps to pass users back and forth between each other to perform actions, kind of like a cross between UI and ads. The idea is to provide broader access to information within the streamlined experience of an app.
"App discovery and mobile commerce are just awful in the current ecosystem," lead designer Patrick Lewis says. "Some of the best apps that make life easier and more accessible for people are still unknown by many, especially outside major metropolitan areas. Mobile commerce has been around for a long time but the experience is often so cumbersome for the user, they’d rather just do it on the computer."
Button works by making it easy for developers to drop code-integrating contextual buttons into web pages and apps. Those buttons perform discrete actions in other web pages and apps. In the aforementioned scenario, a visit to my favorite restaurant's website might contain a Button, allowing me to specify the time and date I want a reservation, then continue to the reservation process in the OpenTable app on my phone. Or maybe my music app would have a Button, so when I'm listening to my favorite album I can open up the Ticketmaster app to buy live tickets for the band's next show.
What if the right app isn't installed on my smartphone? In that case, a Button would launch that app's App Store page, while storing its context. For example, if a Foursquare user doesn't have OpenTable, the user could tap the OpenTable Button, select a time for his or her party size on the Commerce Card, and be taken to the App Store. Once the app is finished downloading, the user then would be brought to that specific reservation in OpenTable, with all of their previously filled-in details intact.
According to Lewis, Buttons only take about an hour to integrate, and they save developers the time of having to individually program partner-to-partner integrations. They also earn some money by passing along users to other apps. "Every time a user presses ‘Home’ on their device, it’s a missed opportunity [for developers] as that app failed to give the user what they wanted to do next," he says. And publishers (who are reeling right now from declining ad revenues) can benefit, too, earning money by sending their readers contextually to the right app in a way that isn't as disruptive as normal ads. "With Buttons, publishers are able to earn revenue for the users they send to commerce apps, and give their users a better experience."
That's why Buttons are also a good solution to the problem of discoverability. When every app is a silo unto itself, users are always left second-guessing whether the app they've opened is the one they actually need. Buttons not only allow for apps to more elegantly hand users over to the right app, but to raise awareness of their apps contextually. In a sense, Buttons are almost like interactive ads, except users want to tap on them, because they're also UI elements.
Buttons aren't conceptual. Foursquare, among others, features Buttons from Uber, OpenTable, Ticketmaster, Delivery.com, and Groupon. If you're a developer or a publisher, you can add Buttons from OpenTable, TicketMaster, Uber, and more to your website or app here.