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What 85 Percent of App Users Want—and e-Discovery Pros Need

Rishi Khullar

In a recent study about mobile use in the legal industry conducted by Ari Kaplan Advisors, a sample of 25 law firm partners all said it’s essential they have mobile access to their work. When asked how frequently they use mobile in their jobs, all 25 partners said “every day” with one partner clarifying: “It’s probably every minute. I’m constantly on something.”

Every minute sounds pretty intense, but maybe not so when you consider how often your mobile device is likely with you. If you’re constantly using it for work purposes, your mobile experiences need to be fast and reliable. This is what we, as mobile consumers and busy professionals, have rightfully come to expect.

Evolving Demand

In a report on the “app generation,” Oracle found that more than half (55 percent) of surveyed users said a poor app experience would turn them off from using a company’s products or services. “Businesses that cannot add value for customers with a more convenient, functional, and relevant mobile experience have little chance of coming out on top,” says Suhas Uliyar, vice president of mobile strategy and product management at Oracle.

What’s more intriguing about the mobile landscape in the e-discovery industry specifically is that the number of mobile-optimized websites far outnumbers the number of native apps. Why is that? If the answer is because e-discovery work is too complex, it’s hard to believe. If professionals in virtually any industry can perform expense reporting, collaborate on large projects, and handle customer relationship management via native apps, why can’t we perform everyday e-discovery functions via native apps, as well?

The experience of using mobile websites for the not-so-simple purpose of getting work done pales in comparison to native apps. Just think about most of the work you do on mobile: checking your email, calendar, notes, tasks, or documents. Are you visiting multiple websites in your mobile browser to accomplish these tasks, or jumping between the apps built to support them? There’s good reason why most mobile websites have a prominent call-to-action that encourages visitors to download the dedicated app instead.

5 Reasons Mobile Users Go Native

1. User experience

Mobile apps provide a faster, slicker, order-of-magnitude better user experience. According to a Compuware study, 85 percent of people favor apps to mobile sites and 48 percent said the reason for this preference was speed and ease of browsing.

Native beats web with respect to performance, and it’s not clear that web is close to catching up. John Long, a developer at Mozilla, has stated:

“There’s no indication the DOM [document object model to pass data between the interface and the server] will ever be fast enough, and if it does happen it’s lightyears away on mobile. I’ve seen no technical description of a truly plausible way to make it significantly faster.”

From a design perspective, mobile websites cannot cater to both iPhone and Android users. The style guidelines for these platforms are vastly different. Imagine designing a table for both formal dining and for an architect’s daily work. Every decision would likely result in some sort of compromise that whittles away at the overall experience for either the architect or the diner—or both.

Long is also skeptical that the web is close to providing a comparable UX to native apps:

“You may think the UX is getting close, but there's always more jank. Let's not even talk technical; even if it is getting close, when companies want to develop a beautiful, groundbreaking app, they choose native. I've talked to enough developers to see that we aren't close to changing this yet.”

The long and short of it is that a better user experience means a faster one. When it comes to e-discovery, both the speed and reliability of a native app will help you perform critical tasks more accurately—and less stressfully—from anywhere.

2. Functionality

From a functionality perspective, apps can leverage direct integration with the hardware and software on the device itself, adding options such as push notifications, biometric authentication (Touch ID), gestures like 3D touch (Peek and Pop), GPS, camera functionality—and the list goes on.

With native, you can also download documents onto the device itself for offline access. With 128 GBs of potential storage space on your iPad, there are a lot of documents you can review on a plane with no Wi-Fi.

3. Security

To protect the security of company—and customer—data and devices, your organization’s IT team can take fine-grained control over app user access with mobile device management software like MobileIron. That caution is critical in any number of industries but, not surprisingly, it’s especially top-of-mind for legal professionals.

In fact, in the aforementioned interviews with law firm partners on mobile, around 80 percent of respondents said that security is the most concerning element of mobile technology. They do, after all, have a lot of sensitive interests and insights to protect.

4. Convenience

Apps are also more convenient. App icons live on your home screen as part of your daily routine—so they’re immediately at hand, and don’t require booting up a browser followed by waiting for subsequent pages to load. Per the Compuware survey mentioned above, 55 percent of people cited convenience as the reason for preference of apps over mobile web.

5. Platform

Building natively affords innovators the opportunity to make it easier for their customers to build their own native integrations via APIs. Companies like Box and Salesforce have done a great job focusing on the developer experience with respect to mobile. Savvy, forward-thinking customers are increasingly hiring engineers to build custom integrations for problems unique to their business.

Why Not Us?

When you look at other industries and other leading-edge software niches, you see native mobile development as a top priority. Take Evernote, Dropbox, LinkedIn, Slack, Salesforce, Box, Microsoft, or Google. What do all of these companies have in common? Awesome native mobile apps.

Better mobile experiences will foster better collaboration in the e-discovery space, improving a case team’s ability to make smarter, faster decisions. In 2017, we hope to see more companies building for native in this industry. Attorneys are already using a host of other amazing native apps in their daily lives, both for work and play.

The question is: Why not for e-discovery?

Rishi Khullar is director of product management at Heretik. Previously, he worked in product management at Relativity. He has more than five years of experience in software development and product management, and holds a JD from the University of San Diego School of Law.