Every time I find myself spending too much time, or taking too many steps, to accomplish one thing, I think to myself, “there must be an app for that.” And then I pick one that looks good. Too often I’m seduced by the miracles promised, only to be sorely disappointed later with another useless app hogging up data and containing my information, some of which may be personal or sensitive.
I’ve learned a few things over the years and refined my approach, as described below.
- I identify my needs.
- Then I search to see which apps match my requirements.
- After narrowing down the options, I read reviews and check ratings.
- Then I try it out.
For example, I’d been using Trello, a task management system, to manage my grocery lists. It wasn’t ideal, but I made it work. However, I couldn’t get Trello to alphabetize, or categorize, the items automatically. It was time consuming to alphabetize my lists manually. I shopped around for a new app with alphabetizing and categorizing my list (e.g. produce, dairy, meats, etc.) as a top requirement. Now I’m using Out of Milk.
Here are some things to think about when selecting an app:
- What do you want the app to do? Will it be able to accomplish this?
- How much time and effort is involved to set up the app?
- Does the app and/or the company have a good reputation? Has it been around a long time? What are the risks of the company failing, or getting bought out, and then not supporting the app in the future?
- What kind of security does the app have? How will private and personal information be protected?
- What are the deletion policies? Will you be able to leave the app and remove your information? (Check justdelete.me)
- What features are free and which ones cost money?
- Where will the data be stored (e.g.the US, Canada, another country)? Will the app sell or give away my information to a 3rd-party?
Unfortunately, the answer to many of these questions will be buried in lengthy service agreements in language that is challenging to understand. Additionally, many apps will also require access to data stored on your device (e.g. contact lists, photo galleries, etc.). Read more here. And here’s a useful website called “Terms of Service: Didn’t Read.”
Apps are an investment. I recommend learning about an app before installing it.