The Federal Government’s first iPad app is very poorly executed and it is hard to imagine anyone using it successfully.
That’s a pretty strong statement but if you use the app for more than about three minutes, we think you’ll reach a very similar conclusion.
The App’s intentions are good, as it offers its users the chance to create an emergency management and recovery plan. My Business thinks that’s a good idea – knowing what to do in an emergency, and having all the information you need to carry on afterwards, is impossible to argue against.
The first screen you see when using MyBiz Shield
But MyBizShield, the app the government released last week, makes it very hard to create such a plan because it asks users to complete no fewer than 28 forms. That’s a doddle with a proper keyboard. But the iPad sports an on-screen keyboard that, while adequate, is slow and awkward to use and produces plenty of typos.
One of the 28 forms MyBizShield asks you to complete with the on-screen keyboard.
It is therefore hard to imagine anyone actually making it all the way through the 28 forms without a wireless keyboard. My Business has no idea what percentage of iPad owners have acquired a keyboard but are willing to bet it is under ten per cent.
Some may say that the app is there for those who do have a wireless keyboard. But Apple has acknowledged that the iPad is all about content consumption, not typing page after page of data. Hardly anyone buys an iPad for this kind of heavyweight typing.
In the press release announcing the app, Federal Small Business Minister Senator Nick Sherry utters the usual stuff about how busy and deserving small business are. “Most small businesses are too busy with the demanding day-to-day task of running a small business to think about planning for unpredictable events,” he said.
If that’s true, why build an app that asks them to work so hard on the wrong device for the job?
For one shining moment while we tested the app we thought we had an answer, as the app lets you email your emergency plan away from your iPad. We thought perhaps this could be a clever way to let you do a little bit of work on your emergency plan on your iPad during a spare moment and then finish it off elsewhere.
But even that feature is a mess as the app insists on exporting the plan as an HTML file. Anyone downloading such a file and trying to open it will almost always see it appear in a web browser. That makes for easy reading, but makes editing impossible unless users figure out how to import the HTML file into another application.
The app therefore seems a token gesture and a desperate attempt to hang with the cool kids, rather than a serious attempt at a business tool, especially given that the government has done a far better job with the Emergency management & recovery resources package you can find here.
As it happens, the Feds have form with poor digital products for small business. The Small Business Resource Kit we tested earlier this year was underwhelming at best because it recycled existing material available online without adding any value.
This app, however, actually reduces the utility of the Emergency management & recovery resources package. By offering limited and hard-to-use functionality and imposing a lengthy and complex process on users, this app embarrasses the government and fails its intended audience.