The day has come: the long-awaited WeChat mini-apps were officially launched today, January 9th, 2017. Now, WeChat users can find the mini-apps inside their own WeChat and download some of them.
TechNode has been following the development of the mini-apps, ever since its first announcement in September last year. In our last article, we explored whether or not WeChat can be thought as another entry-point for more traffic in an interview with Zhao Jiuzhou, CEO of HuosuMobi.
Today, we bring our first impressions.
Light and easy
The whole process of searching, downloading and using the mini-apps takes less than a minute. It even felt like there were no ‘download’ per se. Once you click the mini-app icon and enter it, it loads automatically. From a user-experience perspective, it feels almost like an advanced version of a WeChat official account.
More app-like functions
However, of course, the functionality and content inside a mini-app are much the same as their larger brethren. On Android, mini-apps can even be placed on home page of the phone, making it hard to distinguish between them and regular ones.
Large differences in quality
But, for the time being, there is a great degree of variation among the mini-apps: some look like there was a lot of effort put into them, while other appear too simple to be compared to an actual app. Each major company has probably considered whether or not its users will use the mini-app instead of its original app and, if so, how much of its user base. Based on this reasoning, they chose which functions to include in their mini-app.
Below is a screenshot from the Didi mini-app: you can only call a kuaiche (快车, Didi’s private car-hailing service). Didi decided to leave out other functionality in this version of the mini-app.
On the other hand, in the case of Zixuangu (自选股, a stock market tracker and news app), all functions except their news stream is available in their mini-app.
There are already promotions. For instance, when you take a look at the Maoyan Movies mini-app, you will notice that you can receive a hongbao (红包 or lucky money in English) when you make your first purchase in the mini-app.
If you haven’t used a mini-app yet, here are some instructions:
1. Open your WeChat and click “Discover” on the menu. You will see “Mini Program” at the bottom. (Editor’s note: In order to avoid conflict with Apple or Android app stores, WeChat is avoiding any use of the term “app”.)
2. Here you can search for a mini-app that you are looking for. I had searched Maoyan Movies(猫眼电影).
The landing page will only show you the mini-apps you have already. Great for going back to an app, not so great for discoverability.
3. Tap the mini-app and use it. You can also forward to different chats and share with your friends.