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I'm designing an app that, due to its nature, has 3-4 absolutely distinct but interacting role-types. However, importantly, a single person can be tagged with any combination of these roles. One possibility is to have a single app where a user can select the role-type through which they are currently interacting, and another approach is to have separate apps for the roles that coordinate data appropriately.

I'd personally lean towards distinct but communicating apps, but there are scenarios that will force a user to switch roles, hence in the multi-app scenario, switch apps. I am curious if anyone has looked at the effects of switching apps on how usable the "ecosystem of apps" is. Does having to switch apps occasionally affect usability, engagement, retention, confusion, initial uptake, etc? If so, is it known how much the number of switches per day/week modulates the effect?

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  • You will probably not receive a satisfying answer here. For the first question, Yes, switching apps or tasks of any kind is associated with costs which will decrease usability, engagement,... Users would prefer to not have these costs. For the second question, if somebody (miraculously) finds data on this it will be very specific to their use case and probably not applicable to yours. I guess the question is more: Is the UX better if users switch in-app vs. between-apps? You can only find that out yourself with your users.
    – Nash
    Jan 14 at 9:00
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You haven't given so much details about your apps. But here's my general answer.

When switching apps there's always the risk of users getting distracted or deciding to use other apps instead. Consider the scenario where you register and you need to verify your email address. even for this, you will be switching between your own app and the email app and also trying to remember the code so you can enter it into your own app. Switching between apps isn't a great user experience, but still, users have given accustomed to doing this.

If you do decide take go this route, consider for app1 to automatically launch app2 in the exact screen where the user can continue their journey with minimum extra steps. For this, the pre-requisite is that both apps need to be installed. To make this happen you will need to have a plan.

In terms of performance, you will need to consider how having 2 apps running together will consume more resources on the user's phone.

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