Directing people to the website from the app

One common issue i’ve seen that causes reduced enjoyment of iNat for both new and existing users is a misunderstanding of the relationship between the app and the website. Many new users think that what iNat is, is primarily the app, or even primarily the ID algorithm. People don’t understand that the website is the best place to experience a lot of what iNat has to offer. They then don’t respond to questions or comments about their observations or even experience the full value of the community ID. I was just talking to a (casual user) friend who didn’t see my comments for a long time because she was only using the app and didn’t check the activity tab.

So is there a way via app messaging or something else to direct people to the website? Maybe a note that there are additional notifications that need to be viewed on the website? Other ideas?


This is a bit of a tangent, but maybe there’s a way to get people to notice comments on the app by adding a badge of some sort to the Activity icon when there are unseen comments. Perhaps the first (few) time(s) this icon is clicked, an explanation of what appears in the Activity tab could appear, including some text about how the website is better for certain things?


Using the app for anything but making observations drives me nuts. There’s not a way for me to check my notifications (i.e. identifications and messages). It’s a little too bare sometimes - I could see how someone would not know it’s a website too!

Edit: Apparently there is a way to check notifications! Oops. In any case it is still much faster to check them on the computer, especially when certain people get bored and ID hundreds of my mushrooms in a day!


And I only just realized that the comments do appear on the second tab for Activity. I had glanced once at activity, but did not return to that section as I expected a colored dot or other indication if new activity had occurred. I also had not explored the Following and News tabs in the Activity section. Android users are trained to respond to colored dots. :slightly_smiling_face:

I concur that encouraging users to access the website is important, I think making the existence of new comments more obvious by using a notification dot would also improve interactivity with users.


There are a few things we could do to help orient people, which would solve this and many other symptoms. Many other community-based websites do this already:

  • New user orientation: Any time a user first logs into the app or website, it takes them through a brief tutorial. It could be dismissed or postponed, if they want to play around on their own first, but have it start as the default. Clearly state the mission of iNat, explain the key features, plug the website or app, give some best practices.

  • Buddy System: Round up a corps of experienced users. New users get assigned a buddy, who welcomes them to the site and offers to answer any questions. I try to do this in my region as a retention effort to let people know there are other users nearby interested in their work and willing to help, but it could be formalized. I’ve written about this before, but for the first several months as a user, I made posts, but didn’t know if there were any other active users in the state. The first time someone went through and worked on identifying my posts, it felt like magic. It wasn’t until I found the ‘Explore’ function and filtered my state with grid view that I realized I could see the feed of posts for my state. I might not have stuck around if I was just wandering around clicking random posts on the map view!

  • Badges: I love the badge idea mentioned by @sullivanribbit ! Badge for going through the tutorial, exploring features, making their first post, 10th post, 100th post, and same for identifications, comments, etc. to encourage people to check it all out and be an active community member. Heck, our forum does some of this stuff, but the main program doesn’t. I know some of those features are incorporated into some of the other apps that interact with the iNat database, but I don’t think badges make iNat less credible or “serious”.

Probably all of these have been mentioned elsewhere, but feel free to put any of these formally in the Feature Request pile. :D


Just to clarify, @taitsougstad’s suggestion of badges is not what I meant by badges. Those darn overused English words! All I meant was a number in a red dot on the Activity icon to indicate the number of unviewed comments (or comments + IDs, or something like that). I believe @taitsougstad is suggesting something like “achievement badges” that a user would receive upon completing certain milestones. Both ideas seem worth considering, but are quite distinct.


I think it would be most productive if this thread stayed close to the subject (“Directing people to the website from the app”) rather than expanding to a discussion of improvements to notifications in general, because there’s a separate thread on the topic of notifications. Thanks! :-)


One easy thing we could add (I think) is just some text in the Settings page saying something like “If you want to follow fellow inaturalist users, ID other users’ observations quickly, and perform detailed searches, please go to our website” With a link, of course.


that definitely makes sense… though i personally don’t like accessing the main website from a phone either and rarely do it, i know some people don’t have access to laptop or desktop computers but for anyone who does that’s the best way to do most of these things.

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That’s totally true, having one’s first encounter with the website be via mobile browser is currently not great. I suppose the text could say something like “on home computer”. As has already been said, many people don’t realize iNat is more than the mobile apps, so it’d be a start!

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I don’t like using the website for notifications. Maybe I’m doing it wrong? But I have to click on the red conversation bubble, then click view my dashboard, then click on My Content, then click View Observation. I’m usually only on my phone so that compounds the problem, having to zoom in and out multiple times to get anywhere. I prefer reading notifications on the app.

the notifications are currently getting redone… there are a lot of issues with them hopefully most of which will be fixed… you can share your ideas at .
Using the website from the phone definitely doesn’t work well. If you don’t have access to a laptop it’s true you may be better off using the app, just keep a close eye on comments people make in case someone has a question for ID help.

I would imagine something along the lines of “For a richer iNaturalist experience, sign into your account in a desktop browser”. The reciprocal for the browser… “For a richer iNaturalist experience, use your account in the field with the iNaturalist phone app”

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