Hello All,

Today, I read an interesting article: The mobile web is dead, long live the app | ZDNet . Another catchy title and another obituary ( on the lines of ‘Web Dynpro Java is Dead.’ ). But, does it any have meat or is it all fluff?

The most compelling argument supporting the title was ‘User Experience on web can never match app experience’. So, has it boiled down to just about the user experience? What about the data security, consistency and various other aspects of the solution? Are we giving too much importance to UX than the user demand?

Short digression:

As a user, UX is the driving force in adoption of any solution. In the current IT space, if an application/web site is not easy to use the users may never use it however secure it may be. So, UX is mandatory but its not everything. One of the aspect critical to the survival of the solution is its agility or the ability to change with minimal disruption. SAP calls it innovation without disruption. We shall discuss more about innovation without disruption is another blog in a different space.

WE are back:

If the tech evalengelists profess the death of mobile web then why are we bothered about the web applications accessed on mobile? OPEN UI5 and SAP fiori are being projected by SAP as one solution for all devices- desktop, laptop and mobile devices. Considreing the trend of decresing usage of web applications on mobile device then it impacts the single development model for all devices. We could still retain two separate teams, one for destop/laptop devices and one for mobile apps. More than the teams, we must have separate strategy for solutions on mobile. One solution fits all has been a good marketing mantra but rarely does it fulfill the user requirement. Hence, for a better user adoption, we must have specific targetted development model.

AS a default, we should have a specific set of people/team which should address the UX on mobile. The same solution may have to be developed as an App. Most news sites have their own native apps to ensure UX is not compromised. As an enterprise, it may be impractical to invest heavily into native apps along with desktop apps but the gap can be bridged by making use of apps which work across platforms. Wait a minute. Did we return to mobile web? Did we suggest indirectly that apps which run on open standards supported across platforms ex: browser, as the way forward?

IN my opinion, mobile web is the need of the hour. What is also true is we cannot have one screen developed for all device types. So, one solution fits all may be theoretically true but not practical to the users. We have to adopt out screens accoding to devices. the look and feel and the UX should be adapted according to the device types.

Well, after my confused, convoluted blog, I would end the blog sort of abruptly. There is evolution in this space and its bringing not just more clarity but also different perspectives. We need to observe it more before diving deep into it. lets keep the cards close to our chest before coming up with the next prediction.

Thank you all for bearing with me 🙂

Regards,

Sharath

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22 Comments

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  1. Andy Silvey

    Hi Sharath,

    excellent thought provoking blog.

    Native Apps or Mobile Websites ?

    You know where I stand..

    What I don’t like with native apps….

    . I always feel locked in, I open their app, and I am locked in their app and cannot get out

    . I always feel I have less freedom with the native app, like they have really designed it like an Ikea where when I enter, I have to follow their pre-planned pre-designed navigation path like a sheep before I can reach the end and leave. Even though I only came in for a plant pot I need to go through the whole product portfolio before I can leave

    What I like with Mobile Websites

    . Freedom, in a mobile website, without having to ‘leave’ the Web Browser, without having to close the Web browser, I can navigate elsewhere simply by clicking on a book mark or typing a new url in the address bar. It is one step, I have the browser open, I enter the mobile website, I get what I want and then as one click I select a different book mark and go elsewhere. With Native Apps, in many many cases, especially the games which my daughters have, you cannot just exit, you have to go back and back and exit and exit and are you sure yes, and are you really sure yes, this is painful, and then once you have left you have to open the next Native App, and navigate in through their Ikea User Experience

    So to conclude, for me,

         Native Apps

              – represent the Ikea experience, I am forced to follow a pre-designed

              route no matter what I want to do

              – entry and departure and entry to the next app, these three steps

              are cumbersome

              – are designed to compensate for the User, these apps are beyond intuitive,

              these things are designed so that you don’t have to think, and in that respect

              the user is guided, which on the one hand is nice, but on the other hand what

              are the motivations of those who have designed the guidance ? profit.

              – stability – how many times has a native app crashed your iphone or android ?

              – privacy and security – everytime I go to install a native app I get told, this app

              needs to access your address book, your phone data, your location etc  Jeez,

              this is awful, it puts me off, I am like, uh no thanks, I only wanted to order a plant

              pot online, not give you my life history and friends etc as part of the bargain – to

              put it bluntly this privacy thing, where the app wants all your details and freedom

              of your device is a major showstopping turn off, for installing apps

         Mobile Websites

              – fast

              – intuitive

              – entry and departure and entry to the next destination is fast, one click per step

              – privacy and security – does a retail website or mobile website ever

              say to you, hey thanks for entering our site, please give us all your \

              email contacts,  location, phone data and life history ?

    Best regards,

    Andy.

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    1. Midhun VP

      Andy, I think you are web app lover, but I am not 😉 .

      I always feel locked in, I open their app, and I am locked in their app and cannot get out

      You have a home button to close the app any time at any screen in a mobile. The smartphones supports multi-tasking, once the stack is full the OS kills the app automatically. One advantage is that, you can flip between multiple apps at a time. And it is not possible with web apps. If you close the web app the webView refreshes when you open it for the second time, hence you have to make sure that your work is done in a  single shot.

      . I always feel I have less freedom with the native app, like they have really designed it like an Ikea where when I enter, I have to follow their pre-planned pre-designed navigation path like a sheep before I can reach the end and leave. Even though I only came in for a plant pot I need to go through the whole product portfolio before I can leave

      For a better user experience I believe that a standard is needed. If each application works and behaves in different way the user really don’t like that. Other than that if there is a standard for everything the user’s mind thinks and works only in that way, for example the close button for a application in windows PC is in right top corner and for IOS it is left top corner. Think about different applications in a windows PC with a close button in different locations.

                  

      stability – how many times has a native app crashed your iphone or android ?

      Regarding stability, I believe that it is purely depending on the quality of testing of the mobile app. You can find apps in your device which are never crashed, it is a result of best quality testing.

                – privacy and security – everytime I go to install a native app I get told, this app

                needs to access your address book, your phone data, your location etc  Jeez,

                this is awful, it puts me off, I am like, uh no thanks, I only wanted to order a plant

                pot online, not give you my life history and friends etc as part of the bargain – to

                put it bluntly this privacy thing, where the app wants all your details and freedom

                of your device is a major showstopping turn off, for installing apps

      You are right, applications will request for access to contents which are even not specific to the application too. But this is an issue with the vendor. All apps are not requesting for private information, a big example are apps released by SAP.

           Mobile Websites

                – fast

      Finally, I believe that native apps have high responsiveness when compared to web apps (that’s where web app fails too). When it comes to speed, for a web app it depends in the speed of internet connectivity. If the web apps were faster than native apps we should have seen better mobile games in web apps.

      Midhun VP

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    2. Joao Sousa

      . I always feel locked in, I open their app, and I am locked in their app and cannot get out

      . I always feel I have less freedom with the native app, like they have really designed it like an Ikea where when I enter, I have to follow their pre-planned pre-designed navigation path like a sheep before I can reach the end and leave. Even though I only came in for a plant pot I need to go through the whole product portfolio before I can leave

      I don’t get this at all. A “web app” is “web” because of underlying technology. For the end user it’s still an app with the same “freedom”.  The “path” depends on the app/site design, not on the underlying technology.

      Regarding your “pros” and “cons” list …. well let’s just I find a bit odd that web has no cons, and native has no pros.

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      1. Andy Silvey

        Hi Joao and Midhun VP,

        the good news is, we are currently running a POC of Fiori for HR.

        At the end of this, I will be qualified to give a more balanced analysis.

        Best regards,

        Andy.

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    3. Sharath M G Post author

      Thank you Andy.

      I am torn between both mobile web and native apps.

      I share the views of you Midhun and Joao in equal measure.

      As a user, I love the mobile web only when the websites are customized according to the device. When the web site behaves as is on the laptop/desktop then its just plain PAIN.

      I also love about app that everytime connection to net may not be required. It also behaves faster and gives me optimized content, relevant to the user.

      We should be flexible to decide one way or the other according to the business case, timelines, TCO,  skill sets available etc. As per the discussion it shows that its evolving and divergent views contribute for better insight into it.

      I am looking forward to your feedback after the Fiori POC.

      Regards,

      Sharath

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        1. Sharath M G Post author

          On a personal note, my preference is mobile web.

          An important argument against apps is installation and space on device. Over a period, the space occupied is more and also the need to have all the apps installed across devices. So, if I have a iPad and iPhone, then the apps must exist on both devices.

          The need for installation works against the native apps, even though installation is a simple process.

          Regards,

          Sharath

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          1. Joao Sousa

            An important argument against apps is installation and space on device.

            The installation footprint is little if the app has no database, and saves bandwidth. If the app needs offline functionality (or cache), then the HTML5 app will grow as much as the native app.

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          2. Midhun VP

            In my opinion space in a phone is no more a constraint. You can find a lot of high end phones with 32GB and 64GB in the market. So when we are developing an application we don’t want to bother about how much space it occupies in the phone.

            Midhun VP

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            1. Sharath M G Post author

              Well, not everyone is on iPhone.

              For ex: I have an iPad 16 GB and with my photos taking the space of 3 GB, I am left with less than 2 GB. The implication, I am not allowed to install an update./patch from Apple on iOS 7 due to space constraint.

              Space is a constraint and we cannot take it for granted that all users can have abundant space for all the apps.

              Regards,

              Sharath

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              1. Joao Sousa

                We are talking about apps that are equivalent in functionality with a web page. For those apps, the installation footprint is a few MBs.

                If we talking about huge games, of course space is a concern, but we aren’t talking about that.

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              2. Midhun VP

                My comments are based on enterprise apps not on the B2C apps. When an enterprise is planning to develop apps in my opinion they don’t want to consider how much space it occupies.

                Btw, time has come to update your ipad 😉 .

                Midhun VP

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                1. Sharath M G Post author

                  I wish, I could 🙂 .

                  But, again any innovation/product which cannot be affordable to all cannot be a sustainable innovation. To expect everyone to upgrade is like expecting everyone on one platform.

                  Regards,

                  Sharath

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                  1. Joao Sousa

                    Agreed, but it is not the case for the kind of apps with are talking about. For apps comparable to the web experience, the app size is peanuts.

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  2. Joao Sousa

    The most compelling argument supporting the title was ‘User Experience on web can never match app experience’. So, has it boiled down to just about the user experience? What about the data security, consistency and various other aspects of the solution?

    The main reason to go HTML5 is portability and ease of maintenance, not security or consistency. What companies do is make a cost/benefit analysis and especially for enterprise development where cost is fundamental, and the end user doesn’t have any choice, HTML5 is good enough.

    Thats why companies like SAP invest in HTML5. In the professional environment, HTML5 is good enough.

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    1. Midhun VP

      When it comes to enterprise, the organization adopts both native and web/hybrid based on the business requirement from end user. An organization cannot always go behind HTML5 to implement there solutions because of its limitations in performance. Ex. a complex mobile app with 25+ screens that manages 1000s of records can’t use HTML5.

      Midhun VP

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      1. Joao Sousa

        When it comes to enterprise, the organization adopts both native and web/hybrid based on the business requirement from end user.

        Well, not exactly from the end user. The end user gives you the business requirement, if you can meet them with a web app, that objective will be fulfilled.

        The choice of technology is up to IT because there are other very important concerns like application life cycle management that business user don’t understand (and don’t have to).

        What I meant is that for internal apps the UX requirements are less important, because the app is not competing against 10 others services. If the app is “good enough”, your user will just use. Just like people use VA01 in SAP, and complain about it …. but still use it.

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  3. Tim Baldwin

    Hi Sharath,

    I wouldn’t say that mobile web is dead but we at Oxagile prefer using HTML5, first of all because of device fragmentation. Sometimes the app created for a certain platform (Android, first of all), behaves differently on different devices and it’s easier to create an HTML5 version rather than optimize the mobile app itself.

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    1. Sharath M G Post author

      Thanks Tim.

      Considering the traction for HTML5 and JavaScript, mobile web is going to share the space with the apps.

      Regards,

      Sharath

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