Companies: Burn Your Mobile App

The latest bit of research from Gartner is out. They discuss blockchain but one item also stood out: Gartner research shows that most native apps are going to die (item #3). I’m glad companies have finally caught on that most native apps are a complete waste of energy. In fact, they are worse than a waste — they are actively destructive.

Heresy! But let’s look at how most native app builds play out:

  1. Company decides they need a “native” app because customers are increasingly “mobile first” and have been for quite some time.
  2. Company spends a large sum to build custom apps for iOS and Android. These apps are basically identical to the website but maintained by separate teams.
  3. Company now has 3 teams for what is really the same website.
  4. The core, responsive website now gets 1/3 the love it should have because of all the funds spent on native. Native users get nothing they didn’t get before, except losing space on their phone.
  5. Customer experience suffers accordingly.

Companies should be mobile first, web only

Browser makers continue to improve the security, speed, and features of their browsers. The difference between a modern version of Chrome or IE and the versions from a few years ago is immense. While earlier mobile browsers were horrible power sucks and low on features, modern browsers are relatively efficient and improving daily. The feature set and security expands at a similar pace.

The goal of being mobile first doesn’t need to mean app-first, nor should it. Unless your business is the app, then it makes more sense to put all your energy into a single platform and make it excellent. Users remember excellence more than they remember which button they pushed to get there.

Building Excellence

It’s not just browsers that have improved. Web development technology has come a long way with rapid development technologies such as Angular, React, Vue, and Meteor making the creation of complex, rich, and instantly responsive web applications easier than ever. While mobile requires multiple teams using multiple languages and multiple frameworks, node.js allows a single team to use the same language and even the same framework (in the case of Meteor.js and Angular.js) in both the browser and the server. This makes those teams very efficient at creating and maintaining features.

Moreover, those same frameworks are increasingly building in native compatibility. If you build your webapp using React or Angular or a few other frameworks, you can compile to a native app if desired. For the vast majority of companies this is more than they need and a huge cost savings.

So who needs an app these days?

Let’s be clear: mobile apps aren’t all going to die. Some apps really do need to run in native mode. But those apps are things like Uber, or Facebook — highly interactive applications that need to make use of all the special hardware features of a phone such as GPS, the camera, and so on. They tend to be high on processing and data storage needs.

In short, they are really an application not just a website, or even a “webapp”. They are large, full-featured applications with intense and sophisticated needs.

If you are wondering if you are a company that needs an app, ask yourself this — could your business survive without a website, and just the app?

If the answer is no, you probably don’t need the app and just your website and modern web applications will do. Some exceptions will apply but they are rare.

If you are at all on the fence, don’t worry. You don’t need an app. You just need a really, really slick website.

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