May 30, 2014

Rethinking Your “App” Development Strategy

It’s been a year since most organizations decided on their mobile development strategy and considering how much consumers have come to rely on the connectivity and convenience of mobile technology, it just makes sense to take stock in the new options that have emerged. In fact, one emerging approach is ready to challenge the status quo of native mobile development in many enterprise IT organizations. This approach is the responsive, single page web application (SPA), an open, standards based option that is mature enough for delivering a rich app experience across all platforms (not just mobile). The single codebase simplifies development, testing and deployment, thus improving the efficiency of enterprise “app” development.  

The responsive, single page web app is a powerful combination of two open, standards-based web technologies – responsive web design technology and JavaScript frameworks like AgularJS and BackboneJS. This open and standards-based stack allows enterprise software developers to deliver rich, native feeling applications without multiple native development stacks for iOS and Android (NewsAlert).

In 2010, responsive design emerged as an alternative for organizations to deliver attractive content across multiple devices. Primarily powered by Twitter’s (NewsAlert) Bootstrap and Zurb’s Foundation, responsive design allows a page’s elements to adapt to the device’s screen size. In the last 12 months, Twitter’s Bootstrap and Zurb Foundation have delivered major releases with important enhancements for development and performance. Meanwhile, SPA development including JavaScript development tools, debuggers and frameworks are maturing quickly with the support of major players such as Google (News Alert).

At the same time as the technologies and tools required for supporting responsive SPA development have matured, critical barriers to responsive design and browser side JavaScript are disappearing. Older versions of Internet Explorer (IE) were previously holding back both HTML5 and JavaScript rich applications due to the poor support, specifically for IE8 and below. However, according to current W3CShools browser statistics (, IE 6, 7 and 8 combined only account for 2.7 percent of browser traffic. That number is decreasing by nearly one percent per quarter. This leaves the vast majority of browser traffic having strong support for HTML5 and optimized JavaScript engines.

From an IT manager’s perspective, native mobile application development has some significant challenges that are dulling this hot technology’s shine.  Including, support for multiple skillsets, development environments, integration and multiple code bases are problematic and expensive for enterprise IT organizations.

From a user’s perspective, responsive, single page applications eliminate the need to visit the app store every time you need to interact with a business; not to mention eliminating the app clutter on your device and the endless stream of updates associated with these rarely used apps. Instead of an app, a simple bookmark in your mobile, tablet or desktop browser will open the corresponding responsive SPA where you will automatically be running the latest version from the business’s website. Additionally, users have the same experience when transitioning between devices (mobile/desktop/tablet).

According to leading IT analysts, apps are becoming a strategic means for a business to differentiate and innovate. Meanwhile, HTML5, responsive design and JavaScript frameworks for SPA have reached a significant level of maturity. Therefore it is time for all IT executives to challenge the need for native mobile applications. Unless there is a real business need for your application to integrate tightly with the mobile hardware, you are a good candidate for adoption of an open, standards-based approach for application development. 

Want to know more? Hear from a distinguished group of globally recognized authorities on everything from gaming, to responsive design to hybrid development at DEVCON 5 July 9-10 at the Kimmel Center at NYU. 

Edited by Stefania Viscusi


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