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Please don't make a mobile app (unless if you have to)

lucis profile image Lucis ・2 min read

Last december I've started my first "real job" and, apart from the great onboarding experience, I've been having a bit of trouble setting up my benefits plans. Yeah, there are some UI quirks and weird verification challenges but, by far, having to install a bunch of apps on my phones caused most part of this pain.

Some of this apps exists for the sole puporse of consulting information, like the one from the healthcare company. No need for background processing, no notifications, nor some fancy use of the camera, and it still is shipped only as a native mobile app. One funny thing about this app in particular is that it has an "online chat" functionality that, when accessed, guess what: it redirects to a webpage.

I know that mobile apps are still a hit. Companies are proud to say "download our app on Play Store or App Store", and most users get into that as well, but we have to start evangelizing more about web apps. And it's not a hard job, since, after battery draining, the most common complain from my close ones is their cellphones being low on storage, and, for the companies, building a native apps is more time-and-resource consuming compared to web development.

Whenever I see a new startup releasing a mobile app for its shine new CRUD, I feel a bit of the pain of every developer that has been doing an awesome job pushing PWA technologies forward for the last couple of years. And, in fact, being up-to-date with their job is a great way for us to embrace this campaign as developers.

We still have a long way to support every native API on the browser, but we already have a ton of features that makes it possible to implement most of the apps I use everyday. There are also great web apps that are already PWAs (in fact, I use dev.to as an installed PWA on my phone).

An accesible and inclusive WEB is everyone's goal!

Discussion

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lucis profile image
Lucis Author

Disclaimer: I know all about browsers lack of support and, most importantly, old phones performing really bad on webpages, but I wouldn't want to discuss every liability of web technologies. These are edge cases, IMO.

I think this post's should be summed up as: if it's not a cool game or something to tweak the phone's system, please don't ship a mobile app nowadays.

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maurogarcia_19 profile image
Mauro Garcia

Are you talking about enterprise apps or in general?

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lucis profile image
Lucis Author

About what part?

I think I talk about apps in general in this disclaimer. Like one comment below, it wouldn't be a practical solution to ship WhatsApp solely as a web app, since important features would be missing in old phones.

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mariocalin profile image
Mario

I totally agree with you. In fact, on friday I was doing a little talk in an online marketing course telling the enormous benefits of developing one web application and using current technologies to create PWA or even hybrid apps (ionic, react, vaadin or electron) from that web application.

As a piece of information, I will leave you this link to a web that gathers PWA experiences from the development point of view and its impact in the economical aspects of the application development.

pwastats.com

Greetings,
Mario

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lucis profile image
Lucis Author

Thank you very much, Mario!

I will save it for checking it ;)

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adnanhz profile image
Adnan

One clumsy part with PWAs is telling people to install it.

With a native app on the app store: "Go to Google Play and search app name and download it"

With a PWA: "go to appname.com and then look for the add to home screen button hidden somewhere in your browser"

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itsjzt profile image
Saurabh Sharma

You don't have to install the app to homescreen for PWA benefits

Service worker, notification, responsive design all works without add to homescreen.

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craigcampbell profile image
craigcampbell

Your pre-conceived notion is that people know how to navigate websites etc. I agree with every point you made but I've been in this field now for over 15 years. The main issue is users in the 36-60+ demographic simply don't like going to websites. It's like pulling teeth telling someone to type something in a URL bar I guess.

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diegomgar profile image
Dieg Oto

I use dev.to installed too, awesome work :)

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duc profile image
Aryan Godde

Ok, how about teaching us how to make a PWA WhatsApp clone xd.

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lucis profile image
Lucis Author

As a matter of fact, Whatsapp wouldn't be the hardest app to replicate if supporting low-level (and iPhones hihi) phones wasn't a goal.

I think the most advanced use cases for Whatsapp are notifications and registering itself as a share app, both supported by PWA tecnologies.

I get your point, but my title and the comment disclaimer both make it clear that web apps aren't a silver bullet now. I hope it becomes one someday, but it might not, and there's no problem with that.

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duc profile image
Aryan Godde

No i asked you to do it because i want to make such an app :p this has dms right? Can we have a talk :0

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itsjzt profile image
Saurabh Sharma

WhatsApp is a native app because they don't want to store your data, they can't afford it.

But for a PWA people expect them to work all across their devices not like "No it's an Android app, you can't run it on your PC or IOS device"

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merk42 profile image
Merk42

Too bad Apple is intentionally dragging their feet on support lest your idea catch on and cut into their sweet sweet app store / apple developer revenue.

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navdeepsingh profile image
Navdeep Singh

Truly agree with you Lucis. Companies are just following the pattern to make native web apps (although needed or not) PWA technology is meant for mobile users.