Thank God the French exist

For the past decade I have been bombarded with the advice that web technology (HTML, CSS & Javascript) is the future of software development. Now that the desktop era has given way to the mobile era I find proponents of web technology again saying that web technology is the future for mobile apps. This is being manifested as hybrid apps in app stores and mobile websites that mimic the look and feel of native platforms. But why do we need websites to look like native applications? The web has its own look and feel that enterprise can leverage with branding and users know how to navigate web pages.

What is the compelling advantage that web technology offers? For any technology to displace its predecessor it has to be better in some way. For web technology on the enterprise desktop, the compelling advantage was ease of deployment. Enterprise was able to achieve this because it had a user base that had no say in how technology was delivered (it was a business driven revolution). But this isn’t the case for the mobile era. The Mobile revolution is a user driven revolution where the user has a choice (and a voice). Mobile users don’t care for the politics of enterprise technology and won’t accept the rational that apps built with web technology are cost effective to deliver. Users just want a great experience on their chosen platform.

There are parallels to be drawn between this technology debate and human language & culture. Should we tell the French that they must speak English because it’s inconvenient for English speakers when travelling to Paris. Of course not. Part of the richness of a culture is it’s native language and the reason we travel is to experience diversity. Similarly, the diversity of mobile platforms is something to be embraced. The idea that only one user interface technology can prevail should be offensive to all of us, much like the idea that only one spoken language should exist.

If enterprise is serious about targeting the mobile customer, it has to apply the mindset that has been used with public websites (great experience etc), but until web technology can deliver a better experience than native technology, the path to achieving this is not with web technology alone. To satisfy the mobile customer requires delivering the best experience for the user on their chosen platform. This might mean creating mobile websites as a first point of contact for customers and native apps for enhanced experiences. Choosing the right tool for the job is the philosophy to apply. If this means employing a more diversified team of software developers then so be it, or as the French would say “c’est la vie!”

* Title comes from the Woody Allen movie “Hollywood Ending”

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