PhoneGap is dead

Anatom5 agency - Accessibility: Topics at a glance.

The app is dead, long live the app!

Information and municipal portals follow a simple philosophy: information of any kind must be published quickly and easily findable. What previously only happened on the web now has to be split up into different channels. It is no longer enough to just publish a press release on the website. Today, customers and prospects want quick access to relevant information, including from their mobile devices. One possible solution is to make the website responsive itself.

Responsive web design is only one step towards bringing existing content into a format suitable for mobile use, and the "Mobile First" approach does not change much in the (often overwhelming) range of offers.

Use website content in a multidimensional way

A better approach is therefore to use the existing content of a website multiple times and only change the output. Almost every content management system today has the ability to output the same content in different places. Adding HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript creates a new generation of apps that we call browser apps. The cities of Moers (m.moers.de) and Xanten were the first municipalities to take this step and thus pioneers of a new trend.

The advantages of browser apps are obvious:

  • executable in every modern (mobile) browser
  • Support of Android, iOS, Windows 8 Phone, BlackBerry, FirefoxOS, and many more.
  • no installation necessary
  • full support of GPS location, camera, gyroscope, and much more.
  • Information comes from one source (fast time-to-market)
  • no additional costs for developer licenses
  • quick addition of new areas (e.g. club or hotel directory)
  • Layout adjustments or corrections in real time
  • Accessibility according to BITV / WCAG possible

On the other hand, there are only two disadvantages: the app cannot be found in the AppStore of the respective operating system and it cannot run offline, whereby the latter also applies to native apps or hybrid apps (PhoneGap, etc.). In addition, individual areas can be temporarily saved after the initial loading, thus enabling limited offline access. So all that remains is the non-availability in the AppStores. Hand on heart: How often have you looked for an app for a city you want to visit in the AppStore? Or maybe you just surfed the city's website to find information? We have examined the statistics of numerous municipal app offers and put them in relation to the costs and the time required for native or hybrid app development. The results speak a clear language against apps in AppStores, because the download and usage rate is simply too low, the costs per user too high.

Browser apps are the solution

Nevertheless, many users would like a mobile-optimized offer. A dashboard on which the most important information is clearly and mobile accessible. A browser app ideally meets these needs. And the best thing about it: The costs remain low, plus there are advantages in terms of expandability and maintenance. In addition, the range is significantly increased: not only iOS and Android are supported as mobile operating systems, but also FirefoxOS and many others. Even older smartphones and tablets benefit from the browser app. Only a modern browser is necessary to display the mobile content. The website automatically recognizes that it has been accessed by a mobile user and offers them the option to switch to the browser app. The way back, i.e. from the browser app to the complete website, remains open to users.

Users benefit from the natural app feeling with transitions, sorting and filter functions as well as swipe slideshows and many other finesse. In addition, a shortcut can even be used to create a bookmark on the home screen, so that there is even a quick start with an app icon for experienced users or frequent surfers.