Governments Say “Don’t Build Native Apps”
It’s Not The Economy, Stupid
The UK Government effectively bans the building of native apps. In their service manual, they explain why they favour progressive web apps, and clearly state that other solutions are unlikely to be approved. Although not as explicit as the UK, U.S. federal agency policy favours a similar design approach. From a cost reduction perspective, this makes ample sense. In fact, the UK Government say that they saved more than £8bn over 4 years by avoiding native solutions. However, It’s not just about cost reduction. Governments must design and build solutions that are fully inclusive, designed to meet the needs of all users. In the digital space, this means building solutions that cater to the needs of the lowest common denominator, web browsers that read html.
Progressive Enhancement Rocks
Progressive enhancement – a way of building websites and applications – is based on the idea that everything apart from html is extra. Governments like this approach because the end result is often a more inclusive user experience. Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) could be part of any solution to make digital services more inclusive and even offer some advantages over native mobile apps. PWAs can work across multiple devices and are significantly easier and faster to develop than native apps. They retain the same look and feel of an app and can run offline. They can be found by search engines, they do not need to be downloaded, their urls can be shared and they offer https security. In addition, they offer typical app features, such as push notifications. On the other hand, they may have limited access to some of the mobile device’s features (for example, contacts). However, PWAs have only been around for just over a year and a half – during that time they have very rapidly developed more native app like capabilities – and today, they are suitable for many use cases.
The Revolution Has Started
PWAs can offer the equivalent of a website and an app developed for multiple device platforms (most organisations will opt for Android and IOS, at least) with no need for multiple code bases and multiple development teams. That means lower costs and it also means more inclusive solutions. The UK and US Governments, organisations such as Twitter, AliExpress, FT, FlipKart, and many more global brands, have made the transition to PWAs. Their rationale is simple – they can use this emerging technology to reach significantly more users across all mobile platforms, at much lower cost, and still offer much the same experience as a native mobile app.