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Enterprise Apps and HTML5: A Marriage Made in Heaven


HTML5 is now set for prime time, at least to enterprises wanting to build B2B mobile apps for their employees and business associates. Organizations eager to develop rich, mobile apps do not have to agonize over investing heavily on resources needed to build these apps natively on the iPhone, Android and Windows Phone. The current state of HTML5 is ideal for the mobile web, and companies can tap their existing pool of talent to build rich, web-based mobile apps based on this technology.

Current Performance of HTML5 Suits Enterprise Apps Perfectly. Fact: HTML5 still trails native apps in performance. HTML5 also does not have full access to the underlying mobile operating system. But enterprise apps are not games. While Temple Run requires responsive graphics, a Warehouse Management app doesn’t. Nor are B2B apps like social media apps. While Facebook and Instagram require quick access to the device’s geolocation function and camera respectively, a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) app doesn’t.

typical-mobile-web-app

A Typical Enterprise Mobile Web App. Source: Webalo

Enterprise apps do not need the speed and fluidity that can be achieved if they were built with the device platform’s native codes. These apps typically connect to the cloud where the company’s CRM, ERP or any other backend systems reside. The app retrieves data -sales figures and customer information – from these backend systems, lay them out and displays them on the screen. These B2B apps also allow the user to perform transactions with the backend systems like creating a new sales invoice, updating a customer profile or product inventory. Clearly, most enterprise apps do not need the sophistication of native app programming. Enterprise mobile apps can be created as a mobile web app – with HTML5, CSS and Javascript – that run on a mobile web browser.

Available Mobile Web Programmers. B2B apps can be rapidly developed by the ready pool of software developers who are already familiar with HTML, CSS and Javascript. Yes, these are the people in your organization who helped develop your B2B desktop web systems many years ago before mobile apps came into vogue. And these are the guys who can be redeployed quite easily to build your B2B mobile web by reusing many of the existing desktop web programming framework and codes.

desktop-vs-mobile-appDesktop Web & Mobile Web – UI/UX Difference. Source: LukeW Ideation + Design

However, the user interface and user experience (UI/UX) of the mobile web are vastly different from that of the desktop web. Enterprise software developers cannot simply squash a desktop website into a mobile website. The organization’s UI/UX expert needs to design the mobile app interface prudently by incorporating only the most important functions and content to fit into the device’s limited screen size. And we are only talking about the mobile device’s form factor here. What about other mobile design concerns like the input method (no mouse, fingers only) and technical constraints (limited battery life so you app better not be draining it)?

Mobile Browsers Now Support HTML5. Currently, most major mobile browsers support at least 80% of the HTML5 specification. They are constantly releasing new updates every couple of weeks in the race to become the first browser to fully support the specs. The good news: these browsers cover all the main platforms – iOS, Android and even Blackberry – except Windows Phone.

browser-testSmartphone Browser HTML5 Test. Source: The HTML5 Test

Smartphone browsers: Out of a maximum score of 500 for the HTML5 test, the latest Blackberry 10 platform mobile browser performs the best (485 points), followed by Opera, Chrome and Firefox.

tablet-testTablets browser HTM5 Test. Source: The HTML5 Test

Tablet browsers: Again, the Blackberry 10 platform mobile browser performs the best, obtaining 485 points, followed by Chrome, Firefox and Opera.

HTML5’s Cross-Platform Support. With HTML5 and mobile web, there is no need to develop for three, four or five different platforms. If you want to develop a B2B native app, you need to engage multiple developers with different mobile platform programming expertise. It is costly because in order not to alienate any users who will possess a variety of mobile devices, you will need Java coders for Android, Objective C coders for iOS, .NET coders for Windows Phone  and C/C++ coders for Blackberry.

Immediate Updates and Distribution Control. With HTML5 and mobile web, your organization can update its B2B app with new features or bug fixes on the fly. Your users don’t have to download and install the update every time there is one.

While a consumer-facing (B2C) native app relies on the app store for discovery and distribution, a B2B web app’s distribution is controlled by the organization that produces it. Why? Because B2B apps are only meant for inter- and/or intra-organizational use – by its employees and partners. Unlike games, B2B web apps don’t need to be discovered by the public. This is one final area where mobile web works very well for enterprises – the app is free from the app store’s rulebooks.

Sources for this article:
HTML5 vs. Native Apps: Where The Debate Stands Now, And Why It Matters, BI Intelligence
http://www.webalo.com/
http://blog.schubert.com/2010/07/15/stirring-the-b2b-mobile-stew/
http://html5test.com/
http://uxdesign.smashingmagazine.com/2011/10/06/not-your-parents-mobile-phone-ux-design-guidelines-smartphones/

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