Enterprise architects' guide to success with mobile apps for business
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Fostering collaboration and efficiency in the workplace is nothing new, but how that is achieved is evolving as workers turn to mobile devices to access information. To keep pace with the transition, Andrew Filev, CEO of Wrike, a Web-based project management application, knew he needed to make his offering mobile-friendly.
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The main challenge Filev faced was determining how to devise a mobile strategy for Wrike's users that would allow the tool to be easily accessible on multiple platforms. "We wanted to take something to market very quickly and we wanted it to be a 'sexy' user experience," he said.
Along with Wrike's CTO and mobile developer, Filev devised a list of features they were looking for. The team wanted a tool that offered customizable features and had the ability to scale. At the time, Android was a big player in the mobile world, but the group didn't want to develop something specifically for those users and leave iOS fans behind, or vice versa.
The crew also knew it wanted a flexible platform where it would be possible to stretch the capabilities of HTML5 . The tool needed to do more than create pretty charts out of the box. It was essential that the platform be able to deliver the same experience in a Web browser or mobile device. "We couldn't have a Web app that would be mid-blowing and scale well and then have a mobile app that would be very simplistic," Filev said.
The engineers preferred working with code rather than marketing materials. Instead of sitting down with representatives from various companies, they looked at their frameworks and performed a lot of hands-on testing. Among the top contenders, the team developed prototypes to see if the product could withstand the most complex use case. During this process, Filev paid special attention to whether the application could handle a dynamic load while still being responsive and interactive.
A key component for the team was using a hybrid approach where HTML5 would be heavily relied upon, but wrapped into native applications that could be distributed in application stores. "When you're evaluating a hybrid framework, you should make sure it doesn't introduce any visible lag for the user," Filev said. "You should be able to replicate the native experience in your hybrid app."
Another reason Filev wanted to take a hybrid approach to his mobile application development plan was that he already had a "world-class HTML5 team." By leveraging existing talent and tools, he felt it would be another way to help speed up the process to market.
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While several vendors were tested, Filev and his crew ultimately selected Sencha Touch because of its HTML5 capabilities and flexibility. Furthermore, the crew felt the tool was a powerful framework that would allow for appropriate customizations so they could create a quality user experience -- whether it be in a Web browser or on a mobile device.
While the implementation was smooth in terms of using the HTML5 framework, there were some hiccups along the way because of the phone vendors. Filev found there to be some bugs that didn't show up when users used the application occasionally, but they would crop up when "the limits of what HTML5 technology can deliver," was pushed.
Filev has some advice to offer anyone faced with a similar situation. First, it's important to remember that the differences between a Web and mobile application are more than just form factor -- the screen is smaller, the input method is different, and user interaction can vary. When it comes to deciding whether to go with a native, hybrid or HTML5 application, it's critical to keep end goals in mind. "If you're a company that already has a Web-based application, then your fastest way to market is through a hybrid app," he said.
Maxine Giza is the associate site editor for SearchSOA and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.