Best viewed in iOS

One of the things I love about the web is its openness. The web is accessible to all, no matter your age, location, disability or technology. Whether you are accessing it via a mobile phone in the heart of Africa or fibre optic connection in Korea, we all have access to the same information.

At least that is the theory.

In reality, the web is full of barriers. One barrier that always caused me great pain ‘back in the day’ were websites that sported the phrase ‘best viewed in Internet Explorer’.

Like many I fought long and hard to eradicate those messages from the web, and largely speaking we succeeded.

Imagine my concern over the current tread of native mobile apps that repeat the mistakes of the past.

Gary Marshall summed it up in a recent .net magazine post:

I understand it, I really do. Apps are cool. Apps are popular. Apps give you the upper hand in the golf club lounge when you’re trying to score points against your fellow CEOs. As a result, “we must have an app!” is the new “we must have a social media strategy”, which in turn was the new “we must have an AOL keyword”. Remember those?

But what I don’t like is the way in which the rise of the app appears to be bringing back the days of “best viewed with”, when some sites expected not only specific browsers but specific plugins, screen resolutions and available colours. At least with those you could change your settings to view the site as the designer intended. Good luck getting an iPhone app to run on Windows Phone.

Let’s not repeat history. Sure, build native apps, but not without putting in place alternatives for those who do not own the latest smartphone.

Think twice about whether you need a native app. Often a web app that is accessible across all devices is the better solution.

  • I love developing device agnostic SaaS. It makes most big-bossmen look at me like a confused puppy dog and still refer to it as an ‘app’ because it sounds cooler to them. I just tell them, “You can call it a ham sandwich if you want, I just make sure it works.”

  • I completely agree with this but on the other side of the coin, it would be very easy to forget that we haven’t yet reached an age where we always have a perfect internet connection. When dressing a web app as a native app it’s really important to consider how well it might work when a connection isn’t available. Are the Offline App specs mature enough yet?

  • Scott Hoff

    Keep on fighting the good fight Paul!