We’ve all used HTML apps at one point or another. Chances are that your bank or mobile provider has one that they brag about (More ways to get in touch with us, because you want to). If you’ve ever encountered one that doesn’t suck a metric tonne of monkey dick I’d like to check it out.
What are HTML apps?
An HTML app is basically a website wrapped in the application framework of the platforms on which it is offered. It is a web browser that is only capable of showing the same (poorly made) site. This site is often a watered down and less usable version of the company’s user portal page (or whatever service they’re offering through the app).
How do they differ from real apps?
They’re generally laggy and/or unresponsive, require connectivity, use more data than their properly written native counterparts, and feel out of place on the platform.
- Because they’re essentially websites, most of them are unusable without an internet connection whereas a native app would still be browsable. In the case of a really poorly written web app, all of your actions are processed remotely on the web server so your user experience is at best as bad as your connection speed.
- They are done as a one-size-fits-all solutions. They’re designed once and the same look and feel is served on all platforms. If you’re lucky enough to be using their primary platform, what you get may not completely look like ass … of course, that’s assuming the developer(s) cared and/or knew about the primary platform. The app will look and feel out of place as it doesn’t look like the rest of your apps.
- On any mobile platform, the native UI widgets have a theme. Even though each performs a different task, in certain ways they all seem connected, as if they’re one happy family. Once you launch a web app, you lose that theme because you’re no longer executing actions natively on the platform. Instead you’re interacting with a web browser.
What are the benefits of HTML apps?
So what’s good about them?
The only benefit to producing an HTML app as opposed to what I like to call a real app is the lower cost. Since there is only a single development team (or developer) working on a single SKU, there is only one bill to be paid. Even developing a single platform-native app would cost much more than a mini scale web site with similar functionality. It is also easier (at least where I am) to find web developers than it is to find experienced mobile developers.
But they’re everywhere
At this point you’re probably thinking well if they suck so bad, why are there so many of them in my platform’s app store?
I’ve already discussed the reduced cost, but most people would choose the more expensive high quality product over the cheaper low quality product … unless they’re either unaware of the superior product, someone tells them that the quality is comparable, or both. Most of those offering HTML apps sell them as a one-size-fits-all product and uninformed decision makers make bad decisions, falling for the oldest trick in the book. One size fits all doesn’t even work for sweatpants, let alone something as complicated as a mobile application.
Wall of Shame
Here are a few examples of poorly written HTML apps that I’ve encountered recently.
This is the app that inspired me to write this today. We’ve all paid our bills through online banking, right? It’s a simple process: Select account, select payee, enter the amount and click pay. I noticed the credit card bill this morning as I left for work and thought I’ll just pay this on my way to work. The unresponsiveness and the long delay between me tapping an item and seeing the result made this impossible. After eventually selecting my account after 3 or 4 attempts, It just refused to let me pick a payee. I still haven’t paid the damn bill.
PayByPhone Parking Payment app
The way the system works is that you register by phone number, enter your license plate(s) in your profile, and you’re set. When you’re parking you enter the parking space number, the number of minutes you’d like to park, and pay! How often do you change cars and/or license plates? Every time you pick the license plate it has to fetch it from your profile. This isn’t a dating site. Changes such as cars added or removed can be effectively and efficiently handled via push. A native app can handle the changes in the background so that when I’m parking, the only thing it needs to look up is the parking spot (for location, rates, restrictions, etc).
More to come…