To App or not to App, is that the question?

For some time now we have witnessed a proliferation of mobile devices that can connect to the Internet, such as smartphones, handhelds, or tablets. These devices have more advanced computing ability and connectivity than ever, and people are using them more and more to perform tasks that up to now were exclusive to computers. But not only mobile devices will be able to play this role. It may sound futuristic but internet TV is a reality and it’s just a matter of time before we find almost everything wired up.

Everyone is developing mobile applications nowadays to bring all kind of services to this new market. Whatever you want to do, there’s an app for that. The problem is that every device has its own technology. For example, if you develop an app for the iPhone, it won’t work on Android. And there’s also a difference in the way native applications are deployed and published on each platform. Different platforms mean different approval criteria and different device features.

Smartphone current market share

The potential problem we face is that our users may want to access our library services through a wide variety of devices and, as a consequence, with a wide variety of technologies. If we want to cover them all we will have to build an application for every single platform, and that’s in no way sustainable.

We can limit ourselves and our users by choosing to develop only for the most widespread devices, but the market changes very quickly and we’ll never have control over what portion of our users are able to use our applications.

But all is not lost. Native applications are very attractive but not the only solution. The services we provide to our users through the web are already accessible to these devices as they all have built-in browsers.  As our websites are not designed to deal with such small screens, we can develop mobile websites, as has been the case with our catalogue.

To make life easier Google has built its own application store within the browser, called Chrome Web Store and Mozilla intends to do the same with its Open Web Applications. The applications are developed using HTML, CSS and JavaScript web standards and are multiplatform as long as the device has a browser installed. This is a good solution for those who want to develop applications without having to limit platforms or multiply development costs.

About this post

This post was first published on LibTechNotes, a blog from the Library team at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya to share our everyday findings, solutions and inspirations.