A little more than a week ago at Forrester’s Application Development and Delivery Forum, an executive from a digital agency raised the notion that hybrid apps should kill two birds with one stone, eliminating the need for one-off, adaptive, mobile website development. In short, your hybrid app development efforts will create the HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, which will then double as your adaptive mobile website code base (sans native wrapping via PhoneGap).

This got me thinking: Should efficient code management be the primary rationale when developing for the mobile Web or mobile apps?  

IMHO, no. Judging from my conversations with vendors, agencies, and end users, manageable code bases are a solid goal when developing mobile strategy for digital customer experiences, but by no means the top priority (AKA “strategy first, execution second”). On the flip side, customer experience, customer intelligence, and digital marketing professionals are unlikely to put code considerations up front — or anywhere in the top 10, for that matter — and thus AD&D needs a voice when mobile strategy is discussed (AKA “iterative strategy should be based on execution feedback loops”).

I spoke with the “two birds with one stone” exec after the presentation and he clarified: If the use cases for the adaptive mobile site and a mobile app are largely the same, then it makes sense to leverage the hybrid app code base as your mobile website. OK, that makes sense now: The content and audience will be the same, and therefore repurposing the code base is a worthy effort.

My takeaway: A great deal of confusion persists around mobile — even when experts present to informed audiences. Forrester has been thinking about this question re: mobile development at length to help reduce the confusion:

  • A cross-functional team (Julie Ask, Ted Schadler, Mike Facemire, Peter Sheldon, John Dalton, and I) is authoring a report on when to use mobile apps versus the mobile Web. Publishing soon.
  • Peter Sheldon and I are coauthoring a report exploring when to use responsive web design versus adaptive mobile sites for your mobile web presence. Publishing soon.
  • Mike Facemire published Mobile Feast Or Beggar’s Banquet? to help development teams understand when to use native versus hybrid mobile apps, and the solutions available for AD&D leaders to lean on for development needs.
  • And much more . . .

When planning your mobile apps and mobile web road maps, what are the questions that have stopped you from moving forward?