This month marks the first year since the release of the new eXo mobile app and its switch from being a native to a hybrid mobile app. It’s a chance to look back at the rationale for this switch, uncover how organizations benefit from this hybrid app model in the context of a mobile collaboration platform, and where the eXo mobile experience is heading.
What role for a mobile app in today’s digital workplace?
The collaborative mobile app of a streamlined digital workplace solution is not simply a chat or cloud file-sharing app. Its job, as we at eXo see it, is to bring as much of the same value and fulfill the same goals that the main and full-fledged web app fulfills.
To achieve that, it has to do the following:
Provide all of the functionality built into the web app:
If your teams use any of the tools – such as spaces, document collaboration, team discussions, tasks, notifications, etc. – when on their desktop, they need to be able to do the same when they are on the go and using their mobile devices. Empowering mobile workforces and ensuring flexibility is an important part in keeping your workplace relevant and meeting the expectations of the newer generations of workers.
Reflect any changes to the default functionality:
For instance, any functionality that gets added or removed by an admin, modifications to page layouts, to the links displayed on navigation menus, etc. according to your particular needs and use cases. What if, when such changes are done on the web app, they could somehow also reflect on the mobile app? Wouldn’t that make switching to the mobile app feel natural and not like switching to some entirely different system, thus improving adoption?
Reflect your brand:
We have many organizations among our clients that would like to make their employees feel at home and opt for a fully branded platform, changing logos, theme colors, you name it. When you do this on the web app, wouldn’t it be great if even these changes automatically reflected on the mobile app, so it feels like your organization’s app as soon as your employees log into it?
So, in essence, the ideal mobile app in this context has to be the web app, only pocket-sized. 😉
Now the issue with a fully “native” mobile app is that if you really needed a feature that happens to only be available on the web app, or you needed to have the mobile app reflect your personalizations such as branding, either you couldn’t, or you would have to fork out and develop your own version of the mobile app (provided it’s open to custom development in the first place). That of course would mean added costs to your project. It’s either that or just settling for a less tailored mobile experience, potentially at the cost of mobile adoption since, again, we are talking about a digital workplace experience not a single tool that would be easier to have your employees and colleagues adopt.
So how can we provide the above benefits without incurring extra costs? Enter the hybrid mobile app model.
What’s a “hybrid” mobile app?
This is actually more of a technical term. The difference between native and hybrid mobile apps lies more behind the scenes. Your end-users shouldn’t really notice or care that a mobile app is “hybrid” or not–it is still findable and downloadable from the mobile app stores, looks and operates just like any other mobile app.
That being said, a native mobile app is, in a nutshell, a smartphone and tablet app developed precisely for specific mobile operating systems, while a hybrid app is essentially a web app (with web pages and so forth) rendered within a native mobile app shell.
This means that the web app being rendered needs to be responsive in the first place so that its web pages play well with smaller screen sizes. Limitations of this model include limited access to some of the more fancy OS-native features that a fully native app may be able to leverage. But in the context of eXo Platform, and with all of the above in mind, it seems clear that the benefits outweigh the cons.
So what’s next?
We spoke about the main benefits that this hybrid approach brings to users of eXo Platform. But in addition to that, one benefit to us as the software editor is that we get to focus on only a single cross-platform web development framework, resulting in a more consistent delivery of mobile app novelties and improvements. As such, we will continue to work on eXo Platform’s responsive design, focus on modernizing its user interface and user experience, and even make add-ons like the chat add-on responsive, thus making them render nicely alongside all the other features on the mobile app.
So, keep an eye on this blog or our social media pages for announcements and sneak peeks.
The eXo mobile app follows what is known as a hybrid app approach whereby your web instance of eXo Platform is made available to your users as a regular mobile app available for iOS and Android devices.
- It places all eXo Platform’s features and capabilities into your users’ pockets.
- It automatically reflects to your users any navigation, feature listing, and page layout personalizations you make.
- It automatically reflects your brand and skin personalizations.
- You get to focus on managing your web platform while your users enjoy both that and a tailored mobile app.
- We get to focus on one framework for constant improvements.
For more information and download links, check out the mobile solutions page on the eXo Platform website.