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Mobile application development trends away from native

End users don't want to be bothered by notifications and a complicated interface. Learn how one MADP vendor is adapting to current user demands.

As end users grow tired of disjointed, complicated enterprise mobile applications, some app development platforms aim to prioritize simplicity.

That's the main idea behind Sapho, a mobile application development platform that enables organizations to build a unified interface for employees' access to multiple resources, said Peter Yared, CTO and co-founder. Sapho this week announced integration with Windows 10, which enables IT to natively send event-driven notifications and micro apps to end users on Windows 10 devices, in an effort to further promote consistency and unification.

Here, Yared discusses the latest mobile application development trends, including the adoption of progressive web apps and an increasing emphasis on user experience.

Do you see organizations moving toward more mobile or desktop apps for employees today?

Peter Yared: On mobile you're now expected to install 15 apps, they all look different, and now they're all annoying you with notifications. For knowledge workers, they're spending most of the time in front of a computer. When we started Sapho, we first supported mobile and desktop, but we thought most of our usage would be on mobile. And in fact, it's flipped.

[End users] don't want to be pestered with a bajillion notifications. Somebody submitting an expense report is not worthy of [a notification on] your iOS home screen. A purchase order that's been sitting in your queue for 14 days, and the vendor is about to pull the bid -- that is worthy of a push notification. That's the fallacy -- that mobile was going to fix all of this. There was a moment in time where Facebook actually kind of surfaced what should be interesting to you based on your previous usage and your friends. Of course that's been totally corrupted, but ... that type of algorithm did work. That's what we're doing at Sapho: using algorithms to organize stuff for you.

What other mobile application development trends have you seen recently?

Peter Yared Peter Yared

Yared: People are running away from native and going to progressive web apps. [When I worked previously] at CBS, for example, we hand coded the CBS sports fantasy app for iOS and Android, but we would never hand code in native for something like a Sapho portal so that you can approve and expense reports. It's just nutty. From a security perspective, everything has to look like an internal web app. You don't want to expose all of these APIs and have data on the device.

What changes in the workforce are driving these mobile application development trends?

Yared: One, people want good interfaces. Two, they want it to work. And three, they want to be on mobile. And they want a consistent interface between mobile and desktop.

You know those can openers with the rubber grips -- those were originally made for the elderly. Then everyone bought them, because you know what? Those can openers hurt everyone's hands. We're seeing the same thing in enterprise software where it's, 'Ugh, we've got to do this for the whiny young people.' And now everyone's like, 'I want to use this, too. Why didn't we have this all along?'

What should developers be thinking about to comply with GDPR?

What's the point of the low code thing anymore?
Peter Yaredco-founder and CTO, Sapho

Yared: We fish out what's interesting from all of these [third-party] systems and put it in one place. To consolidate all of this information, we had to add APIs and documentation on how it can be removed, how it inherits. Let's say you remove something from say, ServiceNow; it would automatically get removed from Sapho as well. We've always been seriously concerned with data and how it's used and stored. GDPR is the best thing to happen to the computer industry in a while. Now everyone has to be serious about [security].

What are other recent security trends you've seen in mobile app development? 

Yared: Biometrics and what we call a chained identity. You log in with your finger to enterprise apps using [VMware] AirWatch, let's say. And then we hand off that authentication into our container, look you up in Active Directory and let's say, Salesforce, and then you see what you're allowed to see in Salesforce. Bridging that identity across all of these systems in a secure way is the most novel thing. Right now, everything is really secure and also really siloed. Tying all of those things together is really interesting. 

Are you seeing a lot of citizen developers using low-code/no-code development to create mobile apps?

Yared: I think it's a fantasy. We do support non-developers, but it has to be the type of person who could use a Microsoft Power BI or Tableau, for example. They need to know about the relationships between data, security, what an end user would want from that. The citizen developer thing has been primarily somebody building something for themselves. But when you're trying to build something for a bunch of other people, it does take a certain skill set and mindset about user experience.

You can now build an HTML app that looks like a native app, so what's the point of the low code thing anymore? If you add a thousand knobs and dials on these low code things, they're so complicated and you need so much training that you might as well build a progressive web app in a progressive web app framework. 

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