Over the past 20 years, we’ve witnessed companies, no matter their size or industry, make the massive migration online. Yet most of those digital efforts have stopped at the desktop browser, where one size fits all. That’s resulted in most consumer, business, and employee applications that are available only in limited desktop and suboptimal mobile browser interfaces.
Lacking are the multi-experiential features that app interfaces provide, and everyone expects: everything from privacy, security, and cross-device experiences, to biometrics, voice, and much more.
“We believe the browser will always have a home. But for brands that want to elevate from a transactional engagement to a relational engagement, we think full-featured apps are critical,” says Lawrence Snapp, CEO at Bryj Technologies, Inc. “But you can’t just extend your website into an app and call it a day. You have to make the app incrementally more meaningful and valuable so you can build a natural relationship with that user.”
The Drawbacks of Web Applications
The first mainstream browser was originally created for desktops by Netscape in the 1990s. Browsers remain relatively unchanged today as the lowest common denominator interface. They’re intentionally one-size-fits-all transactional conduits for digital experiences, and they lack everything a full-featured app offers — the critical tablet, mobile, watch, or similar device features expected by users.
Those features comprise a lengthy list, the essential ones mentioned above but also overall convenience, personalization, interface fluidity, intelligence, geolocation awareness, navigation, accelerometers, translation, transcription, camera access, battery life, native push notifications, and on and on. Most browser experiences are also built for desktops then adapted to tablets or mobile devices (responsive sites and wrapper apps included), instead of vice versa which would align with the user’s preference.
“When Steve Jobs launched the App Store, he suggested that the Safari browser would evolve and that the App Store might go away, but the reality has been the opposite,” Snapp says. “Apps are now a global trillion-dollar channel preferred by users and the Safari browser has remained relatively the same.”
Even now, cloud has enabled companies to harmonize personal experiences across all app stores and devices, creating a device-agnostic experience layer. And each year devices and new operating systems offer new features that are only accessible via app stores, such as advanced AR and NFC-payment capabilities, which also make browsers less personal and less valuable in comparison.
The Upsides of Full-Featured App Development
Well-built apps offer custom and personalized one-to-one user experiences that can build an intimate relationship with users across sessions, apps, devices, and stages of life.
“Sustained security, privacy, and convenience build confidence into user relationships that cannot be replicated in a browser world that is fraught with risk and limited interface features,” Snapp says. “The super-premium experiences unlocked by full-featured apps increase the lifetime value of users, decrease the cost to acquire users, engage audiences better than other means, and greatly enhance user satisfaction and promoter scores.”
Full-featured native apps not only let companies unlock full personalization with features like Face ID, integrated secure payments, cameras, and native notifications, but offer a tremendous amount of convenience. Users don’t have to be online to access them, and built-for-the-device applications offer interface fluidity and less friction in the user experience from a design-centric standpoint. Devices also offer native intelligence, securely storing personal information, and preferences that can make an application safer, faster, and easier to use.
Full-featured apps can also offer seamless experiences across devices, from phone to tablet, tablet to desktop, and even to devices like an Oculus, as the metaverse begins to gain traction. And if created and maintained properly, apps will become the primary interaction medium for the highest-value users in an audience. Brands, suppliers, employers, and others can create digital journeys that embrace all touchpoints to the best of their potential while engaging users where they happen to be in the most natural and personalized way, from in-app to in-browser to on-location. It is time businesses evolve to become device agnostic and fully embrace the cloud and the user.
That said, a great app must be connected directly into back-end systems, such as CRM systems, for real-time data capture, insights, and action triggers, which can require expensive integrations. They also need analytics and engagement services to bring the apps to life.
Hybrid Apps: A Better-But-Still-Suboptimal Solution
Hybrid apps offer a shortcut to extend browser experiences into apps. The advantages include reduced creation and maintenance cost, less complexity, quicker time-to-market, and sometimes less risk, when done right. This is because web changes sometimes extend through the app, so a web team can usually support the app, and integrations are unnecessary despite being limited to browser offerings.
“Many companies short on resources prefer a hybrid app because it’s cheap and easy,” Snapp says. “But simple hybrid apps fall short in unlocking the full-features and functionality of the device. Security and privacy are also huge risks.”
In other words, most hybrid apps are only slightly better than a wrapper and are limited to a handful of additional features. Simple hybrid apps do not offer multiple back-end integrations and pixel-perfect design, and the experience can be burdened by poor performing websites, without a way to improve the experience. Finally, app stores also frown on simple hybrid apps, since they rarely differentiate from a browser experience much, and so rejection from App Store gatekeepers is common.
Native Apps? Expensive and Out-of-Reach for Many
On the other hand, fully distinct native apps offer unlimited pixel-perfect design and full access to device features. Deep integrations across back-end systems are also possible. But unfortunately, they’re traditionally very expensive to create, maintain, and operate. They require new product, design, and developer skillsets usually not available in-house, and rebuilding experiences multiple times at a high price, at a time when design and developer talent is thin.
“If you have a website and you want an iOS app and an Android app, you now have three code bases with three teams that we all know are not going to be perfectly in sync,” he says. “And if you want to go do that in 30 countries, you can imagine the explosion of up-front plus ongoing cost, time, and risk. It’s not practical for most companies to go full native in-house. I think that’s why, historically, most experiences have been stuck in the browser.”
As well, because pure native apps are disparate code bases, they are usually out of sync with websites, back-end systems, and other apps as well, so quality control can be a challenge even if you have dedicated integration layers and teams assigned to keep systems and experiences aligned.
Finally, like hybrid apps, native apps do not come with analytics, marketing, and user engagement tools which drives cost, complexity, and additional specialized resource requirements.
The Best of Hybrid and Native — with None of the Drawbacks
Companies have justified the suboptimal and unnatural experiences of their browser and hybrid apps, given the cost, time, and risk of doing it right. The complexity of required back-end integrations and the ongoing commitment to quality assurance despite millions of permutations created by ever-changing OS and device combinations is overwhelming as a stand-alone company. And the ongoing tools and skills required for complete and optimized user engagement is often a high-cost afterthought, even though that is a magical layer.
“These same forces make this market a natural opportunity for a novel, no-code architecture, toolset, and subscription solution that serves the broader community,” Snapp says. Bryj offers a full stack of services for the creation, integration, operating, maintaining, monitoring, analytics, and engagement tools necessary to deliver the best apps and user experiences. “Subscribe once and benefit worldwide.”
The Bryj architecture is built to give users all the advantages of hybrid and native apps without the downsides, Snapp says. Their subscribers already include businesses in over 25 verticals on six continents, from real estate, health care, labor unions, fintech, and insurance companies to iconic retail brands like Saks Fifth Avenue.
“Even billion-dollar companies find us a better solution than managing their own native, disparate code sources and teams in-house,” Snapp says. “But we’re a platform that’s agnostic when it comes to industry and scale. We love being no-code and solving real problems by bridging the app gap and completing the last mile for our partners and subscribers.”
During the COVID crisis, companies like Salesforce and Microsoft partnered with Bryj to quickly roll out full-featured tablet and mobile apps for their customers. As an example, a global kidney-care company used Bryj to rapidly launch and operate full-featured apps so patients could schedule life-saving dialysis appointments.
Apps built on the Bryj platform benefit from the best of a native and hybrid architecture, in other words, one code base always in sync via its Build + Connect products, plus the best of a fully native engagement experiences via Grow, without feature limits.
“Bryj fills the app gap and is 10 times smarter, faster, and more cost effective than building solutions in-house or via an agency/outsourced firm,” Snapp says. “It’s an apps-as-a-service platform that saves costs, time, and risks.”