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Achieving “mobile by default” in the public sector
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Achieving “mobile by default” in the public sector

Why mobile is imperative and strategies for sustainable service delivery
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In 2000 approximately 27% of the UK population was using the Internet; By 2010 that that figure had risen to 85%. Something fundamentally changed – PC sales plummeted as smartphones such as Blackberry and iPhone (launched 2007) began offering consumers access to apps, email and the web wherever and whenever they wanted. Today affordable mobile data and smartphones have made mobile internet the first choice for the 98% of individuals who use the Internet. 
 
Internet use it the UK
 
Source: Statista
 
For public sector organisations, delivering Digital By Default means providing accessible and high-quality digital services to citizens of all ages through the digital touchpoints they use in the course of their daily lives. 91% of UK citizens use their smartphone every day ( Deloitte), but with up to 48,687 hardware models and 907,076 combinations of browser, operating system and hardware ( 51 Degrees) it’s a complex and ever-changing target for the DWP or GDS teams to address, let alone a smaller departmental web team. 
 
ONS UK Internet usage demographics
Source: ONS 2017
 
Delivering an attractive mobile experience efficiently is arguably the biggest priority, but also most significant challenge. There is good reasoning behind the GDS advice “Don’t build apps”: The cost and complexity of building an iOS app in isolation, only to repeat the exercise for Android and maintain these alongside responsive websites and portals is prohibitive without an omnichannel approach. So how can effective mobile experiences be delivered?
 

Planning a mobile strategy

In 2018, the mobile landscape has evolved multiple times since the consumer shift to mobile began. Today there are many effective ways to address the need for rapid development and more sustainable mobile services, providing the organisations with the flexibility to optimise the cost and user experience required for the specific project.
 

1. Mobile responsive web pages


Legacy portal and Content Management System (CMS) software may deliver a poor web experience, with a front-end that was built for web PC browsers or a generic mobile-optimised view. Modern websites and templates often employ a responsive HTML5 template and rely on Javascript templating frameworks such as Bootstrap to optimise the way content is presented to the user when the page is loaded on their device based on their screen size and orientation. 
 
This can be also be achieved by a mobile adaptive approach, where the server and browser detect the user’s device and the web server only sends the most appropriate layouts and assets based on rules. This approach is particularly effective for delivering an optimal user experience to users with limited bandwidth (rural areas or mobile), or lower performance devices because large images or javascript used to deliver enhanced user experience on high-end devices can be eliminated. Adaptive is useful for retrofitting an existing site in order to make it more mobile-friendly.
 
Regardless of the implementation, the user experience of this approach is limited by the lack of access to device capabilities or other apps and varies with each browser and version. It’s ideal for publishing content and services not requiring interaction or authentication.
 

2. Hybrid apps

Hybrid apps use Web technology to deliver information to users. Content is developed using standard programming languages such as HTML, JavaScript and CSS so that it’s easy for web developers to build content. Content managed centrally in a web platform translates to lower costs and a potentially faster development cycle.
 
Here comes the clever bit. Those web pages are then loaded within a native app that the user can download and install, and the hybrid app framework provides access to the native device capabilities and UX features through an “app shell”. 
 
The developer can improve user satisfaction by tailoring the app to each device’s native capabilities, but it the approach doesn’t guarantee the best performance or user experience. Hybrid mobile apps are an ideal choice for delivering good quality services cost-effectively when the user interface is not critical to success, “disposable apps” such as fund-raising and event apps or as a very capable interim mobile while evaluating the decision to “go native”.
 
This approach is recognised by Google as a Progressive Web App, and delivering certain mobile-focussed criteria such as push notifications and adding icons to the home screen will also help validate your Web app as a mobile site in the search engine so users can find it easily.
 

3. Native apps

The native apps downloaded from app stores are developed specifically for a platform (such as iOS, Android) using different programming languages. This introduces a requirement for new specialist skills and experience, or to outsource – which may be costly and have implications for the future sustainability of the IT strategy. 
 
Native apps can also be costly to maintain because they utilise separate back-end services to provide identity management that must be connected with the core systems of record to deliver services of real value such as payments, electronic registrations or paperless forms.  
 
So what are the advantages of going native? Developing a native app is important for those challenges that have intensive use of native device capabilities. For citizens, this could include remote patient monitoring or transport information (for staff the digital transformation possibilities are broad ranging from such as field operators in maintenance roles, social services, social care or emergency services). 
 

Laying new foundations

New technology is starting to level the playing field. Digital Experience Platforms (DXP) connect together the back-end systems required for serf service to deliver omnichannel digital services from a common platform. This approach significantly reduces the complexity of development and ongoing maintenance for omnichannel digital services. 
 
Native apps will deliver the best mobile user experience for customers, and if that’s worth investing in for your company, then the native app is an option you will want to explore. Organisations can rapidly develop a native iOS or Android and mobile app from a single codebase using a cross-platform framework such as Xamarin, which connects to a DXP to access all same back-end systems made available through the website or a kiosk. 
 
Times have changed and technology has matured. With the right long-term strategy providing high-quality mobile services can be affordable and sustainable. If you would like more tips, tools and advice to help you weigh up the pros and cons of mobile strategies Liferay has compiled a useful guide that you can download below.
 

Explore strategies for sustainable mobile services

Delivering mobile experiences that are effective for citizens, but are sustainable to meet future needs is challenging. Learn to select the right strategy can quickly drive value with our guide.

Read our Mobile Strategy guide  
Originally published
2018/04/24
 last updated
2018/04/24
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