The future of web apps for brands.

Technology is allowing challenger brands like Airbnb and Uber to majorly disrupt markets like never before.

21.11.14 | Opinion

By Conor Moody

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We attended the Future Of Web Apps conference a while ago. It was (as you might expect) full of clever technical folk talking about technology to other technical folk.

Air BnbIt was an awesome conference for developers, but what can people who may not know their Grunt from their Gulp or their Node from their Angular take from this?


What could marketing managers, product managers or brand strategists take from a developer conference?

The Future Of Web Apps event inspired us to talk to our clients about 5 key areas:

1. Thinking bigger

Other people are doing a LOT of hard work so that your digital team (or agency) doesn’t have to. There is now a myriad of complex services which are easy for developers to use and affordable.

Take Twilio – a service which allows your web apps to hook into SMS, voice services and call routing. A few years ago this type of functionality would have been out of reach for all but the biggest brands – now it can be handled with a few lines of code and a very modest budget.

There are major start ups that are powered up by Twilio, including Uber - billed as a 'ride sharing' service - that delivers a taxi, private car or car share within minutes. There's also the apartment rental business Airbnb. It uses a phone based service that allows the person renting to hide their telephone number while speaking to potential customers. Others are using Twilio services for SMS-based competitions and voting.

And then there’s Orchestrate, which allows your team to leverage complex database functionality such as GeoSpacial and graph queries to do amazing things with data.

Take a look at the Programmable Web to see the sheer volume of services available to dev teams.

What should you do? Think bigger and challenge your agency or your development teams! If 12 months ago you were told something wasn’t possible or would cost too much then it is time to check again. 

FOWA

2. Working with people who understand the landscape 

Find people who are immersed in the digital landscape and can weave this stuff together. I’ve seen dev teams waste months writing services because nobody bothered to check if there was something out there already.

You may already have a great Chief Technical Officer or a really active development team spending time scanning the horizon. If so you’re in a fantastic position to avoid falling into this trap (but the trap is getting bigger).

If you don’t have the right people in-house, then try and select forward looking agencies who invest in their people, R&D and the development community. Finally, beware of NIH syndrome.

3. Doing your homework!

Think bigger, but don’t forget to do your homework. Due diligence is not sexy but it’s so important.

If your business model, product or campaign is dependent on services provided by a ‘flavour of the month’ start-up then you better be certain they’ll be around for a while! Make sure your app code is modular to be decoupled from third parties if things go bad.

4. Not assuming a mobile app is necessary

A mobile app is what you’ll find in the iTunes App store or Google Play (the Android equivalent).

For every great app (and there are many) there are thousands of terrible, unused apps. Even once downloaded, we know 20% of apps are used just once. Quite often a good web application will be just fine (and may cost less), so take stock and review what your users actually want. If they actually need an app then great, but if you just ask an app agency for advice you can be pretty sure of the answer you’ll get.

Uber

5. Know that browsers are getting stronger

The people who care about web standards and the people who make browsers are working together to provide web developers with standardised ways of doing more. There are still gaps between web apps and native apps, but it looks like the right people are talking to each other and the gap is set to narrow. The technically minded can read more about this at Bruce Lawson’s site

About the author

Conor Moody is Head Of Digital at Uniform, a creative agency with offices in Liverpool and London.

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