What does HTML5 have to do with earthquakes you ask? Well after the Christchurch earthquakes, tsunamis in Japan, floods in Australia, and a host of other disasters it became apparent to our users that their evacuation marshals/wardens needed real-time information detailing who was on site just prior to an evacuation.
The challenge was to figure out how to do this and of course the answer lay in the obvious; deliver this life-saving information to their mobile device.
* Speed to market: mobiEvac could be developed quickly
* Off-line: could work off line
* Accessibility: would be easy to access (deploy) and would require no software downloads
* Cross platform: that mobiEvac could be used across multiple platforms (iPhone, Android, Windows, Blackberry),
* Upgrade friendly: mobiEvac will evolve and upgrading of the app should not require testing across multiple source code libraries, one for each platform - a single release can be made for all platforms
* Risk management: mobiEvac should be developed in an open source framework allowing us to easily access additional developers in case Tom and his team go sky-diving
* Cross platform syncing: mobiEvac users at a single site may be using a combination of iPhones, Windows Phones, Androids, and laptops and they must all be able to sync their people safety verifications between each other
As many mobile developers will state – mobile forces you to focus on only the most important data and tasks. For example we thought long and hard about including rich graphics in mobiEvac but decided that when the user is trying to verify the safety of 1000+ employees only the key data matters.
The native iPhone or Android apps vs a web app debate did cause some considerable chest-beating amongst the team. But buckets of Mojo coffee later we had reached a decision; mobiEvac was to be built as a mobile web app.
Tom and the team advised that there were ways to deliver a native experience, or close to it, via a web app. To meet our business requirements Tom chose jQuery Mobile - a touch optimised, HTML5 and CSS3 framework. This, coupled with new mobile web browsers, such as those using WebKit, enabled Tom and the team to deliver - ‘as close to a native app experience’ without it being ‘native’ - as one could get and most importantly; meet all of our business needs.
Our decision was not based around any love for or against native or web app – although our team certainly has defenders of each faith. In the end we based our decision on what would work best for our users and what path offered the least resistance to uptake.
For mobiEvac that was a mobile web app.