It’s great that so many doctors and nurses want to get involved in tech innovation. There are clearly loads of areas that apps can improve. Work flow and communication is begging to be streamlined and doctors and nurses have to insight to solve these problems. However, there is one thing I have to point out to these people who want to innovate, don’t jump into developing a smartphone app. I’m not judging, just warning. I did the same mistake when I started out. This doesn’t mean that smartphone apps don’t have place they clearly do but when your time and resources are limited, a web app is simply the better choice and here’s why:
There are two major players in the smartphone world, Apple and Android. When I was developing mine I had a tough choice. Android had more users but Apple users were more likely to download and pay for apps. Want to do both? You will have to learn two different programming languages and get used two different operating systems. You will also have to jump through hoops to get you product onto their stores. Want to update a feature and solve a bug? Again you will have to develop the solution for both coding languages and operating systems. Big companies clearly have the resources to do this but if your a small group just trying out a project this isn’t a headache that you want. When I developed Medical Matrix half of the people at work simply couldn’t download it because they were Android. A web app that has it’s html and css to be configured for phone use can be used across platforms. It only takes one correction which can be done a lot more quickly as you don’t have to get it through their stores.
Most functional apps are helpful because they share data. If you want to improve communication or track workflow you’re going to need to share information. How do you do this? You need some form of server storing and passing data to and from app users. This means you need another infrastructure apart from the apps and you need to code your apps so they pass data in a format like Json. Again this is another level of headache. With your web app when you hire a server it will come with a database attached to that server. A few extra lines of code will connect your web app to this database so you can make use of it. Instead of multiple structures you only have one and it’s much easier to manage. You don’t have to configure code to package the data on the server via an API framework and you don’t have to configure code to receive the packaged data on the smartphone app.
Because of the limited processing power and storage that a smartphone has the app has to be compiled. Compiling languages are generally harder to learn and require more lines of code to achieve the same outcome. However, compiled languages are faster. Another downside is that it takes up space on the hard drive of the phone. Apps like Facebook are so well known and used that people will happily spend some of their storage space on it. The hurdle I found was that people were running close to their limit, they’d prefer to have a few extra songs or photos than your app that they have never heard of for work. Come to think of it would you sacrifice some of your space on your phone for a work productivity app that’s specific to your place of work? With a web app you can have a easier high level language that runs on the server. This also means that people can use the web app on the desktop computer at work if they want to. Considering dead batteries and the lack of signal in some areas of the hospital it’s clear that desktop is way more practical than an app. Whats more is that people can access the web app on their phone if they wish.
As you can see learning a high level language and developing a web app is a much smarter choice than compiling a smartphone app for your project. If your web app takes off then you can look into developing a REST API framework from the database of your web app and developing a smartphone app to accompany your web app in the future. There are advantages for smartphone apps. Because the GUI is installed on the phone you don’t have to download it every time as opposed to a web app reducing the amount of data used and speeding up the process but this is more of an optimization than a staple for people a small group with limited resources.
3 thoughts on “Want to dip your toe into tech innovation? Forget smartphone app development”
the only “app development” ive ever taken an interest in is using js and whatever browser is on the phone.
of course this limits you in features– the advantage of conventional app sdks is access to sensors and filesystem, as well as the other other features you cant get from vanilla js and related libraries. also a plug for coffeescript (they dont know me, let alone pay me– it is a cool idea though.) but with vanilla js and libraries– you can use the same things on your phone (android or ios) and your pc (mac, windows or linux.)
Thanks for the coffescript heads up, I will definitely check it out. I’m thinking of writing a beginners guide to web apps if you’re interested. Although I like Django I think I will read up on Flask as this looks more relevant for clinicians wanting to develop simple web apps to streamline a process.
definitely interested in reading about flask in particular.