Responsive design vs dedicated app

Discussion in 'Managing an Online Community' started by Steve, Mar 10, 2019.

  1. Steve

    Steve Administrator

    So it's now 2019 - we're starting to see implementations of browser notifications for users with only Apple being the only one failing to provide the need service workers to make this possible on iOS.

    I never really got why users of a site wanted to use an app that limited their use of the site (not all addons were compatible) but then realized that same app could be used on numerous forums to get their notifications. Pretty nice but at the cost of giving up your members data (they also have to agree) and possibly leading them to another competing site.

    There has been a few apps posted on the XenForo site for sale via the Resource Manager but it seems they were either mismanaged or suffered from slow development. I can only imagine the man hours and cost to continue support of the apps. I did try one of those apps very shortly but it was early in it's development and the cost and process of getting was just far outweighed the need for it at the time.

    Responsive design really has evolved over the years into a really nice way to bring usability to smaller devices. The only thing missing from that and an app was notifications and a "SSO" of sorts. I can't speak for other software for Push notifications but XenForo released it's version 2.1 which has the ability to push notifications to users via the built in service workers in browsers. Though as mentioned above iOS, no matter the browser, does not support push. It seems like the death of forum apps are near, at least in my opinion.

    Maybe I missed some features of the usability of a forum app, is there more reason to use an app?
  2. Nev_Dull

    Nev_Dull Anachronism

    There's no reason I can see. I've said before, I'm not an advocate for forum apps. I don't want to install apps for every forum I use (or any other site). Responsive design can do a pretty good job of putting forum content on a small screen for easy reading. For more control, there's always the option of creating a dedicated, small-screen version of the site.

    Convenience comes with compromise. Wi-fi isn't as good as ethernet, bluetooth is less reliable than a wired connection, and using a forum on a phone isn't as good as on a desktop or laptop.
  3. R0binHood

    R0binHood Habitué

    Give me an app with push so I can feed my addiction god dammit!!

  4. Joel R

    Joel R Fan

    It's uncanny that you posted this LOL. This is a perennial topic in the Invision Community forums and there's a lot of angst over mobile, and rightfully so. In developed countries in North America and Europe, mobile is already reaching 60% of all traffic (global just tipped past 50% last year).

    So, first of all I'm going to extend responsive design to really be PWA (Progressive Web Application). I'm not a techie, but PWA basically has all the best of native while still being web. It looks and feels like an app, offers push notifications, add to home screen but it's delivered through the web. It also means you don't need to update the app every two weeks or use up phone storage. It's all on the web. The latest version of 4.4 included elements of the application manifest. Other features got much higher visibility like Post Before Register and Giphy, but I personally think these small steps towards the application manifest were the biggest and most visionary steps. It signals where IPS thinks the mobile market is headed and how development will continue.

    I can't speak for other software but Invision Community is clearly moving in the PWA direction. Communities won't need to develop or maintain or pay for two concurrent development tracks (web vs mobile). It'll provide a single managed experience for admins. And it'll also allow third party apps to be a part of the mobile experience.

    With that said, I'm personally not sure. I've used the Tapatalk and Discourse app, and the experience is just smoother. I can't explain it, but web feels jumpy in comparison with the page refreshes. The mobile apps feel so damn smooth with the menu glides, popups, and navigation. The editor is also done very well on mobile, so the point of contribution is a better experience.

    The other thing I'm starting to recognize is that just having a responsive design doesn't mean you're good at mobile. It just means you've covered mobile. It's like selling your big house, throwing out half the furniture, and moving the remaining furniture into a much smaller house. Yes, you saved money but the old furniture doesn't truly fit to it's new environs. Designing for mobile requires you to be incredibly efficient and conscientious of design, space, and navigation. You can have wasteful design on desktop and still be okay, because monitors are so huge. You can't have wasteful design on mobile.

    The other big problem with a mobile app is that you can't have custom third party work. Well, you can but it won't be any different than the mobile responsive display. And one of the critical benefits of Invision Community over other community software is the extensibility of the Pages database. Every Pages database has it's own unique template and filters.

    Vbulletin 5 has "mobile connect" so I'd be interested to hear their experiences.
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  5. Matt M

    Matt M Developer

    There's some useful insights here:

  6. overcast

    overcast Participant

    These days the responsive design is powerful enough to work on all devices. I don't think not every forum is going to be app and people would be interested in downloading that part. I'd say that instead having the AMP or the responsive CSS can be one good option. I'd prefer responsive design for that reason.
  7. two50v

    two50v Neophyte

    Responsive design works fine for me. And I'm insane enough to view forums from an iPhone SE. The only gripe I tend to have with responsive design is that it makes text far too large in some cases or make things in odd organisation when not done right. Also the fact several sites are completely unusable because they are tailored for a 5.5"+ screen.
  8. Ash

    Ash Participant

    Responsive design all day long. A dedicated app can definitely do a lot more than just having a responsive design but not many people are willing to actually download a separate app. You're better off focusing your time on making the responsive design as user-friendly as possible
  9. Joeychgo

    Joeychgo TAZ Administrator

    Responsive design
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