Words With Friends (very popular) multi-player game. It was one of the 10 native apps on both Android and iPhone platforms.
Beyond the smartphone.
Beyond the smartphone.
Government Approach to Apps
UK Government approach to
At the Oct 2012
Digital Leaders’ meeting,
the position was clarified:
native apps could not be
developed without Cabinet
The Nov 2012 Digital Strategy says:
“Stand-alone mobile apps will only
be considered once the core web
service works well on mobile
devices, and if specifically agreed
with the Cabinet Office”
This presentation explains
why we have a‘by default, no
And in what circumstances
apps might be considered as
Confusion is understandable.
So-called “Apps” come in
several very, very different
What is meant by ‘an app’?
1. Device-specific ‘download and
install’ apps (aka ‘native apps’)
2. Websites that respond to various
screen sizes (aka ‘responsive
websites’, ‘web apps’ or ‘HTML5’)
3. Various hybrids of the above
What is a‘Native’ App ?
-Downloaded, installed piece of bespoke
-Free or paid-for.
-Persists on the device.
-Can access all device features
-Proprietary code, hence requires completely
different software for iPhone/iPad, Android,
-Spotify, Angry Birds, Instagram, Skype etc.
‘Native’ App - Pros
-Revenue (download and buy)
-Persistent presence on device
-Can access all functions on a device
-Snappier performance in general
-Can be used offline, in some cases.
‘Native’ App - Cons
-Expensive to develop & maintain
-Needs several different versions (Android,
iPhone, iPad, Blackberry etc)
-Service iteration more complex (x3)
-Can only be downloaded via gatekeeper
app stores (Apple, Google)
-Most apps are little downloaded, and even
then rarely used.
What is a‘Web App’
-Uses device’s built-in web browser
-Is a website which optimises its layout
& functionality for each device
-Uses open standards (HTML5)
-Examples: GOV.UK, PM’s dashboard,
FT webapp, Virgin Active’s ‘My Locker’,
FT realised that few user needs can only be
met through native apps – moved to Web
Web App - Pros
-It is your website, so costs are minimised
and service iteration simplified.
-Uses open standards (HTML5)
-No gatekeepers to constrain access
-Performance still good
-Mobile web outstripping mobile app reach
-Clear winning strategy for ‘utility’ services
which do not require complex device
features or persistence.
Web App- Cons
-Not persistent on device
-Some device features unavailable (camera,
-Requires internet connection
-Not snappy enough for some complex
services (e.g. Spotify, Facebook, Skype)
-No ‘download and buy’ revenue stream.
- A small native app which then
loads up a bespoke website
- So, can use device features (e.g.
camera) that Web apps can’t.
- Requires a stand-alone website
- Examples “Bing for Mobile”,
Netflix app, LinkedIn app, BBC
Hybrid App – Pros & Cons
Not as expensive to maintain as a native
app, can access device functions and be
…but still requires a new parallel version
of your web service, and multiple versions
to be developed for each device.
If there is a market for native or
hybrid apps, why should the
government monopolise it?
There is a vibrant market of 3rd
party native app developers
using government data & APIs.
Back to the HMRC Tax Calculator native app…
Government’s position is that native &
hybrid apps currently rarely justified.
Ensure your service meets the Digital by
Default service standard and it will work
well on mobile devices.
Make your data & API available for re-
use and you will stimulate market if there
is real demand for native apps.
We are backing open standards
(HMTL5) rather than risking
proliferation of parallel versions of
services as devices proliferate.
How will you afford to
support The iWatch?
Or the next big thing?
And while people spend as much time
using apps as using mobile web...
majority of app
use is for
gaming & social
needs, such as
those met by
mobile web is
So what will the ‘By default, no
native apps’ position mean for
Ministers and civil servants will
probably still think they need
native apps so…
Expect to hear justifications
for why only a native or
hybrid app will do.
Expect to hear why web
apps aren’t all they’re
cracked up to be.
Five key questions you should
1.Is our web service already designed to be
responsive? If not, why not?
2.What is the user need that only a
native/hybrid App can meet?
3.Are there existing native/hybrid apps
which already meet this user need?
4.Is our service available to 3rd
API or open data? If not, why not?
5.Does meeting this need justify the lifetime
cost of native or hybrid App?
If after asking the questions,
you’re convinced it’s got to be
a native or hybrid app, then
let’s have a chat about an
(There will be some…)
Have you met the necessary
NOTE: If these are not in place, it is
unlikely that your proposal will be
Your web service is already designed
to be responsive
The service or the content you’re
looking to build an app for is already
open to third-parties via APIs or as
Answer the following
questions and provide
1. What is the user need?
Please provide evidence.
2. Is this user need of sufficient
importance to (your users to) justify
the lifetime cost of your proposed
If you believe it is, how have you
3. Which 3rd-party native/hybrid apps
already exist to meet this user need?
If there are none and Condition 2 has
been met, please state why this might
be the case.
If there are 3rd-party alternatives,
explain why you believe your app is
4. Is there evidence of demand for
this type of app amongst your target
If you believe there is, please
provide supporting evidence e.g.
similar apps which have proven
popular with your target audience
and evidence of their popularity.
5. Is there evidence to justify building
an app for the platform you’re
proposing to do this for?
If so, please provide supporting
evidence e.g. analytics data that
shows proportion of visitors to your
content/service that currently access it
via relevant platform.
In addition to the evidence requested
above, all digital spend for the
development of standalone mobile
apps is subject to the GDS spend
Contact GDS PMO for details: