Mendix 9 is released with a potential game changer, PWAs
Mendix 9 offers Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)
Quick introduction to Mendix
Mendix is a Low-Code platform. That means that people, like you and me, can use Mendix to build applications (Apps) without having to code. There are a few Low-Code platforms in the world, but Mendix is the biggest and brightest.
The strength of Mendix lies in building business applications. Applications used by employees to make their jobs easier and more efficient. These type of business apps are referred to as B2E apps. Although, Mendix also works for B2B or B2C applications like: portals, vacancy-applicant platforms, partner software and so much more. However, currently Mendix is not SEO-proof. Making it not the ideal technology for web applications that rely on organic marketing traffic, yet. In layman’s terms: a Mendix app will probably not appear in search engine results. But who knows… Maybe, the support of PWAs is Mendix’ first attempt to make SEO-proof application.
The pros and cons of PWAs
Where web apps can reach anyone, anywhere on every device with a single codebase, do platform-specific application (a.k.a. native apps) have incredible functionalities and flawless performances. Progressive web apps (PWA) is a technique that tries to get the best of both worlds with rich capabilities and a broad reach.
The richness of PWAs
Web apps are already capable of including rich functionalities like requesting geolocation and using the camera hardware on a device. However, quite some functionalities related hardware or sensor data are only available in native apps. Nevertheless, with new APIs a lot of rich experiences are becoming available for PWAs as well. Like push notifications and offline functionalities for example.
- Offline availability
- Push notifications
- App installation (outside the app stores)
- Update functionalities
A single codebase for cross-platform usage
- One codebase for cross-platform
Performance and reliability
In contrast to other web apps, PWAs are more reliable thanks to their offline functionality and connectivity independence. In addition, also the page speed of PWAs is faster than the average website. Giving users a nice experience while using your application.
- Faster than most web apps
- Connectivity independence
The clash of the titans: iOS vs Android
Although PWAs are a great improvement relative to traditional web apps, not everything is rainbows and sunshine. The biggest no-go for PWAs is the limited support by Apples iOS operating system. This has to do with the clash of the tech titans Google and Apple. PWAs are promoted by Google, the owners of chrome and Android. Whereas Apple has iOS as operating system and Safari as a substitute for chrome.
It’s mostly a political game between the two tech giants, although it is rooted in their company values. Apple has a closed app ecosystem focussing on quality, whereas Google has an open app ecosystem with a focus on reach.
However, I have to note that Apple is slowly supporting PWAs more and more. Things like push notifications are not supported yet, but maybe we will see this in the nearby future.
Deciding factors for Mendix to support PWA
In the past Mendix offered Hybrid Mobile Apps with PhoneGap technology. This is a technique to wrap a website within a mobile shell so it looks like a mobile app despite it is not. A couple of months ago (October 2020), Adobe, the owners of the PhoneGap, stopped supporting the technology. The company is aware of the rise of PWAs and do not see a need for PhoneGap anymore.
Based on the declining support for wrappers in favour of new technologies like PWAs and React Native, and thanks to the richness of these new frameworks, Mendix decided to support PWAs and React Native apps.
What the future will bring us
In Mendix 9 it is now possible to create PWAs! Which is great. Enabling Mendix developers to build robust offline functionalities and push notifications out of the box. At Gillz we are exited to see what PWAs bring to the Mendix ecosystem. We expect that Mendix’ support of PWAs and React Native will boost mobile apps developed with the low-code platform, but we also believe that this new stack will impact other areas.
A shift from B2E to B2C apps
Mendix is the perfect low-code environment for Business to Employee (B2E) applications. Also referred to as business applications. Of course, it is possible to create applications for customers (B2C) and businesses (B2B), yet Mendix focusses mostly on B2E. However, their support on PWAs and React Native may be an advance towards more focus on B2C as well. The new performance possibilities of progressive web apps and React Native mobile apps makes Mendix suitable for customer-facing frontends as well as the rich capabilities of these technologies.
SEO-proof Mendix applications for B2C apps
At the moment, making Mendix applications SEO-proof is hard and in conflict with the low-code promise. So, when we heard the news about PWAs we immediately contacted Danny Roest, Senior Product Manager at Mendix, to ask him about the current PWA implementation and search engine optimization (SEO) support. Danny indicated that in the current implementation is not fully SEO-proof, but that they are investigating ways to make this possible. The use of Gatsby, like we do on this website, is a possibility for example.