Mendix 9 is released with a potential game changer, PWAs
Mendix 9 - PWA support - Gillz

Mendix 9 offers Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)

Yeah! Mendix 9 is released with a potential game changer. The Mendix Studio Pro 9 supports building progressive web apps (PWA). PWA is a type of application (App) delivered through the web, build using technologies like: HTML, CSS and JavaScript. A PWA has the functionalities of a mobile app, such as offline and push notification functionalities, only then build with common used web technologies that are easier to learn then native mobile app programming languages. So, is your next Mendix app going to be a PWA? Let’s find out!

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.

Gartner Quadrant - Low-code platform Mendix 2019

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

When building applications, we all dream of having one team working on one codebase, or low-code platform, resulting in an application that works on multiple devices with variating operating systems. Unfortunately, most of the time this is not the case. Platform-specific apps are built for a specific OS and even in another language. This is not the case for PWAs. Just one codebase, mostly written in JavaScript. So, no need for Swift, Object-C, Java or Kotlin. This saves time and money, what can now be spend on the performance and usability of your application!

  • One codebase for cross-platform
  • (Mostly) written in JavaScript with HTML and CSS

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

iOS vs Android

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.

Mendix also noticed the declining interest in website mobile wrappers and the rise of PWAs and frameworks like React Native. Sidestep: if you want to know more about React Native click here. In a recent survey of Stack overflow the gap between wrappers and new JavaScript-based frameworks like React Native in terms of usage by developers is noticeable:

Stack overflow 2020 Developers survey - Technologies

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.

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Bob vdP
Bob van der Panne
Commercieel Manager
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