App downloads are at an all-time high, but a growing number of innovators believe that a world beyond them is the next frontier for technology.
We are constantly switching from one application to another to perform daily tasks. But this can be cumbersome, drain devices, and take a long time. It’s not unusual for people to use a combination of apps simultaneously to get a task done. Just think of all those times you had to switch to your email, while using another app, because you needed to check something in your inbox.
With people spending an average of four to five hours on their phones a day, this eventually adds up to a lot of wasted time and money. A recent study in the Harvard Business Review found that workers switch between apps and websites 1,200 times a day, which adds up to the equivalent of five weeks a year. Now imagine that combined with using your device outside of work.
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Not only is it time consuming, but it also saps people’s energy and productivity due to what is known in neuroscience as “context switching.”
In less than two decades, we’ve gone from wishing there was “an app for that” to having a plethora of options. At first glance, this may seem like a benefit. It actually points to an underlying problem in the app ecosystem: there are so many apps out there, but very few of them actually do what we want them to do for us.
Leading voices in the tech community say the emergence of low-code and no-code tools, coupled with unprecedented access to data in the cloud, provides an opportune time to reimagine how we create app-based experiences.
As cloud platforms have become a staple in many applications, they already contain vast amounts of data that could act as building blocks for this refocusing on application development. But what could this new paradigm look like? What is needed to make it a reality? And will this be the end of apps as we know them?
From the domain of applications to the absence of applications
Join any current conversation about the future of app development, and you’ll hear two divergent schools of thought.
Proponents of the ‘super app’ believe that one holistic app should perform the activities of multiple apps. However, this is most likely built and run by a big tech company. For example, WeChat allows users to not only chat, but also shop, pay bills, and access government services. Meta’s move to allow users to log in across multiple platforms using their Facebook account, or shop directly on Instagram, could be seen as a precursor to this.
Web3 enthusiasts, on the other hand, believe that the future will be a decentralized application ecosystem where user preferences, versus boardroom decisions, will drive the market. This world would put more emphasis on data privacy and would try to break the hold that Big Tech currently has on the market.
The emergence of low-code and no-code tools is key to democratizing development.
While both approaches differ in their reasoning, they fundamentally point to dissatisfaction with the current app landscape. But will we have to choose between the loss of privacy in the face of a flood of new applications?
The challenge is that pre-built experiences are unlikely to meet unforeseen needs and innovation that doesn’t align with broader business goals.
For example, the primary goal of a salon booking app is to allow customers to book appointments, which directly correlates to the business goals of increasing revenue for the app developer and their business customers.
But what if salon clients really want an app that shows them what they would look like with different hairstyles or allows them to submit pictures of their desired ‘do’ before booking? What if the user wants to recheck their calendar to see if a particular time matches another appointment, or what the weather will be like on the available dates?
Without a perspective that represents the holistic hair styling experience, beyond the capabilities of the existing app, those unexamined needs can be challenging to surface, resulting in missed opportunities to truly engage with users beyond the obvious.
Instead of relying on companies to build an app that can partially or partially solve their needs, some believe we are moving into an era beyond apps, where people can directly connect to the services they need on the web. cloud, without an application acting as an intermediary.
The convergence of no-code and the cloud
The rise of low-code and no-code tools is key to democratizing development for the general public. The accessibility of low-code and no-code tools gives people the opportunity to express their needs through the technology they’ve created, even if they don’t have the technical vocabulary to bring those ideas to life. Similarly, engineering teams can also benefit from these tools by quickly building applications and services, without needing to delve into many technical details.
But being able to create a tool is not enough. To build a truly personalized experience, we need data.
With over 140 billion app downloads, the use of our technology has created a huge amount of data across various apps. Combined, each application represents a more complete and unique profile of our identity and preferences.
Rather than shoehorn data into an application via multiple APIs, technology innovators like a16z general partner Peter Levine envision being able to seamlessly combine data so users can query requests from a single source of truth. The result would be a service that allows users to connect directly to the cloud to access personalized information uniquely based on their request.
The convergence of these trends is bringing new technologies to the fore. Along with these industry-led developments, a novel approach is the brainchild of leading GraphQL company, Apollo Graph, Inc, which is enabling the technology industry to take an appless approach through the development of a new architecture.” supergraph”.
Making the supergraph simple for everyone
The super graph creates a network of data capabilities and microservices of an enterprise. It allows teams to independently develop their back-end by combining data from multiple resources without the hassle and strain that would otherwise come with creating a custom chart.
Peggy Rayzis, senior director of developer experience at Apollo, tells TNW that the supergraphic will lower the barrier for app development. “By making it more accessible and reducing that time, you’ll see even more innovation, and because the supergraphic is so flexible, you can use it for any type of application.”
While Rayzis notes that there are myriad uses for the supergraphic, he points to companies like e-commerce and travel companies that are using this novel technology to transform their platforms.
Making rigid app development more flexible opens the door to new models and experiences.
Let’s say, for example, that you’re booking a trip and want to stay somewhere that serves your favorite foods. Rather than having to piece together this information yourself, a platform using the supergraph could look at data from your food delivery and takeout app, along with your flight search history and previous hotel stays to determine which destinations and hotels would better suit your preferences. The answers that emerge are the result of each person’s individual needs, resulting in tailored information being served. This flexible and fluid design meets the unique needs of each individual, focusing its performance on the person who uses it.
Tools like the Apollo Super Chart allow application developers to get an overview of the combinations of data that would be most useful to clients. As a result, they can build an architecture that is focused on user needs, intuitively helping people answer queries effectively and efficiently.
Instead of writing hundreds of lines of code,” Rayzis says, “you can open Explorer, our GraphQL IDE, and without any code, click a plus sign to build that query. That’s a great example of how the supergraphic makes app development easier and more accessible through low-code tools.”
Instead of a platform cumbersomely plugging into multiple APIs, engineering teams can seamlessly incorporate data from multiple sources and create a central source of truth that allows them to create a flexible, modular framework that’s right for the individual.
Why it’s time to reinvent apps
In the same way that apps were slow to become mainstream, this renewed approach to development could change the way people interact with technology. Now that we’ve made the cloud a rich data source for countless applications, we can encapsulate all of that data in ways that enhance the experience of each individual user, rather than a vague cross section of it.
Creating an architecture shaped by the user experience challenges the long-established norms we have grown accustomed to, but it points a way forward that is useful to engineering teams and users alike. Making rigid app development more flexible opens the door to new models and experiences that are a significant win for both parties.