Making mobile work
Close watchers of our careers webpage may have noticed our advertisements for a Senior iOS Developer and a Senior Android Developer. What does this mean for mobile at Xero?
Very early on we chose to build Xero Touch using HTML5 technologies. That choice showed that we care about the future of the open web and its continued success as an application delivery platform and we firmly believe that HTML5 is the future of development across any and all platforms. We do not regret this choice – but we’ve found that building a complicated mobile application in HTML5 has been hard. Even with frameworks as amazing as Sencha Touch, we’ve found the ability to iterate as fast as we would like has become harder as our application has become more complex.
The choice to go with HTML5 was very much a choice based on us – how do we use the skills we already have to build a mobile application? Unfortunately as the application grew we needed to hire to fill out the team, and we were never able to hire fast enough to fill those roles. Ironically those skills were equally as critical for the “desktop” version of Xero – we were cannibalizing our own team and slowing everything down.
Xero prides itself on not compromising on customer experience, and when it comes down to it, the question isn’t “How can we use our existing skills to build a mobile application?” but “What is going to enable us to deliver the best customer experience on the mobile devices that our customers use?”
Our view is that HTML5 technologies can deliver as-good-as-native experiences – and that will continue to be the focus for our core application, where we’ll continue to improve our performance on all devices. And we were all extremely impressed by Sencha’s Fastbook which is a testament to the ability to deliver great experiences using web technology. But the lesson from Fastbook is that it’s hard work – you don’t get those experiences out-of-the-box. And the lesson we’ve learnt over the last 12 months has been that the cost in time, effort and testing to bring an HTML5 application to a native level of performance seems to be far greater than if the application was built with native technologies from the get-go.
There’s a lot we want to pack into Xero Touch and there’s a lot that our interaction designers want to do to push the capabilities of our mobile accounting platform to its limits so we need to remove all the impediments to delivering on that. Maintaining and iterating a web app was becoming a big impediment – so the next release of Xero Touch will be built with native technologies and we’ve already made a lot of progress. It does feel better.
We’re still hiring for a Senior Android developer to lead the development of our Android applications, so if you’ve got the skills or know someone who does please get in touch.
UPDATE: Hear from our new iOS developer
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