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Build apps for all environments

Christian Elfers November 4, 2016

Multiplatform technology with map.apps for the official real estate market information system in the State of North Rhine-Westphalia

At the beginning of 2016, the new BORISplus.NRW 3.0 was released online, initially as a web app optimized for the desktop. In a second step, the app was made responsive, thus optimizing its use for tablets and mobile devices. Since the end of August 2016, the BORISplus Services of the state of NRW can now be used as real apps for iOS, Android and Microsoft. The BORISplus.NRW app can be obtained directly from the respective app stores.

For us, this service is particularly exciting from a technological point of view. It is clear how the focus changes from the specific app to the overall digital service, which serves as a solution for tasks and questions posed by users, and thus as a link to the digital organization. With the step into the app stores, NRW opens the service to further user circles. In addition to the new smartphone apps, the digital service for desktop, tablet and smartphone browsers can also be used. Optimized in terms of both technical and content aspects, it contributes positively to the user experience.

The procedure to release these apps is highly efficient. It is not necessary to reprogram individual apps for each application context, or to maintain them x number of times. Technologically, a single code basis is maintained, a single installation is operated, and only one skill set is required for the content development. Extensions and customizations are programmed once and can be used on all platforms and environments. For each platform, it is only necessary to define the build process by which the project is built for the particular system and store. (Note: the same code base is used for the web app App "). Despite the additional step, a permanent adaptation and custpmization is economically feasible.

map.apps provides the necessary foundation for a multi-platform solution. Layouting and interaction allow responsive design, for example, interface elements adapt dynamically. In addition, complete layouts of the interface can be defined via the layout engine and can be activated by rules (e.g., screen size, browser type, screen orientation, etc.). This is not limited to the interface, even functions or content can be controlled dynamically. For the packaging, map.apps uses Apache Cordova, which supports various mobile operating systems. There is much more potential for the future. These hybrid apps don’t just offer a different way to package and access the service through the app stores, but they offer many additional and innovative ways to improve the service experience and the user experience. For example, an offline strategy or the direct use of native smartphone capabilities such as the photos, videos, address book and possibly also soon Smartwatch, Siri, Apple Pay and much more.