The battle between native apps versus web apps continues to persist as companies struggle to decide which one is best suited for their business. Web apps are applications that are accessed through a web browser while native apps are accessed through a particular device (i.e. an iPhone). While we’ve certainly seen an increase in native apps with the popularity of the Apple App Store and Google Play (formerly known as Android Market), it’s important to stay focused and strategic without getting lost in the hype of native apps. The question shouldn’t be: “should I get a native app”, but rather “do I need a native app”. Here are some tips to help you decide which route is best suited for your company.
How will you engage?
Depending on the type of information, users engage differently with web and native apps. For example, users are more likely to shop and make purchases through their browser rather than through a native app. So unless you’re a big brand retailer, users are more inclined to make purchases through your website. On the other hand, if your business focuses on connecting people through messages or pictures, native apps are better suited for social experiences. Native apps have the capability to use all the phone’s hardware features, such as the camera, geolocation technology, and address book so they are better equipped for social sharing experiences. Ultimately, considering your business and the goal of your app will help direct you towards which alternative will best engage your audience.
Often the most deterring part of building native apps is the sheer amount of time and money that it requires. Firstly, apps must be developed specifically for each mobile device and app store that they will appear in. So if you want your app to be available on different platforms, such as iOS, Android, or BlackBerry, you must develop separate versions. When you delve deep into app development, the costs quickly stack up as apps for each platform must be developed, tested, promoted, and maintained. Further, we’ve all experienced how quickly mobile technology changes and unfortunately these advances mean that more resources are required to keep your app up to date with current technology.
On the other hand, web apps often provide cross-platform compatibility, which means that they’re accessible across all devices. They can also be developed relatively quickly and affordably. Web apps also provide simple access for end users since there’s no need to download applications from an app store.
The bottom line is that native apps are very costly and require a lot of time to develop and manage – and that doesn’t guarantee that your app will be accessed in the sea of big brands and other apps. Often times, developers and companies release their native apps only to find low user rates once it’s live. There are several reasons for this, including high competition between apps, lack of consumer effort to research and find the best apps, and the difficulty of promoting apps within the store. If you consider that Apple’s App Store and Google Play have 700,000 and 600,000 apps respectively, it’s no wonder that many apps simply go unnoticed! So if you’re conscientious about your resources, consider that web apps will likely provide more bang for your buck.
Consider the Future: HTML5
HTML5 technology is cross-platform and is designed to deliver your content the way you want it. HTML5 web apps allow animation, apps, music, and movies to be built without needing to pay royalties or requiring browser plug-ins. Web apps also provide full ownership and control over your content whereas native apps require you to comply with the rules and restrictions of someone else’s ecosystem.
Both web and native apps have their advantages but before you rush into development, make sure you carefully consider your needs, resources, and which alternative will provide the best experience for your audience.