Everyone agrees that apps are great marketing tools for engaging consumers. Now the debate is whether to develop native or web apps. Which is better? Well, it depends.
What Are Native Apps, Web Apps, and Hybrid Apps?
Native apps are apps that are explicitly developed and stored on a device. Native apps require installation.
Web apps are written entirely with web technologies and the code is executed by the browser; installation is optional.
Hybrid apps are native apps with embedded HTML. They have most of the benefits of native apps. The web portions can be packed with the app or downloaded from the web.
Factor 1: How Will the Consumer Use the App?
If the app uses features of the device (microphone, speaker, camera, vibration, GPS, etc.), a native app is more appropriate. If the app relies on the Internet for content (i.e., a catalog of products), a web app is more appropriate. This chart demonstrates applications by Internet task – shopping and search apps being heavy browser users are more likely to be web apps while connecting and navigating apps use features of the device and are more likely to be native apps.
Factor 2: How Fast and How User Friendly Do You Want the App?
Since a native app is explicitly downloaded and stored on the device, generally the user experience is better. The user interface can be cleaner without multiple frames. As Matt Legend Gemmell said when speaking about native apps in his article “Apps vs the Web,” “…humans are designed to focus the majority of our attention on a single task at a time. Interfaces which permit and even encourage this separation of concerns reduce our stress level, and facilitate concentration.” Native apps tend to have better graphics and a smooth user experience due to the interface with the device.
Factor 3: How Will the App Be Distributed?
Native apps can be distributed for free through app stores using their payment system. However, a negative is the loss of control through the approval process, monetization, and promotion of the app. Web apps generally have less visibility and are usually marketed using search engines or on branded websites directly to the consumer.
Factor 4: What Do You Want to Spend?
Native apps are more expensive to develop, as they need to be developed for each specific operating system – iOS, Android (multiple devices), Windows, etc. Many web apps can be developed by in-house developers using existing skills. Therefore, native apps can also take longer to develop. Maintaining apps on multiple operating systems is also expensive and time consuming.
Of course, you can always use the hybrid model, which can combine the best of both worlds. Hybrid applications are increasingly rising in popularity as operating systems become more fragmented.
Usage, user experience, control, distribution, and cost all come into play when developing an app; and then there is how to design the app itself so that it is engaging and retains the user to defray distribution costs.
To learn more, watch this great presentation entitled “HTML5, Hybrid or Native Mobile App Development Webinar.”
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