According to a recent Broadband Search Study, the number of users accessing the internet on their mobile devices has more than doubled in recent years, as has the number of users accessing mobile apps. We are a society attached to our phones and use them for nearly everything. Needless to say, the market for effective, efficient, user friendly mobile apps is only going to grow in the coming years.
Web vs. Hybrid vs. Native Apps
There’s certainly no one-size-fits-all solution to mobile app development. In general, you’ll find that you’ve got three choices when it comes to creating an app for your business: native apps, mobile web apps, and hybrid apps.
What is a Native App?
Native apps are built specifically for mobile operating systems and are downloaded from an app store on mobile devices. Native app development is specific to the platform on which the app will be running. This means that your app will have to be created at least twice – once for the Android platform and once for iOS.
What is a Mobile Web App?
Mobile web apps are essentially websites designed to look and act like apps. Instead of downloading from an app store, mobile web applications are accessed via web browsers such as Firefox, Chrome, etc. The difference between a mobile web app and a website is that mobile web apps provide more functionality and easier interactions. Since the codebase used is the same across all web browsers, mobile web app development is simpler. Web apps run on whichever browser the user chooses. Done and done.
What is a Hybrid App?
Hybrid apps look like native apps and are downloaded like native apps. But they actually function as mobile web apps. Essentially, you’ll download a native-looking “shell,” but once opened the app runs on the web browser. This means that hybrid apps, too, work across multiple platforms.
Why Choose Mobile Web App Development?
In general, the functionality and performance of a web app is considered inferior to that of a native app; but that’s not to say that web apps don’t have their place. There are several benefits to developing a web app over a native or hybrid app.
Benefits of Web Apps
The difference between web development and mobile app development is significant. There are several benefits to opting for a web app vs. a mobile app.
Easier to develop and maintain – Since all web apps use a single codebase, both developing and maintaining them is much more streamlined than a native app. While there is no software development kit to use when developing web app for mobile devices, there are templates available which make mobile web application development pretty straightforward and relatively quick.
Additionally, standard browser-based tools are available for debugging apps when issues arise, thus simplifying the troubleshooting and problem resolution processes. Bonus: the fact that mobile web apps are simpler to develop and maintain can make choosing the right developer a little bit less stressful.
Less Expensive – You’ll be charged by the hour for both web and mobile app development. Since web apps are easier to develop and maintain, you’ll end up with significant savings when going the web app route.
Updates are easy – Because they run in a web browser, mobile web apps do not require approval from an app store before release, making updates a non-issue. The newest version of a web app is always available to the user as soon as it’s made live on the website.
No space requirements – Since web apps run in browsers and aren’t downloaded, they don’t take up space on your device.
Drawback of Web Apps
User experience – Compared to a native app with the same features, a mobile web app will usually provide the less positive experience. This is due, in part, to the fact that web apps are unable to leverage device features such as push notification, vibration, etc.
That said, progressive web apps – which do allow the browser to utilize these functions – are becoming more popular for use on Google and Android platforms. IOS isn’t yet compatible with progressive web apps.
Additionally, users have to take a few extra steps to access web apps. With a native app you simply select the app on your device’s home screen and that’s that. Web application require that you open a web browser and type in a URL. With consumers placing so much value on ease of use and efficiency, this can be perceived as a negative.
Lower Visibility – Since mobile web apps don’t require download, they have no visibility in the app store. This means that you’ll have to work extra hard when it comes to branding and marketing if you want to get your product in front of potential users.
Is a Mobile Web App Right for You?
Could be. Here are a few things to consider as a part of your decision-making process:
Price – Mobile web app development will almost always be more expensive than native app development. It’s safe to say that development of a native app from the ground up will cost somewhere in the $100K range (for a first version!), and you can expect around 20% of that in annual maintenance costs as well. If you’re on a tight budget or want to save your cash until you’re sure your app is ready to hit the ground running, a mobile web app could be the solution you’re looking for.
Timeline – What kind of deadline are you working with? Due to increased complexity and the need to develop for multiple platforms, it will take longer to get a native app up and running. If you’re on a tight deadline, developing a web app for mobile devices might be the way to go.
User Experience – To be honest, this should be the main concern. It doesn’t matter how quickly or cheaply you can build your app. If users don’t like it, they won’t come back to it. It’s imperative that you provide the best user experience possible.
That said, if your app is something that users will only need to access every once in a while, then a web app could definitely work. The other factor to consider here is the complexity of the features users will be accessing. Simplicity is key when it comes to creating a positive experience on mobile web apps.
A web app may be great option if:
- Your app focuses on collecting data from new users – i.e. filling out forms.
- Your app is used occasionally, such as for browsing or checking out of an online storefront.
- Your app is intended to curate content, which users then consume. Think recipes, articles, etc. In this case interaction is possible, but not the main purpose of the site.
In the end, it’s best to sit down and really evaluate the needs of your end user. How and when will they be interacting with your app? What do they intend to accomplish with this interaction? How will your app make their lives easier? Once you’re clear on this, the best option between a mobile web application and native application will probably be pretty clear.
We know that the decision to develop a mobile web app over a native app, or vice versa, can be challenging. The good news is that Hungry Media has your back. Our unique approach and methodology will help uncover the best way to leverage your app as a means of connecting with customers and growing your business. Ready to start discussing your great idea? Contact us today. We can’t wait to meet you!
contributed by Melissa Lucas, senior staff writer