Depending on your business objectives and overall product goals, this decision can make or break the success of your mobile strategy. Deciding to build your mobile product as either a web, native or hybrid app involves a variety of factors for consideration. This comparative piece will examine all three options, and at the end of the post, we’ve included an infographic outlining the advantages and disadvantages of each approach.
Web App Development
How are web apps different from websites? A website typically offers more information than a web app can display, therefore web apps condense website content to improve functionality. A web app loads in browsers like Chrome, Safari, or Firefox, and doesn’t need to be downloaded from app stores like native mobile apps. Web apps also don’t take up storage on the user’s device.
If your goal is to offer mobile-friendly content to a wide range of users, a web app might be the appropriate development path. Web apps are a cost-effective way to put your product in the hands of a lot of users. Keep in mind, users have incredibly high user experience and functionality standards that web apps sometimes can’t deliver. Users are easily frustrated with performance and usability issues like load times, small images, and network availability.
How Do You Build a Web App?
What are Progressive Web Apps?
Progressive web apps (PWAs) are hybrids of regular web pages and native apps. Overall, web apps lack the functionality of native apps, such as sending push notifications or working offline. Browsers and web apps, however, are becoming more advanced. Now, PWAs can leverage features similar to native apps. Improved functionalities include:
- Sending push notifications
- Access to device hardware like vibration
- Improved touch gestures
Despite these improvements, PWAs are only compatible with Google Chrome. This means iOS users can’t use this type of web app. Depending on your business goals and monetization strategy, excluding iOS users can be a huge disadvantage because iOS users spend the most money on apps and on in-app purchases.
Advantages of Web Apps
- Web apps are relatively easy to maintain because they use a common code base across multiple mobile platforms.
- Web apps can be built for all platforms as long as they can run in an appropriate web browser.
- Compared to native apps, web apps are less expensive upfront.
- Web apps don’t adhere to standard operating system protocols and don’t require approval from the app marketplace; they can be released at any time and in any format.
- Updates to web apps don’t need to go through an app store meaning the user doesn’t have to manage updates manually. The newest version always loads when a user opens a web app.
Disadvantages of Web Apps
- Web apps have a much smaller scope when it comes to leveraging device features and hardware.
- A browser is required to run a web app. Users have to take more steps to use a web app, whether that’s searching for the page or typing in a URL. Either way, more effort complicates the user experience.
- Users interact with different web browsers and as a result, the usage patterns and performance metrics used to create a product roadmap are more difficult to collect.
- Unless a web app marketed well, web apps have poor discoverability because they’re not listed in the app store.
- Web apps are slower and much less responsive than native apps.
- Web apps are less interactive and intuitive compared to native apps.
- There are fewer branding opportunities with web apps. An app store listing presents an invaluable opportunity to convey an app’s unique value proposition.
Native App Development
Native mobile apps are the most common type of app. They are built for specific platforms and are written in languages that the platform accepts. For example, Swift and Objective-C for native iOS apps and Java or Kotlin for native Android apps. Native apps are also built using the specific Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for the selected operating systems.
Both Apple and Google provide app developers with their own development tools, interface elements, and SDK. Most companies will invest in native mobile app development because of the multitude of benefits offered in comparison to other types of apps.