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Web Apps v’s Native Apps

A hot debate within mobile and business right now, is when to deploy a Native app v’s when to deploy a Web app. To briefly outline the difference between the two:

Native Apps are where an app is specifically designed and engineered for a specific device i.e. iOS (Apple) or Android platform for example. Web apps however, are housed on the Web and therefore accessible via a browser, but can look and feel like a native app that you might typically download from an app store. Web apps however, can typically only be accessed whilst accessing the Internet with little or no off-line capability.

Advantages with Native Apps: 

  • Fast, responsive User-Interface (UI)
  • Can fully exploit hardware features
  • Can make efficient use of local storage

Disadvantages with Native Apps:

  • App rollout is a complicated procedure involving multiple steps
  • Technically demanding to create i.e. expensive
  • (in comparison to other techniques)
  • App works only on one type of platform

Advantages with Web Apps:

  • Available on all devices which provide a “browser”
  • Larger pool of technical skills available in market
  • Standards are developing fast

Disadvantages with Web Apps:

  • User-experience compromised
  • More specialised device features inaccessible to app
  • In practice difficult to ensure app works in all browsers

RNF Digitals position with regards to this debate, is that the decision as to which approach to take should be driven by the requirement, both from a technical and commercial perspective. Two great examples of which can be illustrated with some of our recent projects.

Native App Case Study

Our Bridgestone Challenge app is a native (iPad) solution. The reasons for this are several fold:

  • The “user experience” is an important requirement to ensure 1) the app is used effectively and 2) the adoption rate from relatively inexperienced iPad users is as high as possible. The app is rich in functionality as the user is required to perform many functions. The User Interface (UI) is therefore quite complex and in this instance native apps are often more appropriate, as the app will be coded specifically for the device in question. To build an app like this as a Web app, ensuring the user experience and performance remains extremely highly and accessible on thousands of devices, would be a major undertaking.
  • The end users devices is known. In this case we know all Bridgestone employees have iPads, so Native is again the compelling choice.
  • Performance – Native apps perform better because once again we would code it specifically for the device in question, as opposed to a web app which is one size fits all devices and operating systems.

Web App Case Study

A recent app we have built for a firm in the construction business is a Web app, with the rationale being:

  •  We don’t know what devices the end users are using as they are all subcontractors of our client, so a web app is accessible to anyone with a smartphone and  Internet connection.
  • The UI is quite straight forward i.e. users simply select building tasks they have conducted and view or process, as required.
  • The nature of the data involved is quite “light” in its nature i.e. invoices and not large video, graphics etc
  • The budget would not allow for a native version for each of the platforms, so a one size fits all web app is again more appropriate and hugely [in comparison] cost effective.

Conclusion

In summary, the decision as to which approach to adopt may well be driven by commercial pressures, as it is a costly business to create a series of native apps. If as a company you know the devices your end users are using, Native becomes a lot more attractive and you will have a single platform to create great looking and performing apps which are relatively straight forward to maintain. Sometimes your apps may be used by parties outside of your organisation, so you cannot determine what devices they will have, which pushes the case for a Web app in certain instances. Web apps may initially appear to be a compelling way forward (one size fits all) when considering your companies app strategy and are becoming more standardised and powerful,  but they still cannot offer the same user experience or offline capabilities as a native apps.  Our conclusion therefore when contemplating whether to go Native or Web, is that it depends…

Contact us if you would like to learn more.