Web Applications vs. Mobile Applications – A Discussion

We are often asked by clients about the cost to build a Mobile App, and we’re happy to provide an answer and discussion on that request, just send us some details.  The discussion often then turns to an examination of whether or not the best outcome of the project is actually a Mobile App, or perhaps the alternative as a Mobile Web App.

Web Applications, seem to be viewed by clients and business owners as a less valuable or less capable altenative.  They do however have a wide range of capabilities once reserved for Native Apps, and that list of capabilities is always expanding (if you’d like some technical detail, this post is a good place to start).

The answer to the question of whether or not you should build a Native App, or stick with a Web App is different in each case, and may depend on several factors.  This discussion usually seems to focus on a few key areas:

  • App Store listings – If you want to be in the App Stores (iTunesGoogle Play, and others), then you need to build a Native App.
  • Push Notifications – This is no longer a concept reserved to Native Apps, one can push notifications through various browser platforms, or even use SMS through a myriad of providers offering relatively easy integration with their systems
  • Performance – While a true Native Apps seems to “feel” better and have a more responsive experience, Web Apps are coming along nicely in this area, and today’s Smartphones and Tablets are more powerful every year and more capable of offering similar performance and feel even through a browser.

This isn’t to say we necessarily favour one over the other, like a true provider of solutions to business problems we treat each engagement on its own requirements and merits and make a recommendation that fits the situation.  Some other issues to consider when making this decision:

  • Choice of Developmnent Technology or Platform – Building a native app can be done in many ways, coded for each platform, using a hybrid approach that is truly native (React Native or NativeScript for example), or one that isn’t quite truly native (Ionic for example).  Web Applications on the client side of the equation have many choices as well with the key one often being the JavaScript framework employed (AngularReact, and others).
  • Ongoing Maintenance and Support – Any framework will have updates, security patches/issues, improvements, etc.  Maintaining Native Apps can often be a more challenging burden with the number of devices in use in today’s marketplace a very high number, and any changes to Native Apps require them to be resubmitted to the App Stores for review and approval.
  • Native “need” – Web Applications are often a faster development cycle, and updates can often happen almost in real time as code changes and website URLs are revisited downloading the latest version of the app potentially on each use.  Do you truly need the extra benefits offered by a Native App, or can you live without it, or even start with a Web App and then create or package as a Native app later?

There is more to this story and its aspects are evolving at a rapid rate.  The frameworks we used even just a year ago are already into new major versions and have major differences in how you create and build both types of applications.

One more little detail – the backend applications and services!  Very often, in most cases in fact, there is a backend service, API, or server side web application that is needed to fuel the front end app, store data, perform operations and reporting, and more.  Stay tuned for that discussion coming soon, it warrants a post of its own.

Ask us today about your idea for an app, or your need for one to help your business or startup!