It’s never been easier to build an app, but with so much competition on the market, you need to make sure you get it right. Whether you go for a native app or a web-based app is one of the most important decisions you will make for development. Knowing the difference between the two can save you time, money and plenty of headaches in the long run.
Web Apps are internet-enabled and can be accessed at any time from any device via a web browser, such as Safari or Chrome, on any device. Native Apps are developed for a specific mobile platform (e.g. iOS or Android) and need to be downloaded directly onto the device for use. Native apps are found and downloaded via app stores such as the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.
Web-based apps can cheaper and faster to develop. Sourcing web app developers is an easily done online through freelance sites, and you can instantly access their past jobs from your own web browser to see if the work they do is a right fit for you. There’s also no need to hire different developers for different platforms. If you build a native app and want it to be accessible by all mobile users, you would need to build both an iOS and Android version (or use a cross-platform toolkit), whereas your web app will be available to use on all devices with no extra work.
Web apps can also be deployed instantly, with no interference or commission taken from third-parties. For example, Apple and Google each have their own approval process which can take anywhere from minutes to months before your app is available for public download. Your app is also susceptible to operating system updates and hardware changes, such as when the new iOS and iPhones come out each year, which means the ongoing cost can also be higher. With each update that follows the app’s initial release, you also need to receive approval - and both companies will take 30% of your revenue for their service
Another advantage of web apps is that they can be accessed at any time without downloading to a device. Due to “app overload”, the new phenomena where individuals are reportedly suffering from poor mental health and decreased productivity as a result of having too many apps, users are more hesitant to download apps. It’s also hard to gain the trust of users for native apps when there are few downloads or reviews listed.
With all of that being said, you may be questioning why some still go down the native app path.
Native apps can provide functionality that web apps simply can’t. For example, native apps can have advanced camera functions, and can also have foreground and background geolocation tools which can help you to gather necessary data (think Uber). They can also be developed to work offline, whereas web apps are entirely reliant on internet access.
Additionally, for those developing for business to consumer purposes, it could make more sense to build a native app. If the app needs to be accessed more frequently, users may find it frustrating constantly having to access their web browser as opposed to an app that’s installed on their phone. Native apps also allow businesses to push messages through to their consumers more frequently. Web app notifications are often through SMS or email, which can be filtered out or overlooked by a user.
While we suggest that most businesses start off with a web-based app, depending on its success, this may not always remain the most logical option. Native apps can be used to complement pre-existing web apps (or vice versa), but there are a couple of ways to tell when the time is right.
If a large number of your existing web app users are demanding a native alternative, take this into consideration! Where there’s demand, there will be supply - unless your app is truly unique, it’s likely that there’s something similar on the market already. You don’t want your users turning to other native apps because you wouldn’t make the move.
You may also consider building a native app once your functionality is more locked in stone. If your features are still changing frequently, with a native app on your hands, you’re only doubling the costs of building the features for both platforms.
When you’re making your decision over whether to develop a native or web app, there are a number of factors you need to take into consideration. Reflect on the features you want the app to have, your immediate and ongoing budget for development, and the time you have available to build. While our recommendation is almost always web apps, we recognise that this won’t fit all businesses - so your decision needs to be well-formed!
If you need help making the decision between native or web app, feel free to contact us here.