There are three main mobile app types you can explore for your mobile app development project: web, native and hybrid. All three development paths hold intrinsic value, but which approach is right for your project?
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
While the initial cost of native mobile app development may be higher than other options, this development approach will save money over time. By offering a great user experience, better performance and accessibility, native apps are able to offer users a more personalized product. The multiple advantages of native apps will result in higher conversion rates and long-term customer loyalty.
With native app development, you have to build different apps for different operating systems; however, developers have new technology for programming. Two platforms, in particular, Xamarin and React Native can sometimes be classified as other types of native app development.
Xamarin lets developers build one app that runs on many platforms using C#. With C#-shared codebase, developers can use Xamarin tools to write native iOS, Android, and Windows applications with native user interfaces and share code across multiple platforms.
In mobile app development, the term native is defined as an ecosystem that Apple or Google, for example, chooses for developing apps for their operating systems. Xamarin and React Native technology is very complex and can be classified as either native or hybrid. Xamarin can be considered a native and a hybrid development platform, as it builds native Android, iOS, and Windows apps in C#, with either Visual Studio or Xamarin Studio. It also creates hybrid applications for multiple operating systems using C# codebase, IDE, language, and APIs. However, since there is another layer between the code and the platform, many people consider it hybrid development.
Hybrid app development is essentially a web app that incorporates additional native features. Including native features is possible when you deploy a wrapper to act as a bridge between platforms. A hybrid app consists of two parts:
With hybrid app development, you have to contend with issues that stem from both native systems and hybrid systems, which makes bug fixing more difficult. Performance is also a disadvantage because hybrid apps load in a webview. The user experience is often sacrificed with a hybrid app as you cannot customize the app based on the platform.
Customizability is a significant disadvantage to hybrid apps. The more customization you do, the more you’re steering toward a native solution. If customization is important to you, taking the native approach to development will be more beneficial. In fact, the more customization you want in your hybrid app, the more expensive the project will be, and therefore a native solution will end up being more cost-effective.
The decision to build either a web, native or hybrid app should be based on your business objectives. Before jumping into development, you should consider the following factors:
Whichever approach you choose should, above all, be quick, responsive, and reliable. As users are demanding more from mobile experiences, it’s important to keep up with their changing demands. Whichever app you decide to build, remember the following:
Finally, it’s important to work with an app development company that specializes in platform-specific design and development.
In short, choosing a development method should not be determined solely by cost. The user experience should be the primary factor that helps you decide whether to build a web, native or hybrid app.
While a hybrid app may have lower upfront costs, hybrid apps are more prone to bugs which can end up costing you more money. Not to mention losing frustrated users to subpar user experience. When working with the latest features released for a particular operating system, bugs become a huge concern for hybrid app development. This carries cost implications and can extend the timeline for development.
Similarly, web apps may not be as expensive as native apps, but depending on your business goals and required functionality, a web app might not meet user expectations for experience.
The debate surrounding which app type is best is still very relevant today as the lines between the three approaches are becoming increasingly blurred. While the discussion to differentiate the three mobile apps continues, it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t choose an approach for the technology, but instead, choose based on what you want your app to do. If you choose an approach that doesn’t allow your app to utilize device features, for example, then you’ll end up wasting a lot of time and money when you decide to add features.
The choice between web, native, and hybrid development is dependent on a number of factors, including business needs, app requirements, developer skill, and timelines. The bottom line is that each type of app offers an entirely different experience and it’s important to know the strengths and weaknesses of each before jumping into development.