Do You Need An Mobile App or a Mobile Website?

by Chris O'Donnell | May 22, 2013 12:59 pm

One of the questions that you have to answer when considering mobile development is the app versus web question. Do you need apps for each platform, or can your project succeed with a dedicated mobile site or a responsive redesign? The answer, of course, is “it depends.”

Native development offers the best performance and most flexibility, and the highest cost

Native development, building platform specific apps for iOS and Android is usually best when you need very high performance, access to phone features like the camera or GPS, or need off-line functionality. In those cases, writing apps specifically for the iPhone, iPad, or Android devices will usually provide the best solution. Access to device features and constant updates of real-time information like sports scores or stock prices works best with a native app running directly on the device. The downside to this approach is that it normally is the most expensive option as you have to build and maintain separate apps for iOS and Android. Also, all apps have to be approved by a third party before you can offer them in the Android or Apple App Store. That approval process takes time, and if you fail to get approval you may have to rework your app at additional cost. If you hope to monetize the app by selling it then you have to take this approach.

Mobile web development offers good balance between price and performance

HTML 5 or mobile web development utilizes the web browser on the device, so there is no app. The benefit is that you don’t have to maintain apps for multiple platforms. Everything will run through the browser. However, network connectivity is generally required so off-line access is probably not going to be available. Another factor is distribution. Without an app, you don’t gain the benefit of the exposure of having an app in the app store. On the positive side, you don’t have to pay the fees and royalties or deal with the rules associated with the app stores.

Modern CMS tools can help you effectively manage content across your traditional and mobile web sites. Or, you can redo your web site with responsive design, so that you have one site that automatically adjusts to the user’s access device. If you want to offer only a specific or limited set of features for mobile users then a mobile site can be the most cost effective strategy. If you want to offer your entire web site optimized for mobile, then go with responsive design.

Hybrid development offers benefits of both native and mobile web development

A third approach is the hybrid approach. This is what results from many of the cross platform development tools such as PhoneGap[1] or Xamarin[2].The end result is an app that looks and behaves like a traditional native app, but the underlying technology is wrapped in HTML 5 or Javascript. So you may lose some of the high end performance of a native app, but you gain efficiencies by developing once for both platforms. Also, the look and feel of the app will not be customized to the specific platforms. This can impact usability and adoption. Finally, hybrid development technically does allow you to write once and run on multiple platforms. However it is not magic. The app will not perform as well as a native app, and may not be as stable.

In the end, which development approach you take for mobile is going to depend on the objectives of the project, update and feature enhancement plans, your monetization or distribution goals, and your budget. NXC can help you figure all this out and make the smartest decision. Let us know if we can help.

Endnotes:
  1. PhoneGap: http://phonegap.com
  2. Xamarin: http://xamarin.com

Source URL: http://blog.nxcgroup.com/2013/do-you-need-an-mobile-app-or-a-mobile-website/