The mobile landscape offers both opportunity and challenge.
This year, nearly one-in-four people across the globe will be a smartphone user, according to a report by eMarketer. By 2017, smartphones will be in the hands of more than one-third of individuals around the world.
For many users, their mobile device is their primary instrument for digital activity and web browsing.
Clever businesses have adapted quickly to super-serve their audience by building mobile experiences tailored to their users’ needs. Of course, engineers – rightfully – still agonize and debate over how best to develop an app that will capture an audience’s attention and keep them engaged, and drive business and branding.
To create a worthy mobile experience today, you must decide whether to pursue an HTML5 app or a native app. Here are important benefits and drawbacks to consider with each.
Working With HTML5
A more familiar language for developers, HTML5 allows you to build a responsive app that works across all different platforms (Android, iOS, Blackberry, etc.) using one code base.
Without dedicated apps for each platform, written in unique code, your engineers do not have to keep up with multiple languages at once and need only to maintain and update one app instead of three – or five. The ease of building an HTML5 app and the cost savings alone make this a tempting option.
Additionally, important bug fixes and updates may go live immediately as soon as you’ve released them to the public. Unlike native apps which pass through regulated app marketplaces, HTML5 apps do not need to be manually downloaded and updated by users.
Furthermore, HTML5 apps may be introduced to market whenever you are ready. By comparison, native apps submitted to the App Store and the Google Play marketplace go through a review process which may delay your go-to-market schedule.
Naturally, an open marketing strategy has its limitations. Apps tend to get most of their distribution through centralized stores such as the App Store and Google Play. Android and iOS users turn to those platforms to discover new apps that may help them solve a problem.
Worth noting is that HTML5 apps are only available through a user’s browser. Instead of having a dedicated space on a mobile user’s home screen, an HTML5 app must be searched for and then loaded. Therefore, an HTML5 app’s offline capabilities are limited to whatever the browser cached during earlier user visits.
Communication with your users is often harder with an HTML5 app too. Without push notifications, fans may forget your app was ever available.
Of course, many of these things may not be important to you. If you have a strong marketing strategy to drive usage and expect users to love your app enough to bookmark it, reference it frequently and have constant access to an internet connection, an HTML5 app may be perfect for you.
Still, do not rule out native apps just yet.
For many smartphone and tablet users, it feels more natural to click an icon on their home screen and access an app’s full capabilities. Once a user has downloaded a native app onto their mobile device, the app’s perennial availability makes it painless to use.
Though developing a native app can be cumbersome due to the unique coding language you must use and the strict regulations of app marketplaces, you may take advantage of a number of great opportunities.
For starters, the platform-specific nature of a native app allows you to add powerful features and functionality that improve the overall user experience, including faster performance and an interactive interface.
Installed apps also streamline communication with your users. Push notifications and well-documented update logs remind your user that your app is present and useful, and that your team has worked hard to improve the user experience.
Another advantage for native app creators, once they get into gated marketplaces is centralized distribution. App stores make it possible for your app to be seen by hundreds, thousands or even millions of users as it grows in popularity.
Going native is no walk in the park though. The intricacies of a new coding language are enough to stop many experienced developers in their tracks. The costs of maintenance can also be a hindrance especially if you plan to develop native apps for multiple mobile platforms.
HTML5 apps are easily the more cost-effective option. If performance and “wowing” your user is high on your priority list, going native is a no-brainer.
Ultimately, it will depend on what your available resources are. Now, if you are still indecisive, you may develop a hybrid app to get the best of both worlds.
But before you make your final decision, the real secret here is: Build an experience your users want.
With that in mind, you may realize you do not need to overcomplicate the issue with anything more than an HTML5 app or a hybrid app. On the other hand, you may recognize an opportunity to grow your business threefold with a flawless native app.
A user-first attitude that also factors in mobile’s long-term impact on your business will help you reach a smart decision.
How will you develop your next mobile experience?