There’s an app for that, 3 in fact

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Web app versus mobile apps

Let’s look at the example of Gmail.

Gmail has a web app that you can use on your desktop browser, in which case, it’s a big application. It also has a web app you can use on your mobile browser and is tailored to the smaller screen. But then Gmail also has native mobile applications – the application that you can download from the app store and get it on your phone.

The modern web landscape actually gives us a lot of flexibility with a web application (apps build with HTML, CSS, JavaScript to load in a browser). We have a lot of flexibility in terms of mobile compatibility. For many applications, especially business applications, where it’s not high performance app like a game – there’s not a lot going on with graphics, it’s mostly information and workflow – a lot of that stuff can actually be done through a properly built web application.

That means I can have a web application that works just fine in a desktop environment and also scales down to a mobile browser.

There’s an app for that, 3 in fact

A lot of people want the actual app experience though. So they don’t want to bring up Safari, they don’t want to bring up Chrome. They don’t want to bring up Firefox on their phone. They want to actually have the app installed, just like all the other apps.

The possible dilemma with apps is that they’re native to the platforms. And what that means is that Android apps are typically built in Java technologies. And iOS apps are built in Apple technologies.

If you really want a native app experience, you have to build usually, at least three things: the native iOS app, the native Android app, and the web app.

The web app at least has the API’s that serve both of these clients, but then potentially has a user interface for the desktop user as well.

Typically, we encourage people to start with the least expensive option which is let’s just take the web application that we have to build anyway. And let’s customize that for mobile. And let’s see what you can get, how much runway you can get out of that in terms of ROI. A lot of times that’s perfectly sufficient. And that’s probably the trade off that makes most business sense, especially until they get users actually using it and they figure out where where the improvements need to be and whether or not a native app is actually going to give them the competitive advantage that they’re looking for.

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Originally published on 2020-06-08 by Royce Hall

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