Native Apps or Web Apps, this is the question. The debate is on for which is more important for businesses to use. There is of course no ‘right answer’, only differences that may be beneficial depending on what you require.
Let’s be clear from the start what native applications and web applications are. A native app is downloaded by a user to their smartphone, iCabbi [iCabbi is currently in closed group testing, prior to release in App Store] and Entertainment.ie both have native apps for iPhone, and iCabbi also has an Android app.
These are designed and built for specific platforms and function seamlessly on that platform. Web apps are available across every web enabled device, and are formatted as such. They are not platform specific and cannot take advantage of the hardware functionalities of mobile devices such as the camera and contacts.
As Francisco Inchauste of http://www.getfinch.com puts it;
“Native applications offer (arguably) a superior experience, because they are designed for that device, specifically. Delivering the same web app to every device is a usability nightmare. Interactions on various devices deserve their own considerations.”
Native apps have a great response time, you download them to your smartphone, and BAM they’re ready and waiting for you to use as you please. Generally speaking native apps are more responsive, with less waiting around for content to load. However, technology advances constantly and web apps are improving with these changes. The new buzz phrase flying around now is ‘Responsive Web Design’. The design of web apps that work seamlessly on every device, be that iPad, iPhone, Android, Symbian, Windows PC or an iMac.
“Responsive Web design is the approach that suggests that design and development should respond to the user’s behavior and environment based on screen size, platform and orientation. The practice consists of a mix of flexible grids and layouts, images and an intelligent use of CSS media queries. As the user switches from their laptop to iPad, the website should automatically switch to accommodate for resolution, image size and scripting abilities. In other words, the website should have the technology to automatically respond to the user’s preferences. This would eliminate the need for a different design and development phase for each new gadget on the market.” – Kayla Knight [http://coding.smashingmagazine.com/2011/01/12/guidelines-for-responsive-web-design/#more-75660]
The key to responsive web design is flexibility. The responsive nature of various elements are the key to a website working successfully across various platforms. Flexible grids & images are key.
We can see some great examples of websites that have been designed to be responsive for every platform and mobile web device here.
There are clear arguments for both sides, but ultimately it depends in your business, what you are trying to achieve with your app, and how your users will interact with your products or services.