Hundreds of decisions must be made when you set out to build an app, from its graphic style to the features it will include to how you’ll market it. One of the most important of those decisions is whether you’ll build a native, web, or hybrid app. The development method you select will impact your app’s budget, timeline, usability, accessibility, and performance.
Everyone has an opinion on which type is best, but ultimately, your decision will depend on your business objectives and product goals. Here’s what you need to know about the app development options to help you decide which choice is right for your app.
Considerations for Choosing the Type of App
Native, web, and hybrid apps each have their pros and cons. You’ll want to become familiar with these advantages and disadvantages. But before you begin considering those details, it’s helpful to identify the parameters surrounding your project. Start by getting clarity around each of the following categories, then you’ll be better able to weigh each of the app development options.
- How quickly you plan to launch the app — Are you dealing with a tight time constraint? Or is your timeline flexible?
- The features you’ll include — Will the app make use of the device’s native features such as phone or GPS?
- Your budget — Are you restricted to a small budget or will your budget accommodate the full range of options?
- Development resources — Can you outsource the build to a partner or will you need to use in-house resources?
- What you are trying to accomplish — Do your users need a mobile app or will a web app serve them just as well? What market do you plan to target?
Keeping your users front and center in your planning will ensure that you choose the most efficient option that provides value to your users. Even the most expensive or beautifully designed app won’t do you much good if it doesn’t meet your users’ needs.
What is a Native App?
A native app is built for a specific platform in languages that the platform accepts. This approach differs from that of hybrid or wrapper apps, which are built with web languages, then “wrapped” in a web view that can be displayed natively on a device. So, if you want to develop an app for iOS and Android, you will need to code each version separately. You can’t repurpose the code you write for Android and Windows to iOS and vice-versa. Additionally, native device functionality works best in apps coded specifically for them. This makes them a popular choice for apps that leverage device features.
Native App Pros
If you’re looking to optimize performance and user experience while streamlining your code base, a native app might be the way to go. Here are some of the primary advantages of choosing a native app.
Improved usability — Since native apps are built specifically for the device they are being used on, native apps are generally more intuitive, easy to use, and provide the best user experience.
Optimal performance — The native option provides developers with access to the full feature set for the operating system, so native apps run smoothly with fewer glitches.
Single customized code base — Coding native apps is simpler and more streamlined, as the developer is coding for only one platform at a time and not trying to use one code base across multiple operating systems.
Native App Cons
Native apps can be limiting in terms of the development resources and time required to build them. You’ll want to understand these disadvantages of native apps before you go this route.
Specialization required — Building a native app means finding a team of developers that specialize in Android and iPhone development.
Separate development efforts — It takes two separate development efforts to build an app for both Android and iPhone. Development may take more time as a result. On the other hand, if you’re only planning to develop for either Android or iPhone, this consideration doesn’t matter as much.
What is a Web App?
A web app is a responsive website that can launch in a browser on a desktop computer, tablet, or mobile device. Web apps are designed to look good on any device and work with any operating system. As a result, web apps are a more cost-effective option and faster to build. If your goal is to offer mobile-friendly content to a wide range of users, this may be a good option.
Web App Pros
Web apps are preferred by many for their ease of use, affordability, and efficient development time. When it comes to the pros of this approach, here are the top attributes to consider.
Easy to maintain — Since web apps use standard website development coding, web apps are just as fast to build and update as a regular website.
Improved speed to market — Web apps can be built faster. They can also be released to the market faster since they do not require approval by app stores and marketplaces.
Accessibility — Web apps are accessible through a browser, so they can be used on any device, regardless of the operating system.
Traffic — Not only can web apps get traffic from search engines like Google, but you can also send your website visitors to your web app on mobile devices without them having to download anything.
Web App Cons
While web apps do have several advantages, there are a few downsides to this development method. Compared to native apps, web apps are typically less stable and offer less ability to use device features. Here are the most important cons to keep in mind if you choose to build a web app.
Internet connectivity required — Web apps cannot be accessed unless a user has WiFi or cellular data.
Instability — Differences and changes in web browsers can cause issues with running a web app. These regular updates will require a higher maintenance budget.
Limited device feature accessibility — Web apps have limitations since they can’t access a mobile device’s native features.
No app store and marketplace access — Users are accustomed to searching app stores and marketplaces for apps, and since web apps aren’t listed there, they may not find the app as easily.
What is a Hybrid App?
Learn more: 10 Best Hybrid App Examples
Hybrid App Pros
Hybrid apps offer a sort of middle ground between native and web apps. This lends them to a mix of advantages from either approach. These pros are among the top reasons you might consider building a hybrid app.
Fast development — Developing a single code set speeds up both the initial build of a hybrid app and also its maintenance. Cross-application development tools help to enable this process.
Ease of development — Developers don’t need to learn multiple technologies to create the app. This makes it a faster and easier process for in-house developers.
Increased reach for less cost — Creating an app for iOS and Android provides access to a wider audience, as the app can be available in both marketplaces. Though Android’s market share dominates globally, it’s close to 50/50 in the United States, so reaching both platforms is an advantage.
Hybrid App Cons
In the same way that hybrid apps present a mix of native app and web app advantages, they also present a few cons of each. If you’re considering building a hybrid app, be aware of these disadvantages before you proceed.
Poorer user experience — Usability is often not as good with hybrid development, and apps created for multiple platforms can’t always take advantage of all native features on all devices. They are also often slower than native apps.
Customization challenges — The more customizations an app requires, the more likely it is to also require native coding for each device. This drives up development time and cost and reduces the advantages of hybrid development.
New feature delays — Developers need to wait for the cross-platform framework to develop compatibility for new features that are released natively.
Performance issues — Communication challenges may arise, as the app isn’t built specifically for any one operating system. Additionally, you’re dependent on a third-party platform to deploy the app’s wrapper.
Native App vs Web App vs Hybrid App: No Right or Wrong
It’s great to have options when developing an app. Whether you choose to build a native, web, or hybrid app, there is no single right or wrong answer. Rather, the type of app you build depends on your app’s specific needs and purposes. Knowing the pros and cons of each approach will help you determine the right development method for your app.
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