HTML5 Vs. Native App

HTML5 Vs. Native App

With all of the web and tech buzz words that you hear every day it can be difficult for people not entrenched in the web industry to make sense of all the trends – especially as it may apply to your unique business’s needs. One of these is the ongoing battle between HTML5 apps vs. “native” apps. For a small business wanting to plan for a robust mobile strategy, this can sometimes be confusing. I think it is important to both define the terminologies we are using here and also define what form of mobile presence would be ideal for your business.

When we talk about a “native” app, we mean the self contained applications which are downloaded to phone/tablet through an app store. These can interact with the device’s hardware in a very robust way, and are built using advanced software programming languages such as Objective C and Java.

When you hear the phrase “HTML5 app” or even “web app”, this refers to an application built with HTML, CSS and javascript and designed to run in a web browser (such as Mobile Safari on an iPhone). These can have advanced features and processes and while not always able to take advantage of the device’s accelerated hardware in the same way that native apps can, they offer their own bonuses (such as the ability to develop one app that works across all devices).

It is important to recognize that while these application technologies may garner a tremendous amount of excitement, what you may find that you need for your business’s mobile strategy is something far simpler – but just as trend-forward. When you think about the nature of a mobile app, they can either offer some specific business application process that is an extension of an existing site (such as a banking app, a ticket booking app, even the Facebook or Twitter apps) or a gaming or social media app in which the app IS the business itself (like Instagram or Angry Birds, for example).

The emphasis for your online business should start with fundamental questions; how do your customers or users interact with your business on the web, and how can we optimize the experience depending on what device they are using. It may be a generality, but many small businesses may not see a need for a specialized app -either native or HTML5. Also, when considering a native app the barrier to entry can be steep in that it requires an end user to download the app to their device – not to mention the development consideration of passing the submission/approval process of getting the app onto the app stores.

An HTML5 based app may be a better choice for businesses looking to serve more users readily and having more control over the development cycle. But the concept of an “app” may still be overblown in many circumstances because what you may find that you need is simply a way of tailoring an experience to users based on what device they are accessing your web site. So in this case we would still be using modern technologies – HTML5, CSS and javascript – to deliver this controlled user flow, but using techniques such as responsive design.

This article is part of an ongoing discussion regarding current trends in web design and mobile development, and really is meant to serve clients that are aware of these trends but trying to sift through the jargon and hype and get down to that fundamental question: “Sounds great! What does it mean for me?” Ultimately it is about serving the right technology – the right tools – to meet your evolving business needs.

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