So, you have a great idea for the next big mobile app. Whether that means an app for your business or an app to make your users’ lives better, you need to pick a method to build your app. Making the right decision and picking the right route to build your app on is crucial. However, you might not be sure what the difference is between the three main types: web, native, or hybrid.
Which method you choose to display content to your users through can make or break your app. You could have a great idea and great content, but if it’s displayed in the wrong format, no one will want to use it. That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide. Below, you’ll find an explanation of what each app development route is and the pros and cons that each has to offer. By being more informed about the different methods out there, you can give your app a better future.
Web apps display data to users through a web browser. This can take place either in a mobile environment (phone, tablet, etc.) or on a computer. You might be wondering: How does a web app differ from a website? Well, the answer lies in the amount of information being presented. Websites are used as an in-depth place to display a lot of information for the user. By contrast, a web app condenses the information as much as possible. This helps streamline things and give the user improved functionality.
Unlike the apps on your smartphone, web apps don’t need to be downloaded. Therefore, they don’t take up any space on your user’s device, which is an attractive plus. However, they need an internet connection in order to work. If you’re designing a web app primarily for computers, then that shouldn’t be a problem. If you’re developing a mobile-focused web app, then it may be since internet connection on mobile devices is less consistent.
So, in summary, a web app is basically an app that is not downloaded but viewed through the browser on your device. Instead of installing it, your user will visit it through a browser or a bookmarked link.
- Doesn’t take up storage space on your users’ devices
- Compatible across all platforms and brands
- Cheap to develop because they use simple programming languages
- Easy to maintain
- Needs to run on a browser
- Needs an internet connection
- Slower than native apps
- Less interactive and can’t use device utilities
When you think of an app, the majority of the ones on your smartphone, you’re probably thinking of a native app. A native mobile application is built for the specific platform that it will run on. It must be programmed in that platform’s specific, accepted languages. In layman’s terms, it depends whether you are developing the app for Apple or Android. It explains why you may see one of your favorite apps in the Google Play Store but not in the Apple App Store, or vice versa. For a native app to work on Android, the app developers will need to program it in the Java language. For a native app to work on Apple’s iOS, app developers will need to program it in a language like Swift or Objective-C.
Once the app is developed for a specific platform, the user must then go to the app store and download it to their device. The device’s own operating system can read the information within the app and present it to the user in a way that’s optimized for the type of device they are using. Most apps are built in the native app format because it offers the widest range of benefits and features compared to the other routes.
For example, native apps can adjust to the user’s device and take advantage of using its utilities. However, the app will take up space on the device. In order to update its content, the user will have to re-download updates as they come out, making native apps are more involved to maintain and should constantly be updated.
- Best, fastest performance of any type
- Distributed in trustworthy app stores (encourages a safe download)
- More interactive and more functionality
- Internet connection may not be necessary
- User experience is more natural and familiar to them based on their device
- Take up space on the user’s device
- More complicated programming languages are needed
- More talented developers needed means higher cost
- Can appear rough or empty for simple apps
When it comes to defining what type of app an app is, hybrids tend to fall in a sort of digital no man’s land. There are many conflicting opinions about what makes an app a hybrid and whether or not hybrid apps are even apps at all. At its most basic level, a hybrid app is one that behaves like a native app, but works across all platforms.
Hybrid apps are developed in two stages. First, they use a basic web language like HTML5, which is used to make web apps. The hybrid gets most of its functionality from this programming. Then, the app development team can implement a “wrapper” that loads the code and gives the app access to the device’s native features. While this is a pretty difficult concept to understand, a great example of a hybrid app is Facebook’s mobile app. When you open it up and give it a try, you’ll understand the concept a bit better.
Hybrid apps do deliver some of the benefits of both development routes, but they come with their drawbacks. Unfortunately, the problems that each route pose are also reflected in hybrid app development.
- Simpler coding makes it easier to build
- Cheaper than native apps
- No browser needed, unlike a web app
- Can access device utilities
- Slower than native apps
- Still take up space on the user’s device
- More expensive than web apps due to the need for a complex wrapper
- Less interactive than native apps
- Less customization options