Today, effective mobile apps get serious work done –enabling salesforces to manage their pipelines, helping engineers inspect building plans, giving doctors the ability to review patient data, and more.
At Icreon, we develop serious (yet beautiful) apps on iPhone, iPad, Android & Windows. We're known for blending awarding winning design with serious, scalable, engineering-focused performance.
Understanding which devices you need to support at the outset.
Building out a user experience that is touch and hardware optimized.
Creating integration points that connect your data to your apps.
Capturing usability heuristics to understand how the apps are being used.
Reiterating on your mobile offerings to add new features and functionalities.
Within technology circles, the hype and buzz around new app development trends can be excessive. In fact the fervor around new trends can rival the gossip within People magazine.
In the realm of developing mobile apps there are few issues that have been at the center of such heated debate as the battle between HTML5 and Native app development.
HTML5 has been billed as a more economical way to build mobile apps that developers 'write once, and run anywhere'. Native on the other hand is viewed as the higher quality option. It requires more resources and talent but results in a mobile application that is highly optimized for specific devices.
Each option has its benefits and its drawbacks. But with the heated commentary and analysis from many tech publications, it can be difficult to find a level headed view.
Staying true to our own mantra at Icreon Tech to act as 'technology agnostics', here is a straightforward view of the competing benefits and limitations of native app development and HTML5.
This year alone saw 153 companies from the Fortune 500 use HTML5 for development, and 34 of the top 100 websites in the world were built using HTML5. While the viability of HTML5 for websites is acknowledged, mobile apps built with the language are still acquiring traction.
Currently HTML5 represents 17% of the mobile app market. One of the top benefits of HTML5 stems from compatibility with mobile and desktop browsers as well as cross platform use.
When developing mobile apps with HTML5, the app is written and then placed in a wrapper of code (like Web View) to make it compatible with iOS, Windows 8, or Android. The quality and responsiveness of apps are reduced to some extent due to the abstraction.
For instance, if a brand hopes for high intensity graphics HTML5 may add to latency issues for mobile app users. Due to the lack of direct access to device hardware the app cannot fully manage memory for optimal performance.
Such mobile apps can work exceptionally well across multiple devices but they cannot physically access device specific features. Without using services like Titanium or Rhomobile, HTML5 apps are unable to access push notifications, camera functions, GPS data, or accelerometer information. Without easy access to such components a mobile app developer cannot incorporate many popular functions.
Despite that drawback, a major benefit for using HTML5 for mobile applications is the larger pool of developers who can comprehend the language. HTML and its variations have existed for years, so taking the leap into mobile is easier thanks to that large talent pool.
The debate between HTML5 and native apps is similar to the debate between off-the-shelf and custom software. Both have their ideal use cases, and both have their caveats to be aware of. But the debate between the two is often polarized and lacks substantive direction or guidance for businesses.
Yet one data point that may clear up the debate rests with what actual developers prefer. Out of all the mobile apps developed, 67% have been built on native platforms with just 17% built with HTML5. Developers by far prefer building native mobile apps.
Here are the native programming languages mobile developers rely on:
Users also spend about 87% of their total time on mobile devices interacting with native apps. One main reason for this statistic can rest in the familiar UI design of native apps. Native apps usually mimic the design aesthetic and user experience of either the Android, iOS or Windows 8 operating system.
Native also has limitations in terms of market reach. Building an app specifically for iOS means that Android users can never access it. Given that Android has an 80% market share worldwide, this will be an issue. Especially if a brand’s audience uses a variety of devices.
Prior to deciding on a development method, it is crucial to assess the audience. Determine which segment of users are using specific device types and decide from there.
There is no doubt that mobile is here to stay when it comes to business strategies. Over 50% of American adults own a smartphone and app stores have witnessed over 50 billion of downloads of 1 million apps and counting.
High profile mobile apps are even serving as the foundation for billion dollar companies (i.e. Instagram, Waze, and Snapchat). While there is much enthusiasm towards mobile the first choice a brand or individual must make prior to development is the choice between HTML5 and Native.
By evaluating the intended audience, necessary functional features, available resources and budgets, a brand can make the correct strategic decision between the two leading mobile app development methodologies.
While most established brands and businesses are already addressing the rapid expansion of mobile audiences, too many companies are only just beginning to think about their mobile strategy and the mobile experience that helps define their brand.
Having a mobile presence is becoming a barrier to entry in many industries, and an absolute necessity if you want to remain competitive. If you’re attempting to redefine your business’ mobile strategy, one of the first considerations that will likely come to mind is whether you want to create a mobile application, mobile website, or possibly both. While mobile websites and apps can look very similar at first glance, they accomplish very different things.
This guide will provide a view into the business and development considerations behind mobile initiatives, and help determine whether your product merits a web-first or a mobile-first strategy.
Every mobile project presents unique challenges, but regardless of your situation, deciding whether to create a mobile app or a mobile website does not have to be difficult. By defining the purpose and prioritizing all of your business and marketing considerations, you’ll determine the mobile solution that will best address those needs now, and well into the future.
The Purpose and Goals
What is the purpose of your mobile initiative? Take everything else out of the equation, and answer this question first. Every mobile initiative should be driven by concrete business decisions.
Maybe your website isn’t currently driving the mobile traffic you thought it would, or your marketing team wants an application that helps personalize the experience for the users, sending push notifications based on user preferences. Whatever the end goal, define it first and think about the development and distribution second. Too many companies develop iPhone apps simply because they think they have to, with no real vision or purpose behind it.
Think about the target audience your mobile initiative is meant for, and how frequently these people engage with your brand or business. How are they currently performing the tasks that you wish to simplify? Why are you providing them a mobile option? Are they going to invest the time to discover and download your app?
For the most part, smartphone users will use applications for things they do regularly, things that tie into their lifestyles. That's why so many smartphone users choose to download apps like Twitter and Facebook, instead of using the mobile versions of the website. It offers a better experience for regular use, which makes the initial download worth it.
Imagine how users will interact with your application. This may be the single biggest thing that determines whether a mobile app or a mobile website is appropriate. Determine whether you want mobile to deliver an engaging user experience across all browsers, or a personalized experience within an application.
For most small and mid-sized businesses, budget is going to be a serious consideration. Developing mobile apps for multiple operating systems and devices quickly becomes resource-intensive. A more economically efficient option is to create a mobile website, which allows you to reach a broader audience within the same budget as an app. If your budget is limited and you don’t need to tap into native device functionality or create something that requires complex computing and graphics, a mobile website is going to be the better bang for your buck.
After you’ve thoroughly thought out the business case for your mobile initiative and have established its purpose, it’s imperative to take the development process into consideration.
Ease and Speed of implementation
The design, development, and deployment process of a mobile website is very similar to that of a standard website. Once it's live, it's immediately visible to anyone who visits the URL via a mobile browser. While mobile web development will present its own challenges (especially with varying screen sizes), it’s typically a much quicker implementation.
If you choose to go with an application, a major consideration is whether the app will be developed for more than one mobile operating system or device. If it is, you need to account for additional development time and resources. There is generally no easy and reliable way to build a mobile app for one operating system and port it to all the others, especially for apps that feature-rich and graphics-heavy.
Mobile apps may also require a submission approval process to be featured in app stores, which could be a lengthy process if you’re not familiar. The Apple App Store, for example, requires submission approval as well as an annual membership with an associated fee.
Everyone with a mobile browser can view mobile websites, regardless of their choice of hardware or operating system. Businesses need to consider their broad mobile presence before considering how people experience their business in app form.
If you aren’t regularly updated on your website’s analytics, you may not be aware of how quickly your mobile viewership is growing. Depending on your business, a significant percentage of your audience could be accessing your website via mobile devices, or in contrast, mobile traffic may only make up a small percentage of your audience.
Understanding this data allows you to go back and compare your current percentages to those of previous years. You may be surprised by how quickly your audience trends change, and can plan for mobile traffic to increase in the near future. On the other hand, you may find lower mobile browser traffic, possibly indicating that your website simply doesn't perform well on smaller screens.
Apps tend to compartmentalize the audience that is engaging with your brand. The demographic of an iPhone app user may be very different from the average user that visits your mobile website, but you can leverage those differences as part of your mobile strategy.
Mobile web technologies continue to improve, and mobile websites are emulating the look and feel of mobile apps. While the visuals of the two can be similar, the capabilities of a well-designed mobile app typically delivers a superior experience. Apps can store resources locally, and use the computing power and memory of the device to perform operations instantaneously.
App interfaces are more intuitive and operate without the lag that comes of mobile websites. Because mobile websites send data between the server and the user, they don’t deliver the same speed you’d get from a mobile application. Apps are also developed for a single screen size, or at most – a smaller range of sizes, which makes it easier to design an aesthetically pleasing interface.
Updates and Maintenance
There’s a major difference between updating websites and updating apps. Updating a mobile-optimized website involves the same steps required to update your traditional website; publishing edits once will make the changes available everywhere.
Updating an application may require submission approvals before being updated in their native marketplace. Changes made on mobile apps also require users to download software updates. Keep in mind that if you're developing apps for multiple platforms, even a simple update may require significant development resources, and time.
Data Connectivity and Offline Use
Within a mobile application, data and resources are stored locally. Since the user interface operates independently of web-based interface elements, your app will remain available when WiFi is not. If your users find themselves in situations where they will need to access the app while offline, or in weaker-connectivity locations, then an app is the choice.
If you’ve based your goals on marketing or communications initiatives, a mobile website should be the first step in your mobile strategy. A mobile website has a number of inherent advantages over apps, including broader accessibility, compatibility and cost-effectiveness. The following is a list of advantages you’ll have deploying a mobile website over mobile application:
A mobile website is instantly accessible to all users, while apps require an initial download and installation. It may not seem like much, but this presents a significant barrier between initial engagement and action.
A single mobile website can reach users across different mobile devices, whereas apps generally require development of a native version for each type of device. A mobile website (for the most part) will be a “design once, deploy everywhere” solution.
A mobile website is much more dynamic than an app in terms of pure flexibility to update content. If you want to change the design or content of a mobile website you simply publish the edit once, and the changes are immediately visible. Updating an app requires the updates to be pushed to users, which then must be downloaded in order to update the app on each type of device.
Because they are more easily discovered by search engines and can be listed in industry-specific directories, mobile websites make it easy for qualified visitors to find you. In contrast, apps are largely restricted to app stores—which can also make them less easy to discover.
Last but certainly not least, mobile website development is considerably more time and cost-effective than development of native applications. This holds especially true if you want your app to have a presence on different platforms.
Keep in mind that the investment considerations of a mobile website or application don’t end with the initial launch. Upgrades, testing, compatibility issues and ongoing development are much less expensive for a website than for an app, especially over longer periods of time.
Despite the many benefits of the mobile web, apps are still very popular, and there are a number of use scenarios where an app is a better fit for what you want to accomplish.
Generally speaking, the following needs would be better fulfilled by an app:
Personalization – if users are going to be using your app in a personalized fashion on a regular basis—think OneNote or Mint—then an app will provide a great way to do that. An app can deploy push notifications and custom alerts tailored to user preferences, which makes the user experience much more personalized than that of a mobile website.
Native Functionality Required - mobile web browsers are getting much better at accessing certain mobile-specific functions like click-to-call, messaging and GPS. But if you want the ability to access a user's camera, processing power, or send push notifications, integration of specific phones features are easier to develop within in an app.
No Connection Required – If your app’s primary functionalities don’t require internet access, then an app makes the most sense.
Gaming – this one is obvious. If you’re developing a game like Angry Birds or Clash of Clans, it’s easier for users to download an application to their phones rather than accessing it through a mobile browser.
The ultimate goal when developing an app is to receive an optimal return on your investment. You should avoid wasting precious time and money building an app to do something basic that ultimately can be achieved with a mobile website.
Figure out what’s most important. Do you want to develop a mobile web presence? Is the goal to reach a broader audience? Or do you simply want to extend the user experience with an application? Once you know the purpose of your mobile initiative, the rest will fall into place.
It’s the first question asked when it comes to developing a mobile app:
While there are many factors that go into the cost of a mobile app, the real cost lies in the time and resources of the talent specialists required to build the app. If you think you’ll be able to hire a freelance developer and app designer to build an app within a month or two for a few thousand dollars by all means, go ahead. But you won’t get what you want. App development is like most things in life, you get what you pay for.
In order to build a quality mobile app that is well-designed and fully functional, you need different specialists to play a part of the overall development. While general factors like the design and framework of a mobile app figure into the cost, what you’re really paying for is the hours, resources, and skill set of the talent specialists. To gain a better idea of who the major players in app development are, we’ve put together this guide of the required specialists for a quality mobile application.
Responsible for creating the application interface and the overall look and feel of the app, the UX designer lays the foundation of how users will interact with the product. First, the designer will gather data to understand how users will interact with the functionality of the application.
Then they’ll create mock-up designs that fit to the specific the needs of the end user. The UX specialist will ultimately develop the ins and outs of navigation and on-screen elements that deliver a seamless experience.
A good designer will know how to design for different devices: iPhone, Android and Windows phone screens. That’s why the app designer plays an important role, as it doesn’t make sense to code the app until you’re sure it meets users’ preferences and needs. The app designer will create the right size, graphics, icons and theme for the app across all platforms.
Once they’re set with the design of the app they feel is best suited, they’ll provide proper guidance to the programmers and quality assurance team who are developing and testing the application. The UX specialist ultimately creates the experience you want out of your mobile application, and is compensated well for doing so.
The app developers are responsible for turning the app from an idea to a reality. They’ll take what the app designer has created and turn it into working software. They’re responsible for coordinating the implementation of supporting architecture/infrastructure, and ensure all code is written within the project standards.
Depending on the platforms and devices your app needs to function on, you may need app developers who are well versed in multiple programming languages including but not limited to objective c, swift, and java. This is where the process becomes extremely resource intensive. The developers need to build multiple native applications and possibly integrate them with external data sources.
After the app developers have completed writing the initial code, they will work with the QA team to automate testing scenarios, signing off on known bugs, bug fixes and any technical troubleshooting that may arise. In order to build a quality mobile app, it’s imperative to hire experienced and talented app developers that will deliver the product you want.
The Quality Assurance (QA) team, as their name suggests, is responsible for ensuring the quality of the product. They extensively test different scenarios to ensure all facets of the application run smoothly. They’ll test integration with third party software, logins on difference mobile devices, swiping features at certain stages, handoff capabilities, and everything you can possibly imagine.
The QA team is extremely detailed oriented and have experience in looking for the functionality and design issues that are not easily seen by the app developers. If you want your app to be top-notch, you’ll have to pay a team of experts to make sure you’re delivering the best possible product, or suffer the consequences of a sub-par app.
It should be pretty clear that developing and maintaining a mobile application is a much more complex process than many think. It’s a major investment of time and resources of certain skill sets. If you’re looking to build a quality mobile application you should expect to have a team of at least 4-6 and expect to pay tens, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s important to always keep in mind – you will get what you pay for.
Figuring out which type of mobile app to develop—native, hybrid, or web-based—doesn’t have to be a complicated decision. You should ultimately go with the one that makes the most business sense and contributes to your bottom line. That could come in the way of added agility and efficiency, savings, or revenue.
While each type of mobile development offers its own unique solution, this article’s focus will rest squarely on hybrid mobile apps; why they make sense, and what goals a business can expect them to help achieve. This information should give you a very good idea whether a hybrid solution will meet your specific needs.
A general rule of thumb is that if your app will be used to present content that requires frequent updating (news), access and management of accounts (banking/utilities), or productivity apps for use by enterprises (CRM), then hybrid apps are a good option. On the other hand, if an app requires location targeting, animation, videos, or photos— a native app is typically going to give users a better experience.
Consider what your business wants to accomplish with the launching of a mobile app. You might want to get a new product in front of prospective customers in short order, making the buying experience easy and simple for new customers. In that respect, a hybrid app would at least help kick-start your revenue-generating goals.
Even if down the road you find that your competitors have launched an app that makes a user’s experience faster and easier using native technology, you can consider your hybrid app as a bridge towards building a better user experience in the future. Take inventory of what works, what needs improvement, and begin the development of a native app to take the place of your hybrid app. By developing in stages you’ll be able to get your product line in front of customers quickly, which will often result in added revenue.
This means the app will work on an iPhone or Android phone, tablet or laptop, regardless of the operating system. Hybrid apps can do this because they automatically detect and change the user interface for each platform, and then adjust according to browser, screen size and device orientation.
This allows users to have as close to a native experience as possible without being entirely native—which, of course, takes more money and time to develop.
Uploading a new version of an app when even the smallest of changes are made to it can become tedious. Hybrid apps allow content to be updated as much as necessary, and tweaks and improvements can be made whenever necessary without interrupting the experience of the user.
In fact, even if an internet connection is lost on a device, the app will continue to work. If updates are made during the time a device is disconnected, they are automatically made when a connection is re-established. Any feature that adds flexibility to a user’s experience can result in customer retention and growth. Or, if the app is being used by a mobile employee, being able to access the app offline adds to efficiency.
Granted, hybrid apps are not for every business. Those who can’t afford the least bit of lag in app performance—or who need users to experience the “wow” factor of a premium app that’s been built for a specific platform—would most likely be better off spending their time and money on a native app.
However, if the three reasons above give you the confidence that a hybrid app can work in tandem with your business goals, then you’ve found a fit that’s at least exploring further.