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.
If you're attempting to utilize mobile development to redefine your business' strategy, one of the first considerations that will likely come to mind is whether you want to develop a mobile app, mobile website, or possibly both. While mobile websites and mobile apps look very similar on the surface, they accomplish very different things.
This guide will provide a view into the business and development considerations behind mobile development initiatives, and help determine whether your technology initiatives merit a web-first or a mobile-first strategy.
Every mobile development project presents unique challenges, but regardless of your situation, deciding whether to pursue mobile app development or mobile website development does not have to be difficult. By defining the purpose and prioritizing all of your business and marketing considerations, you’ll determine the mobile development solution that will best address those needs now, and well into the future.
What is the purpose of your mobile development initiative? Maybe your website isn’t currently driving the mobile traffic you thought it would, or you want a mobile app 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 app development and distribution second.
Think about the target audience your app development or mobile website project is meant for, and how frequently these people engage with your brand or business. How are they currently performing tasks, and will an app or mobile website help them simplify those tasks? Why are you providing them a mobile app? Are they going to invest the time to discover and download your app?
Imagine how users will interact with your mobile app or website. This may be the single biggest thing that determines whether mobile app development or mobile website development is appropriate going forward.
Determine whether you want mobile to deliver an engaging user experience across all browsers through mobile website development, or a personalized experience through strategic mobile app development.
For small and mid-sized businesses, budget will be a major consideration. Mobile app development for multiple operating systems and devices can quickly become resource-intensive. A more economically efficient option is mobile website development, which allows you to reach a broader audience within the same budget as a mobile app.
After you’ve thoroughly thought out the business case for your mobile development initiative and have established its purpose, it’s time to take the development process into consideration.
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 website development will present its own challenges, it’s typically a much quicker implementation.
If you choose the route of mobile app development, a major consideration is whether the app will be developed for more than one operating system or device. 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 website development 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.
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. Mobile apps are also developed for a single screen size, which makes it easier to design an aesthetically pleasing interface.
There's a major difference between updating websites and updating mobile 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 mobile apps may require submission approvals before being updated in their native marketplace. Changes made on mobile apps also require users to download software updates. If your mobile app development project requires multiple platforms, even a simple update may require significant development resources and time.
Within a mobile application, data and resources are stored locally. Since the user interface operates independently of web-based interface elements, your mobile 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, then developing a mobile app is the better option.
If you’ve based your goals on marketing or communications initiatives, a mobile website development project should be the first step in your mobile strategy. A mobile website has a number of inherent advantages over mobile apps, including broader accessibility, compatibility and cost-effectiveness.
The following is a list of advantages you’ll have developing a mobile website over mobile app:
A mobile website is instantly accessible to all users, while apps require an initial download and installation. A mobile website is much more dynamic than a mobile app in terms of pure flexibility to update content. If you want to change the design of a mobile website you simply publish the edit once, and the changes are immediately visible.
Updating a mobile 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.
A single mobile website can reach users across different mobile devices, whereas mobile apps generally require development of a native version for each type of device. A mobile website will be a "design once, deploy everywhere" solution.
Mobile website development is more time-consuming and cost-effective than mobile app development. This holds especially true if you want your mobile app to have a presence on different platforms.
Keep in mind that both mobile app development and mobile website development 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.
Despite the many benefits of mobile website development, mobile apps are still very popular, and there are a number of use scenarios where a mobile app is a better fit for what you want to accomplish.
Generally speaking, the following needs would be better fulfilled by mobile app development:
Personalization – if users are going to be using your mobile option in a personalized fashion, like OneNote or Box – then app development is the better choice. Such mobile apps 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 website browsers are good for 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 do through strategic app development.
No Connection Required – Primary functionalities of your mobile app may not require internet access, something a mobile website cannot do.
The ultimate goal in mobile app development is to receive an optimal return on your investment. You should avoid wasting precious time and money building a mobile app to do something basic that ultimately can be achieved with a mobile website.
Within technology circles, the hype and buzz around new web or app development trends can be excessive. Just think Apple versus Android. There are literally entire publications devoted to demonizing one while praising the other (i.e. CultOfMac and Android Police).
In the realm of mobile app development, there are few issues that have been at the center of such heated debate as the battle between HTML5 development and Native app development.
HTML5 development is the more economical way to build mobile apps that developers 'write once, and run anywhere'. Native app development is viewed as the higher quality option. It requires more resources and talent but results in a mobile app that is highly optimized for specific devices.
Staying true to our own mantra at Icreon to act as 'technology agnostics', here is a straightforward view of the competing benefits and limitations of HTML5 and native app development.
Just over 30% of Fortune 500 companies use HTML5 for web development, and 34 of the top 100 websites in the world were built using HTML5. While the viability of HTML5 development for web sites is acknowledged, mobile apps developed with the language are still acquiring traction.
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 mobile apps are reduced to some extent due to the abstraction.
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 mobile 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.
A major benefit for using HTML5 development for mobile apps is the larger pool of developers who can comprehend the language. Programming native apps with software development tools like Xcode and Visual Studio on the other hand are more programming intensive, resulting in a smaller pool of experts.
The debate between HTML5 development and native app development 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.
One data point that may clear up the debate rests with what app 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.
Prior to deciding on an app development method, it is crucial to assess the audience. Determine which segment of users are using specific device types and decide from there.
High profile mobile apps are 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 app development is the choice between HTML5 and Native apps.
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.
According to VentureBeat, Android’s worldwide growth continues to outpace its mobile competitors, and consumers continue to purchase more Android devices than ever before. Due to these trends, many brands are aiming to strengthen their market presence by distributing brand specific Android apps.
Brands can improve their performance internally as well as drive brand engagement with customers via Android apps. However, investments in mobile app development must incorporate certain features and trends in order to offer a mobile experience that provides legitimate value.
Customer-facing Android apps are a marketing channel through which businesses can attract new customers. Some of the business functions that external users (such as customers, suppliers and partners) perform through a brand’s customer-facing Android app include:
A designated Android app can help brand’s use mobile-specific features like the accelerometer, push notifications or contacts list to extract marketing data. Many of today’s customers are more likely to respond to mobile notifications than email or other traditional forms of communication.
By using mobile geo-location data as well as demographic information, personalized advertisements can be highly targeted to a specific location and customer type. In today’s competitive landscape customer-facing Android app development can help brands attract and retain and attract customers.
Enterprise mobile apps are designed for employees to help them perform their daily operations, and are never seen by the customer. Enterprises across the board are creating custom mobile apps to support their internal business needs. Almost every aspect of work can be digitized through app development (i.e. filing expense reports, securely signing documents, and filing for leave with HR).
Customized enterprise mobile apps can be broken down into two groups – vendor apps and enterprise specific apps. First, there are mobile app development vendors who can develop a wide range of enterprise apps that are then customized for a particular brand. Secondly, there are the custom mobile apps designed specifically for a particular enterprise. The main goal with these apps is to make complex desktop-oriented applications work seamlessly on mobile devices.
Whether for the internal employee or the potential prospective customer, there is a mobile app for everyone. Businesses should consider Android apps as a part of their customer facing and internal employee mobile strategies depending on the circumstance.
If a business is considering going through the process of enterprise app development, the team in charge should consider the most popular devices used by their workforce. If a company recently distributed Android tablets to their workforce, a selection of Android mobile apps should follow.
"It just works."
Apple has long leveraged this idea to attract users to its Mac and iOS platforms – promising a seamless digital environment free of bugs, software hiccups, and tech nuisances.
For the immensely popular iOS platform, which powers all iPhones, iPads, and iPods – "it just works" means that every single mobile app goes through a rigorous review and approval process.
While this has helped avoid subpar software that has plagued other operating systems for years – Apple’s app approval guidelines have often led to some questionable rejections and even company withdrawals of highly visible content. And when dealing with the highly competitive landscape of this market, mobile app developers can ill afford to get their apps delayed unnecessarily.
So, how do you ensure your mobile app gets through the submission process smoothly and efficiently?
There are a surfeit of tip calculators, weather indicators, and flashlight apps on the store. To that end, avoid the headache of rejection and avoid making a mobile app that has already been made 100x over.
Smartphone and tablet apps have limited computing power allocated to them. Mobile apps that excessively use 3G or 4G data, or non-gaming apps that max out on graphics are more prone to get rejected for multiple reasons. First, they kill battery and they can lead to users going over on their data plans. Second, extremely resource intensive apps need to be developed with far greater acuity – they are more prone to crashes and are the first processes to be killed during multitasking.
iOS comes with a toolkit that makes it easy to access commonly used frameworks when building a mobile app. For example, the toolkit has a framework that makes it easy for app developers to access your device’s Address Book.
Apple condones the usage of public ones but will immediately reject any mobile app using private ones. This is where it’s crucial to gauge whether your mobile app development team is coding to standard and isn’t cutting corners during app development – because it’s often extremely expensive and time consuming to correct this error.
At Icreon, we have an internal motto – "Design isn't how something looks, it's how something functions". By this, we mean that poorly built mobile apps, ones that do not take pride in craftsmanship and have no forethought in creating usable experiences are often easy to reject. With 700,000 apps on the Store, Apple is not starving for attention or demand – so they can easily afford to shun apps that don’t create compelling experiences for their customers.