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.
When developed correctly, a mobile app can provide a sense of elegance and utility. With the abundance of platforms and devices available in the market right now, significant strategy is needed to outline a successful approach—and developers/managers have the power to choose from two vastly different mobile approaches: Hybrid Apps and Native Apps, though each comes with its own set of pros and cons.
So how do you know which one to choose for your business? Like everything else, you need to have the most relevant data in order to make the most informed decision.
But before we get into all that, let’s jump back to 2012 when even Mark Zuckerberg admitted to relying too much on HTML5. As a result of its “all-in” approach to building with Native, Facebook ended up making a decision that set its mobile aspirations back, at least temporarily.
What emerged, however, from Zuckerberg’s fateful decision to go all in on Native Technology has since created a pertinent debate that centers on the choice between Hybrid vs Native app development. And While some mobile developers are vehemently opposed to developing in HTML5 as opposed to Native, choosing between the two will ultimately come down to the businesses verticals you’re trying to fulfill.
All that being said, we at Icreon would like to offer some clarification that will hopefully make your choice more practical and efficient.
At the end of the day it’s natural for people to have opinions. Without strong opinions your business strategy will lack the necessary momentum for effective implementation. That being said some opinions are more relevant than others and in this regard we think that the debate over Hybrid vs. Native development (in its current state) is dead. Here’s why:
CHOOSING TO GO HYBRID OR NATIVE SHOULD BE MORE ABOUT SOUND
It’s less about which method is the most advanced from a technical perspective. This is what many passionate app developers don’t understand, and while you have to respect their evangelism, our stance is that a mobile app should make a business more agile and more profitable—bottom line driven.
In that regard both Hybrid and Native apps offer unique solutions that your business can definitely be taking advantage of. But whether your business should go the Native route or choose to develop in HTML5 should rely totally on goals that are pertinent to your growth.
This is to say that having the goal of creating a best in class app is great, but ask yourself: will spending additional time and investment on flawless UX design and pouring development money into one or both of the two main OS systems (Android and iOS) really help your business generate revenue? The short answer to this is simple: it depends on what your business is, and what you expect from a mobile app.
But before we get into the Pros and Cons of Native vs. Hybrid development, let’s discuss exactly what each method entails.
By using an SDK (software development kit) developers can utilize web code to be deployed across multiple OS platforms. Essentially this option is a cheaper faster solution if you need to get your app developed and have it on both Android and iOS at the same time.
Native app development is platform specific meaning that you have to choose whether you want to develop in iOS or Android (or pay two teams to do both at the same time). The end result is typically an app with a better user experience at the price of taking longer to develop with more overhead costs.
The debate is dead because many development companies don’t take a holistic approach to choosing between native or hybrid development.
When you work with talented tech geeks who are great at what they do you’ll inevitably hear a lot of strong opinions about which method of development is superior. And just as with any other development debate, you should base your decision on what presents itself as the best solution for your business as a whole—and that means making smart decisions regardless of whether your development team thinks Native or Hybrid solutions are superior to the other.
Due to native apps having to be built with the specific development tools and languages for each respective platform, developers that are well versed in either iOS or Android development are the best for the job. Developers are able to take full advantage of all the unique device features, such as the camera, accelerometer, compass, GPS or even the iPhone 6’s fingerprint sensor.
In an article published on Mashable, iOS engineer Eric Miller says that native apps have the benefit of familiarity as developers already have a degree of familiarity with the respective software development kits. iOS developers and Android developers know how the code will function and run efficiently on the targeted platform.
If one wants to cover a larger audience across all platforms, separate native apps for each device will be required, but this approach is much more expensive. Going native involves a larger upfront investment in infrastructure, developers and technology as compared to hybrid apps.
With hybrid development, one cannot take advantage of the device specific features and themes. Reproducing those features with a hybrid approach becomes much trickier.
Hybrid apps are part native and part HTML5. Like native apps, they are installed on a device and live in an app store. But unlike native apps, they are built using HTML5 approaches and are subsequently placed in a ‘wrapper’ that allows for distribution and use on iOS or Android.
It is a ‘Write Once, Run Anywhere’ strategy, similar to what made Java such a dominant force many years back. This results in a cross-platform, consistent user interface that works well on most devices. Examples of high volume apps that don’t skimp on user experience quality are Evernote, Twitter, and even Gmail–all of which run the same code base on iOS and Android.
According to Ken Dulaney, VP and a distinguished analyst at Gartner, enterprises now are increasingly finding the need to support multiple platforms. For hybrid apps only a small portion of code needs to be re-implemented for different platforms. Gartner predicted last year that in 2016 more than 50 % of the apps deployed will be developed with a hybrid approach.
A native app, on the downside, can be used only for its specific platform. This thereby restricts their potential audience reach (which is crucial for businesses to achieve mobile ROI). For example, an iPhone can never host Android apps and vice versa. So developing an iPhone app when 70% of mobile traffic stems from Android devices, is a surefire way to fail at mobile.
Questions to entertain:
Nobody wants to engage with a bad user experience, however, is pouring time and resource into building the coolest app on the block really going to impact your business? The answer is: yes…unless it doesn’t.
Create an internal audit
Go through an internal audit to determine what functions are really critical to making your app successful. Do you need access to applications that are specific to either iOS or Android? For example, both platforms come with a different GPS built directly into the hardware. If geo-targeting were a crucial function to providing a worthy user experience for your customers, you’d probably be better off considering the Native Development route.
Likewise, if your app requires integration with specific API’s, Native would be the way to go as well. While Hybrid can be a great solution for deploying code across multiple platforms quickly and easily, the user experience is almost always more organic with Native development.
While you should always be putting an emphasis on UX design, many banking and news media apps are created using Hybrid development. Why? Because these types of organizations tend to update their content regularly and don’t require seamless integration to platform specific functions.
One of the best things about developing a Hybrid app is that all updates are done directly through the web—meaning that you won’t have to annoy your users by notifying them with updates all the time.
The bottom line here is this: if giving users access to your content is a big priority—and that content doesn’t change dramatically whether you’re developing for Android or iOS—then Hybrid can become a much more actionable solution for your business due it’s inherent agility.
If you have an unlimited budget and all the time in the world, I’d say go Native all day every day. You really have nothing to lose by building an immaculate user experience into your app—well, nothing to lose besides time and money.
There’ no getting around the fact that hybrid development costs are usually reasonable and that Native development costs are more often than not, greatly expensive. That being said, cost and time should be one of the major factors influencing your decision to build with one option or the other.
To answer which solution suits you better you must take a top down view to determine whether building a top not notch user experience trumps taking a minimum viable approach. First and foremost you should calculate how much ground you’re losing by not getting your app in front of users right away.
What matters for your business more than the opinions of purist developers is the option that will make your business grow at a more scalable rate. Personally we believe that picking one method of development or the other is a personal choice that should reflect a company’s pain points and projected goals and at Icreon we’ve won awards for developing in both Native and Hybrid.
If you’re attempting to utilize mobile 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 technology strategy.
Every mobile development project presents unique challenges, but deciding whether to develop a mobile application or 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 development solution that will best address those needs now, and well into the future.
The Purpose and Goals
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 mobile app 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 having a mobile website or mobile app help them simplify those tasks? Why are you providing them a mobile option? Are they going to invest the time to discover and download your app?.
Imagine how users will interact with your mobile solution. This may be the single biggest thing that determines whether developing a mobile app or mobile website is appropriate going forward.
Determine whether you want mobile to deliver an engaging user experience across all browsers through strategic mobile website development, or a personalized experience in a mobile app.
For small and mid-sized businesses, budget will be a major consideration. Developing mobile applications for iOS and Android operating systems across multiple devices can quickly become resource-intensive. A more economically efficient option would be to develop a mobile website, 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.
Ease and Speed
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 developing a mobile website will present its own challenges, it’s typically a much quicker implementation than that of a mobile app.
If you choose to develop a mobile app, a major consideration is whether the app will be developed for more than one operating system – iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows. 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.
The technologies behind developing a mobile website 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 app. Mobile apps are also developed for a single screen size, which makes it easier to design an aesthetically pleasing interface.
Updates and Maintenance
There’s a major difference between updating a mobile 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 app stores – Apple’s App Store and Android’s Google Play. Changes made on mobile apps also require users to download software updates. If your mobile app requires multiple platforms, even a simple update may require significant development resources and time.
Data Connectivity and Offline Use
Data and resources used in a mobile app 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, developing a mobile website 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 mobile 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 mobile applications 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.
Developing a mobile website is more time-consuming and cost-effective than developing a mobile application. This holds especially true if you want your mobile app to have a presence on different platforms.
Keep in mind that the development of both a mobile website and mobile app don’t end with the initial launch. Upgrades, testing, compatibility issues and ongoing development are much less expensive for a website than an app.
Despite the many benefits of a mobile website, mobile apps are still very popular, and there are a number of 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, think OneNote or Box – then a mobile app 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 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.
Talented marketers, for some time now, have understood that strategic marketing requires an action plan for mobile initiatives. To be sure, it’s no longer an acceptable practice to focus all of your organization’s acquisition strategy into building a desktop only digital experience.
Too often though, companies and organizations can get pigeon holed into thinking that they have to begin their digital strategy with one platform, and then force-fit that experience into a different platform. In reality, however, no organization or business should be catering to their audience on one platform while ignoring another.
With the proliferation of mobile devices there has undoubtedly been a huge shift in the way that users interact with organizations that provide them with myriad benefits and services.
In our work pertaining to mobile with organizations we at Icreon understand the increasing demand these organizations have to be able to provide their constituents with tangible value on a day-to-day basis.
Whether that value manifests itself in the ability to better sell events and magazine subscriptions—or whether it manifests in being able to give supporters greater access to internal functionalities such as schedules and benefits information—we at Icreon also believe that building Mobile Member Portals (MMPs) is one of the most effective and simplest ways for marketers and organizational officials to begin building better engagement rates.
While most software and web platforms have changed drastically in the past few years, the average software has had trouble adjusting. Mobile and social media capabilities for instance, which have become high-priority functions in recent years, have not yet reached a point of quality execution.
According to recent surveys, businesses are most dissatisfied with the social and mobile capabilities of their current software – something that will make it very tough for their platforms to keep up with the ever-expanding needs of their members.
Unlike desktop, mobile is a digital channel that can be highly personalized to fit each user’s unique needs. If built correctly, a mobile app can generate a one-to-one touch point between your organization and the associates that keep you thriving month in and month out.
What’s more is that any mobile app can easily be separated from a monolithic software that might be hard to change or otherwise modify. If your organization relies on the ability to continually bring in new subscribers then you know how precious the data within your current mobile app is in terms of helping you cultivate future success.
Any mobile application can be built to offer subscribers a tailored experience that gives them access to key needs. Whether those subscribers want to update their payment information, quickly subscribe or unsubscribe to member events, or get connected with other members in the area via GPS, there are virtually an unlimited number of customizable experiences that you can offer your customer base via a mobile portal.
Mobile is no longer the wave of the future—it’s a business vertical that companies and organizations need to be fulfilling now. That being said, it can be daunting to plan for a mobile optimization project, which is why Icreon implements a four step process in determining how clients can best leverage mobile opportunities:
Pinpoint key issues that users face on a daily basis
Create a specific mobile experience that’s tailored to relieve those select pain points
Build dashboards and KPIs that effectively evaluate the overall initiative
Use newly generated location data to identify future areas of need
While the utility of any organization’s current software won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, the relevant data that’s housed within such a system is often times just not easily accessible. That’s where a mobile portal can really shine. By leveraging the data within your current software you can build a unique experience that will undoubtedly help in the marketing efforts of your digital strategies.
At the end of the day, if you’re not utilizing mobile to its fullest potential, then you’re not keeping up to speed when it comes to generating the kind of value that your constituents have come to expect in the mobilized age. However, with a more highly engaged base the ability to not only lower attrition rates, but to upsell via advanced mobile membership portals, has never been greater.
On average, users look at smartphones 100 times a day. Combine that with the expectation that by 2017 there will be 2.5 billion smartphone users and over 10 million mobile apps, you’ll understand why brands and businesses have shifted focus toward mobile initiatives.
Mobile creates new ways to connect with customers, deliver exceptional service, and better equip your workforce. Whether it’s for customers or employees, there are mobility solutions that can fill unique gaps in customer journeys and employee workflows that didn’t exist years ago.
If you’re having trouble identifying how mobile fits into your overall technology ecosystem, this list covers the different moments mobile users run into most often and how you can catch their attention in that moment.
As consumers continue to turn to their smartphones to guide them in their buying decisions, businesses and braned need to ensure all relevant information is available to a user whenever, and wherever they need it.
A customer in Best Buy looking to see reviews and product details on streaming media players is able to quickly do so on their phone. Airlines make flights immediately available for users looking to book flights on the go. Today’s consumers are using phones to educate themselves in their immediate context, and brands must be there to deliver the information.
Mobile can create a more knowledgeable sales team by providing complete customer information whenever, wherever they need it. A salesman with the ability to tap into transaction history or a product catalog while on the phone, or even in person, is in better position to help a prospective customer. A sales manager that can quickly retrieve sales results over the last quarter during the commute to a sales meeting will deliver a better presentation.
As an example, Acision uses mobile for employees to better assist customers with an in-app video chat. The employees can see what the customer is viewing as well as their entire purchase history, both in real time. This allows them to identify areas where the customer needs more information which ultimately makes for an easier sell, and even better, upsell.
China Eastern Airlines uses mobile devices to assign maintenance staff based on demand for services at the gate. The City of Westminster enables workers to control streetlights for safety and maintenance, all from the convenience of a tablet. ITAD, a technology recycling company, supplies their field service agents with a mobile device to scan items on the spot for quicker information input and stock updates, allowing for more efficient inventory control.
Giving workers mobile access to necessary information for them to do their job better will make for more efficient employees. Employees looking to prep for a meeting on the go can access the company CRM on their phone to review notes and retrieve important sales results. Restaurant owners can give workers an opportunity to collaborate and manage shifts with an app like HotSchedules. By having information available at all times, employees can better communicate with each other.
Utilize mobile to continue to market to users that are already engaged with your brand. For instance, airlines use mobile to allow users to request an upgrade on their flight, or request access to the lounge – a quick and easy upsell in the click of a button without any human interaction. Spotify sends push notifications to alert users of new songs or albums from their favorite artists. Walgreen's alerts customers when their prescriptions are ready for pick up.
Finding different ways to further market to customers who are already engaged with your brand will increase their lifetime value.
Companies can gain a competitive edge by providing a mobile extension to a product or service that ultimately enhances the user experience. For example Nest, the innovative self-learning thermostat, uses mobile to allow users to change the temperature in their house from any location. If a user knows they’ll be arriving home earlier than expected, they can use the mobile app to warm their house during their commute home. HBO uses their mobile app, HBOGO, to allow tablet and phone users to view all available shows no matter their location.
Going forward, we’ll see companies begin to identify unique areas in customer journeys and employee workflows where a mobile solution will enhance the overall experience, and capitalize on it.