By: Kevin Schreck
We live in a very mobile world these days and being able to navigate that space is vital to the success of your business. But with various options, what makes the most sense for your specific situation? Sometimes it’s very clear that a web app or a mobile app is the right call. Other times it may make sense to do both. In this blog, we’ll guide you through our experience on this topic and help you make the best choice to maximize your success.
How will your users use the application?
The ways in which your users will use your application is likely to be a top factor in making your development choice. Think about your user personas, the types of actions they’re taking, and the environments in which they’re taking these actions. If the majority of the time they’re going to be using the application in a mobile form factor, score a point for a mobile app. If they’re going to be entering large amounts of data, you should start to lean towards a web application. You may also have multiple user personas with one needing to work with the application offline and another that will be performing backend administration. In which case, it’s time to start thinking about going with both a mobile application and a web application, or a web application with an emphasis on mobile responsiveness.
How cost conscious are you?
Cost is a factor in nearly all application development and if cost is your number one consideration, you’re going to want to lean heavily towards a web application. Initial development will be significantly cheaper 99 times out of 100. It’s also likely to save you in the long run as maintenance costs are much higher on mobile platforms. Much of this is due to the fact that mobile platforms require frequent upgrades to continue to exist in their stores. In addition, there are multiple device sizes and form factors to consider. While the ability to not have to react to every change in a web application is advantageous from a cost standpoint, there is also a risk of you falling so far behind that the cost to recover can reach an insurmountable state. As a result, we recommend and work with our clients to develop a maintenance plan built on common sense and efficiency.
What’s your time to market?
The clear cut winner in time to market is almost always a web application. In addition to just being a faster path for development, it also allows you to control nearly the entirety of your market entry path. With a web application the barriers to entry are virtually nonexistent. When you have a solution it just needs to be deployed to production where users can access it via web browser. Whereas, with a mobile solution you could have a perfectly functioning application and still struggle to get it through the app store process. And as a part of that approval process more advanced testing (testing in general is also easier on a web application) and documentation is required. There are also a variety of geography-based requirements and potential reporting requirements, depending on your product’s functionality and data retention/distribution. Likely to be of value in the long run, but definitely time consuming. Something to consider as you plan the roll out of your solution.
There are definitely a few key considerations when looking at the performance of your application. From a high level sense, a mobile application is likely going to be the better performer. You can control the user experience and offer response times that you’re unlikely to get in a web application. They also offer direct access to device systems resources such as cameras or GPS (note: mobile browsers are improving in this regard, but still trail mobile apps) that may be of importance depending on your applications use cases. Sometimes however, the way to look at performance is through the lens of user adoption. With a web application it’s often easier and faster to get users onboard. You can avoid the hassle of downloading an application and skip directly to getting users onboard. We also highly recommend a web application if you anticipate infrequent or primarily one time interactions from your users.
The prospect of making a decision on web vs mobile can be a daunting task. We try to isolate this down to the key considerations above to help our clients make sense of the decision. And in situations where you’re 50/50 or just can’t make a decision we almost always recommend that you start your journey with a web application. We can control costs better and many of the backend features we develop in the web application can be used by a mobile application if and when the time to go that route comes.
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