Do You Really Need a Native App?

Today everybody wants to be mobile, and rightfully so. It’s crucial that your audience has a great mobile experience with your brand.

However, in our experience – 9 out of 10 times, making an existing website mobile-friendly has proven to be a better investment than a native app. Here are a few reasons why.

1. Calculated updates vs. Agile rollouts.

One of the real benefits to having a website is the ability to watch the behavior of your visitors and continually better their experience by optimizing in real time.

You don’t lose this benefit with a mobile website. You are able to test and push updates to your mobile site instantly and as often as you like.

On the contrary, if you want to modify anything about your native app, you must first implement the change, resubmit the app to the distributor, and potentially wait several weeks to launch the update. And even once your update is live, there is no guarantee that your users are ever going to update the app to experience the revised version. Of course there are tricks to getting around some of these limitations, but most are subject to these standard rules.

2. Increased up-front costs vs. Low barrier to entry

Building a native mobile app is rarely an inexpensive endeavor. You’re deploying software that has to stand on its own, out in the real world, within a host of variables. In addition, it takes an extensive up front build with several rounds of testing before an app is ready for prime time.

In stark contrast, however, optimizing an existing website for mobile can be relatively less expensive, faster to implement, and quickly scalable.

3. Advanced language vs. more common language.

Most native apps are written in either Objective C or Java, whereas when programming for the web, there are a slew of languages to choose from depending on your specific goals. This means there’s a bigger pool of developers to chose from with a wide range of backgrounds and skills, giving you more flexibility in terms of cost and timeframe.

This is simply supply and demand. Higher demand on a niche group of developers often makes building a native app a more challenging and costly endeavor than a mobile-friendly website.

4. Long-term maintenance vs. Project-based build.

Not only is the initial build of a mobile app expensive, but the project lifecycle is indefinite. As long as the app is active, it needs to be constantly maintained and updated as new devices come out. Assuming you have users (…and we hope you do), you’ll also have to have customer support, as well as an ongoing development roadmap of features and upgrades to keep them coming back.

While a mobile website needs all of these things, it’s easier to manage your investment into it as you have more control over how your product evolves.

Of course, just because it may not make sense 9 out of 10 times to have a native app doesn’t necessarily mean that a native app isn’t right for you…

Here are a few competitive advantages that native apps have over a mobile-friendly website:

  • USER EXPERIENCE.  Native apps can have the most integrated and customized user experience with the least amount of limitation.
  • LOCAL INSTALL.  Native apps live locally on the device, which means that they can operate even without an internet connection making your information available at any time.
  • SPEED.  With less dependency on an internet connection, your apps can easily run fast and smoothly.
  • ACCESSIBILITY.  Native apps can be found and marketed within the official app stores.
  • VISIBILITY.  Once a user has installed your app on their device, it stays there with its unique icon until they delete it.
  • FEATURE RICH.  Native apps have deeper access to the device hardware making certain functionality such as use of camera, GPS data, etc. easier to accomplish.

So…take the time to determine which direction is right for your business goals – don’t just get sucked into creating the next pointless mobile app.

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