Native or Web App? There’s Only One Right Answer

Michelle Lawrence Picture

by Michelle Lawrence | Last Updated: Sep 23, 2020

Am I offended you’re asking this question? No. Are my feelings hurt that I suspect you haven’t read some of my other articles explaining this topic? Maybe (but I’ll live). Listen, I’m not going to harp on you (too harshly) for asking the question, “Native or web app?”. The mobile landscape has drastically changed in the last few years and if you aren’t a mobile marketing nerd like yours truly, you may not know there’s one correct answer to this question. You definitely should not build another native mobile app. The future of mobile is Progressive Web Apps (PWAs). You Sound Pretty Confident… I am very confident in that statement; you should not build another native mobile app. In short, disadvantages of native app development include the recent trend of decreasing of app downloads from consumers and the fact they are just a pain in the a** to build. And I haven’t even touched on dealing with the app store yet. So why am I so secure in this belief when the list of native apps is so long, you ask? Let’s take a look at some differences between native mobile apps vs web apps. App Development is Not a Walk in the Park If you’ve ever built a native mobile app, you’ve probably got a few war wounds to tell the tale. Native mobile app development is not pretty. First, you have to work with IT or a software engineer to get your app built. And let’s just say your app won’t be built for a while. Compared with websites, native apps are much more expensive to build. The average salary for a developer that specializes in iOS development is $116,000; an average web developer’s salary comes in at around $60,000. Think about how much of your budget, laid out in your mobile marketing strategy, you could use with that difference? The other big difference between native app and web app mobile experiences is with web apps, there’s no need for separate development for Android and iOS. If you're still questioning, “native app or web app?”, then this next disadvantage to traditional app development will answer it. The app store is notorious for holding app builders hostage. Not only do you have to play by the app store’s very long set of rules, but you could be removed at any point. Just look at what happened to one of the more popular native app examples, Fortnite. Epic Games has been permanently removed from the app store for not complying with Apple’s rules regarding in-app payments (#FreeFortnite). If you want to break ties with the app store and actually own your mobile experiences, build a PWA instead. Consumers Aren’t Loving Native Mobile Apps Minus the native mobile app I was forced (read: eager) to download back in March when my boredom took on a whole new level (yes, I’m talking about TikTok), I have not downloaded a new native mobile app in probably six months. I don’t have the storage space for another one on my phone and I have to be picky with what brand’s mobile experiences I want saved on my home screen. With PWAs, you don’t have to be selective when it comes to saving mobile experiences to your home screen; PWAs take up a fraction of the storage space required by native mobile apps. So, Should I Build a Web App Instead? Yes and no. I know it sounds confusing, but PWAs and web apps are different. Yes, both are still better than native mobile apps but there are some differences to note. Web apps act like mobile apps but are essentially just web pages. They can even be saved onto users’ home screens. While there are a ton of best examples of web apps, my personal favorite is Google Docs. But the real cream of the crop are PWAs. If you’re concerned over app vs website security, don’t be. PWAs are always hosted over HTTPs, meaning your connection is secure. Plus, you can have a little fun with the way your PWA is accessed since you don’t have to go through the app store. And I’ll bet you’ve used some of the best Progressive Web App examples - Starbucks, West Elm, and Pinterest all have PWAs. OK, so we’ve gone over native app vs web app pros and cons; are you still on the fence? If you’re now on the team #NoMoreNativeMobileApps, welcome! I think you’ll like it here. But if you need a little more information, maybe with a Progressive Web App tutorial...we’ve got you covered.

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