Among the most common questions we hear these days are, “Do I need a web solution or mobile app?” and, “What is the difference between web vs. app, anyway?”
Sometimes answering the first question above starts by simply re-framing it. Instead of asking, “Do I need…?” you should first ask, “Do my users need…?” If your users have a clear demand for one or the other, then that should be the only information you need. If user demand isn’t so clear, then evaluate when, where and how will they be most likely to use your solution. For example, a travel-related solution is probably well-suited to mobile, while a business management tool would probably do better as a web solution.
Next, you’ll want to be sure you fully understand the differences between web solutions and mobile applications, and what it takes to create each. Both have unique features and benefits that should be considered when architecting your solution.
Advantages of Responsive Web Applications
- Typically provide better exposure since they can be found using general search engines like Google and Bing
- Users can easily share links to a web page, harder to share an app
- Lower development and maintenance costs
- Accessible from any web-enabled device
- Good for more complex tasks
Advantages of Mobile Apps
- Get found by users looking specifically for an app (searching the app stores)
- Can work offline without an internet connection
- Utilize native technology like camera, GPS, push notifications, etc.
- Be with your users anytime, anywhere
- Good for limited, focused tasks
What about Progressive Web Apps?
One of the latest developments in the Website vs. Mobile App debate is the introduction of Progressive Web Apps into the mix. Progressive web apps use modern web capabilities to deliver an app-like user experience. Where before you could only utilize a device’s native functions (such as push notifications, location services, working offline, etc.) if you built a native application, you can now use new web APIs to do use them in your web apps.
Progressive Web Apps are:
- Progressive – Works for every user, regardless of browser choice because it’s built with progressive enhancement as a core tenet.
- Responsive – Fits any form factor: desktop, mobile, tablet, or whatever is next.
- Connectivity independent – Enhanced with service workers to work offline or on low-quality networks.
- App-like – Feels like an app to the user with app-style interactions and navigation because it’s built on the app shell model.
- Fresh – Always up-to-date thanks to the service worker update process.
- Safe – Served via HTTPS to prevent snooping and to ensure content hasn’t been tampered with.
- Discoverable – Is identifiable as an “application” thanks to W3C manifest and service worker registration scope, allowing search engines to find it.
- Re-engageable – Makes re-engagement easy through features like push notifications.
- Installable – Allows users to “keep” apps they find most useful on their home screen without the hassle of an app store.
- Linkable – Easily share via URL, does not require complex installation.