For the entrepreneur, the list of choices can be paralyzing. The massive choice list even extends to how your app should be designed and implemented. Do you go with a native app, developed for Android or iOS? Do you decide to go with a web app running in a browser? Or, lastly, is a hybrid app, a combination of native app and web app, the best choice? Each question’s answer could fill a textbook’s worth of content. For the sake of brevity, we’ll discuss why a web app may be the best option, at least to start with.
One Size fits All
Unfortunately, choosing the right option is not a one size fits all scenario. The right option will depend on your specific requirements. For instance, if your app requires accessing GPS, a camera, contact list, or incoming SMS messages a native app is the best option. If you require a platform-agnostic app or have a strict budget a web app can be the best option. Spending the time on clearly defining your app’s requirements can save future disappointment and massive cost overruns.
Returning to why a web app might be your best option, an unavoidable reason is they are generally cheaper than native or hybrid apps. In the case of native apps, as there are namely two platforms to develop for, two sets of development teams are required. Granted that is if the app is going to be developed for both iOS and Android. Even if only one platform is chosen, entrepreneurs need to be aware of the 30% revenue cut Apple or Google will take. This is on top of annual developer fees to add the app to the specific app store.
In the case of hybrid apps, they still can cost more than a web app as they will naturally involve increased development time. This increase in development time, and time to market, results in getting the app to work flawlessly across platforms. Web apps can, and will in many instances, make use of fleshed-out open-source libraries, bringing costs down. They only need to run within a web browser so boast even more cost savings as no third-party platform will take a cut.
For web apps, the only requirement to access them is a device connected to the Internet. This greatly increases the sheer scope of who can access the app. This also has the advantage of not taking up dedicated storage space on mobile devices as a native app would. Traditionally, however, web apps did come with a major disadvantage in that they were only accessible while online.
This fact can still be leveled as a disadvantage, but developers are currently developing Progressive Web Apps (PWAs). These apps allow several tasks to be completed by users offline. In 2017, Twitter released Twitter Lite which was the first successful implementation of a PWA. It is expected that PWAs will become a more popular choice in the future as they offer another alternative to native apps.
When looking at the potential numbers your app will reach, web apps have another advantage. Apple’s App Store can generate 500 million unique searches a week. Not bad by any scope of the imagination. When compared to Google’s over 39 billion unique searches per week, the numbers pale in comparison.
That is not to say search engines will replace an app store by any means. App Store searches are far more targeted towards specific apps or apps that solve a problem. Searches via Google or Bing are far more organic. This has the potential for the app to reach a far larger audience. For instance, your web app can appear on searches for a variety of different search phrases. This is true in contrast to users searching for your specific app.
Web apps certainly have several advantages over both native and hybrid apps. For many these advantages have resulted in projects taking a web app first approach; only adopting platform-specific apps if necessary. This approach has led to a reduction in the time needed to bring the project to market. Importantly, this also results in reduced costs, an unavoidable reality to consider.