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Native app vs web app – which should you choose?

Creating a web application that meets a specific business goal is an undertaking that requires making a number of important decisions at the very beginning. This includes the choice of technology and the programming language in which it will be implemented. You can opt for a web application, which will be available in a browser, or for a native application, i.e. created for a specific operating system. 

What are the advantages and disadvantages of each of these solutions? Who can be considered the winner of the duel: web apps vs native apps?

What is a native app?

In order to be able to compare native and web applications and then identify a possible winner on this basis, you need to understand the differences between them first. A native app is nothing more than an app that has been developed to run on a specific mobile device or operating system. Apps of this type are usually downloaded from the App Store or Google Play and then regularly updated. We all have surely at least a few such apps installed on our smartphones. The most common include banking applications, airline applications, various types of communicators, and social media platforms.

While convenient, they can also be quite cumbersome, especially if you have many of them installed and each sends you different messages, notifications, or update reminders.

How does a web app work?

The alternative is web-based applications that run in a browser and therefore do not require the user to install anything on their device. To use a web app, all you need is internet access and a domain address. This is undoubtedly a very convenient solution for users, as it gives them access to specific functionalities regardless of what device they are currently using and what operating system it runs on. A web application can be successfully accessed from any mobile device as well as from a desktop computer.

Accessibility and not having to install a web application and therefore update it periodically is undoubtedly enormous advantages. The downsides include the inability to contact the user in the way native applications do.

Read more about progressive web apps and why you should choose them.

Web apps vs native apps from the business perspective

When considering the best kind of application to develop, the first step is to clearly define the business objectives of such an undertaking. Different solutions will work if you want to create an application that streamlines the internal processes of a transport company, and yet different ones if a hotel is looking for an effective promotional tool and a platform that facilitates making reservations. This includes the need to choose the right technology, programming language and type of applications that will best meet the needs of the business.

While analyzing business needs is a task that every organization should be able to handle without too much difficulty, choosing the technology and type of application requires appropriate knowledge and experience. How can you deal with this? Undoubtedly, the most sensible thing would be to put the task of creating an application into the hands of experienced specialists who have already carried out many such projects. This will allow you to avoid any unnecessary and often very costly mistakes.

How can such a cooperation partner verify which solution would be most beneficial? The answer is very simple – they will check your business assumptions and then analyze them against some of the most relevant factors:

1)   Functionality – the application must fulfill its role and do so in the most efficient way possible. To determine which application would better enable you to achieve your business objectives, you need to know them thoroughly. Native apps have the ability to take advantage of certain features of the devices they are installed on (e.g. camera, accelerometer, etc.), allowing them to be used for a variety of purposes. If their use is justified in your case, it is worth considering building a native application. If, on the other hand, the functionality your organization cares about mostly just requires working on a large enough screen, a web application will be a more sensible choice.

2)   Efficiency – this largely depends on the technology. Native applications win slightly in this respect, which, due to the fact that they have been written for the particular system of a selected platform, run slightly faster and often more smoothly. However, the differences are relatively minor – a properly written web application runs almost as quickly and efficiently.

3)   Security – any data leak can cost an organization millions and thus lead to its imminent bankruptcy. It should therefore come as no surprise to anyone that focusing on security issues is more important today than ever before. In the case of both web and native applications, the level of security depends primarily on the quality of the code and its accessibility – the more accessible the code, the correspondingly higher the risk of a hacking attack.

4)   Cost – for many organizations, the budget for application development is one of the most significant deciding factors. In this comparison, web applications clearly prevail, as they use a single set of code to effectively reach users on different devices, different operating systems and different browsers. In the case of native apps, it is necessary to create at least two variants of the app, running on Android and iOS, which involves additional work and the need to maintain and update both versions at the same time.

5)   Time – this is largely related to cost. Web applications also stand to win in this respect, and for exactly the same reasons as in the case of cost. Developing, maintaining and updating code only for the web app is much simpler and faster than managing code developed for several operating systems. So, if you want to provide users with a working application as quickly as possible, opt for a web application.

Deciding on a particular type of application is, as you can see, not a simple task. Given the possible consequences of a bad decision, you should not be in too much of a hurry to choose. So, how can you make the task easier? All you need to do is answer a few important questions:

●    What budget does the organization have for app development?

●    How long can it wait for deployment?

●    How important is the speed of the application?

●    How often would the application be updated?

●    Who will use it and how?

●    Will it also be used on mobile devices?

●    Should the application also work offline?

● Does it need to be connected to any device functions (e.g. camera) to work properly?

Should you have any more questions or want to clear your doubts – let’s talk. At Idego we have a team of experienced programmers who will help you from the very beginning and guide you through all the stages of product development. Just contact us!


cto - Chris Gibas

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