Responsive Web Apps Vs. Native Apps: Which Is Better?

Deciding between developing a web app or a native app can be difficult. Let's walk through why you'd choose one over the other, and the benefits you'll gain when you choose the right tool for your business.
November 16, 2021
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Responsive Web Apps Vs. Native Apps: Which Is Better?

Are you considering using a web or a native application for your business? When clients come to us, they usually have a pretty good idea of whether they need a web or a mobile app, but sometimes they haven’t matched their needs with the right implementation. We like to take some time to sit down with them and get an idea of what their business needs are so that we can develop an app that meets their company’s goals for their next business iteration.

When we refer to native apps, we’re talking about building mobile apps within the ecosystem, like Objective-C for iOS and Java for Android. These ecosystems require specific skill sets, and can only be installed onto those specific operating systems. Hybrid apps, such as ReactNative, gained ground recently to help combat the steep learning curve and rapid updates to native frameworks by allowing developers the ability to develop their mobile applications in JavaScript (hail to the king). Web apps are typically developed in HTML CSS and JavaScript, and can be used with a modern web browser, such as Chrome or Safari.

Oh, and Internet Explorer too (if you're still into that sort of thing).

If you owned an online home furnishings store and wanted to try augmented reality (AR) to help sell more products to customers —that’s where apps come in. A simple website can’t do this; that’s why you’d go beyond a website to a web app that will allow users to upload photos and add decor using AR. In this instance, adding a web app to your website enhances customer interactions, increasing traffic to your website and sales for your company. Web apps use responsive web design and mimic native apps, but they have limited functionality and personalization. Once you build your web app, you’d want to develop a mobile application to take advantage of AR further by utilizing the device camera, accelerometer, GPS, and lidar scanner.

For consumers, a native app loads quickly and is more convenient to manage all aspects of their lives even away from an Internet connection. How many apps do you have on your phone? According to Statista, users are forecast to download 196 billion apps on Google Play and 42 billion apps on the Apple App Store this year.

That’s a big piece of the app(le) pie that businesses who resist innovating are missing out on.

Your Audience Persona Determines Your Tools

You can choose one of three options for your company: use a web app, native app, or both. When we approach working with a client at Ventive, we analyze their audience persona's needs. In some cases, they need to access their devices anytime, anywhere, so it's appropriate to use a mobile app. Other times there are situations where it is more appropriate to use or to develop a web application. Take for example an HR administrator and an employee. The administrator can view an employee's insurance, dental, and 401k balance on a web dashboard, while the employee can check his pay-stub or vacation days in a native app. Accessibility wouldn’t be your priority when you’re dealing with privacy concerns.

infograaphic for responsive vs native

When to Use Both Web and Native Apps

Companies can use both web and native apps in tandem when it’s logical. Google Docs is a prime example. While Google Docs is both a web and native app, it's easier in most cases to use the web application. You can type a report at work on your desktop computer using the web app, and later revise a sentence on your smartphone using the native app. For more complex work such as brainstorming, outlining, and typing, a web app is ideal. Edits for clarity are more convenient than typing a long document on a mobile app.

Here are some common use cases of native and web apps:

Native app examples:

  • Online store
  • Game
  • Banking & Personal Finance
  • Health tracker (mHealth)
  • Social media
  • Task management
  • Newspaper & Magazine
  • Virtual Try-On
  • Navigation

Web app examples:

  • Documents
  • Email service
  • Video streaming
  • Visual creator
  • Instant messaging
  • Retirement simulator
  • Calculator
  • Online forms
  • Shopping carts

How to Develop an App Quickly

Development serves design. Working through the discovery process with a client, we always ask the question, “What problem are we trying to solve?” Then we build an app that serves 80% of our clients’ customers in the initial product. By focusing on the remaining 20% of customers after the first launch, we can get a product out the door that solves a problem immediately. Regular user testing gives us a good idea of what people are using in the app, and where we need to improve it. That’s why we stick to a regular app update schedule and dream up new features for the app’s next version. We’ve found that releasing an app with too many features at once doesn’t serve our clients. An overly complex design isn’t our priority; instead, we focus on solving a client’s most pressing problem.

Innovate With Apps

Clients who come to us with a clear problem and who are ready for innovation make it easy for us to put our designers and developers to work. The sooner you can communicate your audience's needs to the Ventive team the faster your app can take off. Interested in hiring a dedicated app development agency? Let’s get started on your business innovation today.

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