Native Mobile App or Responsive Web Design?

In today’s mobile world, one of the most common questions businesses face is whether to create a Native Mobile App or a Responsive Web Design. We receive requests regularly from clients asking to develop an ‘app,’ when what they are really saying is ‘I need to be in the mobile space to reach my clients and prospects more effectively.’ In this article we’ll explore the difference between the two and the pros and cons of each. Let’s start with actually identifying the difference between a native app and a responsive website.

  • Native Mobile App is a program that has been compiled to run on a particular OS and is downloaded from a ‘safe’ source such as the Apple App Store or Google Play.
  • Responsive Website, sometimes referred to as a ‘web app,’ is a website whose user interface adapts or ‘responds’ to mobile devices.

When executed properly, these two unique development methods can feel identical to an end user. Think about the Facebook app versus Facebook desktop, the look and feel, as well as the user experience are almost identical.

So why would a business choose an app over a responsive website and what are the pros and cons to each?

  • Cost and Development time: Developing a native app is inherently more expensive and will take longer than developing a modern, HTML5 responsive web app. With a web app, it’s ‘deploy once, deploy everywhere.’ Native apps, on the other hand require development for each platform: iOS, Android and Windows Phone at minimum. While this won’t triple the costs, it will significantly increase them.
  • Advanced functionality: Accessing certain advanced features of the mobile device, such as the gyro or accelerometer, a native app is a necessity. While web apps offer great capabilities, there are limitations in using the more powerful built-in mobile features.
  • Monetization: A key benefit of a native app is the ability to monetize visitor traffic through in-app purchases while web apps have to rely on display advertising. Additionally, with a native app, the app store provides all commerce services, reducing the complexity involved with transactional order processing and development.

In conclusion, there is no right or wrong answer. The decision comes down to analyzing your business’ needs: budget, development time, target audience and business goals.

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