Budgeting for your web presence can be an education in the term, “Spoiled for choice.” Do you need a mobile website? How about an app? Which should you choose, a native or hybrid app and what’s the difference? It’s hard to find definitive statistics in the blogosphere, with these guys over here saying that apps are winning and those guys saying that it’s browser traffic for the win. I’m going to come down right in the squishy middle and say that it depends on what your business does, who your user base is, and what they’d use the app for as opposed to your mobile website.
You might have heard of web apps, native apps, and hybrid apps, so let’s break them down. Right now, Apple and Android are the heavy hitters out in app land, and most apps are written for Android or Apple’s iOS platform. Windows and Blackberry have very small market shares when it comes to apps. As an example, there are over 1.5 million apps in the Google Play store versus with around 340,000 in the Windows Phone store, while over 100 billion apps had been downloaded from the Apple App Store in the past seven years.
- Web App: This is another name for a mobile optimized website that loads within the device’s browser. It’s a website by another name that is available on a mobile browser the same way it would be on a desktop. These are cross-platform, easy to update, and have a broad reach when the page is optimized for searchability.
- Native App: This is an application that is either already on-board your device or can be downloaded to your device from an app store. They are developed for a specific mobile operating system, and typically deploy faster than a website takes to load and can access the features of the device. You will need to retain a developer for this, and keep it updated as Apple and Android update their operating systems.
- Hybrid App: This falls right between the two above, so it’s a hybrid. It’s a step up from a web app, but is written using many cross-compatible web technologies. However, they can be just as expensive to develop as the native apps without the functionality.
An app in conjunction with a mobile site makes a lot of sense if you need a lot of interactivity or your target users are going to be using the app frequently to access your goods and services. With mobile driving internet activity, it’s certain that there are going to be massive demographic shifts as adoption of the technology continues. Pew Internet’s recent study pegs smartphone adoption at 68 percent out of the 92 percent of all Americans who own a mobile phone, and tablet adoption at 45 percent. Working to meet the needs of a younger generation who decreasingly own desktops and even laptops will take businesses into mobile sites and apps if they want to stay relevant to the under 40 crowd.