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Building mobile apps is a rapidly evolving business. Mobile applications are no longer simply smaller versions of their desktop counterparts; rather, they've taken on a life of their own, offering more complex functionalities that change how employees work, how companies do business, and how end users interact with your business.
In this recap of the recent #CIOChat on building enterprise mobile apps, SearchCIO contributor and mobility expert Bryan Barringer, along with other SearchCIO followers, sounded off on why and how to build stellar native vs. HTML5 apps.
What are the rules of thumb for deciding whether to build native or HTML5 mobile apps?
It's important to nail down the requirements with the business teams that will be using particular mobile apps before embarking on developing them, as participants Brian Katz and Dan Shappir pointed out. These criteria include the operating system the app will run on, security requirements and user experience:
One factor that can help determine whether to go for an HTML5 app or a native one, tweeted Barringer, is whether its users will need to access constantly changing content from a data source, such as the company's website:
David J. Hinson agreed with Barringer, warning that if you opt to build a native app, it should be unique -- not just recycling content already available on your website:
Forrester analyst Jeffrey Hammond agrees with these assessments, saying recently on SearchCIO that companies whose sites are content-based or deal with e-commerce, or whose customers visit their sites regularly to read updated content, lend themselves well to browser-based mobile apps.
"In those sorts of situations, you're not entering a lot of data and don't expect the data to be resident on the device if there is not a network connection," Hammond explained.
While native apps are the most popular route taken by many businesses, and make use of intrinsic features of the device they're tailored for, they also tend to be more costly to develop. And with a growing legion of enterprises adopting bring your own device (BYOD) models, the costs of building and managing these native apps grow ever higher.
One reason many go down the native route, Katz posited, is higher demand, as well as better user interface and usability:
Users by 80% are picking native apps over web and web apps at the moment…something to keep in mind #CIOchat— Brian Katz (@bmkatz) October 29, 2014
User experience (UX) is one of the most important factors that dictates whether a mobile app succeeds or flounders post-launch, concurred Skip Allums. "We're tasked with designing for an intimate interaction," the UX design lead of mobile financials at London-based Monitise told Senior News Writer Nicole Laskowski. The choice between native, HTML5 and hybrid apps comes down to which will help you best communicate with your users and build on their trust.
Another consideration, Laskowski noted, is whether the mobile app needs access to specific features within the device; unlike HTML5-based apps, native apps have access to a smartphone's framework, which includes user interface elements, database services, a network stack and more. Analyst Jack Gold agreed, as did Barringer, who cited location and activity tracking as examples:
@TT_Nicole This is VERY true. HTML apps dont interact with location based services very well for example— collab_me (@collab_me) October 29, 2014
However, browser-based apps trump native ones in offering a consistent user experience across multiple devices, Barringer explained. HTML5 apps have the benefit of being flexible because, with one coding process, the same services can be provided across a range of devices and platforms:
#CIOchat If ur app is to be used on multiple platforms (iOS,Android,Win) then a webapp allows for a single code base that will work on all.— collab_me (@collab_me) October 29, 2014
Is your organization developing native apps, HTML5 apps or both? Please respond on the comments section below.