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Native vs. HTML5 apps: Which is right for your organization?

As mobile apps' uses grow more complex, so has the process of building them. In this tweet chat recap, we discuss the pros and cons of native vs. HTML5 apps.

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.

Another consideration before diving into mobile apps is the costs that go into developing them, as chatters Lauren Friedman and Hinson both mentioned:

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:

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:

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:

Is your organization developing native apps, HTML5 apps or both? Please respond on the comments section below.

This tweet recap is part of our #CIOChat on developing mobile applications, hosted by SearchCIO. For more recaps or further information on our next tweet jam, follow @SearchCIO on Twitter.

Next Steps

Get strategic advice on mobile app development in our Essential Guide. Then, find out why it might be wise to move fast when it comes to adopting an enterprise mobile strategy.

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What is just starting to show up is migration from what are current client/server and single user Microsoft applications to mobile. This is another area where analysts and advisors can help application owners. Obviously there are changes in use, but there are also great ideas and experience from current application developers and users. We work on Microsoft older technology (VB/ASP/C) to newer target (Cloud/Mobile/Web) especially to the new Microsoft environemtns. Come visit our new technology: Gizmox Transposition