In recent years, businesses have been rewriting the rulebook, redefining customer experience and leveraging tech to establish new avenues of customer engagement. From ride-sharing apps to meal delivery services and digital marketplaces, startups are not only creating new markets but disrupting established industries. Take a closer look at this year’s Forbes Asia 100 to Watch list that shines a light on notable small companies and startups that are on the rise across Asia.
Apps represent one of the digital tools that have been steadily growing in prominence. The development of apps has become an indispensable tool, enabling businesses to enhance their efficiency, streamline processes, and cater to the increasingly tech-savvy consumer base.
As your business grows, you might find yourself in search of the ideal app type that aligns with your business objectives. The choice between web apps and native apps is one that you'll want to make thoughtfully. While both options offer unique benefits and disadvantages, learning more about them would help you decide which is best for your business needs.
What is a Web App?
A web app is designed to run in web browsers such as Firefox, Safari, and Chrome, making them platform-independent without the need for download or special configuration like native apps. Although web apps are primarily accessed through the website on a computer, they can also be accessed in a mobile browser. Examples of web apps include instant messaging, shopping carts, Google Docs, and product search and filtering.
These web apps are suitable for businesses that need to exchange information, deliver their services remotely, and connect with customers conveniently and securely. For instance, e-commerce stores find web apps beneficial for features like shopping carts and product search, offering customers an online shopping experience to browse and purchase products. Similarly, companies operating in collaborative work environments opt for web apps like Google Docs and tools such as Trello to facilitate remote work and project management. These apps enhance real-time collaboration and document sharing.
What is a Native App?
A native app is a software built for a particular device or platform such as iOS or Android. These applications are designed to work seamlessly on device-specific software and hardware, offering optimisation for features like GPS and mobile cloud capabilities. Examples of native apps include social media applications such as X, WhatsApp, or Facebook and music streaming applications like Spotify and Apple Music. Discover some prominent Malaysian super-apps to gain insights into their impact.
What are the Pros and Cons of Web Apps?
Now that you know about web apps, we'll explore the distinct benefits that make web apps an attractive option, as well as the potential drawbacks.
Key Benefits of Web App
Some of the benefits of using a web app for your business include the following:
- It can be used across different web browsers, computers, and mobile brands.
- It has a low upfront and maintenance cost as it doesn't involve app store fees or revenue sharing, which are common with native apps.
- It doesn't need to adhere to specific standard operating system protocols. Therefore, developers can release them in any format and at your chosen time.
- It offers automatic updates since it’s not downloaded from a specific platform like an app store. With a web app, users can always find the most up-to-date version of the application once they open it.
Disadvantages of a Web App
Some of the cons include the following:
- Internet connectivity is essential for these apps as they operate through web browsers, making offline usage impossible. This can also be particularly frustrating to users with poor internet access.
- They're difficult to market or promote since they're not listed on an app store. App stores offer more visibility due to their universal usage.
- Web apps offer less functionality compared to native apps because they are designed to work across multiple platforms and lack deep integration with the unique features of a specific operating system such as GPS, camera and microphone.
What are the Pros and Cons of a Native App?
In 2023, it is estimated that the annual number of mobile app downloads worldwide will amount to 299 billion, up from approximately 247 billion global app downloads in 2020. To make an informed decision about whether mobile apps align with your business needs, it's essential to consider the advantages and disadvantages they offer.
Key Benefits of a Native App
A native app offers several benefits that would transform your audience's digital experience such as the following:
- Faster and more responsive since they adhere to standard operating system protocols approved by the operating system they're running on. This makes them excel in device compatibility, quality, and level of security.
- Offers a superior UX, allowing developers to provide specific features custom to the user's needs.
- Works offline or with limited connectivity, making them suitable for applications that require consistent performance, even without an internet connection.
- They get distribution support from the app marketplace such as Apple App Store and Google Play Store, making them easier to be discovered by target users.
Disadvantages of a Native App
Although native apps offer far superior benefits than web apps, they have several disadvantages that you should know about. Some of these disadvantages include the following:
- Native apps require a high upfront cost, especially when adhering to specific operating systems' guidelines and protocols. However, investing in an experienced developer for native app development is a strategic move that can ensure adherence to these standards. This, in turn, leads to the creation of a high-quality, well-optimised app that enhances user experience, fosters brand credibility and potentially generates greater long-term returns on investment.
- You need approval from the app marketplace before your app can be published. Therefore, developers do not have complete control over the format or timing of the app’s release.
- App updates would require users to download and install new versions, which can be a barrier to keeping users on the latest release. If users choose not to update, they will miss out on vital security patches and bug fixes, potential compatibility issues with evolving operating systems, the inability to access new features and improvements, and a diminishing user experience as the app becomes outdated.
Web App vs. Native App: How to Choose an App that Fits Your Business
Now that you have a better understanding of web and native apps, we’ll explore the crucial factors to consider when determining which app type best aligns with your unique business needs and objectives. Here are some of the factors you need to consider:
If budget is your primary concern, you can consider web apps as they are typically more afforable. They require a single codebase that can run on various platforms, reducing development and maintenance costs.
Alternatively, native apps tend to be more expensive to develop, as they require separate codebases for each platform (iOS and Android). However, the investment in native app development can pay off over time due to the enhanced user experience and performance, which can lead to higher user engagement and, potentially, greater returns on investment. A study in 2019 found that payments on mobile applications are estimated to increase from 41.8% in 2019 to 52.2% in 2023.
When looking at budget alone, you'll find that web apps are frequently the more economical option. However, it's crucial to take into account other factors such as user experience, your target audience, and long-term goals when you make your decision.
Time to Develop and Launch
If you need to launch your app quickly to capitalise on a market opportunity or stay ahead of competitors, consider starting with a web app. Web apps generally have shorter development cycles and can be updated more swiftly.
On the other hand, if you're aim is to build a user base rapidly, native apps published in app stores can provide more exposure. However, keep in mind that the approval process for app stores could consume some time.
Hybrid apps or cross-platform frameworks like React Native and Flutter are suitable when you want to strike a balance between speed and feature-rich performance.
Target Audience and Expected User Experience
Consider whether the nature of your service demands frequent updates whereby a web app would be a better option. For example, in the context of a news app that must provide real-time updates and breaking stories, users expect to have access to the latest news when they need it.
On the other hand, for applications requiring offline functionality and infrequent updates, native apps would be ideal. Take an e-book reader as an example. Users expect their e-books to be accessible even without an internet connection, and they appreciate not being bombarded with constant updates. In this case, a native app provides the necessary features and offers a top-notch user experience tailored to the offline reading needs of your audience.
Build Your Best Business App with WebLITE
In a nutshell, a web app offers flexibility and broader accessibility, while a native app promises performance and access to advanced device features. While these insights are vital in your app development choices, remember that one size doesn't fit all. The best way to evaluate these factors and decide on a suitable option for your business is by seeking the help of an app developer.
WebLITE offers various digital experience services, including web and app development, creative design, concept and wireframe, UI/UX development, user journey mapping, and cloud architecture. Contact us today for a free consultation, and let us help you explore the optimal path forward for your business needs and goals.