Have you ever mentioned that you want to create an application and the person before you asked whether you’re talking about a web app, native app or hybrid app? No? Well then you can simply use your imagination and try to answer that question. Suppose you don’t know the difference, you will probably react in one way or another, out of the following:

  • You’ll give a quizzical expression and say “what?!”
  • You randomly pick one and then lose it when the person comes up with follow up questions
  • Just say “I don’t know yet” and ask for their advice (safest option)

However, the best solution is to save yourself from the embarrassment and gain some useful general knowledge regarding the topic. You chose to read this article so I guess you’re already doing that. Kudos!

Web Apps

If you believe that websites and web apps are the same thing, you’re not wrong. A web app can be defined as an application that a user can access on the internet via feeding a URL in a web browser; sound familiar? However, websites are usually associated with static informational content, whereas web apps are expected to be more on the interactive side. Web pages of Netflix and Trivago can be categorized as web apps, while web pages like Huffingpost and Wikipedia can be called websites. See the difference? Web apps can also be described as progressive websites; they allow users to do things instead of just providing viewable data.

Both websites and web apps are built in a similar way, primarily using HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Depending on the complexity, the selection of back-end technologies can vary greatly. Traditional websites/web apps were designed for using on desktop computers, but now mobile-friendliness is a priority. More than 60% of internet users solely or largely depend on their smartphones/tablets/phablets to access online content, so confining your app to desktop format is simply an unintelligent decision. Websites/web apps are easier to develop as compared to ‘mobile applications’ which are either native or hybrid.

Native Apps

Most of the applications that you download on your mobile device from an app store, are in fact Native apps. All Native apps are specific to the operating system of your device, such as Android, iOS, and Windows. Apps like Whatsapp, Instagram and Candy Crush are available on Google Play, Apple Store and Windows store. If you think it’s a single application that is available on all platforms, you’re in the dark. The truth is that the same idea of an app was developed for all three operating systems separately, i.e the Whatsapp app on an Android smartphone will not work on an iPhone.

Native applications for different mobile platforms are written in specific computer languages, using distinct development tools. Applications native to Apple devices are built with Swift or Objective C, Android apps use Java, and Windows apps are mainly written in C#. The standard components for each platform accommodate developers in creating compatible versions of their app for each. As the majority of mobile applications are native, there’s no denying that it has its advantages, as opposed to web and hybrid apps.

Native apps are capable of acquiring greater intimacy with the audience, given their convenient placement on the screens of our smartphones that we keep close 24/7. They are made to be utterly nimble and responsive; they quickly launch on the touch of your finger. Among their advanced features are ‘push notifications’ that keep us on our toes – a devilish invention to grab our attention. They can access different features of our devices, such as camera and GPS; this information is used to provide a more personalized experience that keeps us hooked. Native applications don’t compromise on UI/UX and tend to be user-friendly on every operating system.

The added leverage in native apps does come with an added price, which means they are quite costly compared to web and hybrid apps. Development takes up a lot of time, especially if you’re building your application for multiple mobile platforms; each platform requires a unique codebase. Developers usually specialize in one department, so you may have to hire two whole teams to work independently on the Android and iOS version.

Hybrid Apps

As the name might suggest, a Hybrid application is the result of a merger between a native and web app – it is literally a web app disguised as a native app. It costs slightly more than a web app, but is not as expensive as the native kind. Most startups go for web apps because it is the cheapest investment and a classic MVP (minimum viable product) move. Initially, a company or individual may have doubts about their product, so directly going for the native approach does not seem feasible. Relying on a web app alone becomes a barrier to the progress of a business, as it remains aloof from the larger audience.

Lesser people will make the effort to access an app through their web browser on a daily basis. Hybrid is the perfect solution as it lets users access your content/services by installing your application from the app store like any native app. The primary benefit of hybrid apps is that a single code-base is applicable to every platform. This saves substantial time + money, and scaling + maintenance becomes comfortable. The application can be built like a web app and still have several features of native apps. Yes, there are drawbacks when you compare the overall performance with native apps.

Hybrid apps have a cross-platform nature, so providing an optimum experience for every user is tough. In order to achieve a design that is universally compatible, you may have to make undesired changes here and there. Hybrid apps display content in a browser-like component called webview, which can only mimic a native app to a certain extent. Several apps with complex functionalities do not cope well with cross-platform development. Trying to turn them into a hybrid duplicate of native apps becomes more costly than developing multiple real native apps. The hybrid solution usually works for the simplest kind of apps that do not demand much of native features.

Wrapping Up

Native apps are the clear winner as far as UI/UX are concerned, but they are not the right choice for everyone. The main deciding factor is your budget and the potential of your app to hit a massive audience on a daily-basis. I’m sure that learning the true meaning of all three categories of apps will help you narrow down possibilities. If not that, at least now you can save yourself from embarrassment when someone asks you the question I mentioned at the beginning of this article. Good Luck!

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