Web Apps vs. Native Apps: Are Web Apps the Way to Go?

Web Apps vs. Native Apps

Are Web Apps Killing off Native Apps?

No. Even as mobile web browsers get increasingly efficient, native apps still win when it comes to speed. This is a huge factor for search engines and users alike. That being said, I think that there are a number of opportunities to choose a hybrid approach to app development; one that leverages the benefits of both platforms. Thus, the problem is not deciding between web apps vs. native apps, but striking a balance that works for your users.

Often we’ll see this take the form of a native application that renders HTML for many of its views. The benefit is twofold: 1.) All that HTML that you’re rendering can easily be used on another platform, and 2.) Updates to that HTML can be done without the need to update and resubmit the entire application.

I also think it’s important to clarify the terms that are often used in a conversation like this one. When we say web apps vs. native apps, we’re talking about applications that live in a web browser versus those that you download from an app store. The former relies (generally) only on a capable web browser, whereas the latter needs to be written for the specific platform it plans to run on (iOS, Android, etc.).

For smaller companies, I think the hybrid approach is a great way to go. Although we don’t necessarily have the time or energy to dedicate entire teams to iOS and Android development, a hybrid approach would let us reuse significant portions of our code. I’d still want us to use native components for interactions that require significant speed (e.g., navigation and form controls, to name a few), and we’d also want to adhere to any critical platform-specific design conventions.

Additionally, we’re iterating on our products so quickly that I’m always cautious of introducing any unnecessary bottlenecks between new features and our customers. By intentionally using HTML views in our hybrid apps, we can make lots of updates that don’t require resubmitting our apps to an external review process.

When you design for Payroll Software, do you try to make it so intuitive that you need virtually no instruction?

Payroll is complex, but we try hard to make it as simple as possible. However, because of this sheer complexity, it’s even more critical that we understand our users, so we know how to tune what gets abstracted away. Ideally, running payroll with our online payroll software should be so easy, you’ll feel like you had hired a CA or CPA.

Do you think that Software will become a commodity in the SaaS Space, and the service will become the separator?

At a certain point, I do think certain types of software will become commoditized, and I think we’re seeing some of this already. When that happens, the differentiator becomes increasingly hinged on the relationship you’ve created with your users. Trust, honesty, respect. These are all things that need communicated not only through your customer service, but also through your design. Consider all the possible touch-points with your company. Are all of those places as intentional and considered as your flagship features? They should be, and it can make all the difference.

Beyond that, I think that first impressions in software are becoming increasingly important.  If software has become commoditized, customers won’t hang around too long if they see a better option elsewhere. You only ever get one first impression, and in software, that’s absolutely the case.

Short answer? No: Web apps aren’t taking over native apps. @Dreger explains.


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