Is It An App?

Back in August, I shared some tips to help smooth the app development process which were applicable whether your upcoming project would be your first app or your fiftieth. First on the list was determining whether the need you’re trying to meet is best met by an app or something else. Looking back:

So you’re considering an app. Hold on. Is it an App? Or is it a website? Or something else? Not every operation or function is best served by an app. Whether you’re considering an enterprise-level or general release app, some thought should be given to whether the goal of your app actually works for the form it will be in. Apple’s developer guidelines weigh in on this topic rather extensively. It’s worth some time to review these guidelines, particularly if you’re planning on developing for iOS.

While this short paragraph briefly touched on an important topic, I didn’t dive into this step more deeply in that particular post. But it definitely merits some serious attention since this simple determination can have significant effects on budget, development time and user utilization. MediaPost adds some important considerations, specifically whether a native app or a mobile web app makes more sense, going into much greater detail of the pros and cons in To App or Not To App, well worth the quick read. Writer Dave Meeker dives into the advantages and disadvantages of native apps vs. mobile web apps, noting that while native apps have an advantage over mobile Web apps in terms of intimacy, speed, quality of user experience, they are at a disadvantage due to cost, accessibility and freshness compared with a mobile web app. The stand-alone experience can be superior for a number of reasons, the first of which is the fact that a native app doesn’t require connectivity and thus allows much greater freedom of use than a mobile web app. Airplane use immediately comes to mind. As HTML5 and other mobile web technologies mature and becomes more common in the marketplace, companies are recognizing the value developing mobile web apps to access multiple devices rather than native apps which work only on one system. Nevertheless, the quality of the user experience is a serious consideration, and thus it may make sense to develop individual apps for individual platforms. That decision will depend on user demographics, app function and so much more, so plan carefully. There’s no wrong approach except the one which doesn’t work.