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Responsive Web Vs Native Apps: What Should You Go For?

March 7, 2016


As the mobile revolution is underway, companies are eager to develop mobile channels for their businesses. But in this rush to quickly meet users’ mobile expectations and create a market presence, they tend to sideline a lot of strategic questions. One such important issue is: responsive web vs. native apps – which is better for business? The question becomes even more pressing as a lot of businesses are even beginning to wonder if they really need to have an app to begin with.

Well, it wouldn’t be fair to answer that question before understanding the difference between them and analyzing their merits and demerits.

Responsive Web – A faster and a cost effective way to go mobile

A responsive website has the ability to efficiently adapt itself to the size and technical abilities of any device it is accessed on. The reason why people prefer it over regular websites is because it makes your content accessible on mobile devices.

Responsive web has now become the default for building websites. The development cost for responsive web is usually included as a part of the website development cost. A single URL works for the desktop, tablet, and the mobile versions. It’s simpler to launch, less expensive to manage, and doesn’t require additional analytics or other tools to manage the responsive web version of your website.

As responsive websites are not made available through dedicated app stores, developers can save themselves the hassle of adhering to OS guidelines. Compared to apps, responsive websites are faster, easier to test, and can reach wider audiences.

Responsive web – Poor Performance and Subject to Technical Limitations

However, it has its downsides too, a reliable internet connection being the primary one. Without uninterrupted connectivity, your site will lose the fundamental advantage of going mobile – anytime anywhere access. And if you have a fairly large or complex website with images and animations, your users are bound to have a poor experience because the site will be slow to load and consequently cause the phone battery to drain faster.

It is also known to have compatibility issues with certain browsers and devices. The biggest and probably the clearest disadvantage is its technical limitations. Responsive web cannot make use of any of the smartphone’s functions besides its browser. And without the camera, calendar, GPS or the accelerometer, the phone is not so fun to use.

Native apps – Superior User Experience and Better User Engagement

A native app is distinguished from a responsive website because unlike responsive web, it is developed specifically for a mobile operating system. Native apps have a slightly more involved development workflow with emphasis on a dedicated mobile experience native to the app. It helps developers (and hence businesses) to clear clutter, boost attention ratio, focus on what really matters, and help consumers get exactly what they want.

On an app that’s made for a restaurant, for instance, there’d be a menu, an integrated payment gateway, and the ability to book tables for consumers. Anything more than that makes the app cluttered and more like a website defeating the very purpose the app was built for in the first place.

Besides the usual advantages of being more popular, being able to run without an internet connection and making use of smartphone features, native apps also have dedicated analytics (also possible to integrate third-party app analytics) that allow you to keep the experience simplified. With push notifications, an entirely new marketing channel opens up for businesses using an app to engage better with the users.

Native apps – Comparatively Expensive and More Time consuming

As with almost every technology, native apps too have some disadvantages that you should be aware of. If they are not developed in accordance with the best practices of mobile app development, then the entire project can be a disaster. Moreover, they are only compatible with the OS they were specifically built for. Building for another platform would mean incurring additional costs and spending more time on development.

On a Comparative Note

There is actually no comparison between the two: one is mandatory and the other is an increasingly popular way to engage with users. In that case, you’d want to know which is more effective, right? In order to determine that, you have to carefully consider your budget, your timeline and your business goals.

If you want to quickly establish a mobile presence without spending a lot of money or hiring skilled resources, responsive web is a great place to start. On the other hand, if you are planning for the long term and want to see a significant return on your mobile investment, then native apps will the best for you.

Each instance of an app download is a testament of loyalty from your users or customers. It means that they have signaled dedicated interest and commitment. They thought your app is worth some precious space on their smartphone. That tells you a lot about your customer and it’s imperative that you live up to the value they expect from the app itself.

So, we’re hoping that your next question will be: Given that my website is mobile-ready and that I am launching a native app, how do I build an app that provides value?

If you want to partner with a company that can help you develop a solid mobile road-map for your business:

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