Do You Need a Native Mobile Application? Technology vs. Marketing

Paul Boag, a popular speaker in the web design industry, recently wrote an article for Smashing Magazine about the practicality of developing native mobile applications for clients when many don’t actually need them.

What’s Native Mobile?

A quick primer: there are two different kinds of mobile applications…

  1. Native Mobile Applications are developed specifically for one type of mobile device.  They are software (not websites) and so take quite a bit more time, effort, and planning than your standard website.  A native application is something you can download on the App Store for iPhone/iPad or the Android Marketplace.  An app specifically made for iPhone will not run on Android.  Pros: Prettier, smoother, faster, makes your company look good.  Cons: costly, time consuming.
  2. Hybrid Mobile Applications are usually created using HTML5 and/or jQuery (a JavaScript framework).  They look very similar to mobile applications but tend to be slower and a bit buggier (not as smooth).  The perk of them is that you can create one version and then push it out to all of the different types of mobile devices (instead of creating a different version for each mobile device).  Pros: more cost-efficient, faster to create, more unity in design between devices.  Cons: Buggier, slower, not as pretty.

Paul Boag Forgot Something

Unfortunately, Paul Boag forgot a major component of why we create websites, software, and mobile applications.  To make a company look good!

There should definitely be an inherent value derived from using an application (it should be a tool for the user, not a pure marketing stunt), but as with anything a company decides to do, this leap should make the brand look as solid as possible.

When you choose to create a hybrid mobile app, it often times looks cheaper and more flimsy than does a native app (even though it usually makes more technological sense) — This does not make your company look good.

Part of what you pay for when you create native applications is the ability to tell customers and leads, “Hey! We have an iPhone app that lets you do x, y, and z on the go – Anywhere, anytime!”

Being able to say “iPhone app” or “Android app” instead of “mobile app at” is, many times, well worth the extra cost.  Quality and branding need to take precedence over cost.  A $40 pair of shoes lasts for 1 year, a $100 pair of shoes lasts for 5 years… Which one is the better deal?

Just like everything in life, you can always get a cheaper version of something… But are you selling yourself short in the long run?

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