Apps have come a long, long way since they were first introduced to the mainstream market by technology giant Apple. Starting life as simple calendar facilities and messaging consoles in first generation mobiles, apps have evolved to become online shops, digital personal assistants, reading devices and self-help guides.
Now expert commentators are signalling the end of apps as we currently know them – in favour of new technologies designed to offer enhanced user experience and host advanced capabilities set to significantly improve the way we browse, book and buy. Read on to learn more about the rise of web apps – and how making the right decision could have positive consequences for business growth and customer engagement in years to come.
Web app vs native apps – what’s the difference?
To explain the difference between web apps and native apps it’s firstly useful to identify their individual characteristics. Native apps are the ones you’re probably most familiar with – purchased for smartphones and tablet devices via app stores, they’re standalone, isolated spheres of software designed for specific purposes. This isolation causes a disconnect between other apps and standard mobile browsing – but it also makes it harder for users to locate and download relevant apps. Web apps are essentially web-based application software accessed through a web address as you would a normal website and mimic the look and feel of a native app. Being web-based negates the need for a download – an action needed to be taken by the user before using the application.
The death of the app stores?
The major flaw of apps is that they are largely inaccessible. Even though they’re convenient, user-friendly and often incredibly useful, they’re hard to find. If you don’t know that an app exists, you’re unlikely to look for it – or locate it. This inflexibility is the likely culprit behind tumbling app sales – with apps on average receiving fewer than 1000 downloads a piece, and a 20% drop-off reported in volume search.
So what’s the solution? Previously progressive web apps simply weren’t supported by non-flexible mobile browsers, which couldn’t handle the strain of hosting and displaying an app without access to the core software via download. Now new-generation smartphones have the capacity and capability to support the data streaming required to host and operate them. This opens the door to new, smarter apps that work within the browsing experience without a need for searching, comparing and downloading. Instead of you finding them, they find you – at a time when you need them the most.
The rise of progressive web apps
Progressive web apps exist online and integrate seamlessly into web browsing without a need for searching or downloading. As a part of the natural browsing experience they’re incredibly user-friendly, freely available and highly accessible – making them an attractive prospect for developers and marketers. Progressive web apps appear as a result of your search – designed to streamline, increase efficiency and offer useful additional functionalities to enhance and ease your experience online. They’re always relevant, since they are guided by the user. This is especially exciting news for businesses that have already invested in a mobile app. It’s an opportunity to improve customer experience – and in turn make more money.
Progressive web apps aren’t without drawbacks, however. Compared with native apps they are more open to exploitation– as the strict quality control currently required for submission to Apple and Google Play doesn’t apply to them. Web apps are generally more costly by comparison to develop, as more work is involved during creation and maintenance stages. They also have diminished capacity to access other mobile features and collect data – as they are used across multiple devices it can prove tricky to provide comprehensive support when things go wrong. Despite the drawbacks, it looks as though ‘traditional’ apps are set to become less relevant as the rise of web apps gathers pace over the next twelve months.
Choosing between native apps and web apps
The continued prevalence of web apps will tempt many to make the switch – but it’s worth considering both options in detail before you do.
Firstly think about your target audience.
- Are they more likely to engage with a native app or web app?
- Do you have a sizeable marketing budget?
- What are your goals?
- Is this your first app?
- If you already have a successful native app, what will the consequences be of changing things up – and how could switching to a web app adversely affect user experience and how long will it take to recover?
- Do you need to communicate to your audience through push notifications?
It’s key to thoroughly prepare and plan for the production of any type of app – so sit down and scope things out with your team and app development professionals before making a firm decision.