Apps help you to provide streamlined, targeted functionality to your users.
While your website is great for presenting (or selling) your brand, products and services to the world, apps provide even more scope for user-input, supporting your users to carry out specific actions, processes or tasks.
But it’s not as simple as just providing an app to your users and leaving it at that. One of the main decisions when planning your app is to decide whether to design and build a web application (deployed on a web browser), a native app (from your phone or tablet), or a software application (which can be a combination, or desktop based).
So what exactly is the difference?
What is a web application?
A web application is an app that runs in the web environment, such as in your user’s browser. They simply open their browser and type in the URL to access the app. This URL may direct your user to the app itself, or it may point them to the page that houses it.
They do not need to download any software to their device, and they don’t need to worry about the capability of the hardware they are using. A consistent experience is delivered to all users, and ease of access is maintained across different devices and operating systems.
What is a native (software) application?
In many ways, web applications and native applications perform in the same way. Both are geared towards providing the functionality the user needs, and both support an improved customer experience. The difference lies in how the apps are deployed. Native applications, unlike web apps, are downloaded to the user’s device and stored there for future use.
Most of the digital solutions we have become accustomed to are native applications. From Microsoft Word and Excel through to Instagram, these apps are downloaded to our computers or smartphones and, in some cases, provide offline functionality. This is something that a web app can’t do.
The advantages of a web application
What kind of advantages can a web application provide to your business? Discover more about the benefits this kind of application offers.
There’s no need to download to the device.
Users don’t always want to download applications to their devices. The number of apps installed on the average smartphone varies across global markets, but it is increasing, with only a fraction of these apps actually getting used. Deploying a web app eliminates this hassle for your users.
There’s no reliance on the processing power of the user’s device.
Many modern devices are extremely powerful, with super-fast hardware like Apple’s A12 processor now available even on the company’s standard tablet computers. However, this does not mean you can assume that everyone has access to this kind of power. Web apps achieve better accessibility because users do not require leading-edge devices to get the best from the application.
Updates and patches are delivered from a central location.
Web apps offer consistency. The last thing you want as a business is to have your users utilising out-of-date software. With web-based applications, this is no problem. All updates and patches are delivered from a centralised location, so you can be assured that all of your users are working with the latest version.
It is device, OS and browser agnostic.
Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Explorer. iPad, Galaxy, Mate. Windows, iOS, Android. Your users are now working with a wide range of browsers, devices and operating systems when they connect with your web presence. Developing a web application makes it easy to cater to this diverse landscape, as the user will have more or less the same experience no matter how they are accessing your app.
It is easier and more cost-effective to develop a web application.
While both web and native applications should result in increased revenue if deployed in the right way, you still need to be aware of that all-important bottom line. A web app should save you money, thanks to the more straightforward and more cost-effective design, development and deployment.
The advantages of a native, or software application
In some instances, a native application may be the better option for your organisation. Read on to learn about the advantages this kind of application offers.
It can provide offline functionality.
Your native, or software applications may be able to provide some functionality even when the user is offline. While they will not be able to access any functions that require an internet connection, they will be able to utilise basic capabilities, which may improve the experience your users receive.
Branded icons may solidify branding.
A branded icon sits on the user’s desktop, smartphone or tablet home screen. While the icon will be small, this is still an effective way of keeping your brand top of mind for your user. However, bear in mind that the user will have lots of other applications and programs on their device, so the effect of this may be limited.
It is self-contained, which may help with goal completion.
The software application will be completely self-contained and does not need to run in the browser. This may have a significant psychological effect on the user, making it more likely for them to complete what they set out to do. As a web application is more likely to be opened when the user is browsing the web, attention may be distracted to other open tabs and other pages.
It can boost brand recognition across different channels.
A native application will be deployed in a digital store, such as Google’s Play or Apple’s App Store. This provides you with another opportunity to utilise search engine optimisation techniques to get your application — and your brand — noticed. Web applications are less likely to have this effect, as the user probably already knows about the brand and your business before they access the application.
It can provide a better measure of engagement.
In order to download a piece of software or an application to their computing device, your user must already have an element of engagement with your business. In other words, measuring how many users are downloading your software apps may prove a better metric for engagement than simply analysing the usage of web-based applications.
Which option is best for your business?
Deciding which option is best for your business depends on your unique situation and objectives. It is important to remember that there are flip-sides to some of the advantages mentioned above. For instance, while a native application can be downloaded — signifying an engaged user — and is self-contained, reducing the chances of user distraction, this does not quite tell the whole story. Users may be suspicious of why you want them to download the software to their device and may make assumptions regarding your data usage policies.
A web application deployed via a secure HTTPS connection is likely to fill the user with more confidence, and this can help you build an improved reputation over time.
What’s more, most of the advantages of software applications are also found in web-based apps. You can still tailor the web-based app directly to the needs of your customers and clients, and you can still design a web application that supports the highest level of interaction and experience for the end user. In this sense, the web application removes additional levels of complication from the development process.
Develop the applications you need with our team
A custom web application or native application can take your business to the next level. Our team offers consultation that can help you understand the best course of action for you, based on your aims, budget, and the operational requirements of your project. Reach out today and let’s get started.