Decisions, Decisions: Responsive Web or Native App?

Illustration of a tablet, laptop, and a smartphone with similar screen displays of a website.When I was a teenager, all of my friends had those sneakers with the wheels in the heels. You know the ones; you probably dodged kids left and right while trying to do your bulk shopping at Costco (Costco floors are made of prime skating material - ask anyone).

Woman skating on one skate across an office floor from right to left.

So, like my HyperColor predecessors, I wanted them, too, and my saintly parents obliged. I went from a gangly, post-growth spurt wrecking ball to all of that…on ice. I shouldn’t have to describe the destruction that ensued.

Long metaphor longer, I was not meant to be that mobile. And your new product might not be either.

89% of people are likely to recommend a brand after having a positive brand experience on a mobile device. Your digital product just cannot afford to avoid the mobile atmosphere any longer.

Whether you’re looking to skate circles around the competition or have the top of the line gear, we’re here to help find your best bet: a responsive website or native mobile application.

Responsive website

These days with more people surfing the web on mobile devices, websites absolutely need to be responsive. Users spend more time on websites that are intuitive and easy to navigate on a variety of devices.

If you answer “yes” to any (or all) five of these questions, the responsive website route might be your best bet:

1. Does your content change regularly (at least every three months)?

If you’re gung ho about updating certain content yourself, a native app will require a CMS backend that’s built for easy editing or a maintenance contract with an agency to make those updates for you. Either way, both of these options come with a price. A responsive website will not only be easier to update on a frequent basis, but will ultimately cost less.

2. Is your product text heavy, even if that content is static?

It’s much easier to read large volumes of text on a laptop, desktop, or tablet. A responsive site will retain the look and feel of the desktop experience so users can easily transition from one to the other without needing to learn how to use a new interface.

3. Do you have an existing website and want it to be more mobile-friendly?

If you’re happy with your website and don’t need any major renovations, making it responsive will enhance users’ experience in any format.

Even better: Google changed its search algorithm in 2015 to give priority to websites that are responsive, so having a responsive site can help drive more organic search traffic to your domain.

4. Do you have a tight timeline for this project?

It is usually faster to develop a responsive website than a native mobile app that is available on more than one operating system. If you’re under the constraints of a rapidly approaching deadline, responsive is probably the way to go.

5. Do you have a limited budget?

Generally speaking, a responsive website will cost less to develop compared to a mobile app, as there are interface and functionality differences between the iOS and Android platforms.

However, there are development options like React Native that allow you to build an app once and apply that code to both iOS and Android. If an app built in React Native meets your needs, this could level the playing field, cost-wise.

Every project is unique, so make sure you do your homework when it comes to cost analysis.

Native mobile app

Providing fast performance and a high degree of reliability, native mobile apps are coded using a specific programming language for each operating system.

As of this time last year, there were 6.5 million apps available in the top app stores. This upward trend isn’t going away either; it’s expected to continue its exponential climb in the coming years.

If you answer “yes” to any (or all) four of these questions, the native mobile app route just might be your best bet:

1. Does your product provide a service uniquely suited to being (literally) in your user’s back pocket?

If many of your users are on the go when they interact with your information, an app is the better option, as it provides a more consistent user experience. As with every marketing endeavor, it is crucial that you know your users before creating a market-ready solution.

2. Does your product leverage built-in smartphone technology (e.g., GPS, gyroscope, accelerometer, camera, Apple Pay/Google Wallet)?

Make the most of what is available to you. Smartphones have amazing services you can tap into to make your users’ lives better and their experiences with your brand richer!

3. Do you want to limit access to your product behind a login?

Users often expect free and open access to much of the internet. Immediately serving visitors with a login screen on a website could be off-putting and unexpected. However, users are much more willing to accept that an app requires logging in before you can access the product.

4. Do you need to tell your users something in real-time, RIGHT NOW?

Push notifications from an app allow you to send alerts to your users informing them of new updates, promotions, or features. It’s a handy tool that can re-engage users quickly and inspire action.

Our work with responsive websites and mobile apps

We’ve had the great pleasure of working with many organizations seeking help with their web and mobile app projects. Here are just a few examples:

A complete list of our publically available projects can be found on our work page.

Decision time

Those trendy, skater sneakers did not end up working for me, but were definitely the perfect fit for others. There is no “right” answer here. It’s all about what works best for your goals, your services or products, and your audience(s).

Still not sure what to do? Learn more about mobile strategy from our Mobile Web vs Native Mobile Apps white paper.

We’re ready to help steer you towards the technology that will help you achieve your business goals. Give us a call and we’ll get that project rolling in no time.