Do you have a clear idea of when a native app is required?

When your boss or client comes to you asking for an iPhone app; what do you say?

I would hope you don’t say “absolutely, here is your invoice.” Rather, I hope you ask “why” and more importantly “what do you want it to do?”

Too often clients and management are not really sure what they want or why they want it. They ask for an app because somebody has told them that mobile is the latest thing and that they should get an app. It falls to us to dig a little deeper.

Often the answer is they don’t need an app, but a responsive website instead. However, that can be hard to explain to management. We might understand the nuances, but we are not always good at communicating them.

Sometimes we need to simplify the decision making process to something the client/manager can clearly understand. One such technique is to say that native apps are for completing tasks, while mobile optimised websites are for consuming content.

Graph showing native vs web

We know that things aren’t quite that black and white, but it is a good guide that helps get others thinking in the right terms.

Too often management and clients want a native app that simply replicates the content from the website. That is not what native apps are for. In such cases a responsive website is the way to go. However, if management wants to allow users to complete key tasks such as check stock levels, access a contact database or book an event, then a native app is the way to go.

My point here is that we need to have a clear idea of what use cases require a native app and be able to clearly communicate those of our clients.

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  • Brett

    I think a responsive site could handle the key tasks you mentioned that would require a native app such as checking stock levels, accessing a contact database, or booking an event. There may be a level of supported devices, similar to what jQuery Mobile has, of devices of which your web app can smoothly complete the key tasks, but it could be done.

    Regardless, I think your example is a clear and easy way for people to decide which solution to go with when taking a step back and thinking about the issue at a higher level.

  • buildakicker

    Yes. Most folks just need a responsive site.