HTML apps vs. native apps: how could you best develop your digital potential?


Jake Clegg-Reed

Digital Developer

Posted on July 28, 2015

Apps are smart, brand-enhancing, flexible solutions to modern marketing challenges, but are they tools you’re using as well as you could be, if at all?

The problem is that the word app has become synonymous with app stores. We think of them as publically available, skilfully put together bundles of code; designed to make money or provide a particular service. But these kinds of apps – native apps – are just one option available to anyone looking into app development, and for corporate business organisations they aren’t always necessary or relevant.

There are other options, and if you’re thinking of looking into developing an app, it could save you a lot of money and time if you know which kind you really need.

When native apps are a good idea

There’s no way of sugar-coating it: native app development is always going to be a complex undertaking.

First, if you want to make your app available on any device, you’ll have to develop three different versions – one for Apple, Android and Windows. You’ll need to employ specialist coders and offer regular updates to keep pace with platform and device upgrades.

Getting apps through app stores’ lengthy approval procedures will take time, too.  And with public release comes the risk of a poor review – app store apps live and die by their star reviews.

Native apps – that make use of high-end coding languages like C++, Java or Python – will look sensational, however. They’ll run faster too, and be able to connect with and make use of a device’s hardware – like its camera, microphone or GPS.

All big plusses if you’re developing a commercial game or a high-profile public service; but for corporate businesses, these are unlikely to be high on the priority list.

How HTML apps can do more than you think

We work with financial organisations and find that usually all they need from an app is to make their brand look good, incorporate some neat functionality, and be quick and cost efficient to produce. The aim is to attract clients and keep clients, but financial brands don’t usually need to distribute anything to the general public or make additional money through an app store. An app that can be used internally or made available by a direct download through a website or an email will do fine.

In this case, native apps become a little redundant. HTML, as an alternative, is cheaper and significantly quicker to produce while still offering a stable and surprisingly creative way of coding.

HTML apps provide a solution to most business challenges and the ‘what if we could?’ questions that come up in marketing meetings.

They can work as mini-websites or pieces of personalised software. They can self-contain information and interactive content to communicate something, or be coded to offer more sophisticated functionality, allowing for data input and feedback systems. HTML apps can also connect to external sources, like content management systems, and complement and interact with websites and other platforms.

HTML apps could provide a way to offer an impressive sales presentation on just one device or every person’s in the room. They could enable reps to deliver on-brand messages in multiple locations, or even provide content for an entire event. Alternatively, they could be created as a tool – a way of improving customer service, making life easier, or offering new, innovative ways of working.

A common misconception is that HTML-developed apps need an internet connection to work, but we can build them with plenty of offline functionalities. They can be accessed and viewed without an internet connection and even save data locally or within an email, ready to send when you’re back in Wi-Fi range.

How much you invest can be determined by your need – simple apps can look great without needing to cost the earth, and often it’s the simple ideas that work best.

And the added bonus? HTML apps don’t need to go anywhere near an app store approval process.

Hybrid apps: the best of both worlds

Finally, it’s worth bearing in mind that there is a third way.

Hybrid apps are HTML apps in fancy jackets that allow submission to app stores and access to device hardware and functionality. They’re a way of ‘upgrading’ HTML apps to enjoy some of the perks of native apps, but at the fraction of the cost.

And with that as an additional possibility, either now in the future, the message we’d offer you is obvious: work with a good digital agency to explore the potential for HTML app development for your business.

The results could be exciting, and cost a lot less than you think.