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Our focus is on technology this month at Martin, and we’ve roped in a couple of our web experts to share their opinions with us. (Not against their will; they came willingly.)

The topic on the cards: Responsive web design vs. native apps

There are undoubtedly pros and cons to each, but when it comes down to making a decision over which one is the favourite, there is some debate. Let’s find out why.

What is responsive web design?

A responsive web design is one that automatically fits to the screen size of the device it’s being used on. This means that the content, design and navigation all have to be adapted so that a mobile user has an experience that’s just as good as that of the desktop user.

‘Responsive design’ refers to the concept of developing a website design in a way that it changes automatically based on the user’s computer screen resolution.

The end result? A single website that looks great, regardless of the device you’re using it on.

What is a native app?

An app is software that’s been specifically developed for a mobile device, but is built for a single operating system. Users have to download apps from a specific OS store, like Google Play or the Apple store, to install on their Smartphones.
Apps are incredibly flexible, giving you the option to take advantage of mobile-specific such as the camera, GPS data, contacts, etc.

THE PROS

Responsive design

App

  • One website for all devices, and a single URL = no confusion or redirects required
  • Increased functionality, including push notifications which are very effecting promotional tools
  • Easy SEO (Search Engine Optimisation); no need to create additional content for a mobile site – it’s covered!

 

  • Super speedy and easy to access as it’s tailored to mobile – you can even operate it without an internet connection in most cases
  • Less work for the marketing team; all their promotional work is done in one place
  • Ability to think outside the box – you can take advantage of all the mobile features for a fantastic and engaging user experience
  • Generally the cheapest option to make your website user-friendly on non-desktop devices
  • It has a presence! Once a user has installed an app, it stays there with its icon in the apps menu for the ultimate visibility

 

THE CONS:

Responsive design

App

  • Requires an internet connection to access, meaning your info is not available to everybody all the time
  • Expensive – mobile app development is a costly endeavour
  • Technical issues – older devices or browsers will sometimes struggle to load a responsive page, and it can be a very slow process

 

  • Complicated to update, with requests requiring the app store to approve each time (and the user to consistently update)

 

  • Trouble pleasing everybody – mobile is a very different experience to desktop, so if you end up trying to please everyone, you may end up with the opposite effect
  • A struggle for marketing teams and SEO; apps require a completely different promotional strategy and this channel will require additional time and effort

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We asked our web team to weigh in

Christine, our lovely and talented web producer, cited a quote from mobile development consultant Gesualdo Bertellotti as summing up her own thoughts perfectly.

“The differences between responsive and native would be like differences between a car and a motorcycle. There is no one better than the other, it is just a matter of taste and needs. If you like the wind on your face and want to get to a place fast, the bike will be your choice, right? If you like to travel with friends and carry heavy luggage, the car might fit better.”

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Web production manager Steve got technical with us

“The decision to undertake responsive or adaptive website development or build a native app is dependent on a number of factors.

In the case of acquisition for example – if your goal is to generate leads for a sales team then SEO and PPC is likely to be key to your strategy along with a conversion optimised website and landing pages.   There are numerous examples across the web but financial services institutions and education providers approach acquisition in this way.  Similarly, for an ecommerce store an optimised website is required to rank in search engines.

If there is likely to be an ongoing relationship, using the example of ecommerce again, a native app  can provide superior CX making task completion and transactions much easier to accomplish, also encouraging loyalty.  ASOS and The Iconic both started as online stores and will typically acquire customers via their browser based stores and then push an app download.

It may be that a native app is your product, such as WhatsApp, Scan – QR and Barcode Reader or games such as Clash of Clans.  In those cases a browser based website simply can’t compete or even accomplish the UX, speed and functionality that a native app can provide.

In many cases, a combination of responsive web design, adaptive web design and a native app are used together to provide the complete CX across all devices.  Indeed, these services have arguably succeeded because the browser based service and app work so well in tandem.  Examples here could include Netflix, BeIn Sports, Evernote, Trello and Jefit.  Moving beyond this discussion, Fitbit provides a well-known example of how new devices collect data to feed an account that is accessible through both a browser and app.”

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The conclusion?

Ultimately, the choice between responsive web design and a mobile app comes down to the needs of the business. Both have their pros and cons, but overall the winning solution (for the individual) will be the one that works best for the user.

“Before a single line of code is written, it’s vital that all factors are considered including the products/services themselves, business strategy, user goals, acquisition, and customer retention/loyalty to name but a few,” says Steve, “with special consideration given to the user journey and experience.”

If you’d like to learn more about web development and app building, have a look at Martin’s technology courses on offer, which include the Diploma of Digital Media Technologies (ICT50915) and the Diploma of Web Development (ICT50615). (You can even bundle the two together for the most competitive skills.)

This blog could not have been written without the wealth of information in the below two articles and, of course, our wonderful web team. Thanks guys!


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