The issue of whether to build a mobile-optimized web site versus a truly native mobile app is a widely contested issue. From conference seminars, to popular blog posts, to internal debate amongst our team, this is one of the most crucial debates of our time.
We've long been on the side of native mobile apps. We think that in the future HTML5 will enable mobile sites to be just as good as mobile apps in most cases, but for now mobile apps are superior in many ways. Despite being much faster (which is one of the most important features an app can have), native apps allow for greater interaction and more granular control over aspects of the app.
We're constantly reevaluating our position to make sure that we're recommending the best option to our clients. We've been really impressed with all of the mobile frameworks coming out and responsive design is something we're becoming increasingly invested in. But for now, native apps are the way to go.
Jakob Nielsen, an interaction and usability expert, posted on his blog recently about this debate. His research in testing this topic comes to conclusions that are congruent to ours: build native apps (in most cases) over mobile web sites — for now, at least.
We disagree with Nielsen that this is going to change. We think that for the near future native apps will remain the front-runner because of the raw power that native code provides. Of course, future predictions aren't meaningful now, and we're keeping an eye on how the technology develops. As Nielsen says, you don't really need to know why the winner is best, just that it is.
The question of whether to build a native app or a mobile web site is an important one. If you have any questions, we'd love to sit down with you and talk about the merits of each. We'll explore your concept together and decide what's the most appropriate for your project. Say firstname.lastname@example.org to get started today.
In the future, we'll talk about some common scenarios and which strategy we think is best. In the meantime, checkout Nielsen's blog here.