Codal Logo

    Responsive web vs native app: What’s best for your mobile presence?

    Heart disease, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, and Alzheimer’s are among the leading causes of death in the US. Early in the application development process, your team is going to have to make a crucial decision.

    Heart disease, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, and Alzheimer’s are among the leading causes of death in the US. Early in the application development process, your team is going to have to make a crucial decision. With smartphone use growing significantly across the globe — just over 45% of the world’s population are smartphone users — designing your app with a mobile-first mindset is a given. But with two distinct methods of mobile app development in play, determining the best approach for your business can be difficult. Choosing between a responsive web app or a native app is a decision that’s not to be taken lightly. Each approach offers a host of benefits and challenges. Understanding which method is right for your users and your business is fundamental to the long-term health of your application.

    What is a responsive web app?

    Responsive web apps are digital experiences that run on multiple different types of devices through internet browsers. Designed to scale with different screen sizes, responsive web apps often mimic the look and feel of native apps. Frequently, responsive web apps are designed with the mobile experience top of mind, and then the design is scaled up to accommodate the larger screens of tablets, laptops, desktops, and more. Responsive designs use fluid grid systems and scalable photos and graphics that alter the presentation of the app based on screen size.
    The key benefit to responsive design is the ability to replicate user experience across platforms. Because they are accessible in-browser, responsive web apps work well on the smallest mobile device screen to a sizable desktop monitor. Unlike native apps, there’s no need for the users to download or install anything. They simply type in the responsive app’s URL and hit enter.

    How to develop a native app

    Native app development works a little differently than responsive web development. It requires different technologies and considerations. Free from the constraints of browser limitations and compatibility, you can take advantage of native OS features to deliver superior functionality and user experience.

    Android native app development

    Developed and maintained by Google, Android is an open-source mobile operating system. Native apps for Android devices can be developed using multiple languages, including Java, Kotlin, and C++. Android SDK is a collection of all the relevant tools and libraries you’ll need to build apps for Android.
    It also includes Android Studio, the official integrated development environment (IDE) for Android. This development environment provides a fast, flexible platform to develop cutting-edge apps.
    Because of its open-source framework, Android development is relatively easy compared to development on Apple’s iOS. The large community of developers operating on the Android SDK facilitates the sharing of ideas and code, meaning extensive documentation and a faster time-to-market for applications.

    iOS native app development

    Unlike Android, Apple’s iOS is not open-source, meaning there’s less of a development community sharing ideas, code, and best practices. Also, because it’s designed to work exclusively on Apple hardware, you are limited to using Mac devices to do the grunt work. It’s a bit more involved than Android development, but Apple does offer its own set of extensive developer tools. Its iOS SDK is quite extensive, as well as its XCode IDE and TestFlight beta testing app.
    Just be aware, Apple’s App Store review guidelines are pretty strict compared to Android’s. Its rigorous review process puts your app under a microscope, looking for any issues concerning privacy, security, performance, UX/UI, and more. Be sure to have your ducks in a row on the development front before submitting to the App Store, or you could be in for a painful rejection.

    How to develop a responsive app

    The HTML5 and CSS3 languages are the main components for building responsive web apps. HTML5’s flexibility and CSS3’s enhanced styling capabilities make them ideal candidates for producing cutting-edge web experiences. Some front-end frameworks like Bootstrap and Foundation are also commonly used to develop and deliver responsive websites and apps quickly and at scale.
    There are numerous other elements to ensuring a web app is truly responsive, including:
    Media queries: First released in CSS3, they allow web content to respond to different display conditions like screen resolutions
    Fluid grid systems and layouts Ensure the app adapts to the screen size accordingly
    Flexible image sizing: Using relative units to size images to ensure they remain housed in their proper location no matter what device pages are viewed on
    Responsive apps have a major benefit over native apps in that they are developed using a single codebase. Developing for both Android and iOS can be costly and tedious because each platform has its own unique set of requirements. A responsive app, however, only needs a single source of code to display on any browser, meaning users can access the app no matter what device they are using.

    How to choose what’s best for your business

    Both native and responsive web apps come with their own sets of development challenges and design considerations. Companies with cost or time-to-market as their chief concern frequently elect to go the responsive web app route. This is because numerous comprehensive, inexpensive frameworks exist for responsive development, including Bootstrap, Foundation, and Skeleton .
    Native apps require a dedicated team of developers familiar with a specific OS and language. If you want your app to run on both iOS and Android, you’ll need to hire separate teams for each. This, combined with the approval process required to get apps listed on the relevant app stores, means native app development can be an expensive and labor-intensive affair.
    Unlike native apps, responsive web apps do not easily integrate with mobile features or hardware. They are only accessible with an internet connection and require a lot of content optimization. High-quality images and other UI assets must be implemented with the mobile user in mind.
    Native apps are designed with efficiency in mind, negating the need for optimization, and delivering consistently fast user experiences . Native apps also grant designers more creative freedom to implement intelligent UI functionality, like clever animations or smart micro-interactions .
    Many companies elect to have both responsive and native versions of their applications. Take Instagram for example; it offers a responsive web app that replicates much of the experience of the native app and expands its user base as a result. While not always practical or cost-effective for some companies, offering both native and responsive apps casts a wider net.

    Making the choice

    Companies looking for a flexible, cost-effective approach towards mobile application development will likely choose to go responsive, while those seeking a faster, more visually engaging experience will go native. Evaluating your business priorities effectively will help you determine the best course of action for mobile development.
    At Codal, we’ve helped countless companies craft engaging, immersive apps that deliver superior user experiences and solve real business challenges. We work with companies to modernize legacy technology and give them the tools they need to excel in a digital landscape dominated by the smartphone.
    Whether it’s a native mobile app, a responsive web app, or both, Codal can help your business design, develop, polish, and perfect digital experiences that exceed your users’ expectations. We’ll go the extra mile to ensure your app performs to its full potential. Talk to Codal today to learn more.

    Written by Chris Powers