Gartner’s 2013 mobile and wireless prediction: by 2016 more than 50 percent of mobile applications will be Hybrid.
What does this mean for you?
You may have already re-tooled your existing customer-facing websites to use Responsive Design in 2013. Read Why Your Business Needs A Responsive Website Before 2014. If people can’t access your site in mobile – they leave. They may leave without your knowing they arrived. And this could be up to 60% of traffic.*
*At minimum do a few quick tests on various devices to see how your site works. If your site is usable, but not a terrific experience, the urgency is much less. I’m talking about those sites (and there are many) that are completely unusable on mobile. Look out for modal popups that can’t be closed, unreadable text, difficult navigation, tiny hyperlinks and Flash.
If you don’t have a responsive site, it’s time to catch up. But if you are on track, it’s time to consider a Hybrid app as a next marketing step after Responsive Design. This is because you can re-use portions of your Responsive site within the non-native portion of your app.
What is a Hybrid App? A Hybrid App is found on the App Store (Google Play, iTunes, etc), but contains components derived from HTML from web or local store. A Hybrid App can vary widely in terms of what percent is native versus percent web. (“Hybrid” is a fairly generic classification. But I’ve found most people aren’t aware of the full range of possibility when it comes to apps.)
Hybrid apps are typically less expensive to build and maintain than native apps because the same code is used for all platforms. With a 100% native app, completely separate programming is required for Android and IOS (and Windows and Blackberry and whatever else the future holds).
Another big advantage of a hybrid app is your ability to demo the web version (assuming by Hybrid you also have a web version available). Compare the amount of time it takes to demo the web version of T-on-Time vs. the App Store Version. It’s always a hassle having to pull out the phone, search the store, install, download etc. all the while looking over a potential customer’s shoulder. Besides, it’s nice to see how it works before committing to the download.
A Hybrid app gets you in the app store. It provides legitimacy to the brand and an additional place for your logo and marketing copy. Google ranks app store pages very highly because an app is a sign of legitimacy.
Having a shortcut on a users home phone screen is a huge benefit. Down the line, you can reach out directly to users using push notifications and app updates.
Do you have a configuration tool, product finder, web product, documentation index or cost calculator on your web site? Is it already responsive? If so, this could be a good starting point for a Hybrid App.
If you are trying to decide whether to go native vs. Hybrid, DALSASS.mobi recommends Martin Fowler‘s approach in Developing Software for Multiple Mobile Devices. Choose the “Laser” if your product is the app. Choose “Cover-Your-Bases” if your app is a marketing channel and user experience is less critical than reaching as many devices as possible. (Be careful with poor UI/UX. I’ve found user experience is always more important on mobile than on desktop.)
Hybrid isn’t the best choice in every situation. For one, the performance and usability of Hybrid apps is generally lesser than native apps. (Hybrid apps are not recommended for fast-moving animation, complex screens or games.) Although you can do most of the things on a Hybrid app on a native (push notifications, GPS, Camera, video etc.) the integration between the Hybrid and native aspects can add more complexity than native. An app that integrates deeply with the hardware should be native. Finally, a Hybrid app looks different than a native app. These differences could bother people who are familiar with a native experience.
For Hybrid Apps, DALSASS.mobi clients are using Cordova (previously known as PhoneGap), combined with a CSS framework like Twitter Bootstrap or jQuery mobile, and an MVC framework such as Angular.js. On the back-end, Node.js is the ideal platform, due to it’s real-time, lightweight message passing (JSON) and concurrent nature.