HTML5, native and hybrid — Choosing the best approach

When starting out with a new project one of the big decisions you’ll need to make is whether to use HTML5 or build “native” apps. We highlight the key points you need to consider when choosing the right solution for your needs.

HTML5: Advantages — Write once and it works everywhere

  • With HTML5 you can create rich, internet enabled content for mobile, web and desktop.
  • It’s cheaper and faster to build with HTML5 than to build separate apps for iOS, Android and Windows Phone.
  • As HTML5 is basically just an advanced website, it’s also far easier to update and integrate with other parts of your marketing strategy.
  • HTML5 is worth considering in enterprise where the ability to store data securely is important and installation can be managed by an IT team.
  • It has also been used successfully by a limited number of consumer facing companies, the standard bearer of which is the Financial Times who have been repeatedly very optimistic about their experiences with HTML5.

Drawbacks

  • Web applications can’t be added to the Android and Apple apps stores, and this is a complete blocker for many businesses. If you want to be in an app store, you will need to choose native or hybrid.
  • HTML5 doesn’t provide access to all the features of many devices and you won’t be able to display your app in full screen.
  • These deficiencies rule out using HTML5 as an approach for many purposes, particularly consumer facing ones.

Going native: The popular choice

Native is the most popular approach to building apps

Advantages

  • A native app will always have full access to all of a device’s features — Camera, geolocation, address book and eye tracking to name a few.
  • Native apps run more smoothly — so if speed (particularly in games) is important, native is also a better way to go.
  • Finally, the ability to submit to app stores and generate visibility is crucial for many businesses.

Drawbacks

  • Unlike HTML5, where developers work from a base for all platforms, native apps need to be developed and maintained for each platform (iOS, Android, Windows phone) separately — this can lead to costs quickly mounting up.
  • In addition, the app stores typically take 30% of revenues from every sale, and in the case of Apple, getting approval for your apps can take some time and is subject to their terms and conditions.

The third way — hybrid apps

Hybrid apps combine many of the benefits of both HTML5 and native by creating an app that displays HTML5 content as part of the app. Many large companies including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have used this approach in the past. The benefits of mixing the two approaches include:

  • The ability to get your app in the iOS and Android stores
  • The ability to display full screen apps
  • The ability to maintain control over your site and to update it easily.

Drawbacks

  • Performance is limited by the slower speed of HTML5
  • It does require a broader range of technical skills to develop and support
  • You will still have go through the (apple) app store approval process, and it may be more likely to be rejected as the app is just a wrapper for a website.
  • The price point comes somewhere in the middle between HTML5 and native.

Bringing Fluid UI into the equation

We chose HTML5 for Fluid UI because it gives us the perfect balance between having a single, cost effective way to create a product that works on both desktop and mobile. If you are looking at a consumer product, native will almost definitely be the better option, even if you have to release your app to different app stores at different times and have them developed separately. If you are currently investigating an app for your company we’d be interested to hear about it in the comments.

About Fluid UI

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