Mobile web vs. native apps: It's not about technology, it's about psychology

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[Presented April 2012 at UX Masterclass in South Africa]
Cold logic makes a hard case for opting for mobile web apps over native ones. If you can build it in HTML, CSS, and javascript, then do, right? Except for the pesky little detail called the real world, where marketers demand apps, boardrooms pay for apps, and even worse, users seem to prefer them. Or do they?
In this talk, Brian will try to reframe the web vs native vs hybrid debate into a conversation about what your customers really need, and what they’ll actually use. The technology you choose for your mobile approach is of strategic importance, but you need to be thinking about much more than just technology.

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Mobile web vs. native apps: It's not about technology, it's about psychology

  1. 1. Mobile web vs. native: It’s not about technology, it’s about psychology @brian_donohue
  2. 2. This debate has been around a while - sort of
  3. 3. Remember when Virgin used to be cool?
  4. 4. http://url.ie/a1wt Execs just want an iPhone/Android app
  5. 5. How many of them are just vanity apps?
  6. 6. There have been some strong opinions
  7. 7. “ Native apps are a remnant of the Jurassic period of computer history, a local maximum that is holding us back. The combination of a discovery service and just- in-time interaction is a powerful interaction model that native apps can’t begin to offer.”
  8. 8. Gilt CEO told him customers are moving from web to the app because it’s “faster, simpler, more immersive” It’s all about the “App Internet”
  9. 9. Apparently no one else in his company agrees
  10. 10. Be wary -- this stuff changes fast 2011: “Platforms are risky places to put your business...If you can do it with the Web -- do it with the Web. It’s faster, cheaper, and easier.” Web app masters tour, 2011: http://www.lukew.com/ff/entry.asp?1281 2010: “(Website owners interested in developing an iPhone app might start by developing an iPhone- targeted website, where most of this book’s design principles also apply.)”
  11. 11. Source: http://url.ie/evp2 % And let’s not ignore the bigger context here of mobile phone users in the world use their phone for SMS. SMS is the primary use for mobile phone users around the world. 85
  12. 12. time it takes for the average SMS to be read after it’s sent time it takes for the average email to be read after it’s sent 4 Source: http://url.ie/f18t hours 48 minutes
  13. 13. Coke’s 70:20:10 rule for mobile: • 70% to SMS and MMS • 20% mobile internet • 10% mobile apps
  14. 14. Of course -- what does Coke need an app for?
  15. 15. Data suggests it’s neck and neck 47.6% of mobile Internet customers use native mobile apps and 47.5% use the Web browser on their devices.
  16. 16. But it varies a lot
  17. 17. People are getting fed up with the debate
  18. 18. “While many people try to argue for one side or the other, the truth is there are great reasons for doing both”
  19. 19. OK - so it’s not a zero sum game But we still have to choose an approach!
  20. 20. The logic that makes this seem obvious
  21. 21. Fragmentation
  22. 22. Going native is a policy of exclusion... http://url.ie/a1xc
  23. 23. “We could probably save 70% of our development budget by switching to a single, cross-platform client Phil Lebin, CEO http://url.ie/a1xl supports 5 native mobile platforms “...all of these users on all these devices using Facebook mobile in the wide rainbow of lovely different experiences across Android, iPhone, Windows, the Web. That was great from a user perspective. What sucks? The environment for my developers, essentially. You have the bad old days. You have four different platforms to build for something essentially. You want to build for all of those groups? You are going to have to build the sucker four times. Dave Fetterman, Engineering Manager http://url.ie/dj68 supports 4 native mobile platforms
  24. 24. Defining “native” vs. “mobile web” Objective C HTML, CSS, JS C ++ Java works best on webkit browsers
  25. 25. Different platforms usually means different people Objective CJava
  26. 26. Native isn’t always better Native app only Both Web app only  Gyroscope and Accelerometer  Accessing filesystems (e.g. address book, photos)  Fully-immersive experience (e.g. gaming)  Support in-app purchases (Apple takes 30% cut)  Camera  Smoother and more responsive  Store data offline  Access GPS  Have app-like UI and transitions  Accessible as app from home screen  Much easier to test, prototype, and rollout  Can update immediately (no app store approval), customers don’t have to update the app  HTML 5 is continually adding hardware capabilities
  27. 27. Who’s going with HTML 5?
  28. 28. The magic bullet?
  29. 29. So is this an easy one?
  30. 30. 1. Your app needs to use the hardware So let’s look at these criteria a little closer
  31. 31. Native app only Both Web app only  Gyroscope and Accelerometer  Accessing filesystems (e.g. address book, photos)  Fully-immersive experience (e.g. gaming)  Support in-app purchases (Apple takes 30% cut)  Camera  Smoother and more responsive  Store data offline  Access GPS  Have app-like UI and transitions  Accessible as app from home screen  ??Findability??  Much easier to test, prototype, and rollout  Can update immediately (no app store approval), customers don’t have to update the app  Can link to the app (e.g. SMS with link to your bill)  HTML 5 is continually adding hardware capabilities
  32. 32. This was reason we went native with Tayto
  33. 33. Gmail launched their native app in November
  34. 34. It didn’t go down so well amongst technorati
  35. 35. Panned in the reviews as well
  36. 36. Lesson: app expectations are VERY HIGH
  37. 37. 2. Frequency of use
  38. 38. Apps that people use the most - the habit forming ones
  39. 39. “As this data shows, while smart phone clients are important, there are even more people who use the mobile Twitter web site and/or SMS."
  40. 40. Out of 425 million mobile users:
  41. 41. Just because you hope people will use your app frequently, that doesn’t necessarily mean they need a native app
  42. 42. 3. Damn those links
  43. 43. Do you send out emails or SMSs? Cries out for links to their mobile app (if they had one)
  44. 44. The big disconnect
  45. 45. 4. The experience is just better
  46. 46. It’s about the animations, the speed, the feel, the experience of the whole thing
  47. 47. A billion shared “moments” Path Instagram
  48. 48. What about their desktop experience?
  49. 49. Clear app/ The new cool?
  50. 50. Oooh, I can do that in HTML 5 http://clear.youyuxi.com/
  51. 51. Well, sorta / But not for any other phones
  52. 52. “The Web app and native experiences are very similar. We had set out to mimic the native app and make the transition to the Web app seamless. Although it was tricky to achieve precisely the same quality (e.g., access to apis), we quickly got very close (say, 80-90% the same user experience). We have since stopped development of the native app and are aggressively developing the HTML5 version.” http://url.ie/ew19 You can actually do a lot of this with HTML5
  53. 53. But to (nearly) replicate the UI, you’re basically writing code totally tailored to one device. It’s like a native app, it’s just a different language. And the experience will never be quite as good.
  54. 54. “It doesn’t feel like a real app”
  55. 55. Lesson: If the experience is part of your differentiator, you gotta make it native
  56. 56. 5. Findability
  57. 57. Maybe this will take off?
  58. 58. We still live in an app culture The cold reality:
  59. 59. http://tripleodeon.com/2011/09/of-sites-and-apps/
  60. 60. People expect you to have an app
  61. 61. 51 Source: http://url.ie/f1sk apps 83 apps Average iOS device owner downloads this many apps in a year in 2011 in 2010
  62. 62. But hold on a second...
  63. 63. What that looks like
  64. 64. Are you going to be a top 10 app?
  65. 65. To download is not to keep, or use iOS and Android users
  66. 66. The disposable app culture: Download it, use it once, forget about it, bin it
  67. 67. Why isn’t there a parallel debate about whether to build for the Mac App store or the desktop browser?
  68. 68. Why isn’t there a parallel debate about whether to build for the Mac App store or the desktop browser? Our app culture isn’t all that logical. (What culture is?)
  69. 69. You need to be brave to tell your boss that our customers won’t be able to download our app from the app store.
  70. 70. Will we see our app culture disappear? Brent Simmons - creator of NetNewsWire http://url.ie/f35r
  71. 71. The app culture: Download it, use it once, forget about it, bin it
  72. 72. So.... There are loads of reasons to go with the web • Cost/effort • Reach • Links • Complete control
  73. 73. But.. There are good reasons to go native: • When you have to use the hardware • When UX needs to be a differentiator • When you won’t get found unless you’re in the app store • (Many of us) live in app culture, albeit a disposable one
  74. 74. Be realistic, be brave, don’t go native unless you know you really need to
  75. 75. iQ Content Ltd, Clarendon House, 34-37 Clarendon Street, Dublin 2, Ireland. +353 (0)1 677 1140 Thanks for listening!

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