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


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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.

Published in: Technology, Business

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. 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 aremnant of the Jurassicperiod of computerhistory, a local maximumthat is holding us back.The combination of adiscovery service and just-in-time interaction is apowerful interaction modelthat native apps can’t beginto offer.”
  8. 8. It’s all about the “App Internet” Gilt CEO told him customers are moving from web to the app because it’s “faster, simpler, more immersive”
  9. 9. Apparently no one else in his company agrees
  10. 10. Be wary -- this stuff changes fast 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.)” 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:
  11. 11. And let’s not ignore the bigger context here 85 % Source: of mobile phone users in the world use their phone for SMS. SMS is the primary use for mobile phone users around the world.
  12. 12. 48 hours time it takes for the average email to be read after it’s sent 4 minutes time it takes for the average SMS to be read after it’s sentSource:
  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 neck47.6% of mobile Internet customers use nativemobile apps and 47.5% use the Web browser on theirdevices.
  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 oneside or the other, the truth is there aregreat reasons for doing both”
  19. 19. OK - so it’s not a zero sum gameBut 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...
  23. 23. supports 5 native mobile platforms“We could probably save 70% of ourdevelopment budget by switching to a single,cross-platform client Phil Lebin, CEO supports 4 native mobile platforms“...all of these users on all these devices using Facebook mobile in the widerainbow of lovely different experiences across Android, iPhone, Windows, theWeb. That was great from a user perspective. What sucks? Theenvironment for my developers, essentially. You have the bad old days.You have four different platforms to build for something essentially. You want tobuild for all of those groups? You are going to have to build the sucker fourtimes. Dave Fetterman, Engineering Manager
  24. 24. Defining “native” vs. “mobile web” Objective C HTML, CSS, JS works best on webkit browsers Java C ++
  25. 25. Different platforms usually meansdifferent people Java Objective C
  26. 26. Native isn’t always better Native app only Both Web app only  Gyroscope and  Store data offline  Much easier to test, Accelerometer  Access GPS prototype, and rollout  Accessing filesystems  Have app-like UI and  Can update (e.g. address book, transitions immediately (no app photos) store approval),  Accessible as app  Fully-immersive customers don’t have from home screen experience (e.g. to update the app gaming)  HTML 5 is continually  Support in-app adding hardware purchases capabilities (Apple takes 30% cut)  Camera  Smoother and more responsive
  27. 27. Who’s going with HTML 5?
  28. 28. The magic bullet?
  29. 29. So is this an easy one?
  30. 30. So let’s look at these criteria a little closer1. Your app needs to use the hardware
  31. 31. Native app only Both Web app only Gyroscope and  Store data offline  Much easier to test, Accelerometer  Access GPS prototype, and rollout Accessing filesystems  Have app-like UI and  Can update (e.g. address book, transitions immediately (no app photos) store approval),  Accessible as app Fully-immersive customers don’t have from home screen experience (e.g. to update the app gaming)  Can link to the app  ??Findability?? (e.g. SMS with link to Support in-app purchases your bill) (Apple takes 30% cut)  HTML 5 is continually Camera adding hardware capabilities Smoother and more responsive
  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 areimportant, there are even more people who use themobile Twitter web site and/or SMS."
  40. 40. Out of 425 million mobile users:
  41. 41. Just because you hope peoplewill use your app frequently, that doesn’tnecessarily 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 theanimations,the speed,the feel, theexperienceof the wholething
  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
  51. 51. Well, sorta / But not for any other phones
  52. 52. You can actually do a lot of this with HTML5 “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.”
  53. 53. But to (nearly) replicate the UI, you’re basically writingcode totally tailored to one device. It’s like a nativeapp, 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 yourdifferentiator, you gotta make it native
  56. 56. 5. Findability
  57. 57. Maybe this will take off?
  58. 58. The cold reality:We still live in an app culture
  59. 59.
  60. 60. People expect you to have an app
  61. 61. Average iOS device owner downloads this many apps in a year83 apps in 2011 51 apps in 2010Source:
  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 debateabout whether to build for theMac App store or the desktop browser?
  68. 68. Our app culture isn’t all that logical. Why isn’t there a parallel debate(What culture is?)to build for the about whether Mac App store or the desktop browser?
  69. 69. You need to be brave to tell your bossthat our customers won’t be able todownload our app from the app store.
  70. 70. Will we see our app culture disappear? Brent Simmons - creator of NetNewsWire
  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 youknow you really need to
  75. 75. Thanks for listening!iQ Content Ltd, Clarendon House, 34-37 Clarendon Street, Dublin 2, Ireland. +353 (0)1 677 1140