Straight talking guide to corporate mobile app development...
Clients: Here’s a straight
talking, entry level guide
to approaching corporate mobile
Apps have become an organisations
must have accessory.
Organisations regularly suggest ‘an app’ as a channel
they would like to use. With no real reason given as to
why, other than it being ‘the cool thing to be doing’.
So jumping on the bandwagon
if you like - Doing something just
because others are.
Don’t get us wrong, it’s great that clients identify
mobile as an area to give attention to. It’s the right
thing to be doing.
But clients need to be doing the
right thing with mobile.
Clients first need to take
a step back and look at their
overall mobile strategy.
For example, you may be thinking about
repackaging your corporate websites
content into an app.
For this, an app is perhaps not the
correct mobile strategy.
Instead, creating a mobile
optimised website is what
you should be focusing
It’s crazy, that 60% of the UK’s 100 biggest advertisers
still don’t have a mobile-optimised website*. Yet you can
bet your bottom dollar that the majority have developed
some sort of mobile app.
This is simply because they
are not looking at their overall
In the early days of apps, Nestlé jumped
on the app bandwagon and produced a
range of corporate communication apps,
which were essentially their corporate
websites repackaged as apps.
In the words of Amy Howard (Head of global corporate
websites at Nestlé) they are now
‘leaving the apps to quietly die’.
Speaking at Communicate Magazines Best Practice Corporate App Event.
Nestlé readdressed their mobile strategy,
and recognised in this instance the
continued high investment in the apps
was not justified.
Nestlé understood that an app should
strive to provide a simple function / task
that the user regularly wishes to carry out.
The use case of an application is always
TO DO something with it.
Nestlé’s apps were not providing a task/service that
users regularly wanted to carry out. And the apps did
not offer an experience that took advantage of the
benefits of an app, meaning there was no more reason
for people to use the app instead of heading to the
Nestlé’s mobile strategy changed from a
focus on corporate websites as apps, to
mobile optimised corporate websites.
The evolution of apps can be
likened to the evolution of
In the beginning, everybody rushed into building
websites and no one really knew the best
practice in doing so.
As you can imagine, a lot of
poor websites soon arrived.
Over time, and through experience, it
became clear as to what worked well
for websites, so it was easier to identify a
good website from a poor one.
With apps, we’d say we’re now at the point
where people know a good app when
they see/experience one.
Which makes it all the more
important to ensure you are
building GREAT apps today.
But there’s a lot to think about
when building a GREAT app.
Firstly, there are 3 main types of app you can build:
Native, Web or Hybrid.
And there is much debate as
to which type is best.
1. Native app
These are developed specifically for one platform (IOS,
Android, etc). They are installed through an application
store (such as Google Play or Apple’s App Store).
Your app is packaged and sent to the app store, it is
downloaded from there onto the device (where it then
lives), so takes up memory/storage space.
1. Native app
• They can take full advantage of all of the device
features, such as the camera, GPS, accelerometer
and push notification system.
• They can work offline when there is no connectivity.
• They provide a user interface that is consistent
with the operating system – so provide a great
• Clear and dedicated distribution channel (app store).
1. Native app
• The costs involved in creating and maintaining a
native app is high (Due to the requirement of specialist
skills) and you will need to develop and maintain a
separate app for each platform you wish to support,
again adding to the costs.
• Maintaining a native app can be complicated (especially
if they have to deal with multiple versions of the same
information on different platforms): Changes have to be
packaged in a new version and placed in the app store.
2. Web apps
A web application is built using HTML, CSS and
run by a browser.
They are accessed like you would any web page;
you navigate to a special URL and then have the
option of installing them on the home screen
of your device.
1. Web app
• Can be used cross platform – Any device that can
display a website can see your app.
• Updates to the application are immediate and
pulled from a central location.
• Cheaper than native development.
• No need to submit to App Stores
(faster, non-restricted launch).
1. Web app
• They can’t be added to the Android and
Apple app stores.
• They don’t provide access to all of the features of a
device (such as the camera or push notifications).
• Limited in offline use. HTML5 does have in-browser
caching, but no way near as good as a native app.
• Can be slow, or lag, dependent on connectivity.
3. Hybrid apps
These are part native apps, part web apps. In simple
terms they are web apps housed within a native
wrapper, so they rely on HTML being rendered in a
browser, but the browser is embedded within the app.
1. Hybrid app
• Cross platform capability
• They allow access to many native features such as
access to push notifications.
• They can be distributed like a mobile web app (i.e., via
web browsing) or like a native app (i.e., via app store
for direct download).
• Cheaper than native development.
1. Hybrid app
• Not the look and feel of a native app. The HTML5 code
could be customized to achieve this, but then it would
need to be coded differently for each platform.
• Still need access to different native coding skills.
• Not as cheap as web apps.
You’ll find Google littered
with views on which type of
app is better.
The simple truth? Native apps are the best,
in terms of performance and usability.
They may not be the best type of app to
develop based on your specific needs
The following are six things the client
should consider, to help inform the
decision on what type of app is
appropriate for their needs.
What budget can you allocate to the app?
Native apps could be too expensive.
2. Cross-platform compatibility:
What devices would you like the app to be made
available for? If you want to target the widest amount
of users than a web app could be the way to go.
Investigation into what devices your audience
uses is particularly important and helpful.
3. Feature requirements:
What parts of the operating system will the app require
access to, if any? If your app is dependent on using some
of the phones features then you will have to build a
native or hybrid app.
4. Complexity of the app:
A native app will ensure complex apps have the best
user experience possible as can take advantage of the
processing power of the device.
5. Type of information
Is your mobile application mainly to be used to
display and interact with online information that is
constantly updated? Then it’s probably best to
avoid the native approach.
6. Speed of Launch:
How quickly would you like the app brought to market?
Native and Hybrid app development will take longer
than web app development.
So what does the future hold
for app development?
Of course the ideal solution would be to ‘write once –
use anywhere’. The mantra of HTML5.
But a successful app requires a GREAT user experience.
Which as yet, HTML5 is some way off (when compared
to native) and it doesn’t look like this will change for
some time yet.
This is because…
HTML5 is governed by the World Wide Web Consortium,
so any developments and changes need to go through
a lengthy and timely approval process. Meaning that
HTML5 will never evolve fast enough to match the
constantly rising bar of user experience delivered via
native operating systems.
This is evident from the view of Mark Zuckerberg,
when he said ‘The biggest mistake we’ve made as a
company is betting on HTML5* over native.’
This was because Facebook’s specific needs were
performance/speed and usability, at the highest
possible level. So native apps were the answer, which
they now have.
*It was a hybrid app
As fragmentation of devices continues to increase,
organisations will want to ensure they are reaching the
widest amount of devices with their apps, yet it has to
be done cost effectively.
Building an app for just one
operating system just doesn’t
cut it anymore.
This has led to many claiming hybrid apps are
set to rise in popularity.
Gartner says by 2016, more
than 50 percent of mobile
apps deployed will be hybrid.
The correct apps for you to build now, are the
one’s right for your current situation. Over time your
situation will change and the apps you are building
will change in accordance.
The app users will determine whether or not
your app strategy is correct.
Being successful in the digital world is all about
velocity (There’s a brilliant book on this from AKQA’s
founder and Nike’s VP of digital, you can find it here).
It’s not waiting to think what is absolutely the best
approach to take, it is about doing and then
changing as and when required, at speed.
We hope this has provided you with a basic
understanding of the corporate app world.
There is of course a lot more which we could have covered
in more detail, but arguably it is information of relevance
to the agency and not really of benefit to the client.
Please do get in touch if you’d like any further help with
your mobile app strategy.