Section 508

March 18th, 2013

When to choose HTML5 vs native app development

Illustration from

As a business we are agnostic to whether our clients want mobile web based on XHTML, HTML5, responsive design (based on HTML5), hybrid apps or native apps. We will deliver what is best for the customer on a case by case basis.

We do however feel very strongly that the decision should be based on target audience, expected usage and requirements in each particular case and not just a blanket decision. Therefore we will always give our opinion and arguments when we believe that our customer or partner is not making the best decision.

Over the past 5 years we’ve delivered over 800 native apps, 400 mobile websites and 100+ HTML5 and hybrid apps. Here is a collection of  some of the key learning’s and recommendations on when to choose what.

1. Overview of the pros and cons of HTML5 vs native apps:

2. Olympics 2012 Native apps vs Mobile web (HTML5)
The stats from the London Olympics talk for themselves

  • 432m total visits from 109m unique users across web and mobile
  • 60% of visits from mobile devices
  • 15m app downloads (+ Para olympics 5.8m and game 6.5m)
  • 23% of mobile users from apps generated 64% of the mobile usage (sessions/time spent)
  • 627k Facebook Checkins at venues
  • 10m+ push notifications with 60% open rate

Push notifications can only be done from native apps (and hybrid) and this is a very powerful tool to keep customers engaged. In addition to this apps generally have much more frequent download and therefore represent a higher usage.

3. Time spent in apps vs mobile web
According to Comscores data apps crush mobile web when it comes to time spent on mobile web vs apps and we see this behaviour over and over again for our customers. At the same time, the majority of users access the services via mobile web.
Link to Comscore report

Note: This is slightly skewed since Facebook, Google Maps, etc make up a large part.

4. Why Facebook choose to refocus on native apps vs HTML5
Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook was one of the most vocal supporters of HTML5 but in the summer of 2012 they changed strategy. Reason? Native apps always beet HTML5 in performance and Facebook cannot afford to offer a substandard service.
Facebook proves HTML5 vs Native winner
Mark Zuckerberg: “-We burned Two years Betting on Mobile Web Vs. App”

It’s notable however that Linkedin is sticking to a hybrid HTML5 approach even though it’s a compromise.

5. Every app should have a mobile website
This has been the approach so far for almost everyone of our customers. For apps we deliver there is also a promotion mobile site for the app at a minimum and often a full mobile site with similar functionality to the app.
Apps vs Mobile Web: Every app should have a mobile website

6. Cost of development for HTML5 vs native apps

Read our previously analysis Web vs Apps? Mobile Web/HTML5 vs Mobile Apps Part 2.

We are currently working on an update on the average cost of native apps vs HTML5 with similar functionality. Currently our conclusion based on our own experience is that the cost is approximately the same if you want to achieve an app like experience with HTML5. On the other hand the cost can be considerably lower if you are willing to compromise on user experience. More on this to follow…

So when should you choose HTML5 vs native app development?
Hopefully the information above will provide some good guidance. First decide what you need based on customer experience and requirements. Secondly choose the best solution based on budget, skills and timeline.


Tags: app development HTML5 mobile apps mobile websites native apps

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