Apps vs Websites
Apps - how many apps do you use each day? 1? 5? How many apps do you have installed? 50? 100? Apps for banking, social media, blogs, weight loss, babies…apps for everything!! What about websites that you often go to? It’s likely to be the same banking websites that you have as apps, the same social media sites, the same blogs, groups, programs, and information areas.
With mobile first web development and so many sites being created knowing that a vast number of users will be accessing the site from mobile devices, be it phones or tablets, are so many mobile apps still required?
To me, games still make sense in app form, but do websites need an app? Personally, I think no. Everyone is usually connected to the internet and many apps require connection to work as well, although a web application with a large code base that perhaps wasn’t created with mobile devices in mind may benefit from having an app if the current user interface doesn’t convert well into the mobile screen real estate.
I’m part of an online program, and within the private Facebook group relating to it, there is usually at least a weekly request from someone asking for an app for the program. Myself and many others find ourselves asking “why?”. What benefit would an app give? Other than the usual responses along the lines of “I just want one” no one has really given a good answer. “I want to be able to access it from the home screen without having to browse to the site” is a brilliant reason, however you can create a link directly to a webpage on your devices home screen. Then you click on that link and it takes you straight to the page in question. Answers of “well I’d love this functionality” can be met with, “wouldn’t that be awesome regardless though, why does it need to be an app to be added?”.
From a development point of view, yes code can be shared, but there is still extra overhead in supporting both an app and a website. You also need to make sure it runs properly on each type of device both in apps and browsers. Having both a great website and awesome apps requires extra time, effort, and resources, especially to get the quality high. The triangle of scope, time and budget is affected by keeping both the app and a mobile first website. Surely increasing quality for the same time and budget is a good thing, especially if the only “scope” lost is a standalone app. See this (http://www.diversus.com.au/Blog/2017-06-Fast-vs-Quality-vs-Cheap) post for more information about this triangle.
The case for and against
Personally, if a program or web application is written well I do not believe it needs an app. I know we live in a “there’s an app for that” time, but just because you can make something, doesn’t always mean you should.
Is there a case when there should be an app for that? Yes definitely. For example, I don’t want my private information automatically stored in some cloud somewhere, so there are some things I’d prefer to have an app for so that I have the choice of having my information stored only on my phone and not off in a cloud somewhere.
For example, I was recently told to get my son’s hearing checked. I went to the GP who wrote the referral letter for me and I then called up to make the appointment. I was very shocked to find that there was actually an app that I was to use for the initial screening INSTEAD of attending an appointment for this part. This not only saved us some money, but it freed up the specialist to see people that otherwise would be left on a wait list. This scenario needed to be an app as it is required to be configured with the device’s speakers and to have a lot more control over certain settings within it.
There’s certainly a time and a place for the “there’s an app for that” approach, however an app for app sake isn’t always a good use of resources and doesn’t add as many benefits as people seem to think. We definitely live in a time when everyone expects an app however I challenge you to spend more time designing an awesome interface that works on many different devices rather than worrying about creating an okay app and a mediocre web application.
[As written by one of our Senior Technical Consultants]