Mobile App Development

Arguing native vs. web? Try user vs. developer instead

February 22, 2018

  • Nelson Taruc Nelson Taruc

Recently, Aaron Gustafson posted an article detailing the pros and cons of native apps vs. web apps. It’s a question we frequently get at Lextech: Which approach is better, and why?

While it was smart and well written, about halfway through Gustafson’s article I realized that we’re asking the wrong question, to the wrong people.

Instead, we should be asking: How and where do you want your ideal app experiences?

More importantly, we don’t ask developers or business managers this question. Instead, we ask our customers, employees and end users.

Once they give us a clear answer, then – and only then – should we discuss the technical challenges around what users actually want.

I believe this approach is refreshing and can make us rethink how we deliver great experiences for end users.

For example, instead of just one or the other, maybe the solution is a mix of native and web experiences.

Let’s take buying a home as an example. Customers might prefer to learn about new homes, builder reviews and model viewing appointments through their browsers. However, after the purchase, customers may prefer a native app to track construction progress, communicate with the builder and apply for a mortgage.

Is that the best way to deliver that experience? Maybe, maybe not. The difference is that we asked customers first how they want to complete those tasks, before selecting the technologies that best fit that customer need.

Unfortunately, in many native vs. web articles, it’s the developers that come first in that conversation. The customer becomes an afterthought as the debate devolves into which technology stack is better and/or will make life easier for developers.

I understand that budget, people and time constraints can limit what development teams can deliver to end users. That said, the next time you want to have a real conversation about native vs. web apps, try starting with the people who will use your apps – not the ones who’ll code them.