Native apps vs. web apps; Are web apps there yet?
I think we have heard this argument a lot recently. These days there is an app for everything. But is it really necessary? Should everything be an app? What about web apps? Can web apps offer the same functionality as native apps?
Native apps are a must have when you want to access the native functionality of the device or need all the raw power a device can offer.
Web standards have grown a lot in recent years and browser's adoption of standards is getting better and better especially on handheld devices.
Benefit of having web applications is the big range of devices and platforms you can reach without doing any change. You can design and code your website to be accessible on huge range of devices. From desktop browsers to mobile browsers and even big screen tvs.
Another big benefit would be discoverability by search engines. This is especially useful for websites that generate content and have a big user base.
Recently I have been involved in developing eCardCanvas.com website. The concept is very simple. Allow users to create and share greeting cards. But there were a few requirements that made it a little challenging. It must use no Flash and be accessible on handheld devices.
By using responsive design we were able to offer the same desktop experience on handheld devices. It was a bit challenging to optimize the card editor functionality for mobile devices but I think we did a good job in that area.
To go back to the original argument, you might not get the same performance you are getting in a native app but in most cases it is enough to offer a good user experience. And when you count in other benefits of having web as your platform it even gets more appealing.