App Wars, Episode 3: The web camp

There are 5 main types of apps you can build in 2016. Do you know them all? More importantly, did you know there’s a bit of a war going on between the two main factions?

One one side, there are native apps. On the other, web apps. Both sides would love to dominate the app world. Both sides have created first and second generation players.

This series of blog posts wants to introduce you to each type of player so you can pick the right one for your project.

TLDR; Try our cool candied nibnut app to help you decide!


Web apps

Web apps are the web camp’s first generation “soldiers”. They used to really look and feel like websites. They still do, to some extant. But technology has made leaps and bounds and some web apps look like regular apps who just so happen to run inside your web browser.

Great examples of web apps: Google Docs, Sheets, Slides and Forms. Slack’s web client. WordPress’ admin area.

For it

  • Cheaper and faster to develop.
    All things considered, web apps are going to be much cheaper and faster to develop than native or even hybrid apps.
  • Runs on anything with a browser.
    Your desktop computer, your mobile phone, your fridge!
  • No installation.
    Just point your browser to the URL and you’re in.
  • One, unique version installed.
    Just the one version on your web server. If you upgrade that one version, all your users are automatically upgraded to the latest and greatest.
  • Remote data storage.
    Your whole app is remote – so storing data remotely (i.e. not on the user’s device) is baked-in.
  • Easy to share.
    One link to your friends, and they get instant access to their copy of the app. (see no installation above)

Against it

  • Requires a network connection.
    It’s a web app. No internet, no app.
  • Slower.
    Because it’s an app running inside an app, (your web browser) there’s a small speed hit there. (although with today’s technology, this is becoming less and less noticeable) But mainly, your app will be at the mercy of the user’s network speed. Slow network, slow app.
  • No app store.
    There’s not really a web app store out there, where users can go and find a web app that does “X”. Web apps, if you get them to show in Google search results, will be listed through a sea of regular websites.

Against it – kinda

  • No easy (or very limited) local data storage.
    If you want to store a good amount of data on the user’s device, or if you want to store it long term, it gets complicated.
  • No access to bells and whistles, including push notifications.
    In theory, you don’t have access to any bells and whistles. But some browsers give you access. So it might be possible if you are willing to support a subset of browsers.
  • Might require more bandwidth.
    Because everything has to come over the wire, (graphics, fonts, …) your web app will consume more bandwidth than a native app. Even with caching, you won’t be able to beat a native app’s packaging of all those resources.
  • Native “feel”.
    All those gestures we’ve gotten used to (swiping, pinching, zooming, …) are still clunky on the web. They can be approximated, but it’s extremely hard to do it perfectly.

Join me next Monday for the new generation of web apps, the prodigal children, the new hope for the web camp!