HTML5 vs. Native – The cost of doing business on the Mobile Web

Recent research conducted by Adobe indicates that there is a 75% higher rate of engagements per visit when a site provides a mobile optimized experience.1 Considering that mobile Web browsing and application usage has increase 1,000% from 2009 to 20112 it is only logical that companies would want to create an optimized Web experience for their customers to ensure the highest possible engagement rate.

With the advent of the iPhone and the introduction of the application marketplace, a new paradigm was created in which the focus for businesses shifted to developing mobile applications as a way to connect with their target audiences. In the rush to embrace this powerful tool, there has been a realization: building native applications requires a significant financial commitment by an organization. For every platform you wish to support, you need to hire and support a dedicated development team. With increasing costs for developing and supporting multiple platforms, marketers in large and mid-size corporations in all industries are wondering should we develop applications in native code or should we embrace HTML5?

Here at RouxBee, we believe that companies interested in venturing into mobile application and mobile Web development should leverage HTML5 as much as possible and only use native application code to solve specific technical issues. Why? Ultimately this is a strategic decision to minimize your company’s development overhead.

The Native Issue

Let’s first discuss the option of developing all your applications in native code. In order do this you will either have to expand your development efforts to include support for multiple code bases, or restrict your development to a single code base (i.e. iOS or Android or Windows Phone). Since the most current research by Gartner indicates that by 2015 Windows Phone will be the number two-ranked mobile platform3, it does not seem wise to hedge all your bets on a single platform for mobile. As a result, you are left with only one option: ramping up multiple development teams to create and support multiple versions of an application. This is not only a very large financial burden on your company, but also does not solve a core problem—the ability to provide users a streamlined and cohesive experience from Web to mobile.

HTML5 to the Rescue

This is where HTM5 and Reactive CSS are wise bets (and the bet that RouxBee currently supports). Using HTML5 as the base, the core features of your Web presence can scale appropriately to provide a seamless user experience across both desktop and mobile browsing experiences, and the same code base can be leveraged to create rich and engaging mobile applications that are platform-agnostic. The base code would simply be supplemented with native code where appropriate and packaged for deployment on all mobile platforms (iOS, Android, Windows Phone). Since you are dealing with a single code base, your development and support investments are dramatically decreased. Beyond the monetary savings that HTML5 can provide, you also have the ability to rapidly deploy updates across your Web presence and all mobile applications.

Has anyone successfully leveraged HTML5 to launch a major App?

Is this a pipe dream or is this reality? To answer that, we point to the success LinkedIn had in developing their new iPad application. The new application was developed leveraging as much HTML5 as possible. How much HTML5, you ask? LinkedIn successfully developed their application using HTML5 and Node.js for over 95%4 of their code base and only leveraged Objective C (the iOS native code base) for the remainder.

Benefits of HTML5 vs. native code

    • HTML5 enables you to have a single code base
    • HTML5 enables you to have a smaller development team that can support all mobile platforms and Web your presence
    • HTML5 give you the ability to rapidly deploy an application on all mobile platforms
    • HTML5 is capable of handling the majority of your mobile experiences

The mobile landscape is rapidly changing, and the best way to control your development costs in this type of environment is to embrace a platform that will allow you to rapidly develop and deploy your mobile Web experiences irrespective of platform. Though still hotly debated, RouxBee believes that HTML5 is and will become that platform.

Next Steps

Now that you know what our opinion is on this topic, it is time to determine your own stance. However, no matter which approach you choose, the next step is choosing a partner who can help you navigate the constantly changing mobile landscape. We hope you choose RouxBee as your partner.

1 Adobe, “Do Mobile Optimized Experiences Improve Engagement

2 Kissmetrics, “Mobile Mania

3 Gartner, “Windows Phone to overtake iOS by 2015

4, “You’ll Never Guess How LinkedIn build their New iPad App.

Ryan is one of the founding Principles of RouxBee Apps, as well as, the Directory of Mobile Application Development and Creative Services at RedTech.

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