When organizations are deciding on building an app, one of the first decisions they have to make is whether to build it natively or pay for the use of a platform. Both solutions have their place in the market, and should be selected only after the purpose, goals and limitations of the business are well understood. Both types of solutions require a substantial investment, and so the decision should weighed objectively. The decision of whether to Buy (Platform) or Build (Native) your app can only be made after weighing a number of variables.
To help create a better understanding of native and platform apps, this post examines the similarities and differences of the two solutions.
Having a custom built app allows you the ultimate in customization to meet your own brand objectives.
Organic User Experience
Since native apps are tailor-made, it allows the developer to blend in the unique designs of the OS and device and give the app a more organic feel. Transitions feel smoother and more elegant, and the user interface can be made richer.
Integration of Native Features
Going custom also allows the app to integrate all of the device’s native features (eg. camera, gestures, geo-location). All features will be available and accessible to suit your business needs, and aren’t limited in the way that platform apps are.
Google displays native apps higher in its search results, which can be a powerful part of search engine optimization (SEO) and thus app marketing.
Native Apps also have fewer code based dependencies, which allow it to be more stable and provide more consistent performance compared to platform apps.
The up-front cost of native apps may be heavier, but over a time of roughly 2 to 3 years it will net out the same as developing a platform app. This is because there is no licensing fee, and the organization comes into ownership of the code base, which makes maintenance easier.
There are a number of vendors offering pre-packaged mobile solutions which are built to work across a breadth of devices. For businesses looking for a solution with less barriers to adoption, platform apps could be enticing with their lower up-front costs and shorter timelines.
Since all of the application’s backend is developed before it is personalized to the business, the time from conception to launch is much shorter than it would be for a native app. Platform apps excel at serving content quickly and efficiently because you only have to worry about updating the master content rather than for each OS individually.
One tradeoff for platform apps is that their turnkey nature does not allow for much customization. Working within the framework that the platform causes there to be minimal options for branded customization, and even less when it comes to user experience.
Integration & Maintenance
Platform apps run the risk of getting limited access to API’s and native device features. As well, they are huge builds that need to be supported across a wide array of devices, which makes it tougher to adapt to updates and be hosted in the cloud.
The decision to build native or use a platform comes down to the organization’s appetite for innovation and user experience. The more important mobile is to your business, the more you should consider developing a native app. Native apps allow for much more organic and enriching user experiences and can better allow you to meet your business objectives. However, if you are a smaller business where mobile is not as high of a priority, a platform app may be perfectly adequate. No matter what your business needs are, there is an app solution that can be made to meet them.