Its interesting that a few weeks ago I made a decision not to create an app for the work I am currently doing, but rather to choose to make what I need in html5 instead. The decision on this was partly due to advice and lots of conversations with good friend who always brings me down to earth and who totally understands my work, Caitlin Rowley. It seems that choosing to use html5 over an app is the general “good” advice that is starting to make its way out to the non-tech sectors. Although apps are great and cool and look good, there has to be a reason for creating the app in that it can do things that can't be done using using mobile web technology alone. These were points that were made time and again at the Mobile for the Cultural Sector Conference. In fact one speaker (I forget which one) used the term Appititus – the desire to have an app for your business/ company/ etc just because everyone else has one.
There are pros and cons of both apps and mobile web and it is important to choose carefully.For apps, the pros are you look cool, people can download it to their phone and there is the potential for them to be offline, a wide range of functionality can be incorporated, but the downsides are, once you have an app, people will expect updates or they’ll stop using it, each update will mean it will have to go through the powers that be at the app store through which you are releasing it, and this can take up to 8 weeks, how do people find your app in the app store out of so many? Nothing can be changed on the fly.
And then there are the app stores in general. If you release with Apple then their gatekeepers will want to make sure that your app is up to their spec, and there is a lot of grumbling in the communities that this is turning itunes into a nanny state. Then you have the alternative, open source platforms which will publish everything, including malware which may destroy your phone, and which currently there is little way of regulating – you choose.
If you go for html5 there is the freedom to release and update when you want to, most of the functionality of many apps can be built in html5, a little know fact is that in html 5 you can enable offline viewing of content. The downsides are that in most cases you still will have a browser window around your content, though there is code to get rid of this is you really really want and there are so many device out there that ultimately your screen designs are just not going to look fantastic on every single handset out there capable of browsing the web… having said that though, handsets on which your site may not look the greatest one, and ones which will probably not support apps at all, so you’re still a step ahead.