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Mobile App or Mobile Website: Which Should You Choose?

Mobile App or Mobile Website: Which Should You Choose?

Turning your mobile website into an app for a greater reach to users is not an easy task.

However, before you take the leap, you have to thoroughly weigh its benefits and consciously choose to migrate your website to a mobile app.

Previously, mobile websites were more predominant when browsers dominated the launch of many new eCommerce start-ups.

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Browsers made the websites seamlessly fit in all kinds of handheld devices and users found it exciting to buy stuff on the internet using their mobile devices. The availability of the internet and the evolution of HTML to support rich media also enabled this transition.

So, many ventures have started to launch mobile websites to attract their consumers and thereby increase revenues.

With the present era of mobile devices being dominated by the app ecosystems, the prevalent question becomes whether or not mobile websites are indeed mobile and meeting its purpose.

Apps have been making inroads on many users’ lifestyles and its adoption for business is seen as a positive trend.

There are many benefits for businesses to migrate from the traditional browser-based mobile commerce sites to the mobile app ecosystem.

A few of these benefits are listed below to aid you in making a conscious decision to follow the trend.

Faster Access

Mobile apps are written on the handheld devices’ native operating systems, while the websites run on a browser and always depend on an internet connection to work.

So, apps are much faster than the mobile sites. This plays a critical role if you do not want to lose your customers due to a slow connection while waiting for the page to load.

An app can be designed more efficiently so that it performs all the processing offline and only accesses the internet when it is needed to close the transactions.

Available Offline

For a business to succeed, availability is a vital factor. If your website is down for a while or if your users find it too slow, then the revenues will start to dwindle.

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Source: Flickr

The availability of mobile websites greatly depends on the availability of the internet for every little bit of work that it has to perform and for the pages to load.

However, apps work much to the advantage of the users because it can download the required content when there is the internet and can perform all the other processing using the handheld device.

This makes the user feel as though he/she is connected to your business all the time. It is magic that allures your users to ensure a greater reach and greater revenue for your business that has been running on mobile websites.

Personalised Services

A mobile website’s major goal is to educate users and market a product line on the web. However, apps have the ability to offer personalised services.

For example, if a mobile browser-based shopping site rolls out personalised services to users, then databases in the back-end is required for millions of users who access the site and the access to the site must be ensured quickly to cater to the needs of an online shopper.

However, apps keep the personalised information within the client device and perform their intelligence to fetch only the needs of the shopper!

Thus, it is much easier and quicker for apps to roll out personalised and customised services to its users.

Easier to Use

On the one hand, mobile websites typically run on a browser and require the browser to have updated plugins to play the content as per the definitions of the URL pages. The sites also have to fit all the different sizes of the different screens of the handheld devices.

Furthermore, rendering is an important challenge in HTML-based style sheets. On the other hand, apps understand the device in a better way to get the best performance out of it because they are written using the native interface of the underlying hardware.

This is evident in gaming apps where the graphics and the memory are more critical to ensure the best user experience. Mobile websites cannot match apps in the world of gaming.

More Interactive

Apps offer a much more interactive experience to the user than mobile websites do. This is because apps understand the user of the device and roll out personalised services.

By being interactive, the user is provided with a rich experience of shopping or gaming using the app on his/her device. This increases the engagement of the user with the app.

Also, due to the real-time speed and offline processing capability, an app can bring this interactive feature more effectively than mobile websites that run on browsers.

Tools to Aid the Migration

Now that you are convinced and ready to move to a mobile app, take sufficient care to have a smooth process. There are many tools and services available for migrating mobile websites to an app for handheld devices.

There are also SDKs available from the respective native operating systems from the handheld makers that you can effectively use to migrate websites to mobile apps. BuildFire, Onbile and AppMakr are only a few of such tools which do the job in an effortless fashion, keeping the look and feel of the website when converting it into an app.

The app also needs to be designed in such a way that it is easy to navigate. There are many designer tools available, including Como and SwebApps, to design the interface and the outlook.

It is important for businesses to embrace the change in the ecosystem to sustain the competition. Wiser decisions about migrating mobile websites to app-based ones will certainly yield benefits as described above and help to march ahead of the competition.

So, which one do you prefer? Mobile website or mobile app? Please feel free to leave your comments below and thanks for reading!

A Closer Look at the Cross-Platform Frameworks for Mobile App Development

A Closer Look at the Cross-Platform Frameworks for Mobile App Development

The difference in the syntax and structure of programming languages is no longer the talk of the town.

With every app enclosing thousands of lines of code, all that developers now talk about is their choice of app development frameworks, application program interfaces (APIs) and the cross compilation they provide.

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App frameworks have become the norm and people cannot call themselves programmers if they are not well-versed in at least one particular development framework.

They offer a lot of benefits over the previous and newly outdated development approaches. These frameworks have reduced the learning curve so much that even absolute beginners can start developing apps with little training.

Adding complex functionality is no longer a genius’s work, but an effective way of writing API calls and developing apps for various platforms does not require you to be an expert in all platforms.

So, everyone with a great idea can now easily, quickly and effectively implement it with the help of app frameworks.

Therefore, you too can easily create your own mobile apps which might have seemed a difficult task a few years ago. Here is an overview of the cross-platform mobile app development frameworks to get you started.

Mobile App Development Frameworks

The mobile app development has become a million dollar industry with hundreds of mobile apps hitting the market daily. The growing demand and the need for high-performance apps have pushed the app development industry to a new level and frameworks help developers scale to the growing demands.

But, before we can delve into mobile frameworks, we first need to understand the difference between native apps and cross-platform apps.

There are many mobile platforms, for example, iOS, Android and Blackberry, and all of these require apps tailored to their own platform constraints.

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Native app development is the original methodology where an app is developed specifically for a single platform using the relevant framework, syntax, and APIs.

However, this type of app development may prove to be costly and time consuming when a relatively simpler app has to be developed for more than one platform. In these cases, a cross-platform framework can be used to develop a cross-platform app that works on different platforms with a single code base.

Cross-Platform Frameworks

Cross-platform frameworks provide a feasible way for developers to develop cross-platform apps easily. These tools can generally be classified as web-based frameworks and converters.

Web-based frameworks focus on the client-side technologies, such as HTML5/HTML, JavaScript and CSS. Other frameworks, such as Unity, Corona and Titanium, are called converters and use a particular programming language and then convert it into an executable native code for the target device.

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Source: Flickr

There is no single best fit of a cross-platform framework that suits all your needs. While frameworks like Corona are suitable for game development, others frameworks like PhoneGap are much more suitable for developing hybrid HTML5 apps.

Developers will mostly use more than one tool as the market is more niche than it is mature. With so many frameworks in the market today, your decision of choosing one out of the many heavily impacts the app you are developing.

Here is an overview of some of the major cross-platform app frameworks for you to choose from.

PhoneGap or Apache Cordova

PhoneGap was recently acquired by Nitobi and has been rechristened and distributed under the name Apache Cordova. It lets you write mobile apps using HTML, JavaScript and CSS which can easily be ported to various platforms.

It is a little difficult to fully exploit the native features using PhoneGap. It has numerous plugins that help you add the native device features in a modular way. Furthermore, it is an open source framework and is thus available free of cost.

Titanium

Appcelerator’s Titanium allows you to develop cross-platform apps by providing a unified JavaScript API with native platform-specific features. It abstracts the native software development kits and allows you to write JavaScript apps above.

Thus, it is capable of giving a higher user interface (UI) performance compared to hybrid apps. It also provides value-added services, such as backend as a service (BaaS), app analytics, and marketplace services.

Adobe AIR

Adobe AIR has described itself as a cross-operating-system runtime that lets developers combine HTML, JavaScript, Adobe Flash and flex technologies. Adobe Air can be used to develop apps with interactive UI elements, such as animation and other graphics.

However, a major disadvantage of this tool is that you can only use Flash and ActionScript to write apps.

Sencha

Sencha Touch is an HTML5 mobile app development framework that can help you develop apps that have the look and feel of a native app. It can be used along with PhoneGap or Sencha’s native packager to utilise the device-level APIs.

Comparison between the Cross-platform Frameworks

Here is a comparison table of some of my favorite app frameworks on some important factors.

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There are many more frameworks on the market waiting to be explored and exploited. If we have missed your favorite, leave some suggestions and feedback in the comments.

 

Captive Centre or Vendor Partner Model: Which One Suits Your Business?

Captive Centre or Vendor Partner Model: Which One Suits Your Business?

In today’s competitive world, businesses want to be careful when deciding whether a large software development project should be done in-house or done by outsourcing the work.

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Some companies have an in-house software development setup (captive centre subsidiary), but they are so flexible that they outsource work to reliable vendor partners.

Other organisations no longer outsource major software development work, because of their captive centre setup which has long-term goals.

You can select the best one that suits your business’s purpose in the short-term and in the long-term, by comparing the two setups.

So let’s take a look at a comparison of the key drivers and challenges for a captive centre set up with those for a vendor partner set up.

Key Drivers for the Captive Centre Setup

  • Does your business have a captive centre in a low-cost area? Do you want to benefit from the cost-savings of offshore resources? Then this model is the one for you.

You can choose to set up your own captive centre to make the most out of its large-scale offshore plans.

  • Does your business deal with sensitive information? Do you want to prevent the potential risk of data leaks to third parties? Then you may prefer this model.

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For example, if your business is based on banking, insurance or the stock market, you deal with a lot of monetary transactions and sensitive customer data.

  • Do you want complete control over your sensitive operational activities, like product costing and new product launches? Then this setup is suitable for you.
  • Does your business handle a complex software development project? Then the knowledge gained by the resources working on such projects will be invaluable. It will stay in the organisation with this model.

Challenges for the Captive Centre Setup

  • It is usually rapidly set up to scale up your business and you may start with lenient service level agreements (SLAs). But, when you need to make the SLAs stricter and better, you might have to spend more than you thought.
  • Some internal employees might be resistant of this setup. They may fear new projects being assigned to the captive centre which will lead to a lack of work for them with potential job cuts in the future.
  • Your company’s top management may start to focus less on the captive centre, due to it being viewed as a cost centre (instead of a profit centre). This is because it takes a long time to show decent returns on investment and results, despite it being costly to set up.

Key Drivers for the Vendor Partner Model

Most drivers for this outsourcing model stem from the shortcomings of the captive centre model.

  • Unlike the captive centre model, this model does not require a lot of time to start and the operations can be ramped up quickly. This is because the vendor generally has an established setup. For example, if you are a big retail company and wish to build an enterprise app, it makes more sense to start off using this model.
  • You do not need to invest a lot of money or time to enter a vendor partner relationship.

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  • Your company can opt for a pilot project execution, before getting into large scale operations. This allows you to first gain valuable experience in setting up a low-cost centre. You can then decide to continue to scale with the vendor partner or you can start your own captive centre.
  • You can smoothly close out offshore operations without hassles or high costs. This is possible with a clear contract with the vendor partner with a transparent exit clause. However, you may find it too tedious and expensive to close down offshore operations with the captive centre model, since labour laws in several low-cost countries are quite strict.

Challenges for Vendor Partner Model

  • You may find it challenging to maintain the security of confidential data for banks, insurance companies, etc.
  • Your business may have to spend a lot to ramp up your vendor partner setup with those who have expertise in the niche skills. This may also be difficult, because you may be unsure how long the resources and knowledge will be kept.

Verdict

Many companies may want to balance the two models based on the nature of their business.

However, Fortune 500 companies, such as Citigroup, Dell, Unilever and Deutsche Bank, have recently shut down their captive centres and opted for the cost effective and efficient vendor partner setup. This is due to the increased competition and the need to save costs and deliver instant results within strict deadlines.

So, which model will you opt for? Do you have any points to share?