Business Technology

Building a mobile app for your business just got less complicated

5 min read

12 April 2013

Considering the numerous operating systems and devices that could host your app, it's not easy to know where to start.

If your business already creates smartphone apps for customer use, or you are thinking about it, then you have probably asked yourself the question, “where do I start?” You may already know what you want to build but the real challenge is considering the number of operating systems and endless devices that your app needs to support, if you want to hit the widest market.

Apps built to run on a device’s operating system are called “native”, but there are alternatives that don’t care which operating system they are on – such as HTML5. The pros and cons of both approaches have been fiercely debated by technical experts for years. As HTML5 becomes a realistic alternative, however, what does that really mean to you, the business owner?

Apple’s iOS is reigning king, which can be used on all iPhone and iPad devices – all your valuable customers use it. They use a premium handset and spend money with you in the same way. But the tides are changing; other operating systems are shipping in higher numbers, creating a dilemma. Should you go for iOS? Everyone else is doing it and you can make something really cool catering for your biggest spenders. Or, do you look at the bigger picture?

What happens when iOS is knocked off its perch by Android or Windows 8? What happens to all the work you put into your native application? We all know that the industry changes so fast it’s hard to keep up, but HTML5 offers a way to cope with whatever market changes happen in the near future.

HTML5 is a standard language that can be used “cross device”, as long as the device browser is HTML5 compatible. Why is this of interest? As a product owner, you can deliver the same experience across multiple devices, all from a single application code base. Testing applications would become quicker as automated testing can be used – the application is tested for a few browsers, rather than countless devices and operating systems. However, HTML5 is not a one size fits all solution. There are still optimisations to be made for it to work across all devices, but it offers a huge saving over creating bespoke applications for different operating systems and devices.

With HTML5, developers can also use responsive design, which allows the app to ask questions about the device it is running on. It can then adapt its appearance for different screens. This means that as new devices come out, your customers get the best possible experience without you spending a penny on additional development.

Analysing your website has become an important way to understand your customers and their habits and HTML5 gives you the same analytics on mobile as it does on the web. It can help track where revenue is coming from, and even track the gestures users make on the screen. In turn, you will be able to improve your app and make better business decisions, putting money where you know it matters and not where you think it matters.

Some argue that native apps are richer and offer better user experiences than HTML5, but the gap is closing all the time. Depending on what your app needs, HTML5 could offer substantial cost savings, fulfilling most, if not all of the features you require. 

But what about the future of HTML5 and your app? Smart TVs, Google Glasses, Apple TV, the list goes on but one thing still stays consistent, these devices – as far as we can see into the future – are all internet enabled. The backing HTML5 has from giants like Google and Apple, means that it is likely to be supported across the next generation of devices. With benefits like multiple platforms, multiple devices, reduced time to market and all still available in the big app stores, HTML5 is set for great things. So why not give it a go…?

Gary Wimbridge senior manager, client services, at Aditi Technologies.