This sponsored post is produced by Ishan Anand, Director of New Products at Moovweb, an enterprise mobile platform for responsive delivery.
When it comes to the great mobile app development debate, the split between native and web sometimes takes on almost religious zeal. As a result, developers and strategists can find themselves left with one-size-fits-all dogma that can feel more like commandments than recommendations. Yet while the debate over the best technology rages on, quietly more and more companies are weighing what actually makes sense for their business and are building hybrid apps.
But wait, didn’t Facebook kill hybrid?
A casual observer might conclude that high profile defections from the hybrid camp, such as Facebook’s switch to native last year, were the nail in the coffin for hybrid. But as we explore in our free e-book on native, HTML5, and hybrid apps, Facebook’s reasons were driven by the unique demands of their app and the winner-take-all social networking industry. This makes extrapolating their example to other verticals and companies potentially misleading, especially in the enterprise.
Meanwhile, hybrid apps are experiencing a resurrection. When Gartner took a look at the latest trends, it determined that 60 percent of enterprise apps will be hybrid by 2016. And there are still high-profile hybrid apps with large audiences, such as the Gmail app on iOS. Even Apple’s own App Store app, which ships on every single iPhone and iPad, leverages hybrid web views. These are hybrid apps we use every day, and you probably didn’t even know it. They illustrate that the best hybrid implementations use HTML to deliver content that looks and feels like it belongs in an app, but with all the benefits of a language that web developers know and love.
Leverage the web you have
The appeal of a hybrid app is simple – unless you’re starting from scratch, you probably have already made a significant amount of investments in a website. Usually, your website has the same content and functionality you’re looking for in your app. So why not leverage that in web views to power the app.
That’s exactly how many of our enterprise customers and partners are using Moovweb to launch their hybrid apps. Whether they used PhoneGap/Cordova or rolled their own web view code, the Moovweb platform complemented their chosen hybrid framework by solving the crucial step of integrating the app into the existing web stack. Their developers used our SDK to transform existing web properties into custom HTML for hybrid web views or JSON data for native screens. This let them deliver their apps faster and without having to build new APIs or perform new backend work.
A pantheon of hybrid apps
Native app development is a monotheistic affair — “the only god-given way to write an app is as the platform vendor intended it.” By contrast, the pantheon of hybrid apps is a spectrum of possibilities. In the process of delivering hybrid apps with our customers, a few common patterns have emerged for balancing the roles between the native and web layers. While not every app will fit cleanly into a single pattern, they serve as models for understanding the wide range of what’s possible.
- Pure Pattern: So-called “pure” hybrid apps consist of a single webview that occupies the entire screen. All the content and navigation controls are implemented in HTML5, and a thin native wrapper exposes native APIs (like Address Book access) to the HTML5 code. PhoneGap (Cordova) apps use this model. Because of the heavy reliance on HTML5, these apps typically have the most code reuse between mobile platforms and require the least level of native programming experience.
- Blended Pattern: Blended apps use native components for the main navigation UI (such as the tab bar) but web views for the formatted content. These apps often use multiple web views with native-powered animations between screens. Apple’s App Store app and Google’s Gmail for iOS use this pattern on some screens.
- Mullet Pattern: These apps are fully native for early parts of a user flow, such as product browsing, and web-based for later areas like checkout. This is a very common pattern for mobile commerce apps where APIs supporting native screens typically exist for product data but not for the hard to integrate features like checkout and payments. Walmart and Yelp apps for iOS both use this pattern.
- Fallback Pattern: In this pattern, the app is mostly native but uses hybrid web views as a fallback for little used or frequently changing content. Facebook’s current app falls under this pattern.
- API Pattern: Not all hybrid apps simply render HTML from a server. API-driven hybrid apps get their data from the server in JSON or XML and instantiate that data into HTML within the app.
Make the right choice for your app
The problem with these nearly religious debates like native vs. web is that development, like life, has nuance. All you can really do is know the inherent benefits of all approaches, know what your project needs, and then do what makes sense – not according to ideology – but for the app you are building today.
We’re the first to admit that hybrid is not for everyone. Native and HTML5 approaches also have a lot to offer enterprises, and in some cases it makes sense to do both or even all three. That’s why we teamed up with folks at Kinvey and wrote a free e-book on native, HTML5, and hybrid apps that helps help developers and mobile strategists navigate the differences between these approaches to mobile in the enterprise.
And if you do decide to go hybrid, check out Moovweb’s responsive delivery platform to leverage all the content and business logic of your existing website and get jump start on your mobile app development.
Moovweb is a next-generation mobile platform for Responsive Delivery, transforming desktop sites in real time for phones, tablets, kiosks, and future endpoints. By leveraging existing web investments, Moovweb unifies web and mobile strategies, dramatically cutting cost and creating business agility. Enterprise developers, design agencies, and systems integrators can use Moovweb to deliver mobile sites and apps faster and improve their mobile experiences more quickly. The Moovweb platform is one of the world’s busiest, with more than 15 billion mobile pages transformed this year alone for many of the world’s largest mobile sites and apps, including Accenture, Cox Communications, Macy’s, 1-800-FLOWERS.com, Sur la Table, Golfsmith, Vitacost, Kroger, Chico’s, Sharpie and dozens of others. Moovweb is headquartered in San Francisco, with offices in New York and London.
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