What Are Hybrid Mobile Apps? Link
Mobile apps can be generally broken down into native, hybrid and web apps. Going the native route allows you to use all of the capabilities of a device and operating system, with a minimum of performance overhead on a given platform. However, building a web app allows your code to be ported across platforms, which can dramatically reduce development time and cost. Hybrid apps combine the best of both worlds, using a common code base to deploy native-like apps to a wide range of platforms.
There are two approaches to building a hybrid app:
Compiled hybrid app
While both approaches are widely used and exist for good reasons, we’ll focus on WebView apps because they enable developers to leverage most of their existing web skills. Let’s look at all of the benefits and drawbacks of hybrid apps compared to both native and mobile web apps.
- Developer can use existing web skills
- One code base for multiple platforms
- Reduced development time and cost
- Easily design for various form factors (including tablets) using responsive web design
- Access to some device and operating system features
- Increased visibility because the app can be distributed natively (via app stores) and to mobile browsers (via search engines)
Performance issues for certain types of apps (ones relying on complex native functionality or heavy transitions, such as 3D games)
Increased time and effort required to mimic a native UI and feel
Not all device and operating system features supported
Risk of being rejected by Apple if app does not feel native enough (for example, a simple website)
These drawbacks are significant and cannot be ignored, and they show that the hybrid approach does not suit all kinds of apps. You’ll need to carefully evaluate your target users, their platforms of choice and the app’s requirements. In the case of many apps, such as content-driven ones, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Such apps can typically be found in the “Business and Productivity,” “Enterprise” and “Media” categories in the app store.
Both Hojoki and CatchApp are very content-driven productivity apps, so we initially thought they would be a great match for hybrid development. The first three benefits mentioned above were especially helpful to us in building the mobile app for Hojoki in just four weeks. Obviously, that first version lacked many important things. The following weeks and months were filled with work on optimizing performance, crafting a custom UI for each platform and exploiting the advanced capabilities of different devices. The learning in that time was crucial to making the app look and feel native. I’ll share as many lessons as possible below.
So, how do you achieve a native look and feel? To a mobile web developer, being able to use the features of a device and operating system and being able to package their app for an app store sounds just awesome. However, if users are to believe it is a native app, then it will have to behave and look like one. Accomplishing this remains one of the biggest challenges for hybrid mobile developers.
Make Your Users Feel at Home Link
A single code base doesn’t mean that the app should look and feel exactly the same on all platforms. Your users will not care at all about the underlying cross-platform technology. They just want the app to behave as expected; they want to feel “at home.” Your first stop should be each platform’s design guidelines:
“iOS Design Resources,” iOS Developer Library
“Android Design,” Android Developers
“Design,” Windows Dev Center
While these guidelines might not perfectly suit all kinds of apps, they still provide a comprehensive and standard set of interfaces and experiences that users on each platform will know and expect..