The Right Approach for Mobile App Development

Getting ready to kick off your next mobile application project and not sure whether to build a native mobile app or a Progressive Web App? This guide is for you!

At Ionic, we are fans of both traditional mobile apps (the kind you download from the app stores and install on your device) and Progressive Web Apps (PWAs). And, we have the tools you need to build either, or both, types of apps. To help you decide which is better for your next project, we’re going to take a practical look at some of the top considerations for each one. We’ll break it down into four categories: Device reach, app-like look and feel, device integrations, and distribution. Let’s dive in!

Device Reach

The first factor you want to think about when considering a PWA is device reach. Some important questions might be: What devices does your app need to run on? Is it meant for the mobile user, the desktop user, or both? Do the web browsers you’re targeting provide support for PWAs?

Since the theme of this post is mobile development, it’s safe to say you’re likely thinking of targeting mobile devices, which, today, mainly means iOS and Android. But do you also need to reach users who are on their desktop computers as well? With user preferences evolving to expect a company’s digital experiences to be available on any and all devices—Chances are, you do.

If you were to go native, it could mean that up to three apps need to be built, each with their own codebase.

Alternatively, PWAs are built with web technology and the web has the furthest reach of any other platform, running just about everywhere. Meaning, with a PWA, an app can be built once with the same codebase and is able to reach all your target devices.

However, there are still a few more questions to consider when thinking about PWAs and device reach, such as browser support. Do the web browsers you need to support run PWAs? Most browsers today support the majority of PWA features, but what if we have a browser that does not?

And, even if a browser isn’t supported, is it okay if a user has a downgraded experience in case a particular feature is not available to them? Additionally, is it important that all users have the same experience, or is it better to provide an optimal experience to those users who have the latest supported browsers, but still provide a graceful fallback to those that do not?

If you opt for a PWA, using progressive enhancement techniques can help provide optimal experiences for all users.

However, if a particular device feature, or the exact same UX, is something that’s required to be successful, but not all user browsers support it yet, then building a native app might be the way to go.