The Blurred Lines Between Website and App
I'm currently re-writing a website I initially built about 6 or 7 years ago. It's a good reminder of just how far things have come in a relatively short space of time.
When I first wrote Whitby Tanks website, including a bespoke content management system, Apple's App Store was in its infancy. By today's standards, only a handful of apps were available, and most small businesses weren't even considering having an 'app' a priority (or even a possibility).
Jump forwards a handful of years and apps are everywhere. But at the same time, the power of the humble web browser has also increased dramatically in this time.
Enter Responsive Web Design
The notion of 'responsive web design' didn't really pick up traction until around 2010 - but has become the staple of the modern web designer.
Responsive design allows us to build websites which look and feel like native apps, but don't require installing on individual devices, are cheaper to produce and by their nature are available across all platforms.
Unless you need access to the hardware functionality of a device, such as a camera or microphone, a responsive website can be a great solution for almost any project.
A responsive website can look like an app, feel like an app, and function like an app while at the same time ensuring all users (whether on mobile or desktop platforms) have access to the content.
Improving All the Time
I mentioned above that there's often a requirement for a native app if access to a camera etc. is required. However, browser technology is improving all the time. It is already possible to access a device's camera within a web page, as well as the accelerometer for detecting direction and so on. But this functionality is currently limited to browsers who choose to support it.
It won't be long before these technologies make their way into all mobile browsers, enabling web developers to use physical hardware within a standard website.
A Place For Both
My guess is that there'll always be a place for both native apps and web applications. It's not a case of either or. We can have both - and should do. But let them play to their strengths.
Planning an App?
If you're considering having an app developed, why not think first about a responsive website (or web app). Feel free to give me a call to discuss your options - you may find that a web app is the perfect solution.