Mobile Web App Development – Crucial Things You Must Consider

A mobile web app is a great way to establish a strong mobile presence. Learn what it is, how it differs from a native app, and more.
Mobile Web App Development – Crucial Things You Must Consider
5Apr April 5, 2021

By: Krishnendra | Views: 195
Web Design & Development | 3 Min

Ever since Google rolled out the mobile-friendly algorithm update, it has become imperative for any website to have a mobile-optimized design. The search engine giant now takes mobile usability into account to determine where to rank the website in the search engine result pages on mobile devices.

Although most people consider responsive web design a one-size-fits-all solution to make a website mobile-friendly, this approach doesn’t work in specific situations. Especially when you want to empower your users with mobile-specific features, such as click-to-call, location-based mapping, push notifications, scanning barcodes, etc., the responsive design may seem like a heap of trouble. And this is where a mobile web application comes into the picture!

In This Article:

What is a Mobile Web App?

Simply put, a mobile web app brings together the power of the web and the functionality of touch-enabled devices to provide you with all the benefits of a regular mobile website. These kinds of applications are typically written using the latest web development technologies, such as HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript. They run on a central web server in the cloud and can be accessed through any mobile device’s web browser like Chrome (Android) or Safari (iOS).

Users don’t need to go to one to download and install a mobile web application on a specific device. Instead, they are given a unique URL to directly use the web app or add a one-touch bookmark for that page to their device’s home screen. Using a mobile web app is as easy as accessing a web page, while updating it requires nothing except refreshing the browser.

With the continued evolution of HTML5 and other equivalent technologies, mobile web applications are getting tremendous popularity as they offer native-like functionality in the browser. Since HTML5 is being used in almost every website today, it’s pretty tricky for a user to differentiate between a web app and a regular website.

Mobile Web App vs. Native App – What’s the Difference?

Unlike a mobile web app, a native app is built for a particular operating system, such as Android or iOS. Users must first download it from an app store like Google Play or Apple App Store and then install it on their device to use it. While mobile web applications rely on the browser’s capabilities, native apps run on the device and are accessible through the app icon. A mobile web app is quite similar to a native app in terms of look and feel, but there’s a massive difference between the two from the development point of view. Let’s see how they are different from each other:

#Development Process

Each mobile platform, which the native application is being developed for, has its unique development process, offers developers a standardized SDK (software development kit), and has its own native programming language. For example, Android uses Java or Kotlin, while iOS uses Objective-C or Swift. On the contrary, there are no such SDKs or native programming languages for mobile web apps.

#Platform Compatibility

As a native app relies on a device’s capabilities, you need to develop multiple apps for each platform. Conversely, a mobile web application runs in a browser and is platform-agnostic: write once, and it’ll work seamlessly everywhere.

#Installation

As discussed before, a mobile web app doesn’t require downloading or installing from an app store since it’s accessible via a web browser and not developed for a specific device or platform. Contrariwise, native apps need to be downloaded and installed from a platform-specific portal, such as Google Play.

#Upgradability

Whenever a native app gets an update, users must manually download and install it to take advantage of new features and improvements. On the other hand, you can update a mobile web app in just a few seconds: simply refresh your browser, and you’re good to go!

#Accessibility

Native apps depend on the hardware and native features of a device, and for this reason, users first have to download and install the application before using it. There is no need to download or install a mobile web app, as you can simply access it via a URL or bookmark provided.

#Distribution

A native app must pass the approval process and other restrictions imposed by app marketplaces. You may have to wait for one or two weeks to get your app up. Meanwhile, your application can also be rejected if you violate any of their guidelines. A mobile web app doesn’t need to go through all these hassles: just build and release it to users.

#Discoverability

Many people use search engines to find answers to their questions or get information on a specific topic. They never go to the app store for the same, making a web app more discoverable than a native app. Most importantly, visitors are automatically redirected to your web app if they inadvertently access your site on a hand-held device.

#Development Cost

Native apps require you to hire expert mobile app developers with in-depth knowledge of native programming languages, resulting in higher development costs. On the other side, anyone who has some experience with web development languages can quickly develop a mobile web app. For that reason, a mobile web app ends up being less expensive than a native app.

#Maintenance

Lastly, maintaining a mobile web application is as easy as maintaining a regular web page. In most cases, it’s far effortless than a native app. Simply update the app, and you’re done! Contrariwise, the maintenance of a native application requires a developer to deal with multiple versions for different platforms, often leading to higher maintenance costs.

Best Practices for Mobile Web App Development

Mentioned below are a few things that you should keep in mind while you’re building a mobile web application:

#Plan A Strong User Experience

Whether you’re developing a mobile web app, native app, or even a responsive website, your first and foremost priority should be to provide your users a unique, engaging, and pleasing experience. Before you dive into mobile web app development, consider what features and functionality your users expect and plan how you’ll be coding it accordingly.

#Keep Content Short and Sweet

As the screen of a mobile device is relatively smaller than that of a desktop computer or laptop, you need to convey your story in fewer words on your mobile web app. To achieve this, include only the most essential information in your web app’s user interface. Use conventional mobile icons wherever possible to keep your application free from clutter.

#Don’t Rely on the User’s Memory

A good application never asks users to remember any information for future use. Instead, wherever essential, it presents them with the most relevant details possible to complete their tasks as quickly as possible. So it would be better if your mobile web app asks a user to enter particular information only once.

#Keep File Sizes Small

As compared to desktop devices, mobile devices usually have lesser memory and slower data connections. To provide users quicker experiences with your mobile web app under any circumstances, you have to keep files small in size and few in numbers. So do whatever you can to speed things up.

#Consider Offline Support

Leverage HTML5 offline data storage to maintain users’ experiences while they are offline for some reason. Assuming that the user will always be online ends up a lot of offline opportunities. Therefore, while crafting a mobile web application, consider providing offline support to your users.

#Keep Images Super Lightweight

When developing a mobile web app, try to use as few images as you can. The images you keep, make them as lightweight as possible. Consider resizing, cropping, and optimizing images to trim off any excess fat from them. Doing so will cut page load times and improve visitors’ overall browsing experience to a great extent.

#Take Advantage of Vertical Scrolling

The scrollbar can degrade the overall user experience; many web app developers have this unrealistic fear in mind. Yes, it can, but only if you force users to scroll a web page horizontally. Conversely, vertical scrolling can make your mobile web app simpler and engaging. Don’t worry too much about “the fold” and let your users scroll down to experience more of your web app.

#Give Valuable Status Messages

Don’t let users become frustrated at your web app for not responding to their input. Avoid using small and unnoticeable status messages, like “loading,” which don’t make users realize that the mobile web app is busy doing something in the background. Instead, use meaningful status messages, like “please wait,” which gives the user an idea of what’s going on.

#Avoid Multiple File Requests

Because the connection speed on a mobile device is far slower than on a desktop computer, you have to reduce the number of file requests to make your mobile web app load faster. To speed things up, avoid loading extra CSS and JavaScript files in the <head>. As well, store static objects in the browser cache.

#Test before Deployment

Remember to get your mobile web app tested by certified QA professionals before release to know whether it’s built the same way you wanted it to be. Check if the content is appropriately viewable on different devices or there are some improvements needed. It will be the icing on the cake if you test it with people who never got their hands on it before.

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