HTML 5 Vs. Native Apps: What's Best For Developers? - InformationWeek

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10/26/2015
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HTML 5 Vs. Native Apps: What's Best For Developers?

Debate rages on about whether an HTML5 Web application or a native platform application is the best solution for your project team. We've put together this list of arguments -- five for HTML5 and five for native apps -- to help frame the debate.
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(Image: ishtihos via Pixabay)

(Image: ishtihos via Pixabay)

HTML5 is one year old -- at least officially. Last October, the spec was frozen on HTML5. Since then, many developers have adopted it for building websites and mobile applications. It's so popular that we'll soon see the end of the native mobile app, right? Well, not so fast ...

Despite the growing popularity and acceptance of HTML5, debate rages on about whether an HTML5 Web application or a native platform application is the best solution for your project team. As is the case with most things tech, the honest answer to the debate question is "it depends." We've put together this list of arguments -- five for HTML5 and five for native apps -- to help frame the debate. There are very real arguments to be made for each path.

We certainly don't expect to resolve the debate. Rather, we want to provide information that's useful for you as you think about how you approach your next Web or mobile project.

[Building apps for iOS? Read Apple's Swift Programming Language: 10 Fascinating Facts.]

It's important to note where the debate doesn't go. It's not as though one approach is inherently more Agile than the other, or even that one will be cheaper than the other for every project that might come along. Project cost will depend on the makeup and expertise of your dev team. What you hope to accomplish in your user experience will depend on the makeup of your target audience.

A year ago there were very real issues around how each Web browser interpreted HTML5. While there are still issues around how individual browsers have implemented specific technologies that depend on HTML5 (WebRTC, for example, is rather hit-and-miss when it comes to browser support), the vast majority of HTML5 structures and features are supported by all major browsers.

That's not to say there are no issues with HTML5. There are also issues with native apps. Lost in the debate over which technology will ultimately "win" the development war is the fact that technology managers are being forced to make development and deployment decisions today.

The debate will continue. Do you have a favorite in this fight? Let us know. In the meantime, here are five arguments in favor of each technology, first for HTML5, then for native apps. Once you've reviewed these points, share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comments section below.

Curtis Franklin Jr. is Senior Editor at Dark Reading. In this role he focuses on product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he works on audio and video programming for Dark Reading and contributes to activities at Interop ITX, Black Hat, INsecurity, and ... View Full Bio

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Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
10/27/2015 | 9:50:54 AM
Re: Best for developers? Why?
@melgross, you're right that users shouldn't need to think about how the application was developed, but in this case we've got a number of complications.

First, there's some serious debate about whether users prefer apps or web-based applications. I've seen "research" justifying going down either path and the real answer seems to be that they want a great, seamless user experience no matter how they get it. The thing is, the nature of that experience is going to vary depending on which path you choose as a development lead.

And if you're choosing a path, you might as well take the impact on your team into account. IT is generally a cost center, so reducing cost and maximizing effectiveness just makes sense unless you enjoy the process of laying off team members.

Your point is well taken and would, I think, be the controlling point in classic enterprise development. When it comes to mobile apps, though, we're just in one of those odd points in industry history when there are an awful lot of things to take into account.
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