Do You Really Need an App for That?

Originally published at:

First everybody wanted a website. Then along came Flash and so people wanted a Flash site. Then there was Facebook and that became the must-have thing to be a part of. Now everybody wants a mobile app. But do they really need one?

After all, creating a mobile app is not without its challenges.

I delve deeper into this topic in a Learnable screencast at the end of this article by taking a look at case studies where the decision to go native perhaps wasn’t the best.

The Problems with Going Native

With so many apps in the app store, exposure is no reason to build an app.

With so many apps in the app store,
exposure is no reason to build an app.

When smartphone app stores first launched there was a land rush to fulfill consumer demand for native applications. In those early days there were some incredible opportunities. But those days are gone.

With well over 1 million apps in both the iTunes and Android stores, supply has exceeded demand.

Worse still, getting found is difficult in stores lacking sophisticated search functionality. Where once being on the App Store provided unprecedented exposure, and there are still some ways to improve your app marketplace ranking, today it is likely your app will be rarely seen.

Even if a user does see your app and downloads it, that does not guarantee they will keep it. With limited storage space users only keep so many apps on their device. They’re ruthless when it comes to deleting apps. Users tend to only keep apps that they are using on a regular basis.

The biggest problem with native applications is their cost. Unlike learning HTML and CSS, there is a high barrier to entry when it comes to developing native mobile apps. This means that hiring application developers is expensive compared to their web counterparts.

But the real cost comes in supporting many platforms and devices. Unlike the web you cannot build once and be sure that it will work everywhere. You cannot even use the same language to code across more than one platform.

It is not only expensive to build your application in the first place but also to maintain it over time. Every new device released could force you to update your app. Changes in the screen size, resolution and OS can lead to alterations in your application.

Despite that, there are occasions when the costs are worth it because the use case justifies it.

Continue reading this article on SitePoint


Excellent article!!

You did a great job of summarizing a complicated topic.

Obligatory link to Betteridge’s law of headlines. :slight_smile:

1 Like

Until I read this post, I’d not considered the possibility, now I’m wondering…

Many thanks for an informative discussion on the merits of building or not building an app.

From a security perspective, there are a couple other points to consider: (1) building security into the development phase which protects the user confidential data, and (2) the risk that a popular app could wind up with rouge versions in the app marketplace which would damage brand credibility after much was invested in developing and maintaining the app in the first place.

NIST released a standard for vetting mobile apps and the entire standard can be read on the website at:

I wish more people would seriously look at this issue instead of just jumping on the bandwagon of apps. That’s partly because I am always sceptical and cynical about any bandwagon, and the rush for apps is exactly the kind of thing I despair of because I really don’t see the point of a lot of apps … and it’s partly because as a Windows Phone user, most apps are unavailable to me even if I wanted them.

I would much rather see businesses focus on developing really good websites that work for all users, whether on PCs, tablets, smartphones or feature phones, rather than developing vanity apps that don’t add value for the people that can have them, and mean that people who can’t are left out in the cold.


Was unable to explain the difference between native and hybrid apps to my PM, until this wonderful life saver article came up. Most web developers tend to do the stuff done with hybrid, as most of them have little exposure to statically typed programming languages like Java. They are thus blinded by the challenges pushed by hybrid platforms for doing the native stuff with it. I think if web developers are into building mobile apps, they should expand their knowledge to the real stuff.

1 Like

Websites can even send notifications like a native app.

I’d be curious to hear more about that. At the moment, I sorely wish that we had an app for the SitePoint forums, since my options for notifications are either 1) keep the tab open at all times or 2) turn on email notifications.

I once worked for an auction marketplace. Our main reason for building an app was to use push notifications for active bidders. It was a huge time-saver and reduced the burden of having to push out email immediately.

@boagworld, how do you handle notifications outside of native apps?

Very informative blog the video explained very good i also have some question on my that being answered when after i read and watch your video. I am part of a software development team on Roting Android and this blog really help me to make our software better. Thanks for sharing and will keep on reading you blogs.

This topic was automatically closed 91 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.