You know you need to build an app (or, maybe, update an existing one). You understand who your users are and, consequently, what your app needs to deliver, but how do you decide which type of experience to build? The proliferation of the app building industry has resulted in lots of options, but figuring out the best approach for your healthcare business can be overwhelming.
First things first, say the healthcare technology experts at PointClear Solutions / Worry Free Labs, you’ve got to begin by understanding the differences between app types: native app, responsive / web app, and hybrid app.
Native applications are probably what most consumers think of first when they hear the words “mobile app.” These are standalone software that you download and install directly to your smartphone, notebook, or laptop; typically, from an app store. These apps are developed specifically for a particular platform (i.e. iOS, Android, etc.).
- The upside: Typically, native apps will be the fastest running and most stable solution. They appear in their platform’s app store. They can also leverage all of the native capabilities of the device on which they run (think Bluetooth, GPS, etc).
- The downside: Native apps require a download. They also can’t be used across multiple platforms, meaning you will need to develop one for use with iOS and another for use with Android.
Responsive (Web) Apps
Responsive web applications (a.k.a. web apps) behave very similarly to a website and are accessed via browser.
- The upside: The responsive nature of web apps allows them to accommodate a number of devices and operating systems in one fell swoop.
- The downside: By nature, responsive apps may not be optimized for every device or operating system (OS) – meaning your pages may not always render properly. Responsive apps also require an internet connection to function.
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Hybrid apps are essentially web apps wrapped in a native app shell. This means that while the basic infrastructure of a hybrid app is native, the content is web-based (i.e. Hybrid apps are like a native app with a browser embedded within it.).
- The upside: Hybrid apps can take advantage of the native features of a native app. You can download them from the app store, work with them offline, and use them to access data from other apps (like push notifications, camera functionality, etc.) – even though the actual content relies on HTML being rendered in a browser. Hybrid apps are also relatively easy to scale to a variety of platforms and operating systems.
- The downside: Because the content that makes up a hybrid app is based on web technology, it can be slow to load. Hybrid apps can often be glitchy. Features are often a blend of native look and feel alongside web page elements, depending on the capabilities of the hybrid platform used.
Making the Right Choice
Now that you have a general understanding of your options, you need to decide which approach is best for your healthcare organization…its goals, users’ needs, budget, and development timeline. Will your app need access to device features such as Bluetooth connectivity? Do you want your app to appear in an app store or be accessed via a browser? Decisions made specific to each of these will make determining the type of app you want and need that much easier.
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