A regular inquiry request we get from clients is “Which approach should we use to build our mobile apps?” There are a lot of arguments made for either side of the web vs. native approaches and some compelling arguments as well for using cross-platform tools to deliver apps. Because it’s such a common discussion, we crafted a report that addresses this topic quite well in Native, Web, and Cross-platform Mobile Apps All Have Their Place.

Ultimately, from the report, “it’s not a question of either/or; it’s which approach best fits the app in question.” The app’s specific features and capabilities drive one aspect of the approach you’ll select; any flowchart you’ve seen on this topic deals with that directly. However, you’ll also have to consider other organizational and technical aspects as well. So, if you’re looking for an absolute answer to the question posed, it’s: “It depends!”

So, what about cross-platform tools? Cross platform tools muddy this conversation a bit as platforms generally deliver native apps or web apps and many can deliver both. The selection of a cross-platform tool is driven by the same questions you’d ask about a native or web app: what are you trying to accomplish with the app coupled with specific questions about what capabilities and benefits the platform provides in key areas you’ll be exercising.

One of the things I noticed recently is that the lines are blurring between the different development approaches. For example, you’ll find that most native applications have at least some web content in them, often a lot. The traditional hybrid mobile app approach, found in Apache Cordova and Adobe PhoneGap apps, blends web applications and native applications in a different way, with the majority of the app’s UI crafted in HTML running in a native app wrapper. Beyond Hybrid, platforms like Appcelerator and Facebook’s React Native use JavaScript in a different way by flipping things around and using web technologies (like JavaScript) to drive native app UIs in native apps. These are just a few examples of how vendors and open source projects are giving developers (individual and corporate) more options for building mobile apps.

To accommodate this shift, we published Blurring Approaches To Mobile Apps Expand Options For Developers in an effort to bring clarity to this conversation and identify how clients are looking at these approaches. The report came to life as the result of a friendly argument I had with my colleagues around the definition of hybrid apps and ultimately led to the definition of some new categories of mobile app development approaches. We expect product vendors to deliver new products in these categories and expand the development options available to application development and delivery (AD&D) professionals even more.