All things being equal, we recommend dedicated native apps—solutions designed and developed for a particular device using a particular operating system. In a world which exalts the cross-platform and the device-agnostic that seems counter-intuitive, if not willfully contrary.
But hear us out. (And, since we are in the business of serving clients, all of whom have their own distinctive needs, this is a recommendation, not a requirement.)
Driven by the needs of your workforce.
Our preference for dedicated apps is rooted in the value we bring to our clients: we empower their distributed workforces–people with a job to do.
Unlike the broad potential user base of a consumer app, our users are literally a known quantity: sales forces in the hundreds, franchise employees in the thousands. We have a great deal of insight into what they do every day–what tasks they perform, what places they commonly visit (homes, dealerships, factories), what information they need, what devices they use, what systems they access, and what metrics they’re judged by. We’ve spoken with many of them and tagged along with a few them.
This familiarity with our users gives us a degree of predictability and control which digital agencies rarely enjoy. As a custom software development firm, we can often even specify the device which are solutions will be deployed on. (We’ve even built our own Content Management System.) As a result of this access, we are uniquely positioned to optimize a dedicated native app.
When you design a dedicated native mobile app, you can create a uniquely satisfying user experience because you can anticipate the experience and control the interface.
A controlled UI means an optimized UX.
When you design a dedicated native mobile app, you can create a uniquely satisfying user experience because you can anticipate the experience and control the interface. Such dedicated apps inevitably perform better. When there are technical issues, the support is more knowledgeable (further improving the overall user experience.)
When you using a hybrid approach to create the same experience across multiple platforms, you lose some of your ability to optimize each interface.
When you are dealing with a business tool which might be used several times a day for years, the value of a great experience can’t be underestimated. When you design tools which are a part of people’s jobs, the design can improve the quality of their lives. UX is always important but it’s especially important here.
Bringing the same concern for UX to cross-platform solutions.
There are some situations where a device-specific app simply doesn’t make sense. Your company may allow people to use their own devices; you may already have a mixture of systems; you may be speaking to an uncontrolled distribution; or the app audience may simply be too large and varied to know exactly what they will be using.
You still may want to consider a dedicated solution, especially since it is sometimes cheaper simply to buy everyone an iPad than to develop a separate Android app.
But if cross-platform is the best solution, we take pains to supplement responsive design strategies with smart development strategies. Further, we look for a development language which we are familiar with, which compiles to native code, and which offers abundant developer resources and documentation. Documentation of common challenges frees us to concentrate on your uncommon challenges.
Our goal remains the same, no matter the platform(s): to create the kind of tool that doesn’t just help your people get more work done, more effectively, but it helps them occasionally smile while they’re doing it. (Can you monetize a smile? If it means adoption, yes.) Whatever approach gets us to that kind of experience is the approach we recommend.