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The modern day debate: mobile app or mobile web?
I think most would agree that you can't ignore mobile. Whether it's mobile app or mobile web, we can't deny the constant growth of users. But, if you only had enough resources to choose one, which would you choose and why?
Mobile Web. All of the volunteers or clients or others that support or are served by a nonprofit don't use the same kind of mobile phone. If you go the mobile app route, you either have to know that a clear, large majority of those that would use the app all have the same kind of phone, or you have to be willing to develop apps for all the different kinds of phones they are using - something that the vast majority of nonprofits don't have the financial or staff budget to do.
That said, if I had the budget, if most of those that would use the app are on one kind of phone, or even two kinds of phones, and the app would clearly, obviously and immediately be an important part of our organization meeting our mission - it's not just an app to donate money but, rather, is an app that is a part of what we say in our mission that we do - then I might go the app route.
-=-=-=-=-=- Jayne Cravens Author, The LAST Virtual Volunteering Guidebook
Apps are good for things that you can use when not connected to the web, or that you want to use and limit your access. I think they also generally perform better on most devices since you don't have the latency you can have with using the web.
But as Jayne mentioned the web version should work on phones, tablets and other devices as well so you have a more flexible platform if coded correctly. Distribution is more simple, just provide the URL and there is no messing around with installing or uninstalling.
Lastly, while app developers are springing up everywhere, they still don't outnumber web developers although those that have experience with Responsive Design may still be hard to find at this point.
Another vote for Mobile Web and the sheer virtue of the fact that the web application only needs to be updated in one place to benefit all users. The end users need not worry about what version they are on, etc. There is also the benefit of not needing a dedicated amount of disk space on the target device, or about platform compatibilities (not as much, anyway). Like the qeustion stated, if you had to choose one? Mobile Web.
Tim ClaremontSystems AdministratorRochester, NY
Completely agree all the points mentioned; it's important and necessary to support your constituents regardless of which type of phone they have (that's the whole goal). And yes, in the past apps had to be developed individually, but HTML5 technology has come a very long way.
A great development shop (like us!) can create what seems to be a completely native app experience that works across all major platforms for a fraction of what it might cost to develop a true native app for just one platform. This also means updating you app is now as easy as updating your website – via a dedicate URL. The best part is it updates across all platforms (kill 2+ birds with one stone)!
Whether you choose mobile web or mobile app, the point is these options exist and are available today ☺
A big thank you to iNotForProfit for using this discussion here on TechSoup to create this terrific blog post on How html5 is making mobile apps accessible for non-profits, charities & ngos, and acknowledging this TechSoup thread as the inspiration!
Hi Jayne :) Thank you and TechSoup for having these great forums and resources for the philanthropic sector! We're definitely excited that technology these days means nonprofits and charities have more options to reach out and engage their community. Please feel free to reach out if we can help answer any questions. Thanks again!
Go for mobile web unless your app needs access to native functionalities which are not accessible through the browser. This can include the device's camera, contact list, accelerometer, etc.
A good article can be found here: http://mobiledevices.about.com/od/additionalresources/a/Native-Apps-Vs-Web-Apps-Which-Is-The-Better-Choice.htm
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