Mobile Web: Responsive vs. Native Performance

A mobile presence is key to your business success. It is also one of the hardest things to get right.

With more than half of all Web traffic coming from mobile devices, and Google favoring mobile-friendly sites in search results, it’s worth thinking carefully about how to present your company. Beyond just showing up on mobile, however, it’s crucial that you keep your app alive and running. Twenty percent of apps are used only once, and only 16 percent of users will try to use a buggy app more than twice.

Which way do you go?

Truth is, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to responsive vs. native. Think about the old maxim: “Fast, cheap, good, choose two.” A responsive site can be built and updated for less money, and will be online in less time—if the user has an Internet connection. A native site takes more resources to design, and only works by device, but delivers a sophisticated experience regardless of Web connectivity.

Apply effective monitoring, and you’ll boost the benefits of both. Here are some things to think about before you make the big decision.

The Pros and Cons of Responsive Websites

A responsive Website can be up and running relatively quickly. It costs less, both on the front-end and to update. Unlike native apps, your responsive Website will be indexed by search engines, bolstering your brand’s SEO power.

You can tie your responsive site to social media more easily, and users can access it from any device. That comes in handy for marketing purposes—it only takes seconds for an impressed user to message a link to a friend. You just can’t buy that kind of advertising.

The downside is that, in the long run, a responsive site can be harder to monetize than an app. You can’t do in-app purchases, and the app won’t be listed in any app stores.

Access to the responsive Website also requires an Internet connection. As we know, the Internet is one of those places where everything goes smoothly until it doesn’t. Monitoring your site’s availability and responsiveness requires drilling down into the minutiae of processor loads, queue sizes and how often and the types of errors the server throws. You must also have access to metrics on bandwidth, traffic patterns and end-user response times.

With those capabilities in place, you’ll be able to prevent outages and slowness, or act quickly when they do occur. Time is money on an app, and the less time you spend troubleshooting, the more users you’ll keep around.

The Pros and Cons of Native Apps

Mobile carries with it a promise of big payoffs, and a native app is a quick way to capture them. It takes more time and money to build, but once designed, a native app opens up revenue streams. You can add in-app purchases and secure user data to build a better product, plus your app gets listed in app stores, which act as major distribution channels.

The user experience is more consistent on a native app. The UI, for one, isn’t subject to interpretation by various browsers. The app can access a device’s full functionality, including camera and GPS. That makes for a more refined user experience—and you don’t need an Internet connection to make the app work.

On the flipside, you can only use a native app on the device where it was installed. Apps are not indexed in search engines, so your business misses out on a lot of marketing opportunities.

Native apps don’t require as many users to be profitable—but why aim low? More users mean more revenue, and that requires your app to be reliably available and working. Careful monitoring not only helps you quickly narrow down problems as they happen, but shows you what you’re doing right.

From user behaviors and platforms to issues of network latency, crashes and exception reporting, each piece plays in an important role in user experience. Sticky users again mean more revenue, and monitoring will make sure that the app functions smoothly enough for them to stay.

Less Risk, More Reward

If you must choose between building a native app or making your Website mobile-responsive, bear in mind that performance is a constant. Keep tabs on your app’s biggest risk factors, and your business will keep humming along.

It doesn’t take much for an app to become a zombie. Make yours a workhorse instead.

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