Native, HTML5, Responsive, or Mobile Site?

I got to read an excellent article from David Thompson comparing four popular strategies if your want to go mobile: native app, HTML 5 (with native wrapper), responsive web design and mobile site. I’ll explain a little more if you are not sure about these concepts.

Native app: apps that are built for specific mobile platforms, such as iOs (e.g. iPad, iPhone), Android, Win 8 and Blackberry. You have to install these apps from your smart phones’ app stores.

HTML 5 (with native wrapper): You can still install these apps from app stores like Apple Store, but they actually work across platforms because of HTML 5; the wrapper only controls the installation part. Popular development technologies are jQuery Mobile and Sencha Touch.

Responsive web design: this becomes a hot topic since as more companies have realized the importance of mobile users. When we say a web page is “responsive”, it means this page can adapt to different screen resolutions, orientations, etc. My website is an example of responsive design (thanks to the template provider GoodLayers :) ) – try it in a mobile device and see its differences from a computer screen. Other great examples are Smashing Magazine and President Obama’s website.

Mobile site: a mobile version based on your original website.

David talked about pros and cons for each concept: native apps are good for companies that have large user bases, high usage rates and intensive graphic processing, but require an tremendous amount of time and resource investment; HTML 5 frameworks are used by many companies as their performances are close to native apps; Responsive may dilute the overall user experience when it goes to different devices, it’s hard to accommodate all user cases just by changing page layouts etc, but it’s a great technology for simple websites and blogs; Building a separate mobile site seems not very necessary especially when your mobile traffic is trivial (and the other 3 strategies above look more effective), but if you want to use a platform provider like BigCommerce, who already built a mobile site for you, then go for it.

Read The Native vs. HTML5 vs. Responsive vs. Mobile Site by David Thompson


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