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Having a responsive website that has all features available for differently sized devices often isn't enough for clients. They additionally request Apps for iOS and Android (and if you're lucky also for Windows Mobile and Blackberry).

Let's assume that resources are limited and that there aren't any additional features to expect with an App. An idea is to embed the website into the App. I.e. using the App as frame for the website. There are some obvious pros and cons that come to my mind with this approach:

  • (+) Having your icon on the user's home screen
  • (+) Changes on the website take effect immediately, no need for updating the app
  • (+) Look & feel by having mobile-OSish style sheets
  • (-) Maintenance
  • (-) Licenses
  • (-) Tech savvy users might not appreciate the illusion of an App

Would you consider it a good idea for users to have the website embedded into an App? What are potential gains, what are the traps?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 1 down vote accepted

(+) Having your icon on the user's home screen

Well, they can easily add your web site as an icon to their home screen as well. I think the actual 'benefit' here is that you have an icon in the app store.

The catch is that if you have an 'app' in the app store, the consumer expects an actual app...not just a web site wrapper.

Also note that Apple frowns upon apps that are just web views of a web site. So consider that as well.

(+) Changes on the website take effect immediately, no need for updating the app

True, though that's the same benefit of a responsive web site.

(+) Look & feel by having mobile-OSish style sheets

I'd consider this a detriment in a lot of cases. It forces you to 'fake' native and faking native is always a risky move. It rarely 'feels' native and consumers aren't easily fooled.

(-) Maintenance

Would this not be a benefit (easier to maintain one code base as a responsive web site rather than multiple native code bases)?

(-) Licenses

Not sure what licenses this refers to.

(-) Tech savvy users might not appreciate the illusion of an App

I think this is the key drawback. In fact, I'd argue a tech savvy user may actually be more tolerant knowing it's a web view. A non-tech savvy user may actually think that this is just an unusually slow app.

Long story short, I don't think the pros outweigh calling an embedded web view an app.

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Maintenance: when comparing to no apps at all. you'd still have to maintain different apps even with limited features. The licenses are the app-dev licenses you have to get for the app store and also (potentially) for different dev tools –  msparer Jun 24 at 7:27
    
ah, gotcha. Well, in the grand scheme of things, those app store licenses are fairly minor. –  DA01 Jun 24 at 15:13

What's the purpose of the site? Is it pushing news and updates? Is it an actual application? What will draw them back to it once the app has been installed? What do their users want?

While an app might be nice, if it's a copy of the site and doesn't offer them more than the website already does, then installing the app won't leave the users feeling like it was worth the space on their device.

For me, an app needs to provide some ease of use or added benefit that the website does not. Fandango's app vs the website is a nice example of where I would want to have an app rather than deal with the web version of their site. I have a specific task I want to accomplish (buying tickets) and I need to provide my location (GPS data from the device) to save time. The result is custom content based on my location.

Georgia State University has a responsive website and an app. There's no reason to download the app because the content is either old or simply doesn't contain what I want. In their case, the responsive website is a billion times better.

For me, I would have to go back to the client and ensure that there was a purpose for the app that would drive people to become return users of it. I understand that they may have their hearts set on it because its the in buzzword, but having something just to be cool often leads to having an abandoned app out there that isn't representing their product or brand very well.

Maybe you could steer them in the direction of building an app that simplifies some aspect of their product or services rather than just duplicating their content? From a technical standpoint though, what you are thinking about SHOULD work, although can't you just make an app that opens the website in the device's web browser? It would be more like a bookmark then.

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