There are three ways of delivering an app on mobile. You can build a web app, you can build native apps, or you can build a hybrid.
When we were designing the Virgin Holidays app, we knew what we wanted to deliver: easy access to resort staff and holiday details that could be viewed offline to help as many customers as possible travel without stress and enjoy a fantastic holiday. This meant we wanted the app to be available for both iOS and Android.
In a world of unquestioned funding and unlimited resources, native apps would be the way to go. Built by specialists on the platforms they know inside out, crafting every interaction to present a refined and natural experience.
The capability of a native codebase shows in the finished product but if you want to offer the same experience to both iOS and Android users, it will cost you. You are building two apps with two sets of code, two builds to update with changes or bug fixes and double the ongoing commitment to adding new features and fixes.
Virgin Holidays already had websites for a lot of the content and functionality we wanted to offer users. Couldn’t we take advantage of the growing support for service workers to serve our web content offline and capitalise on device features?
The current level of support and leap in understanding meant we’d risk alienating many of our customers. Simply put, customers already expected to find us in the App Store and are familiar with what apps can historically offer over websites. It’s still an appealing idea and as the technology and support improves, it will open a world of opportunity for websites to better serve users.
The hybrid approach seeks to solve the problem of duplicated effort: one codebase built on web technologies and exported to suit each platform.
There are clear efficiencies in the more streamlined delivery and the automatic parity between iOS, Android, and even Windows if you want, but the gains come with some sacrifices. A hybrid app doesn’t offer the same level of control as a natively coded bespoke build and the finer details of animations and interactions can be lost in translation.
After weighing up the pros and cons of all three approaches, we decided that the hybrid solution was the right choice for the Virgin Holidays app.