There are a ton of benefits to choosing a hybrid framework like Ionic to build your next mobile app: Use of familiar web languages, a stable platform based on open web standards, and one shared codebase across any platform or device.
But the most common objection to hybrid is: “What about the user experience?!” The implication being that a “hybrid app”, despite all its benefits, will deliver a sub-par user experience.
Well, in this article I’m going to argue that, not only does hybrid development deliver a native-like experience, it can actually help you deliver a better user experience than a native app.
Defining the Hybrid Development Approach
Before we get too far, let’s level-set with a brief definition of hybrid:
The term hybrid refers to the fact that the apps you build use web technology, but still have access to all of the native device features.
From a user’s perspective, hybrid apps look and feel identical to a traditional native app, and can be accessed and downloaded in the same way as a native app is via any platform’s app store.
How do they work? Hybrid apps run in a full-screen browser called a web view, which is invisible to the user and feels just like a native app. Through customizable plugins, the app can access the native features of specific mobile devices (such as the camera, GPS, or touch ID), without the core code being tied to that device. This means that hybrid-built apps can run on any platform or device, all from a single codebase, while still delivering a completely native experience.
With that definition in place, let’s explore the top three reasons that hybrid can deliver a better user experience than native.
1. More time to focus on features
With a hybrid approach, you can build apps for multiple platforms using a single codebase. This reduces the overhead of building and maintaining separate codebases for each target platform (desktop web, iOS, Android, Progressive Web App, etc.), leaving more time to focus on shipping features and improving app quality.
You can see this concept delivered in a real-world example via Pacifica, a mental health app serving over 1 million users. It’s frequently cited as one of the top App Store apps, with user reviews of around 4.7 out of 5. You can read the full case study, here, but note what Dale Beerman, Pacifica co-founder, had to say:
“Ionic allowed us to get up to speed quickly, so we could constantly improve the app based on our users’ feedback...There’s no way we could have launched both iOS and Android as quickly as we did if we went native.”
2. Seamless experiences across platforms
What makes a good user experience? Solid performance and design are often must-haves. But users have also have come to expect a seamless app experience as they move from device to device - or from mobile to desktop. This is easy to get with a hybrid cross-platform approach.
You can easily deliver the same set of features and experiences across desktop and mobile, all from a single codebase. Plus, when you use a framework like Ionic, the look and feel of your app will automatically adhere to the unique design patterns of whatever device your users are on at the time, whether it’s Android, iOS, or Windows.
For the team at Dow Jones MarketWatch, a popular news app serving over 600,000 monthly active users, consolidating onto a single codebase helped their small team of two developers deliver a high-quality experience across all of their target platforms. Brian Aguilar, Product Manager at MarketWatch, put it this way in our case study:
“Building and maintaining each of these apps [for iOS and Android phones and tablets] natively was just a non-starter for us. When we were working natively, our user satisfaction scores were like 3 stars on Android. All time low was 2.5 stars on iOS. Now we are at 4.5 stars on iOS and near 4.5 stars on Android. With two developers, there’s no way we would have had the equivalent of four apps without Ionic.”
3. Real-time app updates
A hidden gem of the hybrid approach is the ability to update your app on the fly, without having to submit a new version to the app stores or ask users to update their app.
How is this possible? Well, app store policies require that any changes to native code must go through the app stores. However, it is permissible to make changes to the parts of your app that are considered web assets. And, since 90 percent of hybrid apps exist at the web layer, that means that with a service like Ionic Appflow you can change most of your app by pushing changes directly. That includes new features and critical bug fixes, which can be sent in real-time.
So, with a hybrid approach, you can make sure that your users always get the best experience, with real-time bug fixes and seamless updates.
4. Speed and performance
Mobile app performance is absolutely critical to delivering a great user experience. So how does hybrid stack up when it comes to load times, scrolling, and other moments where speed is critical? The best way to answer that is to find out for yourself, by checking out the many successful consumer apps built using hybrid technology—From award-winning apps like Pacifica and Sworkit to highly popular apps like Shipt and Untappd. Our take? Unless you’re building a highly-graphic intensive app, such as a 3D game, a hybrid approach will deliver the speed and performance you need to make your users happy.
Want more proof? Schedule a Strategy Session with our team and we can help you set up a custom proof of concept (POC) to make sure Ionic can deliver on your requirements.
Where to Go From Here?
You may be convinced, now, that a hybrid approach can deliver great UX across platforms, but perhaps still have a few more questions about this type of development.
There are a lot of misconceptions floating around out there about how hybrid development stacks up against native. And, despite these questions being a few years old, and hybrid technology having evolved to provide better performance and experiences across the board—the inquiries around this debate still persist.
That’s why we put together a handy little guide we call, Why Hybrid: Real-World Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Hybrid App Development. This article was just a little taste of why companies looking to tackle digital transformation should consider hybrid development as a way to deliver great UX across platforms.
That said, we know there are still a few more questions that might need answering before you decide which development approach is right for your company. So, be sure to check out our robust Why Hybrid guide to feel confident in tackling your app dev projects with a hybrid-web approach.