Startups: Consider Building Native Web Apps!

As a startup, competing with well established, larger, incumbent companies is incredibly difficult. Among their many advantages, they’ve had more time and resources to build amazing products.

On top of that, your customers don’t care about the size of your company.

They expect a world-class experience, while assuming that:

  1. You have an army of developers, ready to react to their suggestions immediately.
  2. You can provide 247 social media/customer support.
  3. Your products should be free, forever.

It’s tough out there! You need any advantage you can get. For your technology stack, consider using web technology (HTML/CSS/JavaScript) to build your web, mobile, and desktop apps. When combined with Cordova/PhoneGap, you can use a single codebase to build mobile apps for every major app store! Most importantly, this “native web” approach means you can:

Do more with less. Instead of needing to hire one or more developers per platform (iOS, Android, web), your web team can use their existing skills to craft native experiences. Web tooling has come a long way, and along with the insane popularity of JavaScript right now, development speed will just keep getting better.

Stop (or reverse) bad app reviews by fixing bugs fast! As a startup, you can apply a wonderfully unique customer service touch, responding to as much public feedback as possible. When bad reviews happen (they’re inevitable), reply quickly and then get to work on a fix. Fortunately, deploying to the app stores has gotten faster over time. Google Play has never had a review process - your updates are live typically within 15 minutes. The Apple App Store’s review times have gone from 5-14 (!) days down to 1-2 days.

Market validation via fast POCs. React to a changing market quickly! Oftentimes, you need to test an idea before fully committing to it. Building an initial version of an app using native web tech doesn’t take much. Once you’ve explored the idea, you can throw the code away (and build actual native platforms) or continue with the POC web code.

The rise of the Progressive Web App (PWA). Enabling this technology means that you can deploy your app’s codebase as a website. Additionally, they can be installed on a user’s home screen (dodging the app store), load entirely when the device is offline, and increase engagement/conversions via push notifications.

You’ll face a lot of challenges as a startup, but your tech stack doesn’t have to be one of them. I recommend the the Ionic framework for advanced web developers. For a gentler introduction or to see if this approach is right for your startup, my Pluralsight course PhoneGap Build Fundamentals uses basic HTML/CSS/JavaScript in combination with Adobe’s PhoneGap Build cloud service to take you from zero to app store.

Learn how to create mobile apps with JavaScript. Get occasional PhoneGap/Cordova and Ionic tips, tutorials, and more:

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