Should you go web or native?

When you're creating a software product with a certain goal, and you're just starting out, you will probably have a hard time making a decision.

This is what happened to me. For months and months, I just learned a lot about everything. And in the end, I choose for React native over the Progressive web apps. (Also see this article RN is the future)

Last Friday on the Dojo Barbeque, Niels Bossman from Makkelijk Afvallen asked me a very good question. 'Should I make an app or should I stay on the web?'

This is a very hard question to answer but I answered with some insights that I think everyone should take into account. And of course, it's not the same for everyone.

Here are some considerations: Capabilities, Platform, User Aquisition, User Retention, and costs.


Think about what your product is and what kind of capabilities it will need. location? push notifications? payments?

These things are not as accurate, as good, or as user-friendly on a progressive web app, compared to on react native.
Payments are done with one click of a button on native. On the web, it's a lot harder still in most cases.
Location works for many devices on the web nowadays, but you can't track location in the background, for example.
Push notifications work on newer Android devices... iOS doesn't do this kind of black voodoo magic.

More on progressive web apps later.

Platform: Mobile or Desktop?

Does your target audience mainly use a desktop computer, or do they use their phone the most? If they use their phone more... It's probably a better idea to go for react native.

You could bet on progressive web apps, but they are not there yet completely! More on that later.

User aquisition

Where do you get new customers from?

1) Google (SEO)
2) Social Media
3) Organic
4) App store

For [1] you need to have a website. Google can't search inside your app! For [4], you need to have an app. If you want it all, you need to have both.

User retention

There are many ways to get your customers back to your platform. Here are a few:

1) Email
2) Push notifications
3) Physical products
4) Organic Social media
5) Paid Social Media (ads)

To decide, you have to know what fits the best for your product, and you have to understand how good each of them works for platform of choice (web or native), and your business model.


Until recently, making apps was very expensive to do. It's a pretty new industry and there was high demand, so the costs for people that could create apps went up to ludicrous heights.

The biggest reason why the costs went down a little lately, is the rise of Javascript and React Native. Before RN, most GOOD apps were built with native Android and native iOS: two completely different programming languages! This meant that you needed at least two developers and also a backend developer to get the job done (most companies also have expert UI/UX designer and product manager, so your team gets to 5 people easily). All in all, the amount of hours spent is 2-5 times as much to build an app!

So... Using react native will cut down the costs a lot!

Progressive Web Apps?

Progressive web apps are certainly a very interesting new technology and if you already decided to go for the web, I would certainly recommend to implement it in a way that it works as a PWA. For this, I'd recommend Lighthouse.

PWA's sound like the future! It's a platform for mobile & desktop, Windows, Mac OS, Android & iOS.

Nonetheless, I choose for React Native. And here are the main considerations that made me make this decision.

1 We use apps, not browsers According to this 2017 report, Mobile users spend 87% of their mobile time inside apps. Not in the browser!
2. The market is moving more mobile. We all love our phones. Some of us hate them as well, but the time the world spends on their phones is still growing according to this study
3. You can't find progressive web apps in the stores. Google is planning to make PWA's findable in the Google Play Store, but it's not the case yet, and who knows how long it will take? Apple, on the other hand, is completely blocking it! They are not planning to showcase PWA websites in their stores anytime soon
4. Notifications are not working on iOS (yet?).
5. Offline capabilities don't work on iOS (yet?).

All of these things may not be technical problems. They can easily be made. But Apple is blocking the road! Which is a very obvious business decision. They are earning a lot of money with their App Store, and if apps become available outside of it, they lose their walled garden where they can charge how much the fuck they want.

Facebook to the rescue.

As much as I hate Facebook for its immoral way of doing business and retaining users on their platform, the things they open source are great.

In 2015, they open sourced React Native and this completely changed the game for the app world. Now, in 2018, many big apps use React Native! It's a great technology, and I decided to go for it because it binds very closely to actual native hardware capabilities of both Android and iOS. Also, there is a huge open source community which means that it's not limited anywhere. If people need something, it will be created, and it will probably be open source.