Forrester: HTML5 apps still not as good as native apps

Forrester report shows HTML5 and mobile frameworks are useful tools for mobile apps, but also notes HTML5's limitations

The fact that no two mobile devices have the same screen size is one of mobile's big advantages -- and one of its drawbacks. It's an advantage for the user, who's free to pick the device size that best complements his preferences and work habits, but it's a disadvantage for the app creator, who has to design apps to scale across any number of devices and screen sizes.

A Forrester research paper, "Improving Enterprise Mobility: Meeting Next-Generation Demands for Development, Delivery, and Engagement," created in conjunction with Moovweb (makers of tools to transform Web UIs into mobile apps), delves into this and other issues.

Much of the report revolves around the use of HTML5 and responsive Web design (RWD) as mobile development strategies. RWD, the catch-all term for site designs that reformat themselves to fit the client device, has become something of a household term with designers, thanks in part to the proliferation of Web frameworks that makes responsive design easy, such as Bootstrap or HTML5 Boilerplate.

Forrester surveyed 146 U.S. IT managers in October 2013 about the mobile technologies they used. HTML5 and responsive design figured near the top, with 43 percent of respondents indicating they were using both. Canned frameworks for responsive design, such as Bootstrap, appeared as a separate item in the survey, indicating responsive design was included but not limited to the use of such technologies and was certainly aided by them.

But adopting HTML5 for mobile apps isn't a panacea, as reflected in Forrester's findings. In fact, one of the report's survey responses noted that 59 percent of the time, apps developed solely using HTML5 took longer to deliver than planned. With non-native responsive frameworks, the greatest amount of time was lost testing and fixing issues.

Mobile HTML5 apps are known to be slower than native mobile apps. Some of this is due to delayed updates or bugs in stock browsers on mobile platforms. And while some mobile OSes (Firefox OS, Tizen) are built with HTML5 at their core, they're either too sluggish overall or too poorly adopted to be much of a development consideration. Also, other research has shown that developer interest in HTML5 has slid, with the general consensus that HTML5 is best for a small subset of apps (such as internal line of business).

Some of these notions are echoed in the report, with a whole page devoted to when a responsive strategy makes sense. "Required support for many devices" is the first bulleted recommendation on that list, with the rest about apps that put content consumption over interaction. It reflects the conceit that HTML5 is useful as one weapon in the mobile arsenal, but is still no silver bullet.

This story, "Forrester: HTML5 apps still not as good as native apps," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.