Which is Better – an App or a Mobile Website?

As most people use their Smartphone to browse the mobile web, we are frequently asked for advice by potential clients on whether to go for an App or a mobile website.

Well when it comes to deciding whether to build a native app or a mobile website, the most appropriate choice really depends on your end goals. If you are developing an interactive game an app is probably going to be your best option. But if your goal is to offer mobile-friendly content to the widest possible audience then a mobile website is probably the way to go. In some cases you may decide you need both a mobile website and a mobile app, but it’s pretty safe to say that it rarely makes sense to build an app without already having a mobile website in place.

Generally speaking, a mobile website should be considered your first step in developing a mobile web presence, whereas an app is useful for developing an application for a very specific purpose that cannot be effectively accomplished via a web browser.


Advantages of a Mobile Website over an App:

1) Mobile Websites Are Instantly Available
A mobile website is instantly accessible to users via a browser across a wide range of devices (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, etc). Apps on the other hand require the user to first download and install the app from an app marketplace before the content or application can be viewed – a significant barrier between initial engagement and action/conversion.

2) Mobile Websites Reaches A Larger Audience
A single mobile website can reach users across many different types of mobile devices, whereas native apps require a separate version to be developed for each type of device. Furthermore, mobile website URLs are easily integrated within other mobile technologies such as SMS, QR Codes and near field communication (NFC).

3) Mobile Websites Can Be Updated Instantly
A mobile website is much more dynamic than an app in terms of pure flexibility to update content. If you want to change the design or content of a mobile website you simply publish the edit once and the changes are immediately visible; updating an app on the other hand requires the updates to be pushed to users, which then must be downloaded in order to update the app on each type of device.

4) Shareability – Mobile Websites Can be Shared Easily by Publishers And Between Users
Mobile website URLs are easily shared between users via a simple link (e.g. within an email or text message, Facebook or Twitter post). Publishers can easily direct users to a mobile website from a blog or website, or even in print. An app simply cannot be shared in this fashion.

5) LifeCycle – Mobile Websites Can’t Be Deleted
The average shelf-life of an app is pretty short, less than 30 days according to some research, so unless your app is something truly unique and/or useful (ideally both), it’s questionable how long it will last on a user’s device. Mobile websites on the other hand are always available for users to return to them.

6) A Mobile Website Can Replace an App!
Just like a standard website, mobile websites can be developed as database-driven web applications that act very much like native apps. A mobile web application can be a practical alternative to native app development.

7) Time and Cost – Mobile Websites Are Easier And Less Expensive
Last but certainly not least, mobile website development is considerably more time and cost-effective than development of a native app, especially if you need to have a presence on different platforms (requiring development of multiple apps).

When Does an App Make Sense?

1) Interactivity/Gaming – for interactive games (think Angry Birds) an app is almost always going to be your best choice, at least for the foreseeable future.

2) Regular Usage/Personalisation – If your target users are going to be using your app in a personalised fashion on a regular basis (think EverNote) then an app provides a great way to do that.

3) Complex Calculations or Reporting – If you need something that will take data and allow you to manipulate it with complex calculations, charts or reports (think banking or investment) an app will help you do that very effectively.

4) No connection Required – If you need to provide offline access to content or perform functions without a network/wireless connection then an app makes sense.

In Conclusion

As long as mobile remains a relatively new frontier, the “app vs web” question will remain a very real consideration for organisations seeking to establish a mobile presence. If your mobile goals are primarily marketing-driven, or if your aim is to deliver content and establish a broad mobile presence that can be easily shared between users and found on search engines, then the a mobile website is the logical choice. On the other hand, if your goal is interactive engagement with users, or to provide an application that needs to work more like a computer program than a website, then an app is probably going to be required.
Please feel free to contact the team at UKWebFast if you would like input on whether an app or a mobile website might be the right fit for your organization’s needs. We will genuinely give you an honest answer and if it is an app you need we will point you in the right direction.

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