To kick off Mobile Month, I wanted to address a comparison that often comes up when discussing the topic of mobile tools. The comparison is mobile websites vs. mobile app. Which one makes more sense for a business?
What are the benefits of each one?
Do I want to develop just one of them, or both?
These are the things I want to look at in this blog article.
What’s the difference?
At first glance a mobile website and a mobile app look very similar, but they have distinct differences. When deciding which avenue to take you must first look at your target audience, your budget, the intended purpose, and the features that you want to have.
Both mobile websites and mobile apps are used on mobile devices (iPhone, Android, Blackberry, tablets, etc.)
First, looking at a mobile website, they are very similar to a regular website. They have a web browser based HTML and are pages linked together through access to the internet. Yet they are not exactly like a regular website. They are typically simplified for access on mobile devices.
Applications are actually downloaded from an app store either for a small cost or they are made available for free rather being accessed through an internet browser. Apps might pull information/content from the internet which is similar to a mobile website, or you may download content or tools specific to the app which would then be available for offline use.
Making a Decision
When making the decision between a mobile website and a mobile app you must really look at your end goals. If your goal is very specific, like creating a tool that users can use offline, than an app would make more sense. But if your goal is to provide access to the widest range of people than choosing to invest into creating a mobile website is the better decision. Generally, developing a mobile website should be your first step when creating services for mobile devices. Creating a mobile app is typically made for a specific purpose or to be used as a tool.
Creating a mobile website is important in your mobile outreach strategy.
Here are some of the benefits:
Upgradability – Your developers can upgrade a mobile site immediately, whereas with a mobile app, the user must update the app after developers have updated the application.
Easier to Find – Mobile websites show up in browsers where many users search.
Shareability – It is a lot easier to share a website by sending a link than it is to share an app.
Time and Cost – Mobile websites are usually much less expensive to develop because you are utilizing a website that already exists instead of creating a completely new app. This is especially true since most developers have to create apps for different platforms and operating systems (iPhone, Android, Blackberry, tablet, etc.)
“What you want to avoid at all costs is the needless and expensive exercise of building an app to do something basic that can be achieved with a mobile website.”
Benefits of Mobile App:
Even though it seems like investing into a mobile website is the way to go, there are benefits to creating a mobile app like interactive gaming, regular use that is personalized (ie Evernote), or instances where you are required to use the app without a data connection.
To conclude this article, the primary way to decide which way to go in the Mobile website vs. Mobile app argument is to really look at the purpose of your investment. If you are looking to develop something that is going to accessed by as many people as possible in order to spread the word about your service or product than a mobile website is a better choice. If you have a specific purpose for your investment like gaming or offline use you will want to invest into a mobile app. But even if you choose the route of a mobile app, it is still a wise idea to optimize your mobile presence by making your website mobile friendly.