Mobile Website or Mobile App?
Which is the right choice for your business?
Let me begin this article with a question for you? Are you reading this blog on a mobile device? Chances are, you are! Browsing the internet via mobile devices has surpassed desktop-based internet browsing a long time ago. As of 2019, 58% of website visits were done from a mobile device.
However, as these mobile visits continue to rise, business owners and developers, who need to make an online presence, are confused about whether they should be developing a responsive mobile website or a mobile app for their business.
The short answer is – It depends on the kind of business and your end-user experience.
Well, before we go for the longer version, let us check out the various pros and cons of mobile websites and apps.
A responsive mobile website is a website optimized for mobile devices. Some features of such websites include smaller fonts, fewer page elements, and less white space. They also feature scalability as per the screen size of the device on which they are being browsed.
Let us check out some advantages of mobile websites:
A mobile website is available for anyone to use irrespective of his device specifications and operating system. This also translates to broader audience reach since users with lesser configuration smartphones will also be able to access the website and check out its contents.
● No Setup and Updates
Another major advantage of a website is that the user need not download anything on his phone for viewing the website. Similarly, when the website is updated, the user need not update anything on his device. He can simply visit it again and view the improvements without going through the hassle of updating or downloading.
From an economic point of view, it is better to develop a website rather than an app, since it is easier to develop it once and publish it online rather than developing individual apps for individual platforms and then paying Google or Apple to publish it on their respective app stores. Even the end-user benefits from visiting a website since they need not pay anything to download.
Google ranks websites with responsive mobile-optimized pages higher than other websites. Companies with mobile-friendly websites are more likely to rank higher in Google SERP, leading to higher brand visibility & more traffic.
Now that we have gone through some of the most important advantages of a mobile website, let us turn our attention to the world of mobile apps.
Simply put, a mobile app is a smaller version of an application for a mobile device. Mobile apps can use the device’s native features, which allows developers to create better, more intuitive and faster user experiences for customers.
Let us check out how they differ from a mobile website:
● More Interactive & Intuitive
Since a mobile app is run from the mobile device locally, it offers much more interactivity when compared to a mobile website, which is limited by the internet browser. It can also adapt to the platform’s user interface and design language, thus enhancing the appeal of the app with the user.
A mobile app can be customized as per the user’s will. The customer can tweak multiple settings in the app to suit his needs and it stays on the device until the app is uninstalled. From a user’s perspective, this enhances the usability of the app further.
● Offline Access
While internet connectivity is required for most of the apps, some apps can be used offline too. For eg., Microsoft Word can be used to edit documents offline and it syncs later, once it is connected to the internet.
● Leverage Device Hardware & Features
Additional functionality of having a native app is that we gain access to the device’s hardware. Due to this, additional features can be implemented in the app which makes use of the sensors, camera, GPS, etc. It also helps to run the app faster than a website as the app is running on the handset itself.
● Engagement with Users
Due to the aforementioned reasons, an app is much more intuitive for the end-user than a website. For example, we can store our payment details in the app and enjoy the convenience of one-click payments using an app. The same operation on a mobile website is a nightmare since we need to enter every single detail manually.
● Brand Presence
Once an app is installed on a device, it is visible to the user every time he operates it; helping brand retention. Having a dedicated app installed on the device also helps the business to notify the user of new deals and offers. It helps in brand recall as well as helping the user further down the sales funnel. We will also be able to track the activities the user performs on the app and provide highly targeted notifications.
However, along with all the aforementioned advantages, we also need to consider the following cons of having a mobile app:
The user has already taken the time to install an app for using it. It becomes cumbersome for the user to keep on updating the app regularly even if the newer version will have access to new features.
● Not Economical
From a business perspective, developing apps translates to spending more on app development for individual platforms and additional charges in maintaining them separately.
Now that we have a concrete idea about both sides of the coin, let us try to answer the question, ‘Which is better?’ The answer comes down to your business objectives. If your goal is to offer mobile-friendly content to a wide range of people, then a mobile website is probably the way to go. However, if you want to engage and interact with your customers to drive customer loyalty and brand recall, a mobile app is the ideal solution. With smartphone users expected to rise to 3.8 billion globally by 2021, there is even more incentive for businesses to develop an app. You may also opt to aim for both to get the best of both worlds. In such a scenario, the end-user will be empowered to choose to either view your responsive mobile website or download your app.