If you are looking to develop a mobile presence for your company or organization, one of the first factors that would possibly come to mind is whether you want to create a mobile application for consumers to download (app) or a mobile website, or maybe both. Mobile websites and apps can look very similar at first glance, and deciding which one is best suited to your needs would rely on a variety of factors, including target markets, available budget, expected intent, and needed features.
Let’s discuss what smartphone apps and mobile websites are all about.
What is a Mobile Application?
A mobile app, most frequently referred to as an app, is a category of application software designed to run on a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet computer. Mobile apps are also used to provide consumers with functionality close to those accessed on PCs. Apps are typically lightweight, independent software units with minimal features.
This use of smartphone apps was originally popularised by Apple Inc. and its App Store, which sells thousands of iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch devices. The mobile app can also be referred to as an app, web app, online app, iPhone app, or tablet app.
Mobile apps are a step away from the advanced device structures typically seen on PCs. Instead, each app offers minimal and isolated features, such as gaming, calculator, or mobile web surfing. While apps may have resisted multitasking due to the restricted hardware resources of early mobile devices, their specificity is now part of their desirability as they enable users to hand-pick what their devices are capable of doing.
The easiest smartphone apps take PC-based applications and attach them to a mobile computer. When smartphone applications grow more stable, there is a lack of this strategy. A more complex approach includes the creation of a particular mobile environment, taking advantage of both its drawbacks and its advantages. For example, applications that use location-based functionality are designed from the ground up with an eye to the mobile, provided that the user is not connected to a location like a PC.
Categories of Apps
There are majorly 2 categories for mobile applications:-
1. Native Apps
Native applications are optimised for a specific smartphone operating system, usually iOS or Android. Native apps experience higher performance and a more fine-tuned user interface (UI) and usually require a much tighter production and quality assurance process before they are released.
2. Web Apps
Web apps are used in either HTML5 or CSS and need limited memory space when they run on a browser. The customer is routed to a particular web page, and all information is stored in a server-based database. Web applications need a secure and stable connection to be used.
What is a Mobile Website?
Mobile websites are accessible via smartphones and tablets. It’s a different type of media. A smartphone is a mobile phone that provides a variety of functions, such as accessing the Internet, installing and using apps, checking messages, and incorporating features such as GPS and camera. Smartphone use has flourished since 2007 and is now the leading model in the industry.
Tablets have been released in 2010. They provide the same features as computers (internet connection, app download, digital content access, etc.), but touchscreen technology and reduced size make for maximum mobility.
What’s the Difference Between a Mobile Website and an App?
Before you can determine the advantages of a mobile website vs. an app, it is important to consider the two main distinctions. Both applications and mobile websites are accessed on portable devices such as smartphones (e.g. iPhone, Android, Blackberry) and tablets.
The website is identical to every other website. It consists of browser-based HTML pages connected together and accessible through the Internet (for mobile, typically WiFi or 3G or 4G networks). The distinctive aspect of a mobile website from a regular website is the fact that it is designed for a smaller portable display with a touch-screen interface.
Responsive web design is rapidly becoming a modern trend for websites that are not only mobile-friendly but can be scaled to any size of the screen – from laptop to tablet and smartphones.
Like any website, mobile websites/responsive websites can display text, data, images, and video content. They can also use unique smartphone functions, such as click-to-call (to dial a phone number) or location-based mapping.
Apps are real software that is installed and enabled on your mobile computer instead of being made in a browser.
Users visit device-specific platforms such as the Apple App Store, the Android Market, or the Blackberry App Universe to search and download software within a particular operating system. The software can retrieve information and data from the Internet in a manner comparable to that of a website. It may import content so that it can be downloaded without an Internet connection.
Which is Better – a Mobile App or a Mobile Website?
When it comes to choosing whether to create a native app or a mobile website, the most suitable option always depends on your ultimate target. If you’re making an immersive game, the app is probably going to be your best choice. But if the goal is to deliver smartphone-friendly content to the largest potential audience, then a mobile website is definitely the path ahead. In some cases, you can conclude that you need both a mobile website and a mobile app, but it’s pretty fair to say that it seldom makes sense to create an app without having a mobile website already in place.
Generally speaking, a mobile website should be considered the first phase toward creating a mobile website presence. On the other hand, the software is useful for creating an application for a very particular purpose that cannot be easily executed using a web browser.
Advantages of a Mobile Website vs Native Apps
If your priorities are specifically relevant to marketing or public communications, a mobile/responsive website would almost always make sense as a realistic first step in your mobile outreach plan. This is because a mobile website has a range of intrinsic benefits over apps, including better usability, compatibility, and cost-effectiveness.
Immediacy – Mobile websites are readily available
A mobile website is immediately accessible to users through a browser across a wide variety of devices (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, etc.). (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, etc.). On the other hand, applications enable users to first download and update the app from the app store before the content or product can be viewed. Apps have a major obstacle between initial interaction and action/conversion.
Compatibility – Mobile Websites are Compatible Across Devices
A single mobile website can target users through several different types of mobile devices, while native apps need a specific version to be developed for each type of device. In addition, mobile website URLs are conveniently merged with other mobile technologies such as SMS, QR Codes, and near-field communication (NFC).
Upgradability – Mobile Websites Can Be Updated Instantly
The mobile website is much more dynamic than the app in terms of the absolute versatility to upgrade content. If you wish to alter the design or content of a mobile website, you quickly post the edit once, and the modifications are automatically visible; the modification of the app, on the other hand, allows users to send notifications, which must then be downloaded to update the app on each smartphone type.
Findability – Mobile Websites Can be Found Easily
Mobile websites are much more user-friendly, and their pages can be viewed in search results and classified in industry-specific folders, making it easier for interested users to see you. Most notably, visitors to your regular website will be immediately sent to your mobile website while they are on portable devices (using device-detection). On the other hand, the exposure of apps is limited exclusively to the manufacturer of app stores.
Shareability – Mobile Websites Can be Shared Easily by Publishers and Between Users
Mobile website URLs can be easily exchanged between users through a simple connection (e.g., within an email or text message, Facebook, or Twitter post). Publishers can conveniently direct visitors to a mobile website via a blog or website, or also in print. The app obviously cannot be exchanged in this way.
Reach – Mobile Websites Have Broader Reach
Since a mobile website is available across platforms and can be easily shared by users as well as search engines, it has much more scope than a native app.
LifeCycle – Mobile Websites Can’t be Deleted
According to some reports, the app’s typical shelf life is quite low, fewer than 30 days, so whether your app is genuinely original and usable (ideally, both), it’s hard to say how long it would work on the user’s device. Mobile websites, on the other hand, are still open to users to get straight to them.
A Mobile Website Can be an App!
Like a traditional website, mobile websites can be built as database-driven web applications that act like native apps. The mobile web app can be a realistic solution to the creation of native apps.
Time and Cost – Mobile Websites are Easier and Less Expensive
Last but certainly not the least, the creation of mobile websites is considerably more time-consuming and cost-effective than the development of native apps, particularly if you choose to be present on different platforms (requiring the development of multiple apps) (requiring the development of multiple apps) (requiring the development of multiple apps).
Support and Maintenance
The app vs. website’s investment aspects do not stop with the initial launch; the proper service and maintenance of the app (upgrades, monitoring, usability problems, and ongoing development) are more costly and more complex than the support of the website over time.
When Does an App Make Sense?
Despite the many intrinsic advantages of the mobile website, apps are always top-ranked, and there is a range of unique usage cases where the app will be your preferred option. Generally speaking, if you need one of the following, it makes sense to use an app:
For intensely interactive games (think Angry Birds), the app is likely to be your best option, at least for the foreseeable future. For simplified games (e.g., puzzles, etc.), there might be less disparity in the user interface with a browser-based version than with a native app.
If your target customers are using your app on a daily basis (think EverNote, Twitter, online banking), then a native app is a perfect way to do so that it is readily available in virtually all situations.
Complex Calculations or Reporting with Visualization
If you need something that takes data and helps you to modify it with complicated equations, maps, or reports (think financial or science tools), the app will help you do it very efficiently.
Native Functionality or Processing Required
Mobile web browsers are becoming increasingly effective in accessing such mobile-specific features, such as click-to-call, SMS, phone libraries, and GPS functions. However, if you need to get access to the user’s camera or computing capacity, the app can also do it even more easily.
An intrinsic ability in apps is the ability to deliver push alerts to customers who have the app installed on their smartphone, allowing app publishers the power to send messages directly to users. They presume, of course, that the user has allowed the app to send push alerts in their settings (not everyone does). It is also interesting to note that many browsers already support web-based push alerts, allowing website owners to deliver notifications to users who opt-in on both desktop and compatible mobile devices.
No Connection Required
If you need to have offline access to content or execute functions without a network/wireless connectivity, then the app makes sense because you can store the data locally and then upload it when a connection is created.
As for every project, when creating an app, you want to ensure that you get an optimum return on your investment. What you want to stop at all times is the pointless and wasteful exercise of creating an interface to do something simple that can be done with a mobile website.
As smartphone usage continues to expand globally, the “app vs. website” question will remain a very real concern for companies looking to develop a mobile presence. If your portable objectives are mainly marketing-driven or your mission is to offer content and create a large mobile presence that can be easily managed, exchanged by users, and identified in search engines, then a mobile-friendly website is a reasonable option.
On the other hand, if the goal is to have a user experience that looks more like a game environment or a computer program than a website, or if you need access to a user’s phone storage and native capabilities, an app would definitely be needed.
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