To App or Not To App: Making The Choice Between Mobile Apps And Mobile Friendly Websites

Author Chinavasion Marketing 4.1.2016. | 09:47

It’s all going mobile

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Research has shown that everything is going mobile. People around the world are accessing the Internet more from their mobile devices than from their computers, mostly due to the convenience that mobile devices provide. In fact, there are markedly higher sales made through mobile devices than desktops or laptops from online business.

Previously, people used to access these products through the company websites and that proved to be problematic. This was because the sites were designed for computers rather than mobile devices (which were also not as developed as they are today). With the increase use and development of mobile devices, companies began to develop ways of improving access to their sites. This was mainly done through responsive (mobile friendly) websites and then later mobile applications were developed that allowed the clients to directly purchase the products from their devices.

Definition of terms

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What exactly is a mobile app? Well, it is a device-specific development that runs from a central server from where it can be accessed through a web browser. Mobile apps are compatible with most smart phones so you can access a large mobile audience.

On the other hand, a mobile friendly website is one whose design and functions responds to the user taking into account their screen size and placement of the mobile device as well as its operating system and the user’s behavior and surroundings. This way, there is no need to pan, scroll or resize the pages in order to view them on any device.

Which to choose?

The modern-day entrepreneur has to decide which of these options to choose, and whether they should simply have both. There are several things that will need to be taken into account before making that decision and we’ll look into each of them based on the following principles:

  1. Speed

People haven’t got time to wait for your page to load just so they can check out what you have to offer! Pages that take too long to load are shown to have the least number of return visitors and lower purchases. When it comes to speed, mobile apps are clearly faster than responsive web designs.

  1. Cost

As a business person, you need to make sure you can validate the cost of any investment based on its returns. Development costs for responsive websites are reasonable while the mobile app can be very expensive. This is because you have just one version for the responsive site but two for the mobile app; one for the computer and another for the mobile device.

  1. Function

Clients need to be able to get the full service that they would if they were accessing your site through their computer. With a responsive website, you get all the functions of the original website. However, the mobile app may have some functions omitted.

  1. Internet connection

Here, the mobile app has a clear advantage since it can be accessed offline. The responsive website, however, always requires an internet connection in order to access it.

  1. Features

Some extra features may be necessary for better use of the site. Mobile apps come with all the phone features e.g. camera, location, while responsive website have limited phone features. After all, the mobile app is optimized specifically to mobile devices while the responsive website is design to function for both mobile devices and computers.

  1. Performance

Since the mobile app is optimized for mobile devices, it provides better performance than a responsive website that may have issues with the bandwidth if your website has large media or text-dense images that will take a while to load.

  1. Navigation

This is another feature that is critical to clients when looking through your site. Responsive websites have a responsive user interface which is static while mobile apps have an interactive interface.

  1. Monetization

In business, it’s all about the bottom line. The responsive websites are not very easy to monetize but mobile apps are easily monetized. That way you can start getting your return on investment.

  1. Maintenance

Responsive websites are hands down easier to maintain requiring less money and effort. After all, you have only one version to maintain and changes can be reflected across the mobile devices once they are made. Mobile apps, on the other hand, are slightly more expensive and require more effort to maintain since changes have to be made separately on the website and the mobile app.

So based on these principles, the mobile apps are faster and more accessible, while responsive websites are more affordable.

But wait, there’s more!

These principles are not enough to help you determine which way to go. It all depends on the products and services you are offering. A survey on the use of mobile browsers compared to mobile apps showed people preferred one over the other depending on what they were doing.

For instance, for shopping, searching and entertainment services, users preferred mobile browsers while the mobile app was preferred for management, information, navigation and connection services.

Further, although there were more users on the responsive website, mobile apps brought in more than twice as many impressions.

What about having both?

Industry experts advise that if you can have both, you definitely should. This will, of course, be determined by how much you have to spend but it is certainly not a redundant option. Mobile apps are not available on all smart phones yet, but responsive websites can be accessed through any browser as long as you have an internet connection. So, to reach a wider mobile user market, having both is a good idea.


At the end of the day…

The choice on which of the two to have, or whether to have both, will be informed by several things:

  • Expert consultation
  • Customer feedback
  • Your budget

You can get customer feedback by releasing both options and asking for their comments to determine which one they prefer, and what improvements can be made on both or either. As long as you give your clients a great experience on your site, you are on the right track.


This Guest post was written by Jack Dawson, a web developer and UI/UX specialist at BigDropInc –

He works at a design, branding and marketing firm, having founded the same firm 9 years ago. He likes to share knowledge and points of view with other developers and consumers on platforms.

Author Chinavasion Marketing 4.1.2016. | 09:47
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