Mobile devices generate around 50% of total web traffic since 2017, and the numbers are growing exponentially, all the more because of COVID-19. With many organizations going digital, the next step is to determine whether to go for a mobile app or a mobile website in accordance with their business models. However, this decision is based on several factors such as target audience, budget, intended purpose, required features, and more. The first step into developing a mobile web presence is generally considered via the mobile website, but we will discuss the advantages of both to better guide you into making an informed choice. First, let’s know what the difference between the two is.

A mobile website and an app look almost alike at face value. However, a mobile website is rendered within a browser, consisting of HTML pages linked together, and it is only accessible over the internet. Highly responsive websites can be scaled to any size and can be viewed in handheld smartphones, tablets, desktops, and everything. Mobile apps are applications downloaded on your smartphone via app stores. Apps require an internet connection to be installed in a device and may or may not need it post-installation, based on its structure. Apps have been on the rise since 2014, the recorded revenue generated from apps in 2014 was $97.7 Billion which scaled to $581.9 Billion in 2020

Mobile websites can also be over-optimized, trying to make it look and feel like a native app. This usually makes things worse, with choppy animations and over-designed layouts. Perhaps worse is a site that is not responsive, so the text is unreadable on the phone.

A well designed mobile site can take care of many of these problems, but it still can’t do things a mobile app can do. You’ll see the images of a mobile app above on the right, where the content can use up 90% of the screen, making for a much more convenient experience. But then, not every business needs a mobile app, and having a mobile app can be expensive. Besides, if it is a custom app, it is unaffordable, but coding it yourself is tedious and out of reach for most business owners.

Advantages of Mobile Websites 

  • Availability – Mobile websites are readily available to users over a web browser, unlike mobile apps that need to be downloaded and installed for users to access them. This serves as a notable barrier between initial engagement and conversion. 
  • Compatibility – Websites, unlike apps, can be accessed from any mobile device regardless of its OS. Responsive websites that are scalable can be viewed from any device with a web browser and an active internet connection. 
  • Upgrade friendly – Mobile websites are flexible when it comes to updating content. It merely requires editing, and the changes will be made. However, apps need users to download an update each time an edit is made to gain access to the new content.
  • Accessibility and shareability – Mobile websites are extremely user friendly when it comes to convenience as they can readily be displayed in web search results and industry directories. They can enhance view experience with a change of device as the responsive websites automatically switch to mobile view and desktop view in accordance with the equipment used. An app will only be made available to mobile phone users, and the visibility is mainly restricted to the manufacturer app stores. In terms of sharing, mobile websites are pro users as they can be shared at their convenience with a simple URL, be it a text message, a social media post, or email. An app cannot be shared between devices, and they need to be downloaded and installed individually by each party to view or access any content. 
  • Broader reach – Websites witness far better as compared to apps. They can be viewed and accessed from typing in their URLs, through search engines, basically anywhere on the internet. 
  • Timespan – The average shelf life for any app is less than 30 days for ios users unless the user is a regular on the app. Websites hold more advantages when it comes to shelf-life as they are always just a click away for returning users.
  • Time and cost-saving – This feature isn’t directly related to user experience, but additional costs can hinder the organizations’ services, leading them to consider alternatives that directly affect the user experience. Developing a website is extremely time and cost-effective compared to developing an app, especially multi-platform apps, which requires multiple apps being built for varied platforms. 
  • Maintenance – Supporting and maintaining an app over time can be a costly affair; the website, on the other hand, requires minimal maintenance. Apps require timely upgrades, regular tests, compatibility management, and whatnot. Websites can be easily supported and transformed with time. 
  • Data Storage – Another significant difference between a mobile app and a mobile website is its data storage method. An app uses the device’s memory to store files, while a website saves everything on its cloud servers and takes up zero space on the device.

Advantages of Mobile Apps

  • Interactive – It was recorded that mobile users invest 87% of their time in apps and a more 13% on the web. Mobile apps can be very interactive compared to websites since they can be programmed in such a way that lets users interact with some of the app’s specific components. Websites are less interactive when it comes to regular users, as the layout remains the same for a longer duration of time. 
  • Customizable – Users are allowed to personalize the app following their preference, which results in enhanced user experience. More and more users are getting inclined towards personalization, and apps with provisions to act on it are being widely appreciated and loved. Customization directly impacts user experience, which then increases the conversion rate.
  • Notifications – Apps give organizations a convenient channel of communication by offering push-notifications or notifications bar. The flow of communication on websites is slow compared to apps because they need to go through traditional settings such as emails. Notifications also serve as a means of personalization as the user can manage their notification settings according to their needs. 
  • Offline functioning – Mobile websites require an active internet connection; offline support provides pre-loaded web pages. Mobile apps can work efficiently on and off the internet. Though they need an active connection for downloading and installation, they can coherently service the users offline. 
  • Enhanced performance – Mobile websites pull data from servers and use JavaScript, making their functions slower than that of apps, which have data stored on the device itself. It allows apps to carry out operations quickly and consistently, enhancing user experience. 
  • Interface – The interface offered by apps is much more intuitive than websites, making it user friendly and interactive. Since apps are developed separately for various operating systems, they can be designed according to the functionality preferred by the users of said operating systems. 
  • Additional features – Mobile apps can also leverage the device capabilities to optimize the user experience. It can access mobile phone features like camera, GPS, microphone, and such to perform creative functions and engage users interactively. Some responsive mobile websites can also access these features, but the quality of interaction remains inferior to that of mobile apps. 
  • Branding advantages – Mobile apps allow organizations to extend the brand experience and syncretize it with personalization, easy usage, improved functioning, and creative freedom. They also help create a loyal user base for the organization.
  • Conversions – According to a study by Criteo, it was observed that the conversion rate for mobile apps was significantly higher than that of websites. This factor alone can drastically change the viewpoint of an organization when looking to expand their digital footprint. 

Which is the better option?

There is no simple answer to this question. Choosing the right option for mobile apps and mobile websites largely depend on the business model of an organization and its budget. Mobile websites are best suited for organizations looking forward to making their presence known digitally. If you’re interested in offering user-friendly content to a wide variety of audiences and don’t want a hefty investment, mobile websites are your best bet. This way, you’ll successfully establish your web presence and have your content easily maintained. Getting a mobile app developed will always be an option for you to explore later.

If your goal is to provide a flawless user experience and are looking to expand your digital footprint, mobile apps should be your choice. If your business model allows you to engage with your audience interactively and strive to stay connected to your user-base, investing in developing mobile apps will not be in vain. The customer base is ever-evolving, and the current trend of personalization will smoothly fall in line with an app. Mobile apps also help brands align their values with their customer base and explore the opportunities they bring in. It also helps in boosting profits by increasing conversion rates. 

Now, various organizations believe they need both a mobile website and an app as well. If done strategically and efficiently, it can do wonders for a brand. The only constraint to keep in mind is cost-effectiveness. If you feel that a two-pronged approach is best suited to your needs, there can be nothing better than having the best of both worlds. It is also advisable for brands to have a general strategy laid out before making any real choices, and it is also necessary for you to compare bases with your competitors to better analyze your current footing. The point to note here is that your expectations should be realistically and strategically placed. The end goal for every organization is to promote business growth, and your choice between mobile websites or apps can substantially affect it. This is why it becomes indispensable for brands to make a calculated and well-thought-out choice. 

If you are convinced that you need to work harder on your mobile strategy, the first step is to make sure your website is optimized and mobile-friendly.

The next step is to get your business a mobile app. There isn’t any winner, and it depends on your goals and budget.

For a B2B, going for a mobile website is itself a huge step. Many of them are old school and realized the importance of mobile now (thanks to COVID-19).

For brands like Seamless or Uber or even Airbnb, the mobile app wins.

For many businesses, the winner is a combination of both, for example, Coursera or even Amazon. Why not let visitors purchase through your website, as well as an app?

Looking to get an expert opinion on whether to get a mobile app or website or both? Get in touch with Saffron Tech now! We have delivered over 500 mobile portals, thanks to our industry-renowned experts. We can help plan your next move to mobile technology, be it a website or an app. Our experts will help you figure out the best solution.

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