We get approached frequently about building an app when a website is needed. Frequently an ‘app’ is the customer facing part of an existing business or it ‘is’ the business. Careful thought needs to be applied and a real business case needs to be made for app development before time and money is spent in development.

Mobile App vs. Mobile website

Before evaluating your preferences on whether to  develop a mobile app  or a mobile website we need to first understand the differences between the two. The obvious similarity is that both are accessible using a mobile device, hence this debate. Actually, it is quite easy for these to look identical at first glance and seemingly have the same functions but this is often not the case. Determining which is most suited to your needs will depend upon a number of factors such as your target audience, your available budget, intended purpose and the required features.

The Mobile Website

A mobile website is similar to any other website that consists of a browser based html and is mobile phone optimized in the sense that it is designed to fit a small screen and nowadays touch screen interface is included in mobile websites. Apps are actual applications that are downloaded and installed inside your mobile device, rather than being rendered within a browser. So the first difference would be the fact that mobile websites consist of browser-based html whilst mobile phone applications are downloadable into the mobile device. Secondly, the app may pull content and data from the Internet, in similar fashion to a website, or it may download the content so that it can be accessed without an Internet connection whilst the mobile website does not have this option.

The Mobile App

If you are creating an interactive platform such as a game or a podcasting platform, an app might be most appropriate as some of these content can be made available offline as opposed to having them in a mobile website. If your goal on the other hand is to make mobile-friendly content made available to the widest possible audience a mobile website might be the best option for you as this will be easier for users to share and spread the content. In most cases persons who have a mobile application already had a mobile website in place prior to developing the app, confusing much? It seems like you will either have a mobile website or both in most cases. But some might argue that there’s no point in building an app if it contains only the same content as your mobile website. Always bringing you to the conclusion that there will be one preferred solution over the other, not necessarily both.

Advantages of a Mobile Websites

Generally speaking, a mobile website should be considered your first step in developing a mobile web presence, whereas an app is useful for developing an application for a very specific purpose that cannot be effectively accomplished via a web browser. Here are some of the advantages of having a mobile website over a mobile app:

  1. Instantly available. Mobile websites are instantly available. Most website designs nowadays have the mobile friendly option that automatically comes with the website.
  2. Compatibility. A single mobile website can reach users across many different types of mobile devices, whereas native apps require a separate version to be developed for each type of device.
  3. Finding the website. Most mobile websites are much easier to find as opposed to mobile applications. This is because their pages can pop up in search engine options as opposed to specific applications which you have to specifically find.
  4. Shareability. Most mobile websites can be shared easily between users by a simple link within an email or even a text message as opposed to mobile applications which makes it difficult to share articles and items. This is restricting especially if you are looking at more reach.
  5. Cost: Mobile websites are less costly to build as compared to mobile apps which are costly in terms of both time and money. More so a mobile app needs more support and maintenance e.g. updates as compared to a mobile website which is cheaper and faster to update.
  6. Life cycle: Mobile websites can’t be deleted from a user’s phone. Mobile apps on the other hand are deleted by users every other day when most users, unless the application is very useful to you chances are that at some point they will be removed from the user’s device

Advantages of Mobile Applications

There are some instances where it will be advantageous for you and your customers to have a mobile application over just a mobile website, here are a few reasons why you should consider developing a mobile app:

  1. Offline use: In an app you can view website content offline. In some cases some services are made available to app users offline unlike with mobile websites where you are required to have internet access to view the websites
  2. Communication: Communication via mobile apps to customers is made easier as you can enable push notifications direct to the devise with popup messages. If one of the key things your customers need is faster reliable communication, a mobile app might be the best option
  3. Personalisation: If your target users are going to be using your app in a personalized fashion on a regular basis, then an app provides a great way to do that. In apps you can store the user’s preferences without them having to type them every time they log in to use the device. Take podcasts for example you can set your preferences once within the app in the form of subscriptions and have them saved.

When it comes to making decisions based on whether to create a mobile website or a mobile application the decision will depend on your end goals with the product. As you can see both are close and useful in some way. Each has their own advantage. Usually it is hard to know whether you need just one of the two or both, especially with a start-up business.

Talk to Blue Tea on 0800 024 6979 for more information on web apps and mobile apps.