We get approached frequently about building an App when a mobile website will do the job. Frequently an ‘App’ is the customer-facing part of an existing business. Often times it ‘is’ the business. Managers should be careful about what should do in such situations. In a real business case, research should be conducted before time and money are spent.
Mobile App vs. mobile site
Before evaluating your preferences, we need to understand the differences between both. The obvious similarity is that both are accessible using a mobile device. Actually, it is quite easy for these to look identical at first glance. They can also seemingly have the same functions. However, this is often not the case. Determining which is most suited to your needs will depend on a number of factors. Such are the target audience, budget, intended purpose and the required features.
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The mobile website
A mobile website is similar to any other website. See for example one of the websites we created. The difference here is that, as developers, we optimise it to fit on a variety of screens, including tablets and smartphones. Also, mobile websites often include a touch screen interface for ease of interaction.
Apps are applications which users download and install on their mobile device.
So, the first difference would be the fact that mobile websites consist of browser-based HTML. On the contrary, mobile applications are downloadable into the mobile device.
Secondly, the App may pull data from the Internet similarly to a website. In contrast, it may also download the content without an Internet connection. The mobile website does not have this option.
The mobile App
If you are creating an interactive platform such as a game or a management platform, an App might be most appropriate. It is because some of these content can be made available offline. On the other hand, if your goal is to create mobile-friendly content, a mobile site might be best for you. This is because it will be easier for users to share and spread content.
In most cases, people who have a mobile application already had a mobile website. 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 the same content as the mobile website. We should bring you to the conclusion that there will be one preferred solution, not necessarily both.
Advantages of the mobile website
Generally, you should consider a mobile website as your first step in developing a web presence. An App will be useful for making a platform for a specific purpose. Here are some of the advantages of a mobile site over an App:
- Instantly available. Sites are instantly available. Most have a mobile-friendly option that automatically comes with the website.
- Compatibility. A single mobile website can reach users across many types of devices. Apps require separate version developers should design for each type of device.
- Finding the website. Websites are easy to find. This is because their pages can pop-up in search engine options. However, applications have to be specifically searched.
- Shareability. Users can share mobile websites easily. Mobile applications make it difficult to share articles and items. This is restricting especially if you are looking at more reach.
- Cost: Mobile websites are less costly to build compared to mobile Apps. 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.
- Life cycle: Users can’t delete websites from their devices. Mobile Apps, on the other hand, are deleted by users every other day.
Advantages of the mobile Apps
There are some cases where it will be better to have a mobile application over a mobile website:
- Offline use: In an App, you can view content offline. Also, developers can make services available offline for App users.
- Communication: Announcement via mobile Apps is easier as you can enable notifications. If one of the key things your customers need is fast and reliable communication, a mobile App might be the best option.
- Personalisation: If your target users are going to be using your services 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 do anything.
When it comes to making decisions on whether to create a mobile website or an application, the decision will depend on your end goals.
As you can see, both are useful in some way. Each has its own advantages. Usually, it is hard to know whether you need just one of the two or both, especially with a start-up business.
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