Mobile Website or Mobile App?

24, Jul. 2012

With smartphones becoming more and more affordable, having a strong online presence has become a must for companies. The tech-savvy millennial generation, (the 18-34 age demographic), has increasingly relied on mobile websites and applications in their consumer decision-making process. Their focus is research-based as their choices derive heavily from information on companies, their range of products and services, and posted peer reviews. This new generation of ‘smart shoppers’ wants to be able to connect with purpose and expect limitless choices in programming at the touch of a button.

One of the first considerations when making the JUMP to mobile media is whether to develop a mobile application for users to download (app), build a mobile website or to create both. In some cases they may seem like they are the same thing. Choosing between the two depends on many factors: budget, demographic, features and purpose. Let’s look at both architectures in more detail.

What is the difference between Mobile Website and Mobile Apps?

A mobile website structure is typically like that of a traditional website, built using HTML and JavaScript programming. The website loads up in the mobile device’s browser and gets downloaded every time you visit the site. A mobile website can be accessed on all web-enabled devices and is not platform specific.

A mobile application, more commonly known as an ‘app’, is software written specifically for a mobile platform, (i.e. iOS, Android, Blackberry), that performs a function (i.e. music player, location finder, videogame, and so forth). Mobile applications are downloaded on device platforms via the Apple App Store, Android Marketplace and Blackberry World.

What is better for your business?

Typically most businesses will start off by developing a mobile website to initiate their mobile presence.

Advantages of Mobile Website:

  • Instantly accessible, no need to download and install.
  • Cross platform compatibility, no need to develop on multiple platforms, (one for iPhone, one for Android, one for Blackberry, etc…).
  • Updates are instant, no need for users to update.
  • Found on search engines, can use your current website’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to be found.
  • Easy to share; copy the URL into an email, text and social media.
  • Cost effective in development, web developers can adapt your current website into a mobile site.
  • A mobile website can function like a mobile app with the inclusion of rich, interactive features.
  • Not at the mercy of the platform developer’s rules to release your mobile website.

When is a Mobile App appropriate?

  • For interactive games like Angry Birds or Draw Something, building an app would be the best choice.
  • Offline usage when no internet is required to operate (i.e. calculator, music player, video player).
  • Utilizing mobile hardware, mobile websites are limited to the amount of hardware functionality it can use. To access GPS, camera, compass, accelerometer, etc. a mobile app is required.
  • In personalizing the user experience, a mobile app heightens the level of interaction and offers a unique experience to each user.

As you can see, both architectures have their advantages and disadvantages. It’s really dependent on the desired purpose of the platform and the features that are required. As technologies continue to push forward the line between the two architectures will start to blur, making this decision unnecessary altogether. Until that time though, companies will need to either choose the correct platform or take the time to develop both. No matter which route is decided upon, it is important to create a mobile platform that will connect with users and elevate their association towards the company.