The Difference: Mobile Apps vs Mobile Websites
By Andrew Roberts | Published August 24, 2018
Many companies tend to make decisions purely from a mindset of “hey there’s a new thing out we should try it out,” and this is especially true about the decision to create a mobile app. Although they are both on tablet and smartphones, mobile apps and mobile websites are divergent in their usefulness for any given company. A mobile app (application) is a program which is downloaded and installed on mobile devices. Mobile sites are just websites that can adapt to tablet and smartphone sizes.
Mobile apps are applications/software downloaded to your phone or tablet and are only accessible through interfacing the app on your devices. Mobile apps are not available over the internet and can be very different in both form and function from a Mobile Website. If you decide to create a mobile app for your business, then you will need to submit it for approval from the app store. Then, after all of that, your customers will have to look for you in the app store and download your app.
One of the many advantages of developing an app for your company is that it allows businesses to send out notifications whenever you make updates to the app. Anyone who downloads your app is already aware and is interested in your brand (they would not have downloaded the app if they weren’t interested), and because of this, these customers are more apt to support the product or service you are advertising. However, excessive updates can be interpreted as spam which would cause people to opt out of notifications or delete the app altogether.
You can also use mobile apps offline. While some app functions (such as maps, in-app purchases or calls) only work online, the essential information (such as location, products, hours, etc.) in the app is accessible without online service. This ability to know your location and always find you even when someone isn’t on wifi is essential.
Publishing, creating, and maintaining apps can be incredibly time-consuming, and you could be worse off than you managing a mobile website by itself. If you create a mobile app for your business, then you will need to submit your app to the Apple App Store or Google Play Store for approval. The guidelines for these app stores are always changing, so you need to make sure your app is up to date and within compliance for BOTH outlets at all times. Most businesses benefit from having a website AND an app, so if you decide to create an app first, you will also need a site as well.
Creating the app was the first step, but now you must promote it. If you are a brand new business with very little brand recognition, then you might be in trouble if you don’t get the word out about your new app. But, if you already have a website and have a marketing strategy for the app, then this may not be an issue.
Mobile (Responsive) Websites
Before smartphones and tablets, websites were made only for laptop and desktop computers. The designs of such sites were not mobile-friendly; they did not scale to different screen sizes. These designs were not a problem initially, because nobody was trying to view or use these websites through small viewing windows, but when mobile devices became more of the norm, the downsides to focusing on only this type of web design became evident. Eventually, web developers learned to create mobile versions of their sites allowing people to surf the net to maintain the same functionality on the go.
For a long time, apps, websites and mobile websites were mutually exclusive, but as responsive websites become more of the norm, mobile sites are becoming more like apps and vice versa.
Many website CMS’s include responsive mobile-friendly designs to meet the needs of small businesses. These CMS’s create a single design that will automatically translate the content from laptop to desktop to mobile device. There are many benefits to responsive web design on mobile devices; users no longer have to download a supplemental app to view content they would typically go to the home site, and businesses are no longer forced to adjust to mobile app store compliance issues.
Responsive websites are much more straightforward to maintain than apps. All updates are made within the responsive web editor, and it will automatically change across all device types, regardless of the operating system.
The only real negatives for a mobile website are that if your company is tech or app-specific, then you would want to do an app. Also, if your site is not mobile friendly, then the readability of your website in mobile won’t be as good as it should be.
As mobile usage grows worldwide, the mobile app vs. mobile website debate will remain a consideration for businesses that want to create a mobile presence. Mobile apps and mobile websites are simple to build, but for a small business that is not a tech company, a responsive site may be the best solution for your team. Both mobile apps and responsive websites have a lot of the same capabilities: mobile click-to-call, social sharing, and map navigation. But the most significant difference between the two options is that apps require downloads, and responsive websites do not. Most customers of local businesses will only search for information on a regular internet browser which is not useful for finding mobile apps. Responsive web designs will allow your customer base to connect with your business which is why that will always be our recommendation.