Mobile App vs Mobile Website: Comparison Pros and Cons
Some people say life is about making decisions. When you additionally look at it from a business perspective, it is often the right choice that determines our success. In times when we are increasingly mobile and in many cases smartphones replace ordinary computers, a modern dilemma arises: mobile app vs mobile website – which one is better?
More and more companies are choosing a mobile solution that will help to stay in the market or reach more users. With the current expansion and availability of technology, it is worth getting acquainted with the advantages and disadvantages of each of the considered solutions before making a choice.
Did you know what percentage of web traffic is mobile? In the second quarter of 2020, smartphones generated 51.53 % of global website traffic! Looking at the number of smartphone users in 2020, which exceeds three billion and is forecast to increase by several hundred million in the next few years, it is impossible not to say that the mobile market dictates trends. The number of available devices is rapidly growing, and companies are outdoing each other in introducing newer and better technologies and improvements to their smartphones. Not only is the market of mobile hardware flourishing, but also software and applications for these devices.
So, if you want to meet the users’ expectations, you can go two ways: build the application from scratch or optimize the website for mobile devices. Either way is good if you use their possibilities and purpose. Before you decide on one specifically, you need to know what you want to achieve with it. You must take into account different factors, such as the speed of operation, reach among users, budget and features you want to include.
Knowing the ins and outs of the specifics of both the mobile app and the website, plus their advantages and disadvantages, you will be able to choose the best option for your business without hesitation.
What is the Difference Between an App and a Mobile Website?
Let’s start by explaining what these solutions are and how both of them work.
The mobile app is a computer program or software application designed to run on a mobile device such as a phone, tablet, or watch. Apps are generally downloaded from application distribution platforms which are operated by the owner of the mobile operating system, such as the App Store (iOS) or Google Play Store and then installed on a device. They may function without an internet connection or use some data from the web but not necessarily.
The mobile website is simply a website optimized for mobile devices. It’s highly focused on user experience, accessibility and ease of usage. Currently, websites are mostly created to be viewed on various devices and window or screen sizes, according to responsive web design. As mobile traffic now accounts for more than half of the total internet traffic, RWD has become very significant.
The first difference you will notice is, of course, the way it works on the device. The application must be downloaded from the app store to the device directly. The website is viewed in the browser and available almost immediately if you have an internet connection.
Note that the updates are different here as well. Updating the mobile website is done automatically, without the user’s knowledge. In the case of mobile applications, users must download and install each update.
A certain pattern can be noticed here. Most of the app’s operations take place locally on the device. The website, on the other hand, is operated by an external server and requires internet access. Data is stored the same way.
It also has an impact on security. Mobile applications are safer than mobile websites and protected by various tools. Creating both of them is associated with a different approach to security. Websites operate directly through the Internet, which makes them less secure, too.
The pros and cons of mobile apps
The mobile application is an option with many advantages both for users and from a business perspective. Let’s focus on the most important of them:
- Offline access – the possibility of using them without the internet connection gives a lot of freedom and is one of the greatest benefits;
- Personalization – applications allow you to adjust them to your preferences. It comes down to many elements, starting from the customization of the interface and its segments, to the data we want to save or push notification settings;
- Convenience – applications are created to run directly on devices. They are characterized by ease of use, better user experience and dedicated functions that websites cannot provide. An example of such an action is sending push notifications. They can also use in-built smartphone features such as GPS, cameras, microphone, etc;
- Wider audience and stronger market position – presence in the App Store or Google Play Store increase the reach and visibility among users. Having an app can raise brand awareness among consumers and also helps them communicate with or interact with your brand.
- Reduction of advertising and marketing costs – by being able to communicate directly in the application with your customers, you can reduce your advertising expenses on the web, moreover, your users can share content via social channels integrated into your app to expand your footprint on the internet.
Let’s also check the disadvantages of this solution:
- Cost of development – developing a mobile app takes more time and money than creating a website. You may have to develop various versions of your app for different app stores, with iOS and Android being essential. However, you can get around this obstacle and build an application using modern frameworks such as Flutter, which offers cross-platform app development. Nevertheless, it may cost you more;
- Cost of maintenance – unfortunately, it’s not enough to just build an app and put it into the app store. To be competitive and attractive to users, the app needs to be constantly updated and so any bugs fixed. For users, it can sometimes be annoying to download and install updates over and over again, which is not the case with websites;
- Less compatibility – the application may not always run on every device or operating system. Such a risk increases especially when the device is a little bit obsolete or the app is simply not supported by a certain platform;
- Download required – it can be a big issue for users. Not everyone wants to download the app to their smartphone, or there is simply no free space in the device memory;
- Need to invest in good support – it’s very important to provide good customers’ support. Users will gradually give up using the application, as their problems won’t be solved. It requires investing in a team that will be responsible for it.
The pros and cons of responsive websites
Now it’s time to focus on the advantages of mobile sites, there are also plenty of them:
- Compatibility – websites provide the same user experience regardless of the operating system or mobile device that the users have;
- Accessibility – users don’t have to go to the app store, search for the application, download and install it. All they have to do is open a web browser and have an internet connection;
- Cost-effective development – due to the shorter programming time required, web development is much cheaper compared to application development. Only one version of the web application is needed to support all operating systems. Moreover, maintaining and updating the website is simple and automatic, with no user download required;
- Faster time to market – with shorter development time and no approval by app stores and marketplaces required, getting websites to market is much faster;
- Better reach and search – the fact that anyone with Internet access can access the website, regardless of the type of device or platform they use, has a huge impact on greater reach. Besides, the possibility of optimizing the website for search engines gives a much greater chance of finding the website.
Disadvantages of mobile websites:
- Not available offline – even the simplest mobile websites require a good internet connection to be fully functional;
- Limited access to the in-built mobile device functions – websites offer very limited access to certain integral functions of a mobile device, such as camera and GPS;
- Poorer user experience – the websites don’t allow user interface personalization. They should look the same in each device, which, if they’re not properly designed for mobile devices, can significantly affect the user experience. Putting the right amount of content in one window, on a small display requires a good sense and UX knowledge;
- Less convenience – mobile sites don’t correspond to the convenience level of mobile applications. They cannot use the features offered by smart devices, and even though responsive web design adjusts to the screen size dynamically, still it doesn’t make it completely convenient for users to surf the content on a mobile device;
- Unavailable in app stores – users won’t find the mobile website in the app marketplaces and may not be aware of its existence.
Mobile App or Website: Which One Should You Use?
The decision which solution to choose should always be based on the goal you want to achieve and your time or financial capabilities. Comparing the pros and cons of both mobile apps and mobile websites is extremely helpful. Focus on what is most valuable and necessary in your project. This will be an indicator of what to decide on.
Do you want more user engagement and offline access? Choose an app, but take into account longer development time and the need for maintenance. Do you dream of a quick launch of an easily accessible platform? Build a website optimized for mobile devices. But don’t forget that it’s not as convenient as an app.
Do you already know what will be best for you? Or are you still hesitating? Give yourself a moment to think and go back to their pros and cons. We hope you find it helpful. Also, take a look at the infographic below that summarizes differences between the mobile app and mobile website.