Differences between a Mobile Website and an Mobile App
Mobile websites and apps can look very similar at first-glance, and determining which is most suited to your needs will depend upon a number of factors, including target audiences, available budget, intended purpose and required features. Before you can evaluate the benefits of a mobile website vs. an app it’s important to understand the key differences between the two. Both apps and mobile websites are accessed on handheld devices such as smartphones (e.g. iPhone, Andriod and Blackberry) and tablets.
Mobile websites are very similar to websites that are accessed on your regular laptop and desktops, the key difference is that they are designed to display on smaller screens for handheld devices such as phones and tablets
Like any website, mobile websites can display text content, data, images and video. They can also access mobile-specific features such as click-to-call (to dial a phone number) or location-based mapping.
Mobile Apps are actual applications that are downloaded and installed on your mobile device, rather than being rendered or seen within a browser. Users visit device-specific portals such as Apple’s App Store, Android Market, or Blackberry App World in order to find and download apps for a given operating system. 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. Mobile applications usually help users by connecting them to Internet services more commonly accessed on desktop or notebook computers, or help them by making it easier to use the Internet on their portable devices.
Which is better – an App or a Mobile Website?
This question depends on what the end goal is, if you are looking for online presence which is easily accessible on via computers or handheld devices then Mobile websites are the preferred and more cost effective choice. But if you are looking to develop interactive games then a Mobile App is probably the best choice.
Advantages of a Mobile Website vs. Mobile Apps
Here are 10 advantages of Mobile websites;
- Instant Availability – mobile websites are accessible through all device browsers like iphones, androids and blackberries. Apps on the other hand requires one to download and install, certain apps are not accessible across the range of operating systems on all handheld devices.
- Compatibility – mobile websites are compatible to all devices and do not need specific versions for specific mobile devices (i.e. IOS, Android, Blackberry)
- Easily upgradable – Unlike apps when mobile websites are to be updated or changes made its as easy as publishing the edited version. Updates for apps need to be downloaded and reinstalled to each device for the update to take effect.
- Easily found – Mobile websites are easier to find because they are displayed in search results and are usually listed in industry-specific directories. Apps are restrictive because of the need of specific manufacturer app stores to search for them.
- ink Sharing – this is mutually exclusive for mobile websites, URLs can be easily shared, sent through email, text messages, through facebook and twitter, etc. This is simply not possible for apps.
- Reach – mobile apps have broader reach because of its accessibility
- Lifecycle – Mobile websites cannot be deleted unlike apps which have a pretty short shelf-life, less than 30 days according to some research.
- Mobile websites can be an App – Mobile websites can be developed as database-driven web application.
- Time and Cost – Mobile website development is more time and cost-effective than development of a native mobile app.
- Support and Sustainability – Apps are more costly to properly maintain and develop.
When Does an App Make Sense?
Although Mobile websites tend to outweigh the apps in terms of advantages, apps are still very popular. Here are the scenarios which would make applications the preferred choice;
- Interactivity/Gaming – think Angry Bird and the ability to continue playing without the need for continuous internet connection. Easily handles in-depth content, rich media, and location of user/GPS functionality.
- Regular Usage/Personalization – Apps can be personalized to the specific needs of the individual using the device or the app on a regular basis.
- Complex Calculations or Reporting – If you need something that will take data and allow you to manipulate it with complex calculations, charts or reports (think banking or investment) an app will help you do that very effectively.
- Native Functionality or Processing required – Apps are still more effective at accessing internal device activities such as cameras, click to calls and SMS and GPS.
- No connection required – If you need to provide offline access to content or perform functions without a network/wireless connection then an app makes sense.
Taking into consideration all of the above, a business has to decide if an app will provide value to their business. Well established companies also have to consider the ‘consumer expectation’ aspect as a Branding exercise. As long as handheld mobile devices are still in the trend then the question of Website VS Apps will remain a relevant question. If your goal is to maintain an online presence which would be cost effective and easily accessible to all the range of devices on the market today, then the mobile website is a good choice to make. But if the aim is to create an interactive atmosphere which would engage your consumers then Apps would be a fitting and efficient alternative.