Do I Need A Website Or An App?

More than 80% of internet users own a smartphone, and most of those users search google on their mobile devices more than on any other platform. So, in terms of mobile presence, the big question is: does your business need a mobile application or a mobile website?

Both mobile websites and applications are designed for handheld devices such as smartphones and tablets.

Mobile websites are browser-based HTML pages that are visited on the Internet with mobile wifi, 3G, or 4G networks. They are no different from a regular webpage other than the fact that their design is responsive and works for all screen sizes with touch-screen interface and can access mobile-specific features such as click-to-call or location-based mapping. Like any website, mobile websites can display text, data, images and video.

Apps are applications that are searched on specific device portals (app stores) where they are downloaded and installed for their specific operating system (Apple, Android, Blackberry, ext). Like a website, an app may draw content and data from the internet, or it may download all content initially so that it can be used without internet connection.

Which one should you build? And if you build both, which one do you build first?

We are going to go ahead and say that building a mobile website should be the first step in creating a mobile web presence. Of course, certain ideas are more effective if built as an app from the start, rather than as a mobile website to begin with, but that only applies for very particular functions that cannot operate effectively via web browser.

Let’s look at deciding factors:

  • Accessibility- people spend more time on apps than they do on mobile websites, but visit more mobile websites than apps. Mobile websites pull more traffic overall, meaning more people make more visits to different sites. The mobile web has about twice the traffic than the mobile app world and it is growing faster. The top 25 to 50 mobile apps are responsible for 80% to 90% of all app usage. Based on that statistic your app will probably be getting very little mobile app activity if it doesn’t fall in the top 50. People don't visit hundreds of apps- they visit only a few.
  • Consumer Interaction and Communication– mobile websites enable newsletters and other forms of emailed advertisement but do not send push notifications. Apps send push notifications, and this is a killer advantage, whether you are pushing new content or selling products.
  • Time and Cost-effectiveness- mobile websites are easier and less expensive because they don’t require development of multiple apps for different platforms. Mobile website design is usually included in the price of designing your regular website. Apps can range from $10k for a basic app with 1-2 core features to over $100k for more complex apps.
  • Customer Engagement- mobile websites have to be searched on the Internet and are exited quite quickly. Mobile apps can help your audience get to your content faster because they have your apps button on their home screen and usually have very at-reach and simplified information. They also keep them engaged better with push notifications and the ability to work offline.
  • Instant accessibility- a mobile website is instantly accessible to users of all devices (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, etc). Initial engagement is hassle-free, unlike apps that require users to download and install before any interaction.
  • Offline access - mobile websites experience total disconnection without Internet, while mobile apps allow you to perform different functions with or without it.
  • Better Distribution- mobile website traffic is highly distributed, a lot like traffic from desktops. Main mobile referrals come from the mobile web, search engines, social medias, and word of mouth. In contrast, the visibility of apps is mostly limited to app stores and the manufacturer itself.
  • Performance- the performance of mobile websites heavily relies on Internet connection and their swiftness on network speed. A well-designed app will always be faster than a website.
  • Compatibility- mobile websites can reach users through all types of mobile devices, while apps demand separate version development for each type of device.
  • Design- this depends on the website design, but apps tend to be more minimalist and eye pleasing. Poor mobile website design can cause poor optimization or over optimization; performance issues; clutter with adds, pop ups and content; and poor usability.
  • Upgradability- mobile websites are updated instantly by publishing the edit and making changes immediately visible. When updating an app, the update has to be pushed to users and must be downloaded in order to update the app on each type of device. 
  • Sharing and Reach- mobile websites can be shared and reached easily by publishers, and between users via links. Apps can't be passed around like that.
  • Life Cycle – Mobile websites are always accessible on the Internet and users cannot delete them. Apps, unless they are the top solutions in the app world, have the tendency of being deleted before their 3rd month b-day.
  • Support and Sustainability- properly supporting and developing an app (testing, upgrading, compatibility issues and constant development) is much more pricey and complicated than supporting a website.
  • App Store Presence- mobile websites have no app store presence.
  • Easy to Setup- with a mobile website there is no submitting to app stores, all you need is a domain and host. Mobile apps take a little longer to setup because they must be submitted to the app stores.

So, When Does an App Make Sense?

When developing an app you want to ensure that you are getting an optimal return on your investment. Avoid pouring money into an app that performs basic functions that could otherwise be performed on a regular mobile website.

Below are the 9 reasons that you should definitely build an app for your business:

  1. You are creating an interactive game that works more like a computer program than a website.
  2. Your users need to record personalized information and use regularly
  3. Your users need to manipulate data, compute calculations, and draw charts and reports.
  4. Your users need processing power, camera access and other mobile functions such as click-to-call, SMS and GPS.
  5. You seek to provide functions and content without Internet or network connection.
  6. Your service has a location-Based Component that presents your customers with relevant information based on where they are located at the moment.
  7. Your idea requires delivery of information in real time, giving users access to do something the moment something happens. This allows users to record information on their phone wherever they are.
  8. Your competitors already have plenty of web presence but maybe not as much for mobile devices. You want to stand out from more established web-based competitors by building something they don’t have.
  9. You are swimming in cash flow and you wish to have an app for the heck of it.

So, if your goal is an interactive platform that works like a computer program that personalizes users experience, you bet an app is the right thing for your business.

If your goal is to deliver content to the greatest number of people and establish a broad mobile presence that can be effortlessly shared between users and easily found on search engines, well, a mobile website gives your business just that. A business with both a mobile site and an application will most likely take the cake, and instead of one or the other, you can consider incorporating both into your mobile presence strategy.

nicolas uribeComment