If you run a business, you'll have a website, and if you have a website, you need to consider who is accessing it and from what device. This year, the number of people who own a mobile device is predicted to hit 5 billion. So many people carry smartphones and tablets now - Often they will be surfing the internet from one of these devices rather than on a laptop or computer. And that could create a problem if your website isn't mobile friendly, or you don't offer an app alternative.
Many websites, for example like Facebook, Amazon, eBay to just name a few, will prompt you with a toolbar at the top of their mobile website, encouraging you to download their app with just the touch of a button. The proviso is that the app is more user friendly than the mobile website. Generally, websites that require you to log in with a username and password, carry out transactions or receive notifications will offer an app alternative. Websites which don't have these things could likely exist just as a mobile accessible website.
So, what platform would benefit your business most?
Firstly, what is the actual difference between a mobile app and a mobile website?
A mobile app is a software application that is downloaded onto a mobile device via a store like GooglePlay or App Store (depending on the operating system of the device).
A mobile website, as the name suggests, is accessing content through browser-based internet access. The difference between a website and a mobile website, is each is designed to be accessible on a different screen depending on device. A normal website won't display correctly on a mobile device, and vice versa a mobile website wouldn't display correctly on a desktop. Either way, it would be extremely frustrating for the user.
There has also been a recent trend shift from mobile website to a responsive website. These are when mobile websites are developed with a responsive design that contains HTML pages linked together. This means that no matter what device is being used, the website will display correctly on each screen size.
Now let's have a look at the pros and cons of each so that you can make an informed decision as to what will best suit your organisation's needs.
Generally speaking, people tend to engage more with mobile apps, which is largely down to ease and speed of access plus a more user-friendly interface. Between 2017 and 2022, the number of worldwide downloads is predicted to increase by 80.1 billion, which is very demonstrative of the dominance of mobile apps over mobile websites.
Apps are used in real-time, offering notifications such as reminders and trackers, or even used to book a taxi or order a takeaway. In addition to this, a mobile app can be seamlessly integrated with the device hardware, such as the camera or microphone. These things enable the app to better engage with users, especially with push notifications. A mobile website can't provide these features.
Convenience: Opening an app is immediate, you just press it and you're in. It's much quicker and more convenient than opening a broswer, entering the URL and going to the mobile website.
Notifications: An app can send the user push notifications. This helps you engage better with your users, as well as encourage them to come back to your app. This helps to deliver a better user experience than just a mobile website.
Customisation: Users can customise an app, choosing their preferences, saving account details and so much more. Again, this creates a better user experience. As a developer, you can also roll out certain features depending on your target audience.
Offline Support: This obviously depends on the kind of app and what it's being used for, as some will still need a connection to work. Depending on the use though, there is scope for an app to be used offline, which a mobile website wouldn't be able to do.
Compatibility: Smartphones generally run off 3 main platforms - iOS, Android, and Windows. If you are creating an app, then you will want it to be available on each of these platforms, and thus the developer will have to work on individual apps. While you might be tempted by a cross-platform app, there are concerns over whether there is the same user experience across each platform.
Maintenance: Each app that you have developed will need routine maintenance to stay functional, which will of course take time, effort and money. The app will also need occasional upgrades and fizes as technology progresses, which will be additional costs. The deciding factor is whether the app will get you more users / customers to make app development a worthy investment.
There will be times when people come across your website for the first time, and this first experience may occur on a smartphone or tablet. At this point, an app alternative probably wouldn't be required, but it would be necessary to make sure that your website was accessible from any device a potential user or customer was using at the time.
There will be people out there who prefer using a mobile website to an app. For example, I refuse to download the Facebook app onto my phone because I don't want to be receiving constant notifications or be tempted to tap the app and have a scroll through a neverending newsfeed.
Facebook deliberately make it very frustrating to use their mobile website to motivate you to download the app for a better user experience (this doesn't work on me). But sometimes a mobile website is enough for a user, so it's wise to make sure it's mobile accessible.
Compatibility: A user who wants to access a webstie through multiple devices, will appreciate an accessible mobile website. Rather than having to download an app on to each device they are using, they can just access the content they want through their browser on whichever device is convenient at the time. A mobile site design will be compatible with various sorts of mobile devices, and can also incorporate some mobile features, for example messaging or QR codes.
Accessibility: It's easy to reach a wide audience with responsive web design. The great thing is that it can be operated on many devices at once, making it easily accessible to users.
Maintenance: Unlike an app, it takes a lot less effort to make changes to a website. If you are the owner of a mobile website, all you have to do is update a single version of the website and every user will be able to access it.
Convenience: Probably the most inconvenient thing about a mobile website is that it can't be integrated with a smartphones camera or GPS so can't offer additional features like an app can. However, if your website doesn't need to integrate in this way to work well then it won't cause much of an issue. Design wise, mobile websites are made to support multiple screen sizes which means that it won't always display all the content on the screen. This could create some inconvenience for the user as they will have to scroll up and down, and side to side to access some content.
User Experience: Possibly the main factor for user experience is down to design. An app is purely designed to be mobile, so generally functions a lot better. A mobile website is providing a mobile solution to a website that has been predominantly designed to be viewed elsewhere. Whether this is a serious disadvantage again depends on your business and what function users are needing to get from your website.
Offline Access: Despite many apps still needing a network connection, the bottom line is this: to access a mobile website you must have online access. It is possible for apps to work offline, whereas this is not an option for mobile websites.
So What's The Verdict - Mobile App or Mobile Website?
It really depends on your organisation, the functionality of your website, and what your users need from it. As you will have seen from this blog, there are pros and cons to both mobile apps and mobile websites.
Do you prioritise a rich user experience (mobile app) or compatibility across multiple devices at once (mobile website)?
Do you need to send notifications (mobile app) or would you rather be able to display wider content (mobile website)?
Decide what your needs are as a business, and how you want to reach your audience. Once you've got an idea of what you might need, give us a call here at Sprechen and we can discuss how we can help get your mobile app or mobile website requirements a reality. Call us on 01962 670190 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .