Mobile App vs. Mobile-Friendly Website: What’s Best for Your Business?

Do you think your business needs a mobile app, or just needs to be mobile-friendly? The best solution might be hidden at plain sight.

The answer to the question may seem obvious to some, but founders know that it’s not exactly straightforward. It’s not a decision that you can take lightly as it’s critical to choose the right platform to launch your business, products, and services. 

However, one thing is for sure, regardless of your industry vertical, it’ll be critical to have a digital presence to compete successfully in the age of data. 

Historically, websites came before the apps. So if you’ve been in business for quite some time, it would be natural to have a website or both. 

However, this is not the case for entrepreneurs just starting their enterprise journey. There’s a lot to consider as the decision between an app or a mobile-friendly website will depend on a variety of variables. 

What Are the Key Differences?

At Intersog, we have built countless (mobile-friendly) websites and apps. On occasion, a client would approach us to build a mobile app, but we would recommend a website instead. More often than not, we made this recommendation because it better suited their business model and objectives.

Before making a choice, it’s crucial to understand the critical differences between the two platforms. Both websites and apps can be accessed through a smart mobile device, but the experience isn’t always the same.

Websites are made up of browser-based HTML pages, but they can fit a smaller screen. This has led to the popularity of responsive web design were pages are optimized to scale up or down to fit any size (from desktop to tablet to smartphone).

Responsive websites can also boast mobile-specific features like location-based mapping and click-to-call buttons. 

However, while an app can pull content from websites, a browser can’t do the same by pulling in content from apps. 

So Which One Should You Choose?

If we approach the (mobile website vs. mobile app) question from a marketing perspective, companies that want to achieve a broad reach should start with a responsive website. The same applies to startups with restrictive budgets. 

Some might disagree with this assumption as people spend more time on mobile devices than anything else. This assertion is correct, as adults in the U.S. spent 8 minutes more on mobile devices than watching TV last year.

A bulk of that time was spent in-apps (2:57) and was significantly higher than web browsers (0:26). However, while people enjoy mobile apps, there’s a significant barrier. They have to first discover your app, download it, install it, and then use the app. 

Developing native Android and iOS apps can also have a significant impact on your bottom line. However, there are some great options to consider. 

If you don’t have the resources to go native, you can always take a hybrid cross-platform approach. There are also Progressive Web Apps (PWA) that can fit the bill if you don’t have advanced requirements.

PWAs are developed with user interaction at its core. This means that not only can you read the information, you can also interact with it, engage in mobile shopping, “follow” other users and chat. 

Excellent examples of web apps (that also have a native option) are Airbnb, Facebook, and Google Docs. So if you’re going to set up an online store, a web app will be the best choice.

This is because web apps (almost always) leverage databases, are PHP and Python-based, and demand authentication via a personal profile log-in. So, in other words, these websites can also be apps!

Other key advantages of websites and web apps are as follows:

  • Affordable
  • Accessible
  • Instantly available
  • Cross-device compatibility
  • Easy to maintain and upgrade
  • Longer lifecycle

When Does a Mobile App Make Sense?

Websites come with some excellent benefits, but sometimes you just need a native app. There are several scenarios where mobile apps are the best choice. 

For example, if you’re building a highly interactive game, a mobile app would be far better than a website. It’s also a better platform to deliver highly personalized experiences. 

Suggested reading: How Mobile App Development Radically Transformed These 4 Industries

If your services are focused on performing complex calculations, reporting with visualization, an app will do this more efficiently, and effectively. It’s also the best option if you expect regular usage. Mobile apps are the best approach if you want to send push notifications to users (who have accepted this option).

Finally, apps are the way forward if you want to access native functionality. While mobile websites can easily accommodate click-to-call buttons and GPS functions, apps are better at accessing the camera or processing power.

If you’re still unsure about what’s best for your business, here are some questions you should ask yourself:

1. Do you want extensive reach?

2. Do you need to access the device’s native features?

3. Is speed critical to delivering enhanced user experiences?

4. Do you have the resources to build a mobile app?

5. Does your closest competitor have a mobile app?

Both mobile websites and apps have their own set of pros and cons. So your final decision should be based on understanding your audience, product, and platform.

It’ll also be important to consider the fact that higher functionality and performance will also come at a higher price. So if you don’t have the budget, you’ll have to make do with what’s available and build a mobile-friendly website.

At Intersog, we understand that this isn’t an easy decision that one can make after reading a blog post. So if you have any questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to us for a commitment-free consultation.

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