Mobile Apps vs. Mobile Friendly Website: What’s the Difference?

Mobile Apps vs. Mobile Friendly Website: What’s the Difference?
Il'ya Dudkin
27.07.2018

At this point in time, pretty much everyone is aware that they need to have a mobile strategy and they need to embrace it. As the statistics show, the amount of mobile-only users us much greater than desktop-only users, but what is more important is that app usage, in general, is greater than desktop usage. Because of this, companies are now rethinking their mobile strategies and the major question has become: which one should you go with: a mobile application or a mobile-friendly website?

 

There are people out there who argue that there is no need for mobile applications, all you need is a website that looks good on a mobile device. However, when start digging deeper and considering all of the pros and cons we realize that there is a whole myriad of factors that must be considered when making such a decision. Also, since there are many mobile mediums, it can be difficult to determine exactly where you need to focus your efforts. In this article, we will break down all of the pros and cons for you so you can choose a mobile strategy that best suits your business goals.

 

What’s the Difference?

 

Both mobile applications and mobile websites are accessed via smartphone or tablet. A mobile website is exactly what it appears to be i.e.  browser-based HTML pages that are linked together. Responsive websites are becoming more and more standard and are designed for different platforms and are adjusted depending on the various layouts and screen sizes. Mobile friendly pages can do everything that traditional websites can such as displaying text content, images, data, and videos.

 

Conversely, mobile applications are downloaded and installed on user’s mobile devices and can pull content and data from the internet, just like a website, or it can download data content which can be accessed offline. Now let’s take a look into the benefits of each.

What Can a Mobile Application Do for Your Business?

 

Since a mobile app is separate from your website it offers new branding opportunities to users. The mobile app provides users with totally new experience, so if your website cannot provide users with the value that they are looking for, consider developing a mobile app since it gives you another channel  of engagement with the user.

 

One such engagement tactic is personalization. You can offer users tailored communication based on their location, interests, usage behavior or any other criteria. If you have a mobile application, you can provide such a level of personalization. Users can set up preferences themselves within the application and they can customize it to suit their needs. Mobile apps can track user engagement,  the information you can use to offer custom recommendations to further enhance the customer’s or client’s experience.

Speaking of users experience, you can use a mobile app to leverage device capabilities. A native app can interface with the device’s hardware and features such as GPS location, camera etc. This can be particularly useful for retail apps since the original goal of the app is to enhance the customer’s experience. It serves as an extension of your retail brand and offers features that are not available anywhere else such as push notifications, device alerts, camera, tap-to-call etc.

What You Get With a Mobile Friendly Website

 

As already mentioned above, a mobile website has a responsive design that can adapt to various screen sizes, but additionally, it can give you a broader audience reach since it is accessible across all platforms and can be shared easily. It also has its SEO benefits since a mobile app has to be searched for and downloaded from either the App Store or Google Play.

Speaking of SEO, it is worth mentioning that mobile friendly websites are now ranked higher in search engine results, which means higher brand visibility and improved website traffic.

 

Conversely, even though a mobile website may be a cheaper alternative to mobile app development, they are extremely limited in terms of personalization and engagement. They cannot be tightly integrated with the user’s device which means that it cannot leverage the device’s capabilities. Also, keep in mind that the design of the mobile website relies on the network that is used to access it. The quality, network access and speed are factors that will influence the mobile website experience.

 

Also, since the screen on the user’s phone or tablet is smaller than that of a desktop computer, it can be difficult to navigate, which means that you will need to have fewer steps for the user to take. Otherwise, the user will become frustrated and abandon your site altogether.

 

According to a Google study, 61% of users said that they are less likely to return to a mobile website they had trouble accessing and 40% of them said that they are likely to visit a competitor’s website instead. So if you have a poor mobile website, you could be sending your customers directly to your competition.

 

Which One Should You Go With?

 

When deciding between a mobile app and a mobile website, everything will depend on your business objectives. If your goal is to provide users with mobile friendly content, then a mobile website will suffice. If you would like to engage, communicate and interact with your audience to increase customer loyalty, then a mobile application is right for you. There will be situations where you need both and when developed properly, they can be a very beneficial and strategic tool. When it comes to your mobile strategy, sometimes, you will not need to choose, but rather consider a two-pronged approach.