You know you need to be mobile and have a good presence, but should you create a website that is fully responsive to mobile devices or should you create a mobile app? At first glance both seem similar. However, determining which one suites your needs depends of a few factors from your target audience, your reasons for a website or an app, your available budget and required features. If you are trying to decide which one is better, it really depends on the purpose. If it’s a game, then perhaps an app might be better. If the goal is to reach a wide area market, then a mobile website makes more sense. In some cases, having both a mobile website and complementary mobile app is a good solution.

So what’s the difference between a website that’s mobile and a mobile app?

It’s important to know the differences before you can determine which one or both are are required for your type of business and application. A website that is responsive allows viewing and resizing for all kinds of devices whether vertical or horizontal and can be accessed anywhere there is Wifi or mobile internet. In contrast, mobile apps are applications that need to be downloaded and installed on your mobile device from either the Apple’s App Store or Android Play Store. There are others, but these two are the most common. These apps usually pull data from the internet, but can operate just on your device. Regular updates are required to stay current. It’s safe to say, then, that a mobile website should be considered your first step in developing a mobile web presence.

What are the advantages of a mobile website?

  1. Immediate access – mobile websites are instantly available providing you have internet
  2. Device compatible – responsive websites are available and view-able across devices
  3. Searchable site – easy to get found with website SEO
  4. Market reach – mobile websites are accessible across all platforms
  5. Current version – there is no need to update to the latest version
  6. Longer life – websites are always there, but mobile apps can be deleted
  7. Development time – websites are quick and easy to set up
  8. Design cost – responsive websites are less expensive to design
  9. Less maintenance – websites need changes, but apps need support and upgrades
  10. ULR sharing – websites can easily be shared just with a link share

When should a app be used?

There are many many reasons why a responsive website makes sense; apps are still quite popular, and there are a number of times where an app might be the best choice. Here are a few benefits of a mobile app:

  • Gaming – for interactive games or offline games, apps will be the best choice
  • Regular use – for people using your app on a regular basis and require functionality
  • Complex calculations – using data and allowing complex calculations
  • Functionality – requiring SMS, GPS or using device camera
  • No connection – provide offline access to content or to perform functions

Conclusion

As mobile use increases the question of the mobile website versus a mobile app will be on most business owners’ minds. Mobile websites that are auto responsive are likely your best choice if your marketing goal is to expand your mobile presence. On the other hand, if you are trying to provide a better user experience with mobile functionality, then a mobile app might be a better choice. Many times starting with a mobile website and moving into a mobile app as budget allows, is becoming more common. Once you know what you need, use the best tool that fits your business and your objectives, website, app or both.