Mobile app or web app? is there a difference? what is better for me? How do I know the best option? What is BBd’s thinking on this?
Recently, as clients engage us for 2016 digital talk, this is a common concern. Too much jargons floating out there .. ‘mobile first’, ‘responsive’, ‘adaptive’ .. and on and on .. and so, selecting the right mobile strategy has been a bit of a challenge.
I wanted to talk a bit about the difference between having an APP and having a WEB APP for your brand.
Mobile websites and apps can look very similar at first-glance, and determining which is most suited to your needs will depend upon a number of factors, including target audiences, available budget, intended purpose and required features.
But first of all, it is important to understand the difference between a mobile website and an app.
A mobile website is similar to any other website in that it consists of browser-based HTML pages that are linked together and accessed over the Internet. The obvious characteristic that distinguishes a mobile website from a standard website is the fact that it is designed for the smaller handheld display and touch-screen interface. Like any website, mobile websites can display text content, data, images and video. They can also access mobile-specific features such as click-to-call or location-based mapping.
Apps are actual applications that are downloaded and installed on your mobile device, rather than being rendered within a browser. Users visit device-specific portals such as Apple’s App Store, Android Market, or Blackberry App World in order to find and download apps for a given operating system. The app may pull content and data from the Internet, in similar fashion to a website, or it may download the content so that it can be accessed without an Internet connection.
When it comes to deciding whether to build an app or a mobile website, the most appropriate choice depends on your end goals. If you are developing an interactive game an app is probably going to be your best option. But if your goal is to offer mobile-friendly content to the widest possible audience then a mobile website might be the way to go.
Generally speaking, a mobile website should be considered your first step in developing a mobile web presence, whereas an app is useful for developing an application for a very specific purpose that cannot be effectively accomplished via a web browser.
Benefits of a mobile website
The primary benefit of a mobile website is that it makes regular websites more accessible for mobile users. It can have all the same elements as the regular version of the website but it features a mobile-friendly layout that offers improved readability and functionality when viewed on a smartphone or tablet. By having a mobile website, customers can access your website anytime, anywhere using any device, without compromising the user experience.
If your goals are primarily related to marketing or public communications, a mobile website is almost always going to make sense as a practical first step in your mobile outreach strategy. This is because a mobile website has a number of inherent advantages over apps, including broader accessibility, compatibility and cost-effectiveness. A few key highlights include,
- Instantly Available: A mobile website is instantly accessible to users via a browser across a range of devices. Apps on the other hand require the user to first download and install the app from an app marketplace before the content or application can be viewed.
- Compatible Across Devices: A single mobile website can reach users across many different types of mobile devices, whereas apps require a separate version to be developed for each type of device.
- Updated Instantly: A mobile website is much more dynamic than an app in terms of pure flexibility to update content. If you want to change the design or content of a mobile website you simply publish the edit once and the changes are immediately visible; updating an app requires the updates to be pushed to users, which then must be downloaded in order to update the app on each type of device.
- Found Easily: Mobile websites are much easier for users to find because their pages can be displayed in search results and listed in industry-specific directories, making it easy for qualified visitors to find you. Most importantly, visitors to your regular website can be automatically sent to your mobile site when they are on a handheld.
- Shared Easily by Publishers, and Between Users: Mobile website URLs are easily shared between users via a simple link. Publishers can easily direct users to a mobile website from a blog or website, or even in print. An app simply cannot be shared in this fashion.
- Websites Can’t be Deleted: The average shelf-life of an app is pretty short, less than 30 days according to some research, so unless your app is something truly unique and/or useful, it’s questionable how long it will last on a user’s device. Mobile websites on the other hand are always available for users to return to them.
- Easier and Less Expensive: Mobile website development is considerably more time and cost-effective than development of an app, especially if you need to have a presence on different platforms.
Benefits of a mobile app
Although a mobile app functions a lot like a mobile website, a mobile app gives businesses the advantage of having their own space on a customer’s device. Because users have to download and install the app, businesses have more control over their presence on a device than they would with a mobile website. For instance, a mobile app can be closed or inactive, but still work in the background to send geo-targeted push notifications and gather data about customer’s preferences and behaviors. Moreover, mobile apps make it easy to deploy loyalty programs and use mobile payments using a single platform.
An app will be your best choice if you need one of the following:
- Interactivity/Gaming – for interactive games an app is almost always going to be your best choice.
- Regular Usage/Personalization – If your target users are going to be using your app in a personalized fashion on a regular basis then an app provides a great way to do that.
- Complex Calculations or Reporting – If you need something that will take data and allow you to manipulate it with complex calculations, charts or reports.
- Native Functionality or Processing Required – mobile web browsers are getting increasingly good at accessing certain mobile-specific functions such as click-to-call, SMS and GPS. However, if you need to access a user’s camera or processing power an app will still do that much more effectivley.
- No connection Required – If you need to provide offline access to content or perform functions without a network/wireless connection then an app makes sense.
If your mobile goals are primarily marketing-driven, or if your aim is to deliver content and establish a broad mobile presence that can be easily shared between users and found on search engines, then the a mobile website can be the logical choice. On the other hand, if your goal is interactive engagement with users, or to provide an application that needs to work more like a computer program than a website, then an app is probably going to be the best choice.
Need help in figuring out your mobile vs. app roadmap? Call us.