Choosing between a responsive website or a native app is more a business call than going into the technical capabilities of what each platform has to offer. The reason is that the same set of customers that access your business through a desktop could potentially connect with your brand on the go through their smartphones.
For companies, apps are another medium to reach out to customers, just like a website or an advertisement. The fact is, you need both, to get to your customers who are browsing on their desktops or on the go. The app can engage them so they keep coming back to your brand for more.
What’s the Difference Between a Mobile Website and an App? Before you can evaluate the benefits of a mobile website vs. an app it’s important to understand the key differences between the two. Both apps and mobile websites are accessed on a handheld devices such as smartphones (e.g. iPhone, Android and Blackberry) and tablets.
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 (for mobile typically WiFi or 3G or 4G networks). 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 (to dial a phone number) 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.
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 — such as its look and feel, pages, images and other content — 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.
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 corner 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. It’s also much easier to access a mobile app than a mobile website — all it takes is one tap, versus having to open a Web browser then type in a URL.
Mobile website vs. mobile app can be a heated debate.
Many people feel that you don’t need a mobile app, you just need a website that looks good on mobile devices. Others say that mobile apps have benefits that a website cannot provide. Who is right? Everyone needs a responsive website that looks great on mobile. It’s not really that hard to get a responsive website, and there are no downsides.
People are going to view your website on their devices, and you need to support that. It’s obvious that you need a responsive website, but do you also need a mobile app? Is a mobile app better than your mobile website? Let’s look at whether a mobile app or a mobile website is better for your business.