A major debate in web development is whether to concentrate on designing a mobile app or mobile website. With more users accessing the internet through their smartphones, this question is more pertinent than ever.
The real answer
Recent statistics show that native mobile app traffic is connected to mobile web properties. Web properties expand reach and mobile apps expand experience. In a way this nullifies any either-or debate, since both a mobile app or mobile website have their individual uses.
Bearing this in mind, the question should then become a question of where to put your time, money and expertise. Instead of asking “which is best?”, you need to ask “which is best for what we need to deliver?”.
Some of the advantages of mobile websites are:
- Compatible – Apps require more individual development than a single website which can be viewed on many devices.
- Shareable – URLs are easy to be shared in a way apps are not.
- Immediate – Apps have to be downloaded (and often user registered/signed in to) before they can be accessed. Websites can also be upgraded far more easily than apps.
- Cheaper – Mobile websites are cheaper to develop and cheaper to maintain. If you develop it properly, you can also use the data of a mobile website to create a mobile app.
Some of the advantages of mobile apps are:
- Usability – This is especially useful if you are developing for content or functions that can be viewed or edited offline.
- Regularity – An app can encourage regular usage by streamlining a service that may be too cluttered or complicated online.
- Interactivity – Apps can access smartphone functions such as GPS, camera and click to call.
- Personalisation – The ability to mould an app to the user’s needs can be very useful.
So, the choice is up to you once you ask yourself the right questions. MDG Advertising produced this excellent infographic in 2012 that still holds true today: