Mobile Websites vs. Mobile App: A Guide to Understanding the Differences

Mobile Web Design

There’s no doubt about it, engaging with your customers using their mobiles is the future of customer retention and conversion. With 83.72% of people worldwide now owning some kind of smartphone, the audience for your mobile presence is huge. And you might have been thinking about how best to tap into that audience, but you’re not sure what would be best for you: mobile website vs. mobile app. 

 

Mobile Apps and Mobile Websites: What They Are and How They Work

Mobile websites work in much the same way as desktop websites. They are found through search engines, links from other sites, or marketing messages. They’re then accessed in a user’s browser using the internet. 

They differ in that they are designed to be able to render, or display, in a way that is suited to the user’s mobile device. They should display in a way that’s easy-to-use and easy to navigate, and which has a great design on any screen size, especially a small mobile screen.

Mobile apps are a different concept entirely. They are an application (app) that the user has to download from the relevant store. This could be the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store, and the application is saved to their device. 

There are two main types of mobile apps. One of these is native, where all of the data and function is stored on the device. The other type of app is web-based: the app stores data in the cloud and the function is accessed through the internet.

 

Mobile Apps vs. Mobile Websites: What Makes Them Different?

Whether your business is targeting millennials, Gen z-ers, or others, an app can be a revolutionary tool for your business. Offering you new ways to engage with your audience, which may result in higher conversion rates, apps are both versatile and effective.

 

Mobile Apps

With the average smartphone user having over 80 apps installed on their device, it’s clear that apps provide a huge part of the functionality of mobile devices. And there’s now an app for everything, from calling an Uber and ordering at a restaurant to keeping in touch with friends and the latest trends. Apps are also a big part of how we do business. You might use solutions like a phone call transcription app with your team at work, for example.

Mobile apps are so powerful as a tool that users now spend 88% of their mobile time on them. Mobile app development continues to get bigger and better every year. Developers have tapped into what users need and now provide seamless functions and interfaces.

 

What can a Mobile App do?

So what’s so special about an app? Here’s a few things an app can do where a mobile website just can’t compete:

 

Use of Mobile Features: Apps can use the features on your phone in a way that mobile websites just can’t. The integration of these features in an app lets the user complete actions seamlessly. This kind of interaction is something that may have been time-consuming on a website.

Apps can use features such as click-to-call, geo-location, and camera-related functions. Touchscreen capabilities like swiping and drag-and-drop can also all be used on an app. Without the limitations of a browser, and faster loading speeds, touchscreen navigation can be more intuitive. Apps can be powered to do anything, from providing live directions as a sat-nav to virtual office phone services.

 

Push notifications: A tool that can’t be under-estimated in customer retention. Push notifications allow you to send personalized messages to your users. They can even increase their engagement. You can either send messages in-app, so the user sees them when they open their app, or straight to their device as a notification.

 

Personalization: Apps can be tailored to each user to give them a better experience. Attributes like location, what they do on the app, and gender can all be used to create a unique interface. Some apps even allow users to set their preferences as part of the onboarding for the app. 

Apps, just like websites, can use split, or A/B testing to make sure this personalization is optimized. As well as optimizing in this way, through trial and error, AI and machine learning have come a long way in recent years as a technology to aid personalization. 

Machine learning, utilizing big data, is a great resource for SMEs to ensure they understand their customer base, and in conjunction with a mobile app, are talking in a way that leads them to convert. It’s not just about customer experience with AI, either, you can use it for everything from operational upgrades to call center improvement.

 

Advantages of a Mobile App vs. Mobile Website

Offline Function: The data and function of native apps is usually stored on the device. It also uses the device’s processor to function, so it doesn’t always require a connection to the internet. This means your user can still use a lot of the app’s functions, even when they’re not connected to the internet.

 

Faster to Load: The technologies used to create native apps are generally much faster than a mobile website. They’re much quicker and easier for the user. This might not seem like a big advantage, but studies have shown that if you can reduce the loading time of a page, you can increase conversion rates.

 

Better Interactive Features:  Anything that needs to be interactive for the user works better in an app. Booking forms, delivery scheduling, or creating designs are all easier in an app. The design behind these features can be more intuitive, more responsive, and they’re not limited to the capabilities of the browser.

 

Disadvantages of a Mobile App vs. Mobile Website

Website Development Cost: App development can cost a lot more than developing a mobile website. There’s a lot more features to consider and you need to develop an app for multiple platforms.  As well as the initial investment, there’s also the maintenance costs to consider. Any updates or changes must also be downloaded by the user, they won’t be instant.

 

Needs to be Installed: For your app to be used, you’ve first got to get people to download it. That requires a certain amount of trust in your brand and product. Getting customers to take the time to download and onboard with your app will require putting the effort in to reassure them of its worth.

 

Mobile Websites

If your business already has a website, you might think that you’re already capturing smartphone traffic. But only 35% of websites are optimized for mobile and meet the Google Core Web Vitals standard, meaning that the experience is often frustrating at best and sometimes impossible on a smartphone. 

You can check your bounce rate and engagement rates compared to the industry averages. This will give you a good idea of how much your website could be improved.

 

Advantages of a Mobile Website vs. Mobile App

Easier to Find & Share: There’s a wealth of tools and processes you can use to make sure your website reaches as large, and relevant, an audience as possible. SEO, backlinks, advertising, and even QR codes and NFC communication can lead your audience directly to your website. This kind of traffic really isn’t possible with an app. Successful ecommerce stores might rely on this traffic for new customers. If that’s you, a mobile website may be the best choice.

 

Less Expensive & Instant Updates: A website uses much simpler development tools and can be up and ready in less time and with less initial outlay. As well as being good-to-go faster initially, updates can be instant and don’t require the user to accept them and download them. The long-term costs of a mobile website will be far lower than a native app.

 

Broader Compatibility: With the ability to function on nearly any device, websites are truly limitless. And although they can be optimized for mobile, they can still function brilliantly on a desktop or tablet. Your potential audience is larger with a website than an app. Having this compatibility across devices helps you offer a smoother omnichannel experience.

 

Disadvantages of a Mobile Website vs. Mobile App

User Experience & Convenience: Mobile websites just don’t have the same ability to customize the experience. With the rigid conforms of the browser, the design potential is more limited. It’s just not as convenient as opening an app on the home screen of the user’s phone. Mobile websites will also just not be as fast as a native app.

 

No Offline Function: Even with caching, the functionality of a website will be lacking without internet access. This makes it difficult to be used whenever the internet connection is unreliable or non-existent.

 

Mobile Apps vs Mobile Websites: Which One is Right for You?

Now you’ve got a great overview of both mobile apps and mobile websites and where they fit in for smartphone users! 

You may already have an idea of which one would be best for your digital transformation. Still not sure which avenue would be the best choice for you? One main consideration is budget. As a small/medium size business, are you in a position to make the greater investment of a native app? 

The second thing to consider would be your audience. Do you already have a strong and engaged following who you could push to download your app? It’s easier to be found if you have a mobile website than a mobile app. If your main goal is to significantly grow your audience, a mobile website may be the way forward for you.

 

Akeela Zahair
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