Building Platform Strategy | How to decide between Mobile Website vs Mobile App?

Even after so many years, a lot of people usually get confused between Mobile Website vs Mobile App and most importantly, which one is relevant to your business. The decision however, is actually not that difficult. Just so that you can understand this in a more logical manner, lets go to the bare basics.

What is a Mobile Website?

The mobile web refers to access to the world wide web, i.e. the use of browser-based Internet services, from a handheld mobile device, such as a smartphone or a feature phone, connected to a mobile network or other wireless network. ~ Wikipedia

Statistics have significantly tilted towards mobile adoption globally and there is no doubt that mobile users are exceeding desktop users on the Web. (see below graph)

mobile users beating desktop users
mobile users beating desktop users

After recent algorithm changes made by Google, I don’t think there is any option of not having a responsive website anymore. It even make a lot of business sense considering majority of the content is consumed through mobile browsers and the number is bound to increase at exponential pace in future.

However, do you really need to build a native app for your business?

What is a Native Mobile App?

Native apps are installed through an application store (such as Google Play or Apple’s App Store). They are developed specifically for one platform, and can take full advantage of all the device features ~ Techopedia

According to a report by Flurry Analytics, App usage has sky rocketed in the last 2 years and there is just no comparison with mobile web:

apps dominating mobile web
apps dominating mobile web

Native Mobile App benefits

  1. Offline Mode: Once the browser is closed, mobile website is of little use to anyone. Unless you are a huge brand in your category or your SEO rankings are really good or your social campaign is super rocking. Mobile App, on the hand allows you to download key content on the mobile which can be accessed without internet connection.
  2. Control: 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, 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.
  3. UI/UX: Native apps are build for a specific platform like iOS or Android or Windows and can be installed from respective App store / Play store. Although a lot of people consider this as a drawback since considerable amount of time, effort and resources is required to customize the app in its UI and UX. But the benefits clearly surpass the challenge because it offers tremendous opportunity to the developer to build personalization capabilities for the app users native to respective mobile OS.
  4. Device Features: One of the biggest advantage of the native apps is that they can take full advantage of all the device features — they can use the camera, the GPS, the accelerometer, the compass, the list of contacts, and so on. This is something you can never achieve in browser environment due to massive to-an-fro data processing which is required at the backend.
  5. Experience: For an experience that is well polished, fast response, and simply feels nice to the user, native apps are the go to solution.
    • Generally, web apps include elements from the browser such as the search and navigation bars which clutter the experience. When using a smaller device this means less space for app specific controls.

    • Native apps respond more fluidly to user gestures such as swipes and pinches.
  6. Engagement & Loyalty : Native apps allows you build repeat engagement with your customers / audience, you can focus your energies towards creating quality content and deliver powerful experience because you are not worried about your SEO rankings.


Mobile Website vs Mobile App
Mobile Website vs Mobile App

In order to decide if you want to develop a native app, you need to consider the following points:

  • How important speed and performance would be for the product / service you are trying to sell to your customers? e.g. gaming apps which needs huge amount of performance for graphics which is not possible to produce in a browser environment.
  • Does your communication needs engagement through any of the mobile device features? e.g. apps that require camera settings, directory listings that need your map location etc.
  • If you want your web service to be Internet-enabled, i.e. if you believe that there will be constant to-an-fro of data with the server. e.g. e-commerce apps which need continuous internet connection for faster transaction.
  • If you want your app to support multiple mobile platforms and devices and if yes, how many. See your web analytics, may be majority of your audience coming from a particular mobile device. ( Also Read: how to track mobile visitors in GA? )
  • Your budget, vs. the estimated cost of developing your app.
  • If you would like to monetize your app in the future

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3 thoughts on “Building Platform Strategy | How to decide between Mobile Website vs Mobile App?

  1. @Piyush : Fantastic post!! Although, being the tech freak that I am…I’d like to clarify a little point about Native apps. There are mobile sites, Native Apps & Hybrid apps. Using Cordova & Ionic framework – one can create apps for both iOS & Android. These apps are mostly web pages with a wrapper around it, however they behave a lot like native apps.

    I believe that Hybrid apps fall somewhere in between mobile sites & native apps. And personally, I love hybrid apps! Much more cost effective to develop and serves the purpose of native apps too.

  2. Mayank, thanks for your comment. I am aware of the hybrid apps. If you have a quick go-to market target, hybrid works just fine but eventually it should move closer to pure native experience. Although, the argument may not hold true for small business apps as the cost to build pure native apps is massive.

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