The Mobile Engima: Develop a Mobile App, or Create a Mobile Website?

Sep 24, 2017    |       10 min read

One of the first decisions to make when developing a mobile presence is whether to develop a mobile app or to create a mobile website, or both. Apps – actual applications that are downloaded from portals like Apple’s App Store or Android Market – require a download. As a result, if you have to choose between the two in developing your mobile strategy, it’s likely that you’ll probably reach a broader audience more successfully if you create a mobile website and forgo the mobile app. But the decision is more complex and depends on the particulars of your business.

What are the Advantages of a Mobile App?

There are specific situations where apps are clearly preferable. Apps are ideal if your goal is interactive engagement with your users. So for example, if you’re developing a mobile game, you probably want an app.

Similarly, if you need to provide offline access to content, an app is necessary. And if you need to manipulate data with complex calculations or generate sophisticated reports or charts, an app is going to be the right choice.

There are certainly additional scenarios that require an app, such as situations that require personalization of the visitor experience for regular usage.

But before you decide to develop an app, you’ll want to make sure it’s worth it. Don’t create an app if you can achieve the same thing with a mobile site. Apps have very specific downsides. Here are a few of the issues to consider.

Ouch! Consider the Cost

Mobile websites are generally less expensive to develop than native apps. Part of the increase in cost relates to the fact that one mobile website works across all platforms, whereas each platform requires the development of a separate app.

The issue isn’t limited to the initial launch. Looking at the big picture, upgrades, testing, compatibility issues, and ongoing development of apps are generally significantly more expensive than maintaining and supporting a website.

Then There’s the Issue of Accessibility

Mobile websites are instantly accessible by means of search engines and they’re always going to be there — unlike an app, which needs to be installed in order to use.

Even after your audience has installed the app, you need to keep their interest – otherwise, they’re likely to uninstall. Statistics indicate that on the average, most apps are generally uninstalled less than thirty days after download.

Because mobile websites are always available, instantly accessible, and reachable on any device and across any platform, they are more likely to reach a broader audience.

In addition, mobile websites are easier to share. As a publisher, you can send users to a mobile site using a simple link in an email, or from a blog, and users share links for websites in a way they can’t do with apps.

The 11th Commandment: Know Thy Mobile Needs

Both mobile apps and mobile websites have limitations. It’s important to be clear on when an app serves your purpose better, and when you can achieve better business results if you choose the cheaper and easier option, which is to create a mobile website.