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Mobile Website vs. App: Side-by-Side Comparison

Mobile devices have long been something like a gateway to browse the internet. People used them on the go to read about products or services and check their availability. But purchases mainly happened on computers. Why? Because the mobile experience was far from satisfactory.

Small buttons, jumping content, intrusive pop-ups. These are just a few reasons why it was inconvenient to browse from mobiles, let alone buy. But things have changed a lot. With Google favoring websites with a pleasing mobile experience, many companies have reached the top of search results thanks to mobile optimization. However, there is a strong competitor of a mobile website. It’s a native app.

Should you invest in reorganizing the web experience or developing a mobile app? In this article, we’ll answer this question, focusing on the benefits and drawbacks of a mobile app vs. website. Stay with us to make an informed decision that can enhance your mobile user experience and, ultimately, lead to business success.

Defining a Mobile App vs. Mobile Website

A decent mobile user experience is indispensable for today’s businesses. By 2025, there will be a staggering 18.22 billion smartphones worldwide. This is a remarkable forecast. For every individual on Earth, there would be an average of two mobile devices! Why?

The reason is that smartphones have become nearly as useful and popular as traditional computers or laptops. Their capabilities grow, and they even allow people to make money without additional equipment.

Smartphone users now account for a sizable percentage of website traffic. So, the question for online business owners and digital marketers is not whether to target this growing audience but rather how. The answer is with the help of two effective tools-native applications and mobile-friendly websites. Some limit themselves to developing a web presence. Others use as many channels as possible and create a website and apps for various operational systems.

The choice can significantly impact your online visibility. However, what distinguishes a mobile app vs. mobile website?

The former is a software solution designed for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. To access them, users need to go to app stores and install them on the device. They’re usually quite heavy but offer more personalized and fluid experiences than websites.

They perform better than mobile websites in areas like user engagement, personalization, and simplicity of navigation. Yet, you need to develop several apps for various operational systems, such as iOS and Android. It may require more money and effort.

A mobile website is what you can see when opening the browser and typing the URL. These pages, content, buttons, and links comprise the mobile user experience. Unlike the desktop website, the mobile-friendly one should perfectly fit smaller screens. So, the location and organization of various elements can differ from the desktop version.

Suppose you run an online store on the Magento eCommerce platform. If you want to optimize the mobile presence, consider dedicated Magento services and ask developers and designers to ensure the mobile website aligns with your goals. As smartphones have almost become extensions of our bodies, having a mobile-responsive website is an absolute necessity for savvy business owners.

Mobile Friendly Website vs. App: Comparative Analysis

One of the easiest ways to compare a mobile website vs. native app is to present their advantages and disadvantages in the form of a table. That’s what we’ll do.

CriteriaMobile App AdvantagesMobile App DisadvantagesMobile Website AdvantagesMobile Website Disadvantages
Function and Purpose– Tailored for specific tasks
– Offers rich interaction
– Can be overkill for simple tasks– Broad information access – No installation needed– May not provide as deep an interaction as apps
User Experience– Seamless, intuitive UI
– Access to device features
– Requires download and updates– Instant access via browser
– No updates required
– Less control over device
-specific functionality
Cost and Time to Market– Higher due to custom development– Longer development and approval process– More cost-effective and quicker to launch– May be less competitive without an app presence
Flexibility and Updates– Control over design/function
– Potentially better performance
– Frequent updates needed
-Compatibility with multiple platforms
– Real-time content updates
– Universal compatibility with devices
– Updates depend on the user refreshing the browser

In short, mobile websites provide wider reach as they’re discoverable from search engines. They require less expenses and maintenance costs. On the other hand, they can’t be opened without an internet connection, load more slowly, and have limited access to device features like the camera, GPS, accelerometer, etc.

As for native apps, you need to get approved by app stores to make them publicly available, which can take time and effort. You need to maintain various platform versions and encourage customers to install the app. Still, mobile apps perfectly blend with the smartphone hardware and features. They offer a more personalized experience as they can remember user preferences, support push notifications, and work offline.

Mobile-Friendly Website vs. App: Who’s the Winner?

When You Should Opt for a Mobile App vs. Responsive Website

Choose a mobile website in the following cases:

  • You can’t afford to spend money on app development. It’s vital during the early stages of your business when you want to get in front of your target audience fast. A mobile website provides such an opportunity, being a wallet-friendly way to establish an online presence.
  • You don’t mind sacrificing access to device features like a camera or GPS. A mobile website can satisfy most basic needs of a modern business, allowing you to display information, products, contact details, a blog, and so on. If your digital presence doesn’t demand intricate interactions, go on with a website alone.
  • Speedy and frequent updates are key. Some B2B and B2C companies may change information at lightning speed. Here, the mobile website is more agile than a native app. Users don’t need to download anything to view the most recent content because updates are made directly on the server.

A mobile app can be more suitable if you need to meet the following requirements:

● You want to leverage your smartphone’s user retention and engagement capabilities. By this, we mean push notifications, enabling you to encourage people to return to your business.
These may include updates, reminders, and personalized content, such as “Your favorite goods are back in stock. Order them now!” An app icon on the user screen can additionally remind them of your brand’s existence.

● You need advanced functionality. If you expect consumers to take and upload photos, share locations, and use gestures like in games, you can’t do so without an app. Note that there are solutions like progressive web apps.
They may look like native apps while operating within the browser, send push notifications, and connect with a device’s native features. Still, native apps are more stable and efficient for complex interactions.

● You design the app for active usage. The nature of your services can influence the choice between a mobile app vs. website.
For instance, banking, daily news, or grocery stores may attract customers multiple times within a short period (to read new information, make transactions, or buy food). That’s where an app wins against a website regarding seamless and convenient engagement.
Apps may consume phone memory indeed. But if they’re well-designed and valuable, people may want to leave them even after receiving the “Storage Almost Full” alert.

How Mobile Apps and Websites Can Thrive Together

There is no winner in the mobile website vs. app battle. As mobile app vs. mobile website statistics show, people spend more and more time on smartphones, but flawed mobile UX can divert them from purchasing.

If you have a smaller budget, enhance the mobile website UX. If investing more time and resources isn’t a problem, create a mobile app and see what brings more positive outcomes. The real question isn’t whether you should choose a mobile app over a website or vice versa. The most reasonable step would be to support both.

Here is how it may work based on the example of an online store:

  1. A mobile website can be a starting point for shoppers to get to know you. They may explore products, add them to the cart, and purchase.
  2. These buyers are happy with your brand, so they turn into devoted customers, purchasing more expensive goods and a greater number of them. They return to the store more often and leave more information.
  3. That’s where a native app comes into play. By incentivizing people to install it on their phones, you can offer a more tailored and pleasing experience. You can send real-time alerts for flash sales or let consumers reorder their favorite goods in fewer clicks.

As such, a mobile website serves the vast sea of potential customers. Mobile-friendliness also contributes to better website positions in search results, increasing your reach. A mobile app turns customers into a community. You can communicate with them on a deeper level, taking advantage of device-specific capabilities.

Mobile App vs. Mobile Website: Key Takeaways

So, we’ve compared a mobile app vs. responsive website side by side. We’ve dissected their features, weighing their advantages and disadvantages. Now, it’s up to you what to opt for. We hope we helped you understand which option aligns best with your business needs.

If you’re grappling with the decision of whether to invest in a mobile website vs. native app, consider the following points:

  • Mobile websites are all about search visibility and affordability. You may reach a large audience without having to deal with app stores, downloads, or the need to create several versions of one app for Android and iOS.
  • Mobile apps increase user engagement. With personalization and smart device utilization, they provide a more immersive and dynamic experience.

So, what’s more important: a mobile-friendly website vs. app? Both, probably, since each shines best at various stages of the purchase journey. Determine where your target audience is, consider your business type, and pick the most appropriate solution!

About the Author

Art Malkovich

Art Malkovich

Art Malkovich is CEO and co-founder of Onilab, an eCommerce development company. He has about 10 years of experience in team management and web development for eCommerce. He is passionate about keeping up with recent technologies and working on innovative projects like headless commerce solutions and PWAs in particular.

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