As of May 2022, over 60% of world wide web traffic comes from mobile devices. This represents a jump from 2016 to 2021, when the traffic share remained steady at roughly 50% for both desktop and mobile users. However, with many organizations currently accelerating digital initiatives, moving to digital models of business exclusively, the rollout of 5G, and increasing IoT devices, it’s safe to assume that number will continue to grow exponentially. It is no longer a question of whether your company needs a mobile app development strategy, but whether a mobile app vs. mobile website will serve your business better.
At face value, mobile websites and apps can look very similar; but in reality, they are very different mobile mediums. Deciding which medium serves your needs best depends on several factors, including target audiences, budget, and intent. To simplify this decision for you, we’ve broken down how each option impacts the user experience.
Native mobile apps are for specific platforms, like iOS or Android. Users download and install mobile apps onto their device; this allows native apps to offer a faster and more responsive experience than mobile websites.
A mobile app allows you to offer your current clients/users value through a new channel for engagement. Websites tend to have limited functionality, whereas an app can integrate features that allow users to interact with its specific components. For example, Instagram users can view images on the website, but can’t post them without the app.
Mobile apps allow users to set up their preferences as soon as they are downloaded; settings can be customized to suit their needs. Moreover, apps can track user engagement, and use it to offer custom recommendations and updates. This helps make the app even more useful to the user. Additionally, apps allow businesses to send tailored communication to users based on their interests, location, usage behavior, and more. According to Business of Apps, sending customized or “dynamic” notifications to users had a positive impact on engagement, open-rates, and conversion rates.
All this customization allows the user to get the most out of the app.
Mobile apps can run without an internet connection. Although many apps require internet connectivity to perform most of their tasks, most offer content and functionality even offline. With this advantage, users can access information anytime, anywhere.
Mobile apps generally offer users a more intuitive user interface, which makes it easier to complete tasks. This unique interface environment allows users to become more immersed in the mobile experience. Users of specific operating systems have also become accustomed to certain functionalities and characteristics. This means developing an app for specific platforms offers users the functionality they expect. Responsive websites can’t always guarantee the standard of functionality users prefer.
Mobile apps can access and use built-in device features such as the camera or GPS. Leveraging device capabilities leads to an enhanced, more convenient user experience. For example, the ability to automatically use GPS and location data allows retail apps to send users flyers with specials specific to their area.
Responsive mobile websites are websites that can accommodate different screen sizes. Essentially, a responsive website is a customized version of a regular website that is optimized for mobile.
Unlike mobile apps, which only function on specific platforms (iOS or Android), a responsive website can be accessed from any mobile device, provided an internet connection is available. Furthermore, responsive websites don’t need to be downloaded and are entirely free, unlike many apps available in app stores. However, it is essential to remember that network access, quality, and speed can all impact the mobile web experience.
Again, unlike mobile apps, users won’t have to spend time installing new versions or updates of your product to experience improvements on the website. Websites are easy to update, maintain, and support. That means users won’t notice the update process and will be able to jump right into an enhanced experience.
Cost-effectiveness is more of a benefit for business rather than an impact on user experience. However, depending on complexity, a responsive mobile site can be more cost-effective than mobile app development. Cost is an essential factor to consider, especially if you want your app to have a presence on more than one platform.
Statistically speaking, the numbers do favor mobile apps. A recent report from Sensor Tower revealed that consumer spending on mobile apps and app installs grew significantly from 2020, reaching $133 billion worldwide across the App Store and Google Play. While this growth was initially driven by COVID-19 and its impact on user behavior, this figure is up 20 percent from 2020 and is set to continue to rise.
However, the right choice depends on your business objectives. If your goal is to offer mobile-friendly content to as many people as possible, then a mobile website may be best. However, if you want to engage, interact, and communicate with your customers to drive customer loyalty, a mobile app is the better option.
In many cases, you may decide you need both a mobile website and a mobile app. If done correctly, both can be a strategic and valuable choice. When it comes to your brand’s mobile strategy, it may not be a question of a mobile app vs. mobile website, but a two-pronged approach, instead.