Mobile optimization is becoming more and more trendy these days and it is no surprise. According to Mashable in August 2013, 17.4 percent of all global web traffic came through mobile devices and this number will continue to grow in 2014. So if you don’t want to lose your piece of the pie, it’s time to step into mobile world.
Now, if you are looking to expand your company’s presence on the mobile, would you consider making a mobile app or a mobile responsive site? Firstly, let’s understand the difference between the two!
A mobile app is a software application that the user needs to download to access data. Mobile apps can be downloaded on smartphones, tablets and laptop computers. Whereas, a mobile responsive site is designed specifically for smaller screens or touch screens. The user is able to access the website from mobile device’s web browser.
Now, let’s take a look at the data that explains to us the time spent by the user by using the mobile app and the mobile web.
Through this graph, we can determine that the number of users using mobile app has been consistently growing; whereas the users using the mobile website has been stagnant. But before we come to any conclusion, we’ll need to take a detailed look at the differences between a mobile website and a mobile app.
Which One to Choose?
Given a choice between the two, it is important that you decide what you need to choose depending on your end goal. For example, if you wish to make an interactive game, then it is best if you make an app. For example, it is much simpler to play Angry Birds on an app than on a website browser. Ideally, most mobile apps should have a mobile friendly website.
Advantages of a Mobile Responsive Site
If the goal is to market or boost public communication, a mobile responsive site is much more advantageous to help in your mobile outreach strategy.
Available instantly: The user can just click on the link to view the required content on the site; whereas the user needs to download the mobile app. There is a huge barrier between the initial engagement and the actual conversion.
Compatible across device: A website can be opened in an iPhone or an Android.
Mobile websites can be updated instantly: It’s much easier to change the design and content of the website. You can simply publish the edit once and the changes are immediately visible, whereas, in an app the user needs to install an update to use the new features.
Easy to find: It’s much easier to find a website than an app. It is much easier for users to find a website because their pages can be displayed in search results and listed in industry-specific directories, making it easy for qualified visitors to find you.
Time and Cost: Mobile websites are much cheaper and easier to maintain and develop than an app.
Support and Maintenance: Supporting and maintaining an app (upgrades, testing, compatibility issues and ongoing development) is more much more expensive and involved than supporting a website over time.
Advantages of a Mobile App
Now let’s take a look at the advantages of a mobile app:
Interactivity/Gaming: An app is perfect for interactive games like Angry Bird, Pokémon, etc.
Personalization: Apps offer personalization, i.e. offering tailor made communication to users based on their interests, location and usage. Identifying the location, helps the application software to guide the user and offer him/her real time geo-specific content.
Procure data without internet connection: An app is also useful when the user needs to procure data on the phone without internet access. Let’s take the example of a banking app. The app has the provision to provide tax calculation, determination of loan limit, installment calculation, etc. without internet connection. Even though some mobile responsive sites allow you to access cache, you must know that they can offer very limited features.
Apps are Faster: Apps run faster than mobile responsive sites. Apps usually store their information on the mobile app which makes it faster for the user to access rather than using web servers, which sometimes have no connectivity or are slow.
Getting Notified: It’s much easier to get notified about the latest development or news rather than getting to know only when you access a website. There are two kinds of notifications: push notification and in app notification.
In app notifications are when the user receives the notification when he/she opens the app; whereas a push notification allows the software to send a notification which the users receive regardless of the activity that they are doing on their mobiles. According to a source, “There have been instances where the push medium of notifications has delivered click-through rates of 40%.”
Users Spend More Time on Apps: As per Flurry Analytics, users spend more time on apps than mobile websites. It states, “Mobile users spend 86% of their time on mobile apps and just 14% of the time on mobile websites. Moreover, the average time users spend on mobile apps is also increasing. But a point to consider here is that users spend a majority of their time on gaming apps and social media apps.”
The mobile app v/s mobile responsive site debate can be ended with a simple solution – the end goals. If your mobile goals are marketing driven and if the aim is to deliver high end content to the client then a mobile responsive site is the answer. On the other hand, if the user wants an interactive and personal experience then a mobile app is the solution.
One must also remember that it’s not always necessary that you’d need to choose between the two. Some businesses/companies could need both a site and an app; for example, Facebook. There are many users that log in from desktops as well as use mobiles to check regular updates. Hence, it’s not always supposed to be a debate. In the end, it’s all about choosing the right tool and expanding the horizon of your business.