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Creating a Mobile App vs. Mobile Site

DZone's Guide to

Creating a Mobile App vs. Mobile Site

Read about some of the advantages and challenges of developing a mobile application versus a mobile site, and how to decide which one is right for you.

· Mobile Zone
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Download this comprehensive Mobile Testing Reference Guide to help prioritize which mobile devices and OSs to test against, brought to you in partnership with Sauce Labs.

When optimising your website for mobile users, it is important to consider how your prospective users will interact with your site and the type of experience you want to create for them. A business could make the choice to create an adaptive site for mobile or they may choose to create an app that achieves the same result. Some may even choose to do both!

As mobile app development can be a lengthy process, you may think that it is not worth the hassle and stick to a simple mobile website. But that may be a mistake. Here are some considerations to make before choosing between these two mediums for your mobile reach:

What’s the Difference?

Okay, so when making this decision the first question is always what is the difference between the two and is one better than the other. As both are accessed on mobile devices the difference may not seem that great, but they can offer a different experience for your users depending on your choice.

A mobile website is the same principle as your desktop variant. It is simply optimised for the smaller, handheld, screens of mobile devices. Responsive web design is often employed on the modern web to achieve this - simply put, your website is able to scale to meet the size of the device that accesses it.

This is a popular choice as it limits the need to make changes across multiple websites.

Apps are not accessed through a browser and require a download onto a user’s personal device. The benefit of this is the fact that your users can access your app and it’s content whenever they like, with or without an internet connection. For this reason, some companies choose it over a singular mobile site or even responsive design.

Pros & Cons

So, which is better? The choice is ultimately dependent on your business and what you want to achieve from mobile access. Interactive features - such as a game - will always benefit more from an app design. While a mobile website or responsive design would be ideal if you simply wish for it to be a portal for enquiry.

Pros of a responsive mobile website include:

  • Compatible - no matter the device that your user has access to, they will be able to use your mobile website with little trouble. Whereas different development and code must be considered in app design for the various platforms.
  • Upgrades - instant upgrades are also a big benefit of a mobile site. You simply go into the backend of your website, make the change and update. Easy and no need for developers.
  • Findable - not everyone will turn to the app store when looking for the solution that you provide. In fact, many will simply go straight to Google. Having your mobile website makes you easy to find and gives you a lot more reach.
  • Cost - a website can be expensive to create, but the costs are still less than app development.

Of course, the con comes in the fact that everybody else has also done this. Meaning you might not easily stand out from your competitors with a similar design, simplistic, website.

Which is where the pros of a mobile app may come in use:

  • Interactivity - if you require a high level of interaction for your user base, then an app is vital for this to be functional for your user.
  • Personalisation - in 2017, branding has never been more focused on the user. An app gives the ability to personalize on a huge scale, making it perfect for a brand that wants to reach users on the next level.
  • No Internet - with internet access not always a possibility, an app gives your user base the ability to access your information without seeing a sad dinosaur.

One of the biggest cons of app development is that fact that it can be costly. But, a pro of this cost is that the finished product is one that is often very professional and can offer more than its website counterpart. For example, you could store user data and allow for one-click ordering if you are e-commerce business. The nature of an app makes it very adaptable to your needs.

Conclusion

As with anything in life, there are certain pros and cons when it comes to choosing between mobile websites and apps, which is why many companies do choose to develop both for the benefit of their user base.

If your goal is primarily content-driven and to market your business, then a website makes the most sense. However, if you have a more complicated need - such as access to a user's data - then an app must be developed for your service to work as it should.

Ultimately, the choice will come down to your business needs and what makes the most sense for your business.

Analysts agree that a mix of emulators/simulators and real devices are necessary to optimize your mobile app testing - learn more in this white paper, brought to you in partnership with Sauce Labs.

Topics:
mobile ,mobile app development ,mobile web

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