The Difference Between Apps and Mobile Websites
Posted Apr 6, 2011 by Joel Sutherland
What is an “App”
An “app” is a software application that is written in the native language of a particular platform. This has some tremendous advantages:
- By using native code, the application can run with high performance.
- It is easy to follow the User Experience conventions using provided libraries
- The app is available in an App Store
- It can work offline
- The App can be launched in a single step
- Your native code only works on one platform
- You must learn development skills that just apply to one platform
- Your app can’t be found directly on the web, it requires more “investment” for a customer to download it.
What is a Mobile Website
A mobile website is just a website that has been optimized for mobile browsing. It can be reached through a phone’s web browser directly. There are some great advantages to doing a mobile site:
- One mobile site can work on any mobile platform
- It is generally faster and cheaper to develop a mobile site
- A mobile site can just be a ‘version’ of your primary website.
- It is becoming possible to embed an Mobile site in an App using technology like Phonegap
- Customers can google you and land on your mobile site
- Since it’s a website, it can be easily updated through a CMS
There are some disadvantages too:
- They aren’t written in native code, so performance can be an issue
- You cannot access all of the phones features (camera, etc) that are available to apps
- It requires some number of steps for a customer to bookmark your mobile site
- It is hard to charge for access or usage
Our Recommendation: Mobile Websites over Apps
There are a number of reasons that we generally recommend putting your resources towards mobile websites before Apps.
When people are looking for information, they go to Google, not the app store. A mobile website is a better way to reach more customers.
It is generally much less expensive to build a mobile website so the bang-for-the-buck is much higher. You also get to develop one version and it works on all smartphones.
As mobile browsers become faster, the performance gap between apps and websites is closing.
An individual platform may disappear, but the web will not. You can be sure that a mobile site that looks good on a 4″ screen today will also look good in 5 years.