Mobile App vs Mobile Website: What’s the Difference and Which is Better?

According to statistics for 2017, the number of people with a mobile phone is approaching 70% of the world’s population and this percentage keeps growing. Impressive, isn’t it?

Any business owner who attaches importance to that fact must think about how to establish contact with this audience. There are two main ways to do this – to create a mobile site or mobile application. Each of these options has its own features, and we have experience in implementing projects based on each of these solutions. In this article, we will try to figure out what is best for the brand.

Mobile site vs mobile app – what’s the difference?

A mobile site is a special version of a website, adapted for viewing on mobile phones. Internet users access the site by entering the URL in the device’s browser. Working with the mobile site requires access to the Internet.

Responsive design is the new standard for creating mobile sites. Responsive design is defined as the design creation technology in which the screen size adapts to the device from which it is viewed. This helps to reduce development costs, as there is no longer any need to create separate versions of the site for desktop and mobile devices.

What's the difference - in simple terms

A mobile app is a special program that is downloaded from the App Store (Google Play or App Store) to a user’s mobile device. You can work with it only after it is installed on your smartphone/tablet and in many cases it does not require an Internet connection.

Mobile site – key features

If your goals are primarily related to marketing and communications, you need to provide the target audience with additional coverage and information about various events or marketing activities – a mobile site is perfect for that.

Mobile site pros:

  • traditional for the web interface, user-friendly;
  • compatibility with any device, regardless of the installed OS;
  • Wider coverage. Considering the previous point when comparing the “app vs the site”, the latter has a distinct advantage in terms of reaching the potential audience. Simply click on the link to start interacting with the site;
  • It’s easier to fix errors or change the functionality. You do not need to release updates, as in the case with mobile apps. Any changes become active and visible immediately on all devices;
  • The market entrance costs (apart from development) are lower, as it is enough to pay for the domain name and hosting. An app published in the App Store or the Google Playstore needs to meet a number of requirements;
  • Finding a development team to create a website is easier, because less sophisticated technologies are used;
  • The support and maintenance cost of the site is usually cheaper and requires fewer professionals to develop it.

Mobile site cons:

  • lower usability level, as there is no possibility to fully use all the smartphone functions (GPS, photo and video camera);
  • lower speeds in comparison with an app, as the download speed depends on the Internet connection;
  • autonomous access is impossible;
  • inconstant satisfactory user experience, as it is difficult to implement the same interface on desktop and mobile devices.

Mobile app – key features

Once installed on the user’s device, the mobile application is a tool for direct user contact, and is optimally suited for both frequent and repeated use. Subject to competent implementation, such a product meets the user’s specific need and increases audience loyalty.

Mobile application pros:

  • high interactivity level, the user can interact with it in a variety of ways;
  • the ability to access all or most of the device’s functionality, such as an accelerometer, GPS navigation, camera, etc.;
  • mobile apps provide a better user experience, load faster, and correspond to the common UI of the specific OS;
  • due to the ability to store user content and various data and perform complex calculations, a high level of personalization is provided;
  • mobile apps can be used offline, without connecting to the Internet.

Mobile application cons:

  • high compatibility requirements. For the app’s normal operation, it must meet the requirements of the specific OS under which the device is running;
  • the cost of development, support and maintenance will be higher than in the case of a mobile site;
  • in general, it takes more time to create a mobile app;
  • the user must install it on the device to start using the app.

Which is better and what should you choose?

In practice, each concrete case requires starting from the goals you want to achieve, the opportunities available, and specific use case scenarios.

If you require interactivity, the ability to perform all sorts of calculations, and the usage of the capabilities of the device/OS itself, developing a mobile application will be the best choice.

What's winning?

If you need maximum reach, time and budget are limited, and the main purpose of the tool will be to inform your audience about the company, events, and marketing activities, you can confine yourself to creating a mobile site.

But it is important to understand that a mobile app and a mobile site are not mutually exclusive concepts. If you use both of these solutions, you can provide the best results for your business.

There is no universal answer to what is better – a mobile site or a mobile app. But having studied each option’s features, you can choose what is best for your product and target audience!

Volodymyr Fedorychak
Volodymyr Fedorychak
Digital Marketing Specialist at Lvivity