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Mobile Websites vs Mobile Apps

Which mobile solutions are right for your business?

One of the most common questions we hear at our web agency these days is,

“Do I need a web solution or mobile app?”

The lines between web and mobile grow blurrier by the day. Advancements in responsive web design and mobile responsive programming have made it all but impossible to tell the difference between web applications and mobile apps based on design and user experience.

To make a choice for your business and users, you need to get to know your options. This means fully understanding the differences between web solutions and mobile applications, and what it takes to create each. Each has unique features and benefits that should be considered when architecting your solution.

Web Applications

Web applications are accessed via a regular web browser on a computer, tablet, smartphone, or similar web-enabled device. They require no software downloads and simply run on the web. Web applications can be optimized to be found in search engine results, giving them wide reach and competitive appeal.

Since web applications must be accessed via a web browser, getting them open on a mobile device can take a couple of steps. However, users can easily bookmark your web application page for a more direct link. Just be sure to make your app worthy of valuable home screen real estate!

Advantages of Web Applications

  • Typically provide better exposure since they can be found using general search engines like Google and Bing
  • Users can easily share links to a web page, harder to share an app
  • Lower development and maintenance costs
  • Accessible from any web-enabled device
  • Good for more complex tasks

Mobile Apps

Mobile apps (applications), sometimes called “native applications,” are software programs that users download and install on their devices. Apps run on the device itself and may or may not require an internet connection. They can be accessed easily alongside other apps on the device. With proper permissions granted, mobile apps can utilize device features like camera/video, integrated messaging, GPS, and push notifications.

Apps are usually found and managed via an app store or marketplace like Apple’s App Store, Google Play, or the Microsoft Store. App details and marketing information can be optimized to get found in search results both inside the app marketplaces and in web search.

Advantages of Mobile Apps

  • Get found by users looking specifically for an app (searching the app stores)
  • Can work offline without an internet connection
  • Utilize native technology like camera, GPS, push notifications, etc.
  • Be with your users anytime, anywhere
  • Good for limited, focused tasks

WHY NOT BOTH? Play both sides with progressive web apps

In the early years of mobile development the choice was one or the other: web application or mobile app. Then Progressive Web Apps came into the mix. Progressive web apps use modern web capabilities to deliver an app-like user experience via the web. Where before you could only utilize a device’s native functions (such as push notifications, location services, working offline, etc.) if you built a native mobile application, you can now use web APIs to use them in your web apps.

Advantages of Progressive Web Apps

  • Progressive – Works for every user, regardless of browser choice because it’s built with progressive enhancement as a core tenet.
  • Responsive – Fits any form factor: desktop, mobile, tablet, or whatever is next.
  • Connectivity independent – Enhanced with service workers to work offline or on low-quality networks.
  • App-like – Feels like an app to the user with app-style interactions and navigation because it’s built on the app shell model.
  • Fresh – Always up-to-date thanks to the service worker update process.
  • Safe – Served via HTTPS to prevent snooping and to ensure content hasn’t been tampered with.
  • Discoverable – Is identifiable as an “application” thanks to W3C manifest and service worker registration scope, allowing search engines to find it.
  • Re-engageable – Makes re-engagement easy through features like push notifications.
  • Installable – Allows users to “keep” apps they find most useful on their home screen without the hassle of an app store.
  • Linkable – Easily share via URL, does not require complex installation.

What type of application is right for you and your users?

Ultimately, your choice between a web application or a mobile app should boil down to what your users want and need. 

Instead of asking, “Do I need…?” try asking, “Do my users want…?” Think about not just if they want or need an application, but all the things they will use it for. What features and functions will they use and enjoy? By putting your users’ needs first on this journey, you will have a much greater chance of success.

Take a walk in their shoes. Think about when, where and how your users will most likely be using your solution. For example, a travel planning solution is probably well-suited to mobile app, while a business management tool would probably do better as a web solution.

Blayzer’s development strategists can help you figure out the best solution for your users, business needs and budget.