Mobile App vs Mobile Website

By Ben Howden12th November 2012
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Mobile App VS Mobile Website - Which One Should I Build?

If you work in the digital world you've no doubt figured out that mobile is the future. In Australia, smartphone penetration has increased from 37% to 53% in just two years and is transforming consumer behaviour. Smartphones have become an indispensable part of our lives and businesses that develop mobile as a foundation of their digital strategy will benefit the most as they capitalise on an opportunity to connect with their customers on a device that is always with them and always switched on.

A common question we get as clients start developing their mobile strategy is what should we build? A mobile app or a mobile website? The answer to this really depends on a number of factors such as what are my business objectives? Does the mobile solution require use of any special device features? Does it need to be Internet enabled? Do I need to target all mobile devices? How important is speed and performance?

If you're simply looking to translate and optimize your existing content based website for a mobile experience, then in most cases a mobile website is the better option. If you're looking to provide some kind of utility or unique functionality then perhaps a mobile app is better.

Mobile apps are typically faster, more interactive and have the ability to tightly integrate with native phone features. But a key challenge can be distribution, given the app has to be installed on a device for anyone to use it. A mobile site on the other hand can simply be navigated to via a web browser and will show up in search engine results if the site is well optimised. Mobile sites are generally cheaper to develop and there aren't any approval processes to go through when you want to update something.

Given the rapid growth of mobile Internet usage, our view is that every business should at least have a mobile optimised version of their website. It is expected that by 2014 mobile will overtake fixed internet access so you should be putting as much effort in to an optimised mobile experience as you do into your regular website experience.

Another key consideration is how often your customers consume your content. For example, you may only visit the website of your local takeaway store every now and again so in this case accessing a mobile website would suffice. However, if you're a public transport user and use timetables on a daily basis, visiting a mobile website each time could become frustrating, so in this case a faster native app would provide a better user experience.

Companies such as Facebook maintain both native apps and a mobile website to maximise reach, but the reality is that many of us don't have the budget or resources to support this approach.

To help you understand the principles of each option, check out the info-graphic below from MDG. And if you want to chat about a mobile solution that works for your business objectives then get in touch with us.