2019-ebook-3d-onblue4
Everything you need to know about building mobile apps

Learn what a mobile app can do for your business, how to build a great mobile app, and much more. Enter your email below for our free ebook.

Is a mobile app better than a mobile website?

Mobile website vs. mobile app can be a heated debate.

Many people feel that you don’t need a mobile app, you just need a website that looks good on mobile devices. Others say that mobile apps have benefits that a website cannot provide. Who is right?

Everyone needs a responsive website that looks great on mobile. It’s not really that hard to get a responsive website, and there are no downsides.

People are going to view your website on their devices, and you need to support that. It’s obvious that you need a responsive website, but do you also need a mobile app? Is a mobile app better than your mobile website?

Let’s look at whether a mobile app or a mobile website is better for your business.

Mobile website pros and cons

A mobile website is usually not a separate website, it’s a responsive design that works for all screen sizes. Mobile visitors should be able to access most of the content you have on your full website, but in a way that is optimized for smaller screens.

I believe everyone should have a mobile website, so these pros/cons are really just for comparison to a mobile app.

Pros

  • Inexpensive – usually included in the price of designing your website
  • Works on all devices – you don’t need a separate site for iOS/Android
  • Easy to setup – no submitting to app stores, you just need a domain and hosting

Cons

  • No push notifications
  • No offline access
  • No app store presence
  • Poor design can cause problems like:
    • Performance issues
    • Cluttered design
    • Poor usability

Well designed mobile websites can be a huge business asset. Since almost 1/3 of internet traffic is mobile, it’s obvious you need one.

They are inexpensive to setup, available on all devices, and easy to maintain and update.

Where mobile websites fail

I’ve visited one too many websites on my phone that were poorly optimized for mobile, and made me immediately go elsewhere. Some mobile sites can be cluttered with ads, popups, and content you don’t need to see on mobile.

Mobile websites can also be over-optimized, trying to make it look and feel like a native app. This usually makes things worse, with choppy animations and over-designed layouts. There are lots of funny examples of people screwing up their mobile websites on the WTF mobile site.

Even big companies with plenty of resources are guilty of this. Click the image below on the left and you’ll see a site covered in so much crap it’s hard to even read the content. Perhaps worse is a site that is not responsive, so the text is unreadable on a phone, and they even have the nerve to show me a popup!

A well designed mobile site can take care of many of these problems, but it still can’t do things a mobile app can do. You’ll see the images of a mobile app above on the right, where the content can use up 90% of the screen, making for a much nicer experience.

Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of a mobile app.

Mobile app pros and cons

Mobile apps can do things websites can’t, like push notifications and offline access, but they also have cons. They aren’t necessary for some people, for example if you are a casual mommy blogger you probably don’t need an app. However, many businesses can benefit from one, let’s look at the pros and cons.

Pros

  • Push notifications – send text messages to your subscribers
  • Offline access – read articles, listen to podcasts, or browse a product catalog while on an airplane
  • Great performance – a well designed app can be faster than a website
  • Less cluttered – this depends on the website design, but apps tend to have less stuff
  • Get on the app stores – it’s another way to get in front of your customers, you also get a button on their homescreen

Cons

  • Extra expense – while some apps are affordable ($49/mo for example) it’s still another cost
  • Extra setup – you have to setup the app and submit to the app stores

Mobile apps can help your audience get to your content faster, and keep them engaged better. Sending push notifications is a huge advantage, whether you are publishing articles or selling products.

Apps are better for accessing content offline, such as listening to audio or reading an article on an airplane.

They can cost extra time and money, and not all businesses are prepared for that.

The winner

The winner depends on your business. For the casual blogger, the mobile website wins. For a company like Instagram, the mobile app wins.

For many businesses, the winner is a combination of both. A two-pronged mobile strategy can leverage both a mobile site and an app for maximum distribution of your content.

One example would be an online store. Why not let visitors purchase through your website, as well as an app? Churches can use an app to release updated sermon notes before the service, and recorded audio/video afterwards. Restaurants can offer updated menus, directions, and online ordering. Magazines can send push notifications when new articles are published.

Instead of one or the other, consider incorporating both into your mobile strategy.

35 Comments

  1. Jacob on February 5, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    Hey Scott! This is a great article really! I like the last part of the winner! Thumbs up!

  2. Eric on February 5, 2015 at 4:47 pm

    If a company can benefit their client base from native phone function then an app is a no brainier.
    Responsive web design can make all user experiences valuable and SMS apps on websites can mimic push. For our development it comes down to native functions.

  3. IDESIGNSTUDIO on February 22, 2015 at 3:14 am

    Hi!

    On the feature that website cannot have offline access, please have a look on this link:

    http://hood.ie/

    It will give you updated information about possibility to bring a website with offline access on mobile devices. Their understanding is “Offline First” and they are working hard to bring the necessary technology to make it work better and better.

    It is a great option to explore.

    Cheers.

  4. Leslee Holmes on February 24, 2015 at 1:36 am

    While considering from a developers point of view, Mobile/Tablet Apps are beneficial if you are developing it for a very specific purpose that cannot be effectively accomplished via a web browser. A mobile/responsive website will be the right choice if your goal is to offer mobile-friendly content to the widest possible audience.

  5. Oliver Lebrock on March 12, 2015 at 5:45 am

    Hello! I really learned a lot from this post. I was actually deciding whether to get a responsive or mobile website. I’ve read it from here that both of them http://www.lionleaf.com/blog/responsive-design-or-a-dedicated-mobile-website-which-is-better/ are definitely helpful. And I agree to you that whatever you choose should depend on the kind of website that you are creating. If it’s just more about blogs, what should I choose?

    Thank you in advance!
    Oliver

  6. Olivier on September 1, 2015 at 7:51 am

    Hi!

    A number of other pretty big cons for mobile apps:
    – no SEO (appstore SEO is just terrible)
    – content hard to share
    – extra user time/cost of downloading the app, when you probably lose plenty of users in the process
    – update process takes a lot of time, not very responsive to user feedback / bugs (2 weeks updates on Apple store)

    I think down the line when browser are more responsive, apps will be reserved to heavy duty such as playing music, video etc. Just like on desktops!

  7. Pijush on October 29, 2015 at 12:04 am

    In my personal opinion, it is good for the company to have an app but as a user it is nightmare. To access anything you have to install it. how many app a person can install? A common platform like browser enables user to just use an app without installing anything. I feel the problem is browser available right now needs lot of improvement and should provide more support for mobile devices. I hope browsers improve to have seamless experience in all device.

    • John Brel on April 20, 2017 at 4:18 am

      As a user I do agree with Pijush vehemently. Apps take a lot of storage, need permissions, drain battery life. And then I don’t even considir the whole administrative side of things: installing and uninstalling apps and keeping track of what you have installed. Another drawback of apps is that they get outdated all the time, whereas with websites you always get served the latest version.

      So to the user the advantages of apps are often non-existent, except in rare cases. Often I feel like apps are forced down your throat: they are not made attractive in themselves, but the mobile websites are limited in functionality. For instance, a postal service advertizes their app ‘with push notification’ which will alert you when your package has been delivered. I would think that it would be just as easy for them to send you an email or a whatsapp message via their website. Don’t underestimate the irritation factor if your user has to install yet another app.

  8. Ricky on March 15, 2016 at 1:48 am

    Mobile apps are doing good but i personally feel that corporate should maintain a mobile website too as without a website they will loose lot of traffic from search engines.

  9. Sam on June 27, 2016 at 1:57 am

    Apps are specially made for the mobile users so experience of mobile users are better on apps but they first they have to download it.

    Mobile sites can be used without any downloading and it gives you traffic from search engine also which apps lack.

  10. Vince on July 6, 2016 at 5:25 pm

    Thanks for sharing your fair thoughts! Very well said, I agree that mobile sites has a lot of useless ads and popups which annoyed me always. Though mobile website helps when it comes to SEO but for usability, i don’t think so. Mobile apps so far is good , it is fast and easy to use but it is quite expensive.

  11. App developer India on July 27, 2016 at 11:57 pm

    As long as mobile remains a relatively new frontier, the “app vs web” question will remain a very real consideration for organizations seeking to establish a mobile presence. If your mobile goals are primarily marketing-driven, or if your aim is to deliver content and establish a broad mobile presence that can be easily shared between users and found on search engines, then the a mobile website is the logical choice. On the other hand, if your goal is interactive engagement with users, or to provide an application that needs to work more like a computer program than a website, then an app is probably going to be required.

  12. Matt on October 17, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    Respect Scott. Short and sweet pros&cons regarding the both approaches – mobile app and mobile website. I would add to it my checklist to help a user choose what to build first – mobile app or web app? https://brainhub.eu/blog/2016/03/04/app-vs-website-which-to-develop-first/

  13. Robert Smith on December 29, 2016 at 1:53 am

    When it comes to deciding whether to build a native app or a mobile website, the most appropriate choice really depends on your end goals. If you are developing an interactive game an app is probably going to be your best option. But if your goal is to offer mobile-friendly content to the widest possible audience then a mobile website is probably the way to go. In some cases you may decide you need both a mobile website and a mobile app, but it’s pretty safe to say that it rarely makes sense to build an app without already having a mobile website in place.

  14. Troy Blackburn on January 9, 2017 at 7:33 am

    That’s interesting what you mention about how a mobile app can get my audience to my content faster, while also keeping them engaged better. What is it about mobile apps that keeps the audience more engaged? This information will be really useful for me if I ever have to choose between a mobile website or mobile app. Thanks!

  15. MikeJobes on April 18, 2017 at 11:51 pm

    I don’t think mobile apps are better than website if you have local business. I don’t like the idea of businesses closing websites to start an app. It’s a lose

  16. Robert Smith on April 19, 2017 at 6:22 am

    I believe this demonstrates that consumers indeed want the simplicity and focus that apps provide , rather than the variety and diffusion inherent in websites.

    Thanks for sharing this post.

  17. Join The Dots on April 27, 2017 at 10:09 pm

    Hey Scott, You have Nicely covered the pros and cons for both. Nowadays users are spending more time on apps rather than a mobile website.
    Nice Work by the way 🙂

  18. Simon Lee on July 11, 2017 at 8:46 am

    A very interest blog post – Mobile marketing is here to stay and is only growing. The most appropriate choice really depends on your end goals as well as your target audience. A mobile website should come first in most cases, with the app complimenting or being an addition to the website. Apps help you build a user experience and encourages engagement. Remember that a mobile/responsive website and a native app are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

  19. Tiit Solutions on July 26, 2017 at 2:12 am

    such a nice article you post and tell the differences between mobile app and mobile website, and i get a lots of information with your article. such a nice post, thanks for sharing!

  20. James grills on November 17, 2017 at 4:52 am

    Hi its a nice article,

    I just wanted to share my opinion on the same topic.

    I prefer mobile apps instead of websites because website will be closed once the user closes the browser, But mobile app will always run in background it will collect data and even send the notifications also, User like to open notifications from apps instead of browser notifications, Even mobile app is faster than websites, Using a mobile app you can save data in user mobile so that he can use offline also but website needs internet always, Even Mobile app can work on slow data connections also. So there are so many benefits of mobile apps.

    Recently I have written one article on the same topic App vs Website for wn.com you can check it here: https://article.wn.com/view/WNAT350187f34d3d1d4fec4a16003d52f94e/

  21. Amna @ Android Games on April 17, 2018 at 10:59 pm

    Couldn’t agree more app and website both are need for businesses

  22. Avast Error on November 25, 2018 at 2:19 am

    Nice post. i agree with you. Every business owners hire mobile app developer just to cater its global and large number of users. According to latest analytics mobile devices increases the smart-phone market-share by 85%. Thanks for sharing this post.

  23. Amit Agrawal on December 4, 2018 at 4:46 am

    I think both have equal demands. Consequently, businesses have realized the need to effectively use mobile channels for attracting customers.Today, people can browse internet & get any information required anywhere & anytime with the easy access to connectivity.Having custom web development services or app development for your business both are quite necessary to your business.

  24. Matt on December 7, 2018 at 9:40 am

    Ok,
    so I rarely use apps on my phone/tablet. Push notifications are annoying other than for email.I only have a handful of websites that I go to on a daily basis, and a lot that are just occasional. I’m not installing an app for a news site I visit a couple times a month when I find a link to it from a search engine. I’m not signing up for all those newsletters and offers that clutter up email when I have far too much other stuff going on.

    As for mobile site design…enough with the autoplay videos. I’m on metered data and I can read an article in a 1/4 of the time the video has a talking head read it verbatim.
    I don’t expect a fancy site on mobile, I just want to read an article on something that happened, or information on how to do something and if I need pictures or video, I can click to get them.

    And this website…I have a javascript blocker. With javascript blocked, its just a blank page. How hard is it to just have the text displayed with javascript off?

  25. Digitalogy LLC on February 9, 2019 at 3:51 am

    Thanks for sharing such an amazing article. In my opinion, both are good. Both things have cons and pros. It always depends on your work. Apart from this Mobile app development companies are improving them day by day to make useful apps to users.

  26. Ankita Shrimali on February 18, 2019 at 5:35 am

    Thanks for sharing an interesting content.
    In my point of view mobile app better than a mobile website because a mobile app can be designed with a lot of elaborate functions, based on advanced gestures like ‘tap’, ‘swipe’, ‘drag’, ‘pinch’, ‘hold’ and more. Apps can use these gestures to offer innovative functionality that can help users perform a tasks better and can enjoy a personalized user experience.

  27. Siya Carla on March 7, 2019 at 4:19 am

    The comparison is really hard and it is even harder to predict the winner. It is just the nature of the business that helps decide for the kind of investment that you must make in order to take your business to the next level.

  28. shibi on March 31, 2019 at 11:22 pm

    Nice article. Great stuff.

    Thanks for sharing

  29. [email protected] on April 10, 2019 at 4:23 am

    The comparison is not fair because the mobile app has its own space and the mobile-friendly website has its other platform which we can say search engine friendly. so I personally think both are Important

  30. [email protected] on May 26, 2019 at 12:41 am

    Don’t you think mobile app and website are two different things entirely? I think every business today need a website and a mobile app you need both no matter what!

  31. Jai Bhatt on June 4, 2019 at 8:41 pm

    I personally feel that the two are very perfect at the place they are. Although if you prefer to be regularly updated you should go for apps as they keep working behind even if you chose them and send push notifications.

  32. Jyotirmay Samanta on July 19, 2019 at 4:17 am

    Who needs mobile app? Companies with a loyal customer base. Businesses that intend to access user’s device capabilities, like GPS, click-to-call, cameras, or scanners. Businesses running a dynamic content-based interactive forum or an Interactive game based app company. But, not everybody needs a mobile app. For small businesses or businesses that are just starting out, where the aim is to deliver superior content and establish a broader market presence without much user interaction, developing a responsive mobile website will be much economical, quicker and convenient than a full-blown mobile app.

Leave a Comment





Scott Bolinger