During the past couple of years, the growing popularity of smartphones and tablets has pushed businesses across the globe to consider building a mobile version of their website. As the number of devices and screen sizes have multiplied, business leaders are wondering whether it is best to build a mobile website, mobile app or to build a responsive website.
As a business leader or manager, the choice that you make will have a strong impact on the performance of your business. But, no matter which option you choose, the least you need is a website that is accessible through mobiles. There are certain situations where it makes more sense to get a separate mobile website, while responsive web design can take care of all your needs in most cases.
What do all these terms really mean?
Let’s take a closer look at mobile website, mobile app development and responsive web development to determine which the right choice for your business is.
- Mobile Application: A mobile app can be native or cross-platform. As a business, you need to reach out all the people. So, you will either need to develop separate apps for Apple, Android and Windows Phone and (maybe) RIM devices. A mobile app gets downloaded on the smartphone and the user can use it in online and offline mode. It cannot be accessed directly through the web.
- Mobile Website: A mobile website, or a mobilized website, is a website built specially for mobile devices. A mobile website is a separate website – it may have some code and content that matches with your main website, but it will be designed and conceptualized according to the needs of mobile users. When a mobile user types in your URL, he will be redirected to mobile website automatically.
- Responsive Web Design: The code of a responsively designed website senses the type of device it is being viewed on and it displays the information according the size of the browser on which it is being viewed. It responds to the width of the browser to provide an optimum experience to people viewing the website on Pcs, tablets, smartphones or any other devices.
Now that we have a basic idea of what the three terms mean, let us see how mobile websites, responsive websites and mobile apps compare in terms the most important factors related to mobility and mobile experience.
Access speed plays an important role in attracting visitors to your site. A mobile website are accesses through browsers, so it the user just requires internet connection to access the web site. Responsive websites are also accessed in the same way. A mobile application, on the other hand, can be accessed only through app stores. The user need to download it first. Once downloaded it can be accessed very quickly in both online and offline modes.
Device Integration Features
Mobile applications provide interactive user interface as well as device-specific functions like location services, camera, etc. These cannot be accessed by a mobile website or responsive website. If you need to use any specific device feature to interact with the users, mobile apps are the best choice.
App Store Approval
For an app, you need to request permission and go through an approval process with Android, Apple and other app stores. The approval process takes some time to proceed further. For a mobile website or a responsive site, there is no approval process – you just build a website and the people who visit your web site can visit it from their smartphones.
Design & Development Cost
Since a mobile site is essentially a different front end for a website, the development is generally more time-efficient and less expensive than mobile app. Developing a responsive website can cost a little more than a mobile website, but it has the added advantage of working consistently not only on mobiles but also on tablets. Mobile app development costs depend on the mobile platforms and devices you are targeting, and on what features you want to include.
Offline or Online Access
If your business has customers who may not always have access to the internet, a mobile app may be a good solution. If you want your business to be found through a mobile search query, a mobile or responsive website is the way to go. Google has seen 400% increase in the number of mobile searches within a year – if most of your customers come through search queries, you have to have a mobile website or a responsive website.
To choose the right option, you need to be aware of your target audience as well as the platform they select to download apps. An app works best when you already have a defined audience comprising visitors who would definitely download your mobile app. If you get a large number of unique visitors on a daily basis, then mobile website is preferable.
Mobile apps are still the best in terms of monetized features and existing selling mechanism. For websites, there is no such well-tuned commercialization mechanism, you need to invent your own ways to make money. For ecommerce businesses that get a lot of visits from mobile, an app as well as mobile-friendly websites are essential.
Maintenance & Updates
Every app and website needs maintenance. If you develop a native mobile application, you will have to update each version in the appropriate store and inform users about the update. Mobile website and responsive websites are relatively easier to update. However, if you build a cross-platform app, simple updates are as easy to implement as they are for mobile websites.
What is the right choice for my business?
Passing your requirements through the sieve of the above considerations will help you find what the right choice is for you. Today many business quickly jump into mobile market without thinking much about their current website and the needs of the business. That is the reason that they may not get advantage of mobile marketing.
Mobile applications typically have a special purpose or some sort of user interaction in mind; if that is the requirement of your company, then a mobile app might be the way to go. On the other hand, if you want your current website to display well on all devices, then the responsive approach might be the best fit.
If you need to give a personalized look to your site, if you have a very complex UI, if your focus is on monetization, and if you need to leverage special features of mobile devices, build an app. But, if you want your business to be universally accessible, need to make updates frequently, and SEO is important for your business, a mobile website or responsive web design is the right option.