Mobile Business: Comparing Mobile Sites and Native Apps

StockSnap_B5JWCLRCLAMobile sites are simple. Mobile apps are trendy. How can you get the most out of your mobile marketing?

It’s hard to overstate the importance of a mobile presence in 2017.

Businesses are constantly searching for new ways to optimize mobile experiences for their users, given how quickly mobile use is overtaking traditional browsing. A few years ago, this meant ensuring your website was tailored for your mobile users, but these days, a basic mobile site might not be enough.

When creating a powerful mobile experience, businesses are at a crossroads between choosing a mobile site and going the extra mile with a dedicated mobile app. Both options feature unique benefits for your users. As always, one choice isn’t necessarily better than the other—it all depends on what your business needs and what your business has.

Let’s review the pros and cons of each option.

Mobile Websites

We all know about mobile sites. If your business doesn’t yet have one, you’re way behind the curve.

Mobile sites are web pages optimized for viewing on smart phones and tablets. These pages are generally built with responsive features that let the page automatically adapt to various screen sizes—a must-have for an effortless mobile browsing experience.

Why You Want It

Responsive mobile websites are essential in a world where over half of all searches occur on mobile devices. As the mobile push has been underway for several years now, creating dedicated mobile sites is easier and more affordable than ever before. These are the two biggest advantages of mobile sites:

  • Ease – Mobile sites are common, and you shouldn’t have any trouble finding qualified developers who can handle the task. Plus, launching a mobile site is a fast. Emerging businesses can get a quick start when building their online presence.
  • Cost – Adapting a website for mobile, or even building an entirely new mobile site, is relatively inexpensive. Cash-strapped businesses can build a mobile presence on a budget.

Why You May Want to Pass

Now, fully responsive web design may be a necessity for online business but when compared against native mobile apps, it tends to fall short. Even sites with great mobile design can be difficult to see on small screens, and resource-intensive pages can take a long time to load.

Mobile design is a response to the high popularity of mobile browsing—as such, it’s an example of function following form. Not ideal for the user experience.

Mobile App Development

Mobile applications, on the other hand, are a perfect example of form following function.

Mobile apps are built from the ground up to perform on mobile devices. As the code is uniquely designed for the mobile viewer, native apps offer a user experience that web pages can’t usually match. And the industry is on the rise: Mobile app revenues in the U.S. are projected to reach nearly 189 billion by 2020.

Why You Want It

There’s plenty to love about native mobile apps.

  • Speed: Mobile apps are optimized to perform quickly and don’t feature any unnecessary page elements that slow it down. Efficiency is the name of the game—apps exemplify the best mobile design available to business owners these days.
  • Function: Just as native app customization allows for faster performance than mobile pages, functionality is increased as well. Native apps can integrate with other tools, programs, and settings within a mobile device to offer advanced features and streamlined user experiences. Also, native apps don’t require internet connections to work, unlike mobile web pages.

In addition to speed and functionality, mobile apps give businesses unique ways to reach users. Apps are a great way to build brand recognition, they can easily integrate with advertisers, and they greatly improve brand visibility when housed on a mobile device’s home page.

Why You May Want to Pass

Applications are great, but there are some caveats to their use:

  • Expense: Mobile applications are a newer technology than mobile sites and are generally more costly to create.
  • Complexity: From a user-experience standpoint, mobile apps are ideal. From a design standpoint, they can be challenging. Mobile app development is complex and usually requires extensive testing before being ready for launch.
  • Lack of Need: Some industries (like social media or ecommerce) can benefit from mobile apps, but this isn’t the case for every enterprise. It’s not worth paying for a mobile app just to have one. Apps are specific tools that can enhance brand visibility and sales, but if you can’t think of how an app will specifically improve your business, you might want to pass.

Mobile Sites vs. Mobile Apps

At the end of the day, the choice between mobile web design and mobile apps is one of preference.

Some businesses have both. Some businesses choose to forgo the app and stick with a mobile site. Some have neither. (Not recommended!)

Take a look at your business model and see if a mobile app would be a useful addition to your digital presence. They can be expensive and complex to develop, but as many social media networks and online retailers have found, native apps can be a powerful addition to your marketing arsenal.

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