What’s the Difference Between a Mobile Website and an Mobile App (Application)?
Before you can evaluate the benefits of a mobile website vs. an app it’s important to understand the key differences between the two. Both apps and mobile websites are accessed on handheld devices such as smartphones (e.g. iPhone, Android, and Blackberry) and tablets.
A mobile website is similar to any other website in that it consists of browser-based HTML pages that are linked together and accessed over the Internet (for mobile typically WiFi or 3G or 4G networks). The obvious characteristic that distinguishes a mobile website from a standard website is the fact that it is designed for the smaller handheld display and touch-screen interface. Increasingly, responsive web design is becoming the new standard for websites that are not only mobile-friendly, but that can scale to any sized device – from desktop down to tablet and handheld smartphones.
Like any website, mobile websites/responsive sites can display text content, data, images and video. They can also access mobile-specific features such as click-to-call (to dial a phone number) or location-based mapping.
Apps are actual applications that are downloaded and installed on your mobile device, rather than being rendered within a browser. Users visit device-specific portals such as Apple’s App Store, Android Market, or Blackberry App World in order to find and download apps for a given operating system. The app may pull content and data from the Internet, in a similar fashion to a website, or it may download the content so that it can be accessed without an Internet connection.
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.
- 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 home screen.
- 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.
There are two kinds of apps:
A Progressive Web App (PWA) is like a mobile-friendly version of a website. You can open it through your web browser on desktops, Smartphones and Tablet devices. They are designed to give you most of the features you get from native apps, such as e-commerce, user logins, article posting etc….
Speaking of Native Apps, these are the ones most people want. You can download them on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. A native app will also allow you to send those handy little push messages that hardly anybody knows how to deactivate.
A PWA app is around $10-20 per month, creating a native app is not gonna be wallet friendly. Most providers will require you to fork out around $40-60 per month to have it listed in the Android ecosystems, and it is often twice that for the Apple Store.
If your goal is to provide a user experience that feels more like a gaming interface or a computer program than a website, or if you need access to a user’s phone storage and native functions, then an app is probably going to be required.
It’s also important to remember that a mobile/responsive website and a native app are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Plenty of organizations have both a mobile-friendly public website for their general web presence, as well as a downloadable native app to accommodate more specific requirements. In the end, it’s all about choosing the right tool for the job.
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