Reviewing Mobile Apps In Comparison With Mobile Websites

March 24, 2022 • 389 Views • 18 min read

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Bohdan Vasylkiv

CEO & Co-Founder

The mobile market has already played an important role in our society. But it won't stop increasing its potential and influence, and smartphones availability is a great reason why. As an example, how often do you meet people, who still have no smartphone or don't use it during the day to kill some time surfing the web, or perform some routine tasks such as paying the bills, ordering food, clothes, or something like that? Almost everything could be done using a mobile device, starting with entertainment and communication, ending with healthcare or education. So it is obvious, that combination of the mobile market and online processes as well as access on the go is in great demand. Today we will talk about how to choose the best way to adapt the online product to smartphones and we’ll try to define the winner of the battle: mobile apps vs mobile websites.

Mobile Apps vs Mobile Websites. What is the Difference?

There are a few ways of adapting online-oriented products to smartphones, giving them an “access on the go” opportunity. Each of which has its advantages and drawbacks. So, it is very important to understand the difference between these ways to choose the most effective one specifically for your purposes and the resources available. At first, let's define two main opposites: mobile apps vs mobile websites.

Mobile Websites are usual websites, which you can find surfing the web in any possible web browser. The main difference between a mobile website and the regular one is that the mobile version is adapted for smartphones. It means, that it would be easier to use it on a small screen by tapping or scrolling. The main instrument of such optimization is a well-orchestrated UI/UX design. So, to improve the user experience, designers decrease the number of clickable links and other options. Also, they make it possible for the website to adjust to the screen resolution of a smartphone. Usually, the mobile version is being plugged into the website architecture, so it automatically activates when the user opens the website in a mobile browser. It is a great feature because no other actions such as downloading must be done to get the final result. It gives a great short-usage experience, simplifying all the procedures and providing all the needed functions. Moreover, the mobile usage process is as usual as a desktop version for a laptop which impacts the audience reach. The app SEO optimization for the mobile website works the same as for the regular one.

Mobile apps, on the other hand, are applications designed and created specifically for smartphones. They are code-based and usually adjusted for specific mobile platforms to work on concrete mobile devices. What is important to understand is that there are different software architectures used on devices, at the moment the most common mobile software platforms are Android and iOS. There are more operating systems such as Windows or BlackBerry OS, but we won't consider them. A comparison between Android and iOS is needed only to explain the main problems and difficulties for mobile apps development. After this slight explanation of mobile apps vs mobile websites differences, it would be great to consider both options more precisely to choose which one is better for specific purposes and why.

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Mobile Apps Overview

As we already know, the main difference comparing mobile apps vs mobile websites is that applications must be downloaded to the device. The major issue is the variety of mobile OSs, which have different architectures, so it is almost impossible to develop one application to work on several platforms without changes. There are a few ways to deal with it:

  • Native application. Such apps are created for a specific platform or device. On one hand, such apps may be the most effective ones, because they are system-oriented, so they include all the possible opportunities and limitations, as well as all mobile device capabilities. On the other, such approach requires a lot of resources such as time and money, as well as specific development teams. Moreover, the variety of existing mobile platforms, which is changing all the time, the audience reach may be unstable and it can never be compared to the audience reach of a mobile website. Native applications offer a complete list of possible features to use and implement for each device (NFC, TochID, etc).
  • The hybrid one. This is not exactly a full-fledged separate application. It is a combination of a mobile website and mobile app, so it is a web-operated app, which could be installed for various platforms with just slight changes. As a great bonus, it is easier to develop and monitor, so it is cheaper, moreover, it is faster to create. The main disadvantages are limited functionality, compared to native apps, as well as possible variety of the appearance from platform to platform, and the need to test and check the app on different platforms equally to ensure the proper work of an app.
  • PWA. Progressive Web Application is a modified mobile website, which provides mobile application features: it can also be downloaded to the device, could work on any platform, and is faster compared to the usual website, moreover it is more secured and stable. PWA is covering most of the inconvenient aspects of mobile websites and is much easier and cheaper to develop than native or hybrid applications. Also, the app SEO optimization works the same as for the usual websites. Nowadays, progressive web apps are not as widely presented as other apps or websites, but they have all the opportunities to grow and develop in the future.

You may also wonder which tech stack can be used for mobile development and how to choose the best one.

Pros of Mobile Apps

Summarizing the advantages and drawbacks of mobile apps in general, we can highlight the main ones. Among their main features are: customization, great convenience, and faster response, as well as the possibility to work offline and to use mobile device capabilities, which increases the effectiveness of an app and allows adding in-app add-ons like using NFC or camera, accelerometer, push notifications, reminders, etc. It improves user experience and engagement as well as provides high application performance. Moreover, most mobile applications have offline access, so can be used without an internet connection. As a result, all of it increases the audience reach by improving the access on the go opportunities and creating comfortable conditions for smartphone users.

Cons of Mobile Apps

Nonetheless, there are some drawbacks too. For example, most applications must be approved by a special commission before being able to download (it does not apply to PWA). Usually, it is AppStore for iOS or Play Market for Android. Every platform has its application distribution systems and terms for apps, which must be fulfilled. Moreover, the app SEO optimization for mobile apps works slightly differently than usual. The app distributing system analyzes the app page, it cannot monitor its content such as articles or their titles. It estimates the application name, its description, uninstall rate along with download statistics. App SEO optimization also includes rating and review statistics.

Using mobile device capabilities can also bring some challenges. There are a lot of different factors such as the platform version compatibility or the amount of memory to use. The application can cause troubles with memory usage (for example, a lot of cache files in different messengers) and may require to be monitored and updated for different platform versions.

Coverage of the Disadvantages

Also, there are differences between the mobile OSs, which must be included too. In addition, every application or program must be monitored and updated all the time to add new features or fix the bugs. It means that the development is not the only process to be done, there must be a team to keep the app working and to update it.

Unlike the mobile app, the mobile website does not face such difficulties as additional moderation, multiple platforms, or specific SEO optimization. Its developers are less limited with different restrictions and have all the control over the website. Mobile website creation requires another approach due to its differences compared to the mobile app.

Mobile Websites

In short, the mobile website is a mobile version of a desktop website. Its main purpose is to create a user-friendly experience for smartphone users by adapting the “full” version for different devices. It includes not only smartphones availability, but also tablets, smart TV, game consoles, or any other device, which could be used to visit this site. There are two ways to make it possible.

  • The responsive website design - it is when the site adapts to the device, its screen resolution. The main problem with such a method is that it is almost impossible to implement it on the existing website. Moreover, it may be inconvenient to use such a method because the only change is the adjusting resolution for the device, but not the functional, which limits the options of usage. Also, it affects the response rate, as a result, the application performance suffers. In addition, there is no offline access, so an internet connection is required as well.
  • The mobile website - a lite version of the desktop one. In this case, developers create a new website that is mobile-oriented with all the possible features, so when the user visits the original website he is automatically redirected to the mobile one. Usually, such sites have the “m.” prefix in the address bar.

Mobile Website’s Benefits and Drawbacks

There are a lot of pros to mobile websites. First of all, a lot of companies have their web pages, which simplifies the process of creation of mobile version, because the basis is already done. Moreover, it is rather advantageous to have a mobile version of the existing web page. They are also cheaper to develop and easier to monitor, the only problem is that in this case there are two different sites to monitor: the original and the mobile one. Also, mobile websites are multiplatform, which means no matter what OS the visitor uses, it will always work the same, and the process of development is easier because it is created once on a single platform (for example, HTML5). As well as mobile apps, mobile websites are increasing audience reach.

On the other hand, there are some problems with the access on the go opportunity, because such websites don't have offline access, so they require an internet connection or could be reached in case of saving the cache, but the interaction with the content will be limited. Also, mobile websites are less customizable and are limited in content compared to standalone applications or desktop versions of the site.

It is hard to decide between mobile apps vs mobile websites. Both ways have a lot of great benefits but also their own drawbacks.

How to Decide: Mobile Apps vs Mobile Websites?

It is not an easy task to tell exactly which approach is better. Both have strengths and weaknesses. Before making your final decision you should understand your available resources and what result you are aiming at. The main aspect to pay attention to is the resources because the biggest difference between both is their price. It is better to choose the website if you are limited in your budget. In this case, to improve the communication and to increase the audience reach you may use social media as a great addition to your website. Moreover, you could use them to redirect subscribers to your site. On the flip side, if your budget allows you to develop and maintain the application it is worth trying. It will not only increase the audience reach but also will give you more opportunities such as offline access and nice bonuses like app SEO optimization, so your app will be advertised for free on distribution platforms such as AppStore or Play Market. The ideal but not required variant is to develop both an app and a mobile website. It will provide both long-term and short-term audience reach as well as cover most of the disadvantages. Besides, such an approach can expand the number of possible devices to use.

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Also, it is important to monitor the application's performance. This helps to understand the strong and weak aspects of your product to improve it in the nearest future. Moreover, application performance monitoring allows to increase the reaction speed and to fix possible problems immediately. Freezes and long response rate decreases user engagement. Furthermore, application performance includes such things as user experience and interaction with the site. This helps to plan the user route through the app and to better understand trends among visitors. As a result, the development team will have all the needed information not only to improve the physical aspects of application performance such as response rate or UI/UX design but also the opportunity to create the content, which is in the demand.

As you see, the application performance monitoring is very important because no matter what exactly you choose: the app or the mobile website, both must be working fast and be user-friendly. Only a well-orchestrated product is doomed to success. Poorly designed or slow products won't make any difference and will fail after all.

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End Line

Smartphones availability combined with the development of the online infrastructure significantly changed all the spheres. It is impossible to imagine the present without mobile devices. They have already successfully replaced most of the common devices and processes which simplified our lives. Nevertheless, mobile device capabilities are improving and increasing every day. The mobile market becomes bigger due to the access on the go possibility as well as the offline access opportunity which makes it more comfortable to use. Also, the significant development of mobile devices and the online market creates multiple ways how to realize your product using both spheres: mobile apps vs mobile websites. Choosing between both is obviously a hard task to do. We cannot make this decision for you, but our team can advise you on how to create the final product according to all your wishes.

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