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Does Your Business Need a Mobile Site, Mobile App or Something Inbetween?

Livie Claydon 03.03.2021
Does Your Business Need a Mobile Site, Mobile App or Something Inbetween?

Did you know that the number of mobile users is actually greater than the number of desktop users! You probably did know this as it’s no big secret in the tech industry that mobile use over the past decade has skyrocketed.

Businesses’ have finally realised the need and desire to effectively use mobile channels to attract and retain their customers. It isn’t just about having your website looking passable on a mobile device anymore, you now need to optimise mobile apps and websites fully to improve your customer's experience to help increase your conversions. 

When it comes to large corporations and big businesses, they can afford to employ both a mobile website and app, however, for most companies it’s more likely a case of choosing between one or the other. The main deciding factors between which route you down will likely depend on budget, usability, required features, and also the type of audience you serve. 

Previous studies have shown us that users tend to lean more towards mobile apps rather than mobile websites which makes strong reasoning to create a mobile app for your business. However, in this article we will be talking you through Responsive websites, Mobile sites, PWA’s, and Mobile Apps, defining the differences between them, as well as pros and cons to each.

Hopefully, by the end of this, you will work out if you need one for your business and which approach to opt for. 

Responsive Website

A responsive website is a single website that displays itself differently depending on what type of device it's being used to view on. Website visitors tend to expect it these days so it’s way more important than just being "something to think about further down the line" if you're currently in a website design phase.

Building a responsive website is a great option for small businesses with a small budget. It means only one website needs to be built and as long as it's optimised correctly for mobile users it can do wonders for your customers. 

Pros

  • SEO Bonus - Having one URL will aid in your SEO efforts. No matter what device your user is viewing your website it's coming from the same address meaning your collecting all the page traffic no matter what device. 
  • Saving Costs - With this approach, you will be saving costs due to the fact you only need to design and develop one website and one code.

 

Cons 

  • Less Flexibility - Opting for a responsive website design will do the job but it won't do it to the very best standards purely down to the fact there is just far less flexibility of what you can achieve. 
  • Require's An Internet Connection - Because you are still using the same URL for your mobile site as your desktop website users will only be able to view it while being connected to the internet. It’s often down to this factor that people tend to opt for separate applications. 

 

Mobile Website 

A typical mobile ‘version’ or mobile site tends to be slightly less common these days and aren't the most popular choices.

There is a big giveaway if you’re currently viewing a mobile site and that being if there's an ‘m’ at the start of the URL in the browser. Another key indicator is that the site will tend to feel and function slightly differently from what you’re used to using on the desktop version. Mobile websites tend to be designed to give people fewer options to choose from and fewer data to download. The main action the user will need to take is going to be more more prominent on the screen and appear as an obvious choice.

Pros

  • Ability To Run Faster Than Responsive: Having a separate mobile website means it can be fully optimised and in a much more ruthless way than a standard website can be. As a result, they will tend to be much lighter, faster, and just act more efficiently. 
  • Improved User Experience: A mobile site will of course improve the overall experience for a user of a mobile device compared to a responsive website being viewed on a mobile, text can be changed to view bigger, images will not look out of place and CTA’s will be placed in easier to reach places.

 

Cons 

  • Dual Maintenance: Mobile sites will generally require a similar amount of maintenance as their desktop version to keep running. This includes development time and resources, but also content refreshes as well as updates to design and brand changes. 
  • Outdated content: Content is worth a particular mention for mobile sites. Any website that regularly updates its content will therefore need to update two sets. It’s going to be hard to keep both sites synchronised without a robust back-end system and it’s all too easy for the mobile site to take a back seat and start to slide towards becoming outdated.  

 

Native App

A stand-alone app or application is a packaged up bundle of files, installed and ran from your mobile device. While there are some incredible statistics about the amount of time people spend browsing the internet via apps, it’s important to understand and work out whether your type of business will actually see a return on investment from an app over a mobile optimised website. 

Some apps will offer very similar content to match their websites, however, an app shouldn’t be just your whole desktop version of your site wrapped up in app form. Apps should offer a way for your users to do things more efficiently, easier to use or even integrate with other features of their phone such as the camera, GPS, or ability to talk to other popular applications the user might already have installed. 

Native apps can be a great power tool if you're the type of business where you want to encourage daily, regular usage, or customer loyalty. The best way to think about the prospects of a mobile app for your business is that are you able to offer your customers a better service or a different experience that will benefit them more? 

Pros 

  • Continuous Availability: It’s crucial these days to make your business available to your old customers and new clients. An app is a perfect way to keep in contact with your customers, let them know about exciting updates through the likes of notifications rather than pushing out email campaigns to land in more than likely overflowing inboxes of your customers. 
  • Sets You Aside From Your Competition: Take a look at your direct competitors, if they're running on mobile websites or even a responsive site, launching an app could be what helps you nudge in front of the rest. Having a dedicated app on the app store will subtly provide your customers with that extra layer of trust, especially if there are some added 5 start reviews next to that ‘download’ button.  

 

Cons 

  • Lengthy Downloading Process: Native apps are only able to be used once users have successfully downloaded them from their preferred App Store. This involves a lot more steps than just typing in your business name in the search engine. Having to find the app in the store, accepting terms and conditions and waiting for it to actually download. Many people don't have the patience for it. It's been reported that at each step of the downloading process about 20% of users are lost. 
  • Expensive and Time Consuming development: Programming used in native apps is fairly complex and developers who code in this specific language are scarce. Native app development requires more labour which add to the time and cost of development. Also every platform such as IOS and Android needs a separate sets of code. To put it into perspective it generally takes about 18 weeks to develop just 1 good quality native app, yet this time will increase based on added complexities. 

 

Progressive WebApp 

Progressive Web Apps is when a website looks, feels, and acts just like an app and can be installed onto a tablet or phone device without the means of physically having to download anything from their app-store. 

Whilst a Web App can be installed, it’s only partially saved to the device and only its core data is kept. Think of it purely as a hybrid of both a fully native application and responsive website. 

Progressive WebApps also allow some offline use, this is great for users as it allows them to view data, update records or submit information while offline and any of these changes would be published once connectivity is resumed. 

Pros 

  • App-like Behaviours: Progressive WebApps are similar in functionality and appearance to a native mobile application, which makes them very user friendly, and app-style navigation and interactions often mean users won't necessarily notice a difference when it comes down to the overall look and feel.
  • Faster Performance: As a hybrid, PWA’s will boost up and work a lot faster than your typical mobile website, even with a poor internet connection. When it comes to loading times especially on a mobile device if they have to wait more than 10 seconds they just won't stick around and will go and find another alternative. 

 

Cons 

  • IOS Compatibility: PWA’s have only been possible on apple devices since IOS 11.3 so to put it simply anything before that, you might as well forget about. Apple also does not allow PWA’s to access many of its important and most used features either such as Touch ID, Face ID, Bluetooth, altimeter sensor, or even battery information. While this isn't a complete deal-breaker it’s worth knowing about.  
  • PWA’s Can't Do Everything: While PWAs seem like the no-brainer option as you technically get the best of both worlds, they can't do everything mobile apps are capable of. Their overall performance is not as good, as like we mentioned there are some crucial device features still missing which may not make this a suitable solution.

Conclusion 

So there you have it, 4 separate approaches when it comes to how you wish to connect with your customers through the likes of mobile. When it comes to which is best for your business it's purely down to your business model, clientele, and how much time and investment you want to put behind the project. 

Whether you’re looking for a responsive website design, a completely separate app, a clever CMS, or pretty much anything in between we can build it and would love to hear your ideas, just get in touch with us and we can build your tech dreams into a reality. 



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