In today’s world of Internet obsession and mobile app mania, every single business should have a mobile-friendly version of their website. People are more likely to make purchases on mobile devices, and can access websites and business information in more locations with a mobile device than with a desktop computer. However, while the importance of a mobile site is known amongst many, navigating the options for going mobile can be a bit tricky. While there are a lot of factors you’ll want to weigh, the first thing you should decide is whether or not your business needs a mobile website vs. a mobile app. To help you make the decision, read on for these key considerations:
What’s the difference between a mobile website and a mobile app?
The first thing that you’ve probably figured out about both an app and a mobile website is that both are designed to be used on hand-held mobile devices, like phones and tablets. However, the key difference between the two is that while a mobile website functions almost identically to that of a regular desktop website, a mobile app is an application that’s downloaded to the phone or tablet, and can sometimes even be accessed without an internet connection.
So, to put it simply, think of a mobile website as a smaller, hand-held version of the real thing; think of an app as a secondary tool that can be used in place of a website. Both have benefits and disadvantages, which will be touched upon shortly.
Think About Your Audience
A big thing that you’re going to want to consider when deciding whether or not your businesses should employ a mobile app vs. mobile website is who you’re targeting to. If you’re focused on teenagers and young adults, you might want to go with the app. On the other hand, if your business’s primary audience is retirees, you’re probably okay sticking with the mobile website—one more thing for them to download might not be what they’re looking for.
In addition to considering the basic age factor of your audience, you should also think about your audiences’ needs and habits. Is your business something people are engaging with on a daily basis? If so, an app might be appropriate. Or, do you provide a service that people only engage in once in a while—like an auto repair shop or furniture sales? If the latter is true, then an app probably isn’t necessary for your customer.
Before making your decision, try to define your audience and how frequently they engage with your business. The more often it is, the more realistic the need for an app may be.
Consider Your Budget
A huge deciding factor regarding whether or not you should move to a mobile app or stick to a mobile website is your budget. This can be especially true if you’re a small business where every cost really matters. The cost of developing a mobile app—especially one that’s worth the investment in terms of time and money—can be expensive. As such, if you’re operating on a limited financial plan, sticking with a mobile website might be most advantageous to your needs.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Mobile Websites vs. Mobile Apps
After you’ve thought about the basics—your audience and your budget—now’s the time to compare the real advantages and advantages of a mobile website vs. a mobile app.
Instant Access: One thing that should matter to you as a business is how quickly a person can gain access to information about your business. A mobile website offers that information instantaneously, while an app requires an additional download first. As such, by asking people to download your app, you’re probably only appealing to long-term customers, not first-timers.
User Experience: Unlike most websites, apps are designed specifically for the user experience, and can often be a great way to activate or engage the user. The majority of apps ask the user to do something, i.e., input ingredients to find a recipe, compare and contrast a favorite shoe, play a game, etc. As far as user experience goes, the app certainly trumps the mobile website.
Consistency: If your company is trying to reach users that are going to be using your business regularly (at least once a week), then an app makes sense. For example, people who want to keep a food journal, a schedule of appointments, or an exercise log would greatly benefit from an app, which can be personalized to meet their needs.
Reach and Compatibility: Unfortunately, not all apps can be downloaded to different devices—some apps will only work with Apple products, some with Android, some with Microsoft, etc. A mobile site, on the other hand, will work for all types of tablets or phones, as long as there’s the Internet!
While all of the above are important things to consider, you should think about what your business uses. Expedia, for example, has a great app. While the app has to be downloaded, doesn’t feature any options for personalization, and isn’t meant to be used daily (it’s for traveling, after all), it’s still a great app, and one that’s used by thousands. However, Expedia is by no means a small business and has the means and resources to spend on the development that an app requires.
What the Stats Say
When it comes to what the users are saying about mobile apps vs. mobile websites, the stats are pretty consistent. According to data from a variety of different sites, app usage has started to outnumber mobile website usage. In a study conducted by Flurry, it was revealed that people using mobile devices spend 86 percent of their time on apps, compared to a mere 14 percent on mobile websites. In another analysis, Business Insider published that monthly usage of apps is more than quadruple that of mobile websites’ usage amongst both men and women.
The takeaway: mobile apps are great, and a lot of people use them. But, mobile websites are also extremely useful, and can often reach a larger audience. A mobile website is a must-have; if you have the time and the budget to invest in a mobile app too, and if it makes sense for your company’s needs and audience, then go ahead and do so.