The Pros and Cons of Mobile Websites vs. Mobile Apps
More people are choosing mobile devices over desktops to consume digital content. Mobile websites help bridge the gap en route to a native mobile app, but many companies are still without a set plan to provide the best experience possible for smartphone and tablet users.
Native mobile apps are a clear leader when both options are put under the microscope and understanding the pros and cons of each technology helps make a decision easier and educates those without a firm background in mobile technology.
Most website visitors expect to easily consume content on smartphones and tablets; mobile websites provide a streamlined version of the desktop website and fulfill basic needs for sharing a brand on mobile. Pages and functionality are typically limited to give visitors the most important information from the desktop experience. Anyone with a smartphone and web browser may access a mobile website and view content.
Native Mobile Apps
Native mobile apps are software applications developed separately from websites and used specifically on smartphones or tablets. Many mobile apps serve as a companion to a company or organization's website. Others provide an entirely different and specific experience: conference engagement, game guides, and a wide range of other content needs may be fulfulled with a native mobile app.
Mobile apps drive the majority of marketing and content sharing on mobile as end users are increasingly expecting entites across every industry to provide engaging experiences on iPhone, iPad, and Android devices.
Mobile Website: Pros
Mobile website development is often a simple process when a desktop version already exists. Responsive websites and plugins for popular content management systems such as Wordpress can quickly make content mobile-friendly.
While native mobile apps must be developed for each unique operating system (e.g. Android or iOS), mobile websites are available to anyone with a phone and web browser. The increased availability ensures people with less-popular phones such as Blackberries recieve the same content and experience as those with iPhones and so forth.
Mobile Website: Cons
Not Available Offline
Mobile websites are only available when a user has connectivity via internet or cell reception. For people traveling internationaly, a lack of data plans and countless hours on airplanes limit content consumption.
No App Store Presence
Mobile apps give companies an additional market to leverage their brand. Individuals around the world browse app stores such as Google Play to find their latest apps for content consumption; companies that have a presence only improve their credibility and reach.
Lack of Features
Perhaps the biggest drawback of mobile websites is the simple fact interactive features and functionality such as push alerts are unavailable. Coupled with a more difficult time branding a mobile website and generating ROI through sponsor dollars, the lack of features places a constraint on brands hoping to engage with its audience. Even when certain features can be replicated, such as PDF viewing or live polling, the experience is much slower and unreliable.
Native Mobile App: Pros
Sending scheduled push alerts and enabling features such as user authentication or live polling are either impossible or realistically untenable on mobile websites. Native mobile apps open the door for a host of engaging features and ways to personalize the user experience for every individual.
Native mobile apps also give audiences a snappy and responsive user interface that incentivizes more time in the app and increased content consumption. While mobile websites often take time to load and provide no more than text with scant images, mobile apps enable users to bookmark favorite content, quickly share pages to social media, and switch between countless sections with a few taps of the touchscreen. Native apps are also optimized for different screen sizes; tablet owners receive a better experience to compliment their added real estate.
Return on Investment
Making the decision to develop a mobile app is a forward thinking investment. The technology includes potential to pay back development costs and even turn into a profit generator. Sponsor strategies, marketing efforts, lead generation, and content sharing are all unique in native mobile apps and give companies new avenues to put eyes on their products or services--as well as partner with others in their industry.
Native Mobile App: Cons
Native mobile apps inevitably cost more money to implement than their mobile website counterparts. The ability to creatively add sponsors and other intuitive features geared towards ROI, however, greatly decrease costs and often turn the mobile app into a revenue generator.
Determining the hiearchy of content within a mobile app and its feature set, as well as uploading content, places an increased workload on whoever is responsible for coordinating the mobile app project. Yet much of this process is streamlined with a competent mobile app development team; dedicated product specialists outline transparent milestones and content management systems or custom data connectors make the content side of things increasinly simple.
The Bottom Line
Companies and organizations covering all their bases realistically need both a native mobile app and mobile website to ensure full coverage of their brand to an increasibly diverse global audience. Native mobile apps, however, provide an enhanced user experience, interactive features, and many more options to enjoy a return on investment. Content consumption on mobile devices is exponentially rising and the majority now occurs on native mobile apps.
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