Mobile users across the world have grown in number and diversity. As per Statista reports, by 2019 the worldwide mobile phone users is likely to exceed five billion marks. With rapid mobile penetration, mobility is the new order for doing businesses, facilitating needs, managing workflows, building relations and satisfying human wants. From an end user’s perspective, it is nearly impossible to image daily life without a cell phone that conveniently dons multiple roles of all its predecessors—TV, PCs, radio and more.
The scalability and capacity to reach a vast variety of users is the biggest advantage of mobile that many businesses and e-Commerce companies are leveraging. Mobile websites and mobile apps have become the standard platforms for taking businesses, products and services to be at the disposal of customers.
Both websites and apps are favoring the growth of consumer market despite its volatility and propensity to change in short cycles.
As of January 2018, there are about 1.8 billion websites in the world and nearly 52.2 percent of all the worldwide website traffic was generated through mobile devices.
Another interesting finding suggests that more than 50 percent of daily mobile usage is spent on mobile apps! In fact, it is not surprising given that there more than 8 million and 2.2 million apps in the Google Play store and the Apple App store, respectively.
Although mobile apps and websites are making life simple, they have driven business into the battleground of competition to stay ahead of the curve in terms of providing cutting-edge features, user-experience and optimizing their existing platforms to be more customer-centric.
The debate on mobile websites vs apps or choosing both has kept many CMOs, CEOs, and CIOs awake at night. That is primarily for two reasons—websites have existed longer than apps and can be accessed through any digital device and mobile apps carry the convenience of pulling in the data from the internet and syncing the content on the device to be accessed without internet.
Both websites and apps have characteristics that serve as merits in different scenarios. For example, mobile websites can be accessed via a browser across any handheld device which serves as an advantage if the goal of the business is boosting their mobile outreach. Mobile apps are more beneficial from end-users’ standpoint because of its personalization and offline accessibility.
To help businesses decide impartially and make the right move from a financial, technical and marketing viewpoint, listed below are some benefits and traits of mobile websites and apps:
Mobile websites are browser-based HTML pages that can be accessed through the mobile internet on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. The design of these websites is mobile optimized meaning, they are designed to fit into the mobile screens and carry easy-to-click or touchscreen options in the user interface.
Mobile websites carry certain advantages like:
- Device Compatibility: A visitor can access the site using Android, Blackberry and iOS devices, tablets and even smartwatches.
- Easy Accessibility: Mobile websites can be browsed through a browser on any device and even the website users can be directed to mobile websites via handheld devices, thereby allowing easy accessibility. Moreover, mobile websites are free and do not charge users anything for viewing or using it. Unlike apps, it needs no download and can be directly visited on a mobile browser.
- Easy Shareability: Mobile website visitors can share the link through messenger apps, on social media, emails, and SMS. Website publishers can also allow visitors or traffic to the mobile website by clicking on the links.
- Larger Reach: Mobile website can be accessed on a broad range of mobile devices and searched on many search engine platforms, thereby increasing its scale of reach.
- Easy to Upgrade Content and Site: Mobile websites need to be updated regularly with new content, changes in the layout and templates, make it SEO friendly and add new features and call of action buttons to the user interface. Mobile website developers can tweak and publish all the changes as and when needed.
- Requires Ongoing Maintenance and Support: It is easy to build a mobile website as the developers can skip the rigorous testing phase that is generally the case with apps. But it also requires technical support and frequent assistance to make changes at the back-end to ensure they avoid downtime.
Mobile apps can be downloaded from device-specific apps stores on devices with a given operating system. The mobile apps house all the data and content from the internet on the devices to enable internet-free access. The apps are like website in terms of the content, aesthetics, and UI/UX but its usage is mostly purpose-oriented I,e for gaming, online shopping, etc.
Features of Mobile Apps:
- Offline Access: Contents of the app are downloaded to the device that is viewed without internet. Some apps are optimized to perform specific actions on an online basis.
- Capture User Data: Mobile apps store cookies on the device to sync information on past usage, previous orders placed and other activities thereby reducing load-time.
- Optimized to Perform Actions with Device Tools: Basic device tools like camera, messaging, calls, video calls, and video recording can also be performed using apps based on the users’ needs.
- Frequent Notifications and Messaging: Apps send notifications and messages to remind users of certain activities, inform about products or services, etc for better user engagement.
- Increase Brand Awareness: Apps have icons stored on the device, reminding mobile users to frequently visit the app, engage in buying activities or perform some action that is relevant to its brand or business.
- Requires Personalization: Very often app users prefer the apps to be personalized for better engagement and experience. A smartphone app development company can customize the app according to the users’ device, usage frequency, functions and purpose to allow users make the most of its capabilities.
- Requires Testing and Maintenance Support: Apps at the pre-launch stage must be thoroughly tested to ensure they fit the requirements of the users and consistently perform. It relies on complex reporting tools that manage its functions at the backend and needs ongoing support as well as internet access to add and update features and content.
The confusion between apps or websites is more likely to continue for a few more years until businesses have been able to look beyond the spectrum of mobile-optimized sites and mobile-first platforms.
The prominence of mobile apps has shot up and smartphone app development firms are on a development spree, encouraging users to buy and download more apps on their devices. The increase in consumer-driven apps like e-Commerce, banking, healthcare, news, etc has been successful in keeping the users hooked on to their platforms.
Industry experts are looking at progressive web apps or PWAs as an alternative to a native app and find a middle ground between mobile apps and websites. The PWAs make judiciously use of data, are easy to build and do not clog the smartphone devices. Most of the biggies including Twitter, Tinder, and Flipkart have witnessed a sudden jump in the usage rate after switching to PWAs due to flexibility to be accessed on browsers that are common for devices and easy to install feature.