App Vs Website: Which Is the Better Option?

Mobile visits to websites surpassed desktop visits in 2018, and the gap will continue to widen. With their ease of use and accessibility, it is much easier to use a mobile phone to visit a website than it is to fire up a computer, get connected to the internet, and then visit the website. When you are deciding whether you need to prioritise mobile visits, the question that arises is whether a mobile app or a responsive website would serve your business better.

One of the most important metrics when choosing between a mobile app and a responsive website is the impact of either option on user experience. Below, we will explore both of these options and see their impact on user experience.

Mobile Apps

When a company decides it needs a mobile app, it has to decide whether it is going to target Android, iOS or both. The development paths for both of these platforms are vastly different. That said, there are tools that allow developers to develop apps that work on both platforms.

Mobile apps can be built to be installed on a device, and on newer android versions, can be run without installing. One of the biggest mistakes that developers make is trying to turn a website into a mobile app. This has several issues:
  • The app loses some functionality
  • The app is unable to fully utilise native features of the phone
  • It often leads to a bad user experience
Because of the reasons outlined above, companies should endeavour to have their developers build their apps from the ground up, and perhaps encourage employees to embark on a computer science master’s program online with a school like Wilfrid Laurier. Click here to learn more.

Mobile apps have several advantages:
  • Better user engagement - Well-built apps give users so many different ways to engage with both the website and other visitors. 
  • Customisation - Apps allow users to customise them as they wish. Apps can also track how users interact with and use the app so that developers can offer improvements when they update the app. Apps can also allow businesses to send personalised messages to their users depending on their age, location, interests and more. 
  • Ability to work offline - Apps can take advantage of local storage to work offline. These apps continue to work, even if there is no internet connectivity, and then sync user data and download new content when an internet connection is established. 
  • They are intuitive - Almost anyone can use a smartphone, but there are many more people who do not know how to use a computer. Because of this, mobile apps are a better option for companies that would like to reach a huge audience. Mobile apps offer a much more immersive experience that can improve engagement. Users of particular operating systems are already accustomed to the way their devices look and work. This makes it easier for developers to develop apps that can mimic the look and feel of the operating system which makes them much more intuitive to use. 
  • Native device capabilities and functionalities - Mobile apps can access most inbuilt mobile phone capabilities. These include GPS, camera, gyroscope and more. When developers take advantage of these, they can make apps that are more useful and convenient for users to use.

Responsive Websites

Responsive websites are simply websites that can adapt to any screen size. This means that the websites give users the same experience regardless of whether they visit on a phone, a tablet or a computer. These websites have risen in popularity since the number of people visiting different websites on their mobile phones began rising.

Responsive websites have several advantages:
  • Cost-effective - Depending on the complexity of the business’s needs, a responsive website can cost a lot less than a mobile app. This is because there are no special device integrations and compatibility issues to look out for when building a website. 
  • Accessibility - When you build a responsive website, you do not have to worry about whether people who have certain devices can use it. As long as they have a relatively modern browser and an internet connection, anyone can access a responsive website.
  • No downloads, no installations - The only thing users have to install is an internet browser. When using a responsive browser, you do not have to download the website or even install it.
  • No updates - Unlike mobile apps, users don’t have to spend their data and time updating a website. There are also no new versions to install. If a website needs an update, it is the work of the web developer, administrator or anyone else hired by the website’s owner to do so.
  • SEO and Brand Visibility - Search engines are beginning to prioritise websites that are mobile-optimised, such as responsive websites. Because of this, there is a higher chance of your website ranking higher and being seen by a lot more people.

Getting Your Mobile App Made

If you decide to get a mobile app made, here are the steps to take:
  • Map out everything - Decide on how you want the app to work before you decide how you want it to look. Most people do not mind if a mobile app is not the best-looking one, but they take a step back if the functionality of the app is not quite there. The next thing you want to decide is the features on the app. You might need push notifications, subscriptions, user comments and more. All these features must be decided upon beforehand.
  • Hire a designer - The next step is hiring a designer to come up with the design of the app. Be sure to explain to them what you wish to achieve with the app. Remember that the design combined with how well the app works are what will determine the user experience. Try to find designers who have done this sort of work before, because designing an app is very different from designing a website or even a poster.
  • Hire an app developer - Once you have the design of the app, get an app developer with the necessary experience. They should know how to develop apps for the platforms you wish to target. It is not unusual to hire more than one developer for this type of work so that each of them can target a different operating system. If you do this, you can be assured of the best app for all the platforms you target.
  • Test the app - There is nothing more frustrating for users than having an app that does not work as expected and that that has multiple bugs. All of these bugs can be caught during the testing phase. Take your time with the testing and consider doing an alpha launch to expose the app to more people. There are also paid services where you submit your app and then have it tested by a huge number of people before its release.

Getting Your Website Made

The steps to follow when getting your website made are almost the same as those of having your app made with a few additions:
  • You need a domain name for your new website
  • You need fast, reliable web hosting
  • You might need a database manager depending on the size of your organisation and how much data you expect to be dealing with.

Things to Watch Out For

Businesses get swept up in the hype of whether they need a website or an app. While a website is an absolute must for any business that wants to establish an online presence, a mobile app is not. If you would like to have a mobile app made for you, think about it long and hard.
  • Will your users use it?
  • Will it offer more than what is on the website?
  • Will it have features that push your business and brand forward?
Getting an app made can be an expensive affair, so be sure you absolutely need the app before getting one developed.

The Verdict

Mobile apps can integrate tightly with user devices to give them a better user experience. They can also work offline, which cannot be said about most websites (some websites can store local data to enable uses to use them even without an internet connection).

Websites, on the other hand, are universally accessible and can be used regardless of which operating system the user is on. The one caveat is that mobile websites can appear tiny on mobile screens which can make for bad user experience.

When choosing between the two, companies must decide between user experience, cost, and brand visibility, with each option offering a unique mix of the two.

Conclusion

Having an online presence is getting increasingly important as more and more people turn to the internet when they need goods and services. A business can have an online presence either through an app or a website. Even though both of these can help your business be better known, or even improve sales, they are vastly different. A website is good when you need brand visibility and universal access for your visitors, while a mobile app is vital if you are after better user experience.

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