Considerations When Choosing Between a Mobile App or Web App

By Zoe Williamson
13 May '19

Though it may be ideal to develop both a new web and mobile app development, sometimes finances do not allow for it. Perhaps it is the case that a company is deciding which software development happens first, or that only one will represent their business for the foreseeable future.

There are obvious answers. While larger companies would not consider losing their digital footprint, 36% of small businesses do not have a website. Web applications are the public face of a business, accessible to everyone through a search engine without the need to download.

For those who already have a website, there is still a choice to make. A new website design could revitalize a business, whereas a native app could streamline the experience for existing customers.

The considerations for a new website

Web apps have an immediate advantage in that they are accessible through both computer and mobile browsing. Computers are still widespread, with as many as 87% of Americans owning one in 2015. Add to that the 75% of Americans who own a smartphone and you have a wide reach.

Building a website is a cheaper development process, with more opportunity to add complex development such as content management systems (CMS). Mobile apps are still not capable of managing vast data independently and to include CMS would still require separate web development. 

Websites are often the first experience a customer will have of your business. Poor front end development looks suspicious. If you run an eCommerce business, you want to appear as trustworthy as you are to capitalize on the ever-growing online shopping industry.

Currently, people trust shopping online more when done through a computer but the figure for mobile purchasing is rising. Mobile browsing still has an edge over apps. When comparing prices and products, it is time consuming to download each corresponding app, even if the user experience is greater.

Reaching your audience is more difficult through a web application. Push notifications from apps appear on a user’s home screen when they are out of the house. Web applications are less able to reach their audience when they are not actively engaging.

Some companies are more suited to web development. If your business provides information or a basic online shopping experience, a web app is still better suited to your needs. Consider web development first if you run a niche business. The reduced rates means less risk but changing your site shows visitors that you are successful enough to invest in yourself.

The considerations for building an app

Mobile application development feels like the natural progression of a business for many. It is certainly true there are significant advantages.

Apps offer a smoother user experience than websites and one which can be tailored to users. However, this tailored experience is due to the different operating systems. Whereas a web app will be cross-platform, mobile apps are not universal. You may have to choose between an Android app, iPhone app or both.

Your app needs to offer something which is not available through your website and this is where phones have an advantage. Optimizing apps to use a smartphone camera or access location is easier on a native app. Adding these features will cost more in development but may prove key to fostering customer loyalty.

That loyalty is crucial for gaining a return on investment. For many apps, particularly those which are an extension of a business rather than the business itself, that return is people opening the app. An app being downloaded onto a phone does not mean success. An estimated 23% of users use an app once and 39% use a downloaded app 11 or more times.

Without offering something new or seamless convenience, your app runs the risk of being one of the thousands destined to be deleted. If your business is eCommerce, market research would benefit you. Would your customers spend more money on an app? If you find the responses to be positive, consider how much more money you would make and how quickly the app would pay for itself.

Of course there are some industries which are better suited to our mobile lives. Entertainment apps work well on mobile devices as consumers have their favourite media at their fingertips. But this is an ever more saturated market looking for something groundbreaking.

Which one is best for you?

The true way to answer this question is to search for companies who can provide both of these services. While there are industries which benefit from either web or mobile, no company is the same. With an idea of what you want for your business, research web and mobile development companies and view their portfolios.

A good company will consider your budget and ambitions before providing well-reasoned development solutions. Certain industries are more suited to mobile, while others would see little to no benefit. Seeing your name in the Apple App Store or on Google Play may look impressive but it will offer little comfort without adequate use.

At a basic level, development is like this: progressive web apps allow you to reach new customers. Mobile apps provide more custom software for users already loyal to you.

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