Build a mobile app or a mobile web application?

We often hear from our clients the following phrase “I need a mobile app that does…”, and sometimes there is a misconception of not knowing exactly how the mobile world works. So, do you need to build a mobile app or just a mobile website/application? First things first: What’s the difference between a mobile website and a mobile app? An app is a program you install on your mobile device from places like iTunes and Google Play whereas a mobile website is a site or application you open and use in the browser.

What is a Mobile Website or Responsive Website?

Website need to be responsive (mobile friendly), which means that it has to have a “mobile version” which probably looks a little different comparing to the “desktop” version  because it is adapted to work on small screens like a cell phone or a tablet. You can even have different versions between cell phone and tablets, meaning that you have one version for each kind of device or size screen.

Questions to ask to determine:  Build a Mobile App or a Mobile Website?

There are times when you need something that works either exclusively on mobile devices or will mostly be used on mobile devices. When this is the case,  the question is: should it be just a mobile friendly web site/application or a true mobile app? The answer is not straightforward, it actually depends on several things, for example:

  • Will you need to access this from your desktop and not just on a mobile device? At a minimum you will need a mobile website.
  • Is it intended to be used only with few “taps” or checks or buttons? Then a mobile app might be the solution.
  • Is this something that requires to always work even when you don’t have an internet connection? Then a mobile app is the way to go. Websites simply do not work without internet.
  • Do you want the smoothest experience for a user when using your system? Mobile apps have better user experiences then a web application.
  • Do you just want to show information on mobile devices and there is no functionality? A mobile website is probably better. Users don’t always want to install apps if it’s just to read information.
  • Do you want to send push notifications or alerts to your users? Mobile apps are best for notifications even though newer mobile devices allow web push notifications but it is more limited.
  • Do you want to use geolocation data? Mobile apps are more efficient for these type of applications.

Develop Both: an App and a Mobile Website

Sometimes you may want to do both, build a mobile website and a mobile app. Applications like Credit Karma, Trello, Quickbooks and online banking do this. They offer both versions, where each one has their limitations. Quickbooks online only offer certain features on their mobile app. Credit Karma pretty much offers the same on both systems and the experience is so much better on the app. Some banks just show an optimized version of their website on their app. It all depends on what you want to accomplish, what your budget is, and who is your targeted user.

Nowadays you can even build mobile apps based on an existing web application. There are cross-platforms tools based on HTML like PhoneGap and Ionic which uses a web application as a base that can be converted into a mobile app.

Keep in mind,  mobile apps are usually more expensive not only to develop and maintain, you sometimes have to pay licenses to be able to offer apps in iTunes.

Next Steps – What to do?

One thing for sure is: you need to adapt to the mobile market, according to SmartInsights ( the number of mobile users has exponentially surpassed desktop users since 2014. There is more than 1,700 million global mobile users and the tendency is for that to continue to grow. There is more availability of mobile devices and access to internet on mobile devices than ever before.

Are you stumped? Not sure how to proceed? Contact Us today with your business case or your story and we can help you decide what to do. We at NearSource have developed several mobile websites, web applications and mobile apps for businesses.

2 thoughts on “Build a mobile app or a mobile web application?

  1. Thanks for the sharing these wonderful ideas, this is the best guide for individuals or businesses who are planning to build a Mobile App / responsive Websites , I Agree to all of what you have written in this post very informative.. keep posting thanks..

  2. This website will really help everyone in providing the tools and information necessary for the people to develop and improve their website.

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