Mobile applications and mobile websites – the debate between the two might be getting more complicated with continuous rise in the demand of mobiles, but it is not what it seems to be… to some extent! Let’s find out why.
One of many researches on the future of mobile
Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project has been continuously trying to assess the future of the Internet and according to its most recent report, “smartphone traffic will grow to 50 times the size it is today by 2016”. Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS will both witness immense growth, according to the study. You might be expecting all this – so was I, before I came across this research.
While browsing the Internet, we come across several websites having different looks, functionality and content. Websites are viewed differently in different devices. A mobile website is essentially the lite version of its desktop counterpart – in the sense that the content fits into a smaller screen size, responds to touch-screen gestures and has lesser links but ample and relevant content (you can compare yahoo.com with m.yahoo.com).
Mobile applications are downloadable apps that can be installed into a mobile device and run without Internet facility too. Mobile apps do not necessarily require browser interference and can be collaborated with the mobile camera and the database. Native apps are platform specific. App stores of smartphones give a complete database of the downloadable applications, giving compatibility details and other specifications.
Are mobile applications better than mobile websites or vice versa?
Development of an app or a mobile website requires investment of time and money and thus it is important to understand why you should go for one and leave the other. Depending on your end goals, you will have to build an app or go for mobile websites development. If you want to give more content to your target audience, a mobile website is obviously better since you get to update the content as and when required. However, if it is a game you want to launch or some other entertainment module, an application will work to your advantage as the controls of it will be with user and they can access it anytime they want.
Since both mobile websites and mobile apps have their own advantages, it is ultimately a matter of choice and a careful study of the market that can lead to a final decision. According to this infographic, based on the data found on Alexa, comScore, Yahoo etc, users spend more time on mobile apps than on websites accessed either from the mobile or the desktop. On an average, it was found that by the end of 2011, a user had spent 94 minutes on an app compared to 74 minutes on web browsing. While there are certain work areas where websites are preferred to apps, the opposite is also true. For example, people use website for shopping, searching for information and entertainment while they resort to mobile apps for managing tasks and data, navigation, connecting with friends and for accessing information.
Considering the diversifying use of both mobile websites and mobile apps, it would be wrong to put preference of one over the other. Before you streamline into any one of them, you have to understand your long-term goals, the need for the app or the website, the cost involved and only then decide for one.
Advantages of mobile websites
- Mobile websites need not be device specific. A single mobile-friendly design can be accessed from a BlackBerry, Apple or Android phone. Mobile website URLs are integrated with mobile technologies such as SMS, QR Codes and Near Field Communication (NFC) thus making a single design work for all devices. A user needs an Internet connection on the phone and he will be ready to access the site.
- One doesn’t need to ‘install’ a website and can view it on a browser. The developer too can update the site and make it more dynamic in an instant, without hampering the users browsing habits.
- The reach of a mobile website is much more. As users usually search for information via a search engine, the traffic to a relevant site will obviously be more on any given day.
Advantages of mobile apps
- If you want to achieve interactivity, you should go for a mobile application development. Most successful applications are the interactive ones, especially game apps. Angry Birds is the best example we have today.
- If you want to target businesspersons, developing an easy reporting application would easily reach your target customers. Since a user wouldn’t need online data or browsing, an application would work best.
- There are several native functionality that applications offers and which are yet to be desired by mobile websites. Mobile-specific functions such as click-to-call, SMS and GPS work better with an app. Of course, the security that an app provides on these areas work to their advantage.
It should be remembered that the cost of development of a mobile application is much more than a website. Nowadays it has become easy to develop responsive websites that allows one design for all devices. This process, though highly technical, cuts down on cost substantially. Moreover, websites do not need to be approved by the smartphone developer to be accessed on any phone. The cost of development of an app is very high as in most cases apps need to confirm with the specific demands of each smartphone’s operating system. An app is available only through an app store thus it needs to be approved by the smartphone development team. Upgrading an app poses its own sets of problems as simply making the update available on the app store will not suffice. The user will need to be informed about the app updates and be made to download the latest version. This is a difficult job for apps that are still making their presence felt.
It should be remembered that you should go for mobile website when you have a more market-driven objective and want to focus on promotion. On the other hand, if you want to create a niche for yourself and want to go more interactive, a native mobile application will suit your needs perfectly. It will not be apt to put one above the other, thus it has to be remembered that both have their own advantages and utilities and ultimately it is about your business goal.