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Mobile Websites vs. Mobile Apps, what’s the difference?

As the influence of mobile marketing continues to gain prominence in today’s digital marketing realm, many people are still asking, what is the difference between a mobile website and a mobile application? Rightfully, more businesses are beginning to feel the pressure of having a mobile web presence as mobile web users surpassed desktop users for the first time in 2013.

The first consideration for anyone planning to establish a mobile presence for their business should be whether to create a mobile website or a mobile application, which users will be required to download. At first glance, mobile websites and applications can look similar. It is determining the situational needs that will help determine the correct application. This can depend on a number of factors which includes: the purpose, the features and often most importantly the budget.

So, what is the difference between a mobile website and an app?

Both, mobile sites and  apps are accessed on handheld devices like smartphones and tablets. Before evaluating the benefits of mobile websites vs. mobile apps, it is important to understand the differences between the two.

A mobile website is similar to any other website. It is accessed over the Internet and consists of content pages that are linked together. Like any website, mobile websites can display text content, data, images and video. Probably the most obvious  difference that distinguishes mobile websites and standard websites is that it is designed to display on a smaller mobile, often touch-screen interface.

Mobile apps are actual applications that can be downloaded and installed on your mobile device, rather than being rendered though a browser. Mobile applications are downloaded by users from device-specific stores including:  Apple’s App Store, Android Market, Windows Phone Store or Blackberry App World. Mobile applications can either pull content directly from the Internet (like a wesbite) or content can be downloaded so that no Internet connection is required to access content.

So, what’s better – a mobile website or mobile app?

When it comes to deciding whether to build a mobile website or native mobile application, the most appropriate choice really depends on what the end goals and objectives are. For example, if you’re developing a game that requires interaction, then an app is probably going to be the best option. However, if your goal is to offer content that is mobile-friendly then a mobile website is probably the best way to go.

In most instances, a mobile website should be considered the first step when developing a mobile web presence. Mobile apps are useful when developing for a very specific purpose that can’t be accomplished effectively through a web browser.

What are the advantages of mobile websites over mobile apps?

If your goals are primarily focused on marketing communications, then a mobile website is almost always going to make sense as a first step in your mobile strategy. Quite simply, this is because a mobile website has a number of advantages over mobile applications including: accessibility, compatibility and cost-effectiveness.

When does a Mobile App makes sense over a mobile website?

Despite all the benefits of mobile websites, mobile apps are still extremely popular. There are a number of specific scenarios where an app will be your best choice. For example, if a user is required to access content without a working Internet connection (including wireless) or for interactive gaming apps.

When developing mobile apps, ensure that you are getting an optimal return on your investment, as with anything. Try to avoid the expensive exercise of building mobile apps to do something that can be achieved with a mobile website.

Mobile websites vs. mobile apps: final thoughts!

For those trying to establish a mobile presence, the mobile website vs. mobile application question will continue to remain an important consideration.

Mobile websites will continue to be the logical choice when mobile goals are primarily to deliver content and establish a broad mobile presence, that can be found on search engines and easily shared between users.

However, a mobile application will likely be required if the goal is interactive user engagement or to provide an application that needs to work more like a computer program than a website.

Here’s a simple diagram that will assist in deciding whether to develop a mobile website or a mobile website:

Mobisites vs Apps

Of course it really depends on what you are looking to achieve from your mobile website or mobile website. We recommend that a full scope is completed prior to engaging in any activity to ensure that you get the best results for you investment. Talk to the team at Bang Online to discuss your unique requirements.

About Renae Lunjevich

Renae has an extensive background in marketing, with over 15 years experience working on both client and agency side for some of the world’s most well known brands; including Hewlett-Packard and Encyclopedia Britannica. Renae founded Bang Online after arriving in Perth in 2006, seeing a real need for a online marketing agency who is focused on the return on investment for businesses. +Renae Lunjevich