If you’re planning to take advantage of mobile traffic on your website by establishing a proper mobile presence, one of your first considerations will likely be the decision to create a downloadable mobile application or a mobile website, or even both. There are benefits to both apps and mobile websites, and determining which is the better fit depends largely on what goals you’ve defined including things like target audience, required features, and overall budget.
The Tale of the Tape
Before evaluating the benefits of a mobile website vs. an app it’s important to understand the key differences between the two. Both apps and mobile websites are accessed on handheld devices – mainly smartphones like iPhone, Android and Blackberry, and also tablets.
In the Red Corner: Mobile Websites
A mobile website is essentially a stripped down version of your current website. It consists of regular web pages that are linked together and accessed over the internet via wireless connection or via 3G and 4G networks. Like any website, mobile websites can display text content, images and video. However, graphics and extra features are usually limited on mobile websites to put an emphasis on speedy download times. In addition, mobile websites can also access mobile-specific features like click-to-call or specific location-based mapping. A proper mobile website extends the usability of your website to a whole new range of devices.
In the Blue Corner: Mobile Apps
Mobile apps are full blown applications that are downloaded and installed on your mobile device and they don’t use a mobile browser to display content, although they can pull data from the internet to be accessed later without an internet connection. Users can download an app by visiting their device-specific marketplace like Android Market, Blackberry App World, or the Apple App Store. Apps can be listed either for free or for a fee, usually depending on the quality of content within the app.
Now that we’ve established the main functions of both mobile apps and mobile websites, in the next part of this series we’ll begin looking at the benefits of each and how they may fit your needs.