Mobile Wars Part 2: Which is Better – an App or a Mobile Website?


When it comes to deciding whether to build a native app or a mobile website, the best choice really depends on your overall goals. For example, games or programs that need to perform specific functions are usually best reserved for app development. If your goal is to offer more mobile-friendly content to the widest possible audience then a mobile website may work best. In some cases you may even decide to pursue both a mobile website and a mobile app, if your app needs to be populated with online content.

For most people, a mobile website should be considered your first step in developing a mobile web presence. Apps are best left to perform tasks that cannot be effectively accomplished with a web browser. This may include things like complex calculations, or simply accessing content when no internet connection is available.

Or making fart sounds when your colleagues sit down. 'Cause that NEVER gets old.

So, if all you’re looking to do is plant the seedlings toward establishing a mobile presence, some of the benefits of starting with a mobile website include:

Convenience and Compatibility

A mobile website is instantly accessible to users via a browser on pretty much any mobile device.  As long as an internet connection exists, there are no significant barriers between the  initial engagement and full user interaction.

Reach Potential

Mobile websites are much easier for users to find because they are indexed by search engines. Remember, a mobile website is essentially just a re-skinned version of your regular website. By implementing device detection, users on handheld devices can be automatically sent to the mobile version of your website. Because mobile websites are accessible across multiple platforms and they are already optimized for search engines, they have far greater reach capability than a native app.


Upon completing changes to the design or content of a mobile website the changes are immediately visible, while an app requires updates to be pushed out to users through new downloads on each type of device.

The average lifespan of an app is also pretty short, in fact it can be less than 30 days according to some research. Unless your app is bigger than the advent of curly fries, it’s debatable how long it may stay on a user’s device.

Unless it's an app ABOUT curly fries. Patent pending.

Since a mobile website is simply an extension of your regular website, it can last as long as you keep it active.

Time, Support and Overall Cost

Mobile website development can be considerably more cost-effective to get off the ground than development of a native app. The development time and costs for apps can multiply as you begin adding additional platforms.

Your investments into apps and mobile websites also extend beyond the initial launch. In order to properly support an app you’ll need to be prepared for upgrades, compatibility testing, and other ongoing development. Maintaining the content on your mobile website can also be much more cost-effective in the long run.

With all of these mobile website benefits listed above, it may seem like there’s no place for apps for your brand, yet they’re still immensely popular. The thing is, there’s a more defined place for app development, and in the final chapter of this series, we’ll examine some scenarios where an app may make more sense than a mobile website.

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