Companies are becoming increasingly aware of developing a mobile strategy for their business. But the cost of mobile app development turns exorbitant most times. So, before developing a mobile app, let’s answer one question - What if a mobile website would serve a similar purpose? A mobile website or a mobile app - which is better? Get an answer to this universal question in this article.
What do you need to develop first - A mobile app or a mobile website?
In 2016, an estimated 62.9 percent of the population worldwide already owned a mobile phone and Statista forecasts that the number of mobile phone users in the world is expected to pass the five billion mark by 2019. According to an unexpected report by Nielsen, U.S. adults now spend nearly half a day on their smartphone. This data is very crucial to businesses.
Mobile presence is the need of the hour. And any business that’s aiming at mobile presence has a fundamental question - Mobile website (Web app) or Mobile app? So, what is the preliminary difference between a Web app and a Mobile app? A web app is simply a website that took the mobile-first approach and is designed to be viewed and interacted on a smartphone. Mobile apps, on the other hand, needs to be downloaded and installed via an app store and have access to your system resources. So, web apps function like mobile apps, but from the comfort of the phone’s browser.
Being a software development company, we get asked this question, Web app or Mobile app, believe me when I say, almost 5-6 times a week. But the question isn't right! Whether you develop a mobile app or not is something we will address later on in this article, but, a mobile-first strategy is mandatory. In simple layman’s term - You absolutely need to have a website that is configured for mobile. So, now that we have that settled, let me rephrase the question for you - I have a website that is mobile responsive. Do I also need a mobile app? Okay, now that we got the question right, let me tell you there are a countable number of factors that need to be accounted to help you align a mobile strategy that best suits your business objectives and help answer the question - Mobile website or mobile app?
Mobile website: A Paradigm Shift - Why is it so critical for businesses?
Let’s break this down point-wise :
 Mobile internet usage has surpassed desktop usage since 2016 and Mobile traffic as a share of total global online traffic in 2017 is 52.64%. So, this gives you an idea of how important having a web app is. Companies must design their application in such a way that the web can fit the screens of different devices automatically displaying the content in a way that is compact and comfortable to browse.
 Do you know - Nearly 8 in 10 customers would stop engaging with content that doesn’t display well on their device and 57% of internet users say they won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed website on mobile. Mobile first shifted the paradigm of website user experience and improved user experience means more traffic.
 Also, until and unless you are a brand name in your niche, it is very likely that users will first land on your website rather than looking for a mobile app and downloading it. If you want to develop an interactive learning application or a social media application, thinking of a mobile app is an option, although it rarely makes sense to build these apps without already having a mobile website in place.
In some cases, you may need only a web app or a mobile app and in some cases both. A vague opinion, I know!! Let’s examine some factors that will make this decision a little less tricky.
Why do you need to develop mobile apps - The advantages of mobile app development :
According to Statista, In 2017, consumers downloaded 178.1 billion mobile apps to their connected devices. In 2022, this figure is projected to grow to 258.2 billion app downloads. Let’s see some inherent advantages mobile apps over mobile websites.
A mobile app means branding. Apps are an extension of your brand and what value you hold as a company. Gradually, a mobile app enters into the personal space of your users and is always present on their device and accessible with a single click, hence allowing the brand to carve its own niche and can build value for itself.
Mobile apps offer tailored content by allowing users to set preferences based on interests, location, behavior etc. and customize the set preferences accordingly, serving target advertisement to the users. Customized recommendations and updates, location-based promotions or deals etc comes handy with the help of data personalization.
Leverage Device Capabilities
A mobile app has access to device’s inbuilt features (camera, location etc) and this helps to enhance customer experience. Let’s for example, take push notifications. These can be sent at any time and users don't have to be surfing the mobile app or using their devices to receive them. They can show the latest sports scores, download coupon, or let a user know about an event, such as a flash sale.
Another crucial advantage is the opportunity to use them offline. As apps are installed on a mobile device, they can keep providing access to content and features even without an internet connection.
So, when does it make sense to build a mobile app?
 Companies with a loyal customer base who knows that users will frequently use the app can leverage all the benefits of mobile app development. Someone like Amazon, Evernote etc.
 Businesses that intend to access user's device capabilities, like GPS, click-to-call, cameras, or scanners, then an application will be more effective than a mobile website. For example Snapchat, Uber
 A dynamic content-based interactive forum requires a mobile app. Example: Magoosh, Byju’s.
 Interactive game based app. Say: Pubg, Angry birds
But, not everybody needs a mobile app
For small businesses or businesses that are just starting out, where the aim is to deliver superior content and establish a broader market presence without much user interaction, developing a responsive mobile website will be much economical, quicker and convenient than a full-blown mobile app. Renowned giants like Yelp and Zillow sees most of the traffic through their web app.
Another thing to consider before making a decision is the cost. Everyone has different budgets when it comes to development. Website development will cost less than developing a mobile app.
Read more: How to decrease mobile app development cost
So, before making any decisions, know your business requirements and know your client niche. If your goals are primarily market-driven and just introductory market presence, a mobile-friendly responsive website is a logical choice. On the other hand, mobile apps may lead to a competitive advantage if you are particularly aiming at targeting loyal customers and equipping them with additional services.
Mobile has become a very integral part of our lives and if any business is not considering or utilizing a mobile presence strategy, a swift demise into obscurity is evident. When your customers favor mobile surfing over desktop stations, shouldn’t you be prioritizing your efforts and channelize them keeping the mobile audience in mind? Want to add something else? Let us know your remarks in the comments.