Native Apps vs Mobile Site Faceoff

Every business with a website has to deal with a development dilemma given the current app gold rush: does it straightaway take the plunge and get a mobile app or optimize its website for mobile viewing?

For answering this question, a marketer first needs to assess his goals and the resources at his disposal – the audience he wants to talk to, user experience, design language, budget, implementation timeline, performance and recurring maintenance.

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The final decision would also depend on the advantages and value proposition of each. If feasible, a company should invest in both mobile application development and responsive website design for leveraging these two powerful mobile platforms.

If only one needs to be chosen, consider what each brings to the table:

 A native mobile app

  • allows users to access it after installation
  • is available offline
  • has an interactive UI
  • can utilize some phone features like camera or location services

 Whereas a mobile website

  • is accessed with a browser
  • needs a connection
  • has a navigational, static UI
  • offers limited features

It may seem now that mobile apps are more desirable, but mobile browsers have unprecedented reach. According to a recent survey involving more than 55 million mobile impressions, 65% belonged to mobile browsers and 35% to app usage. Mobile sites accounted for more than 80% of the visits, with an astonishing 90% unique visitors.

However, app users are usually more engaged. The study reveals app users consuming more than twice the number of mobile impressions than their mobile browsing counterparts. So the question still remains unanswered– should you invest in mobile app development, which is considerably more expensive, or settle for a responsive, mobile site?

The answer, almost always, lies in “content”. How you want your audience to interact with your brand on mobile devices should dictate which platform you opt for. Take a look at the following tasks and the percentage of users who use the two platforms in performing them:

Tasks

Mobile Apps (in %)

Mobile Sites (in %)

Search

37

63

Shop

27

73

Entertain

40

60

Inform

61

39

Manage

54

46

Connect

69

31

Navigate

65

35

If you need user interaction, a native mobile app will serve you better. Contrarily, if displaying your existing site across multiple devices is your priority, then responsive website design is your best bet.

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