App vs mobile website – which is better?

August 1, 2012 3:20 pm

App use continues to rise amongst consumers as smartphone and tablet use rockets, and it seems that every business now wants their own app! Though as much as their design and development can be a big showpiece for a company, they aren’t always the most appropriate tool for the job. Are you considering an app and a mobile website? If so this article might help you in your decision.

For me, apps have their place, usually with companies that I know and trust and visit regularly such as Amazon, ASOS, eBay. I wouldn’t download an app for a new product so for companies that are trying to gain new business, do you really want to make your potential customer work hard to view your services or products? Will a customer really download a new app for a new company over quickly viewing a mobile version of their site on their mobile? The answer is almost always no! Mobile users are a fickle, impatient lot who won’t wait longer than 3-5 seconds on average for a site to download* so whats the chances of them downloading an app to peruse your offering?

Here’s my top 3 reasons for choosing a mobile website over an app.


An app will almost always be more expensive than a website due to the more complicated code and a more tailored development process. And this additional cost is incurred not only in the initial development stages, but afterwards when changes are required. You could invest money the money saved with a mobile website into the SEO and social media needed to gain new customers.


Apps aren’t compatible across devices in the same way that websites are. To explain simply, websites are made in HTML code that can be read by all manner of devices, whether they’re iPhones, Android, iPad or desktops. This means that if you develop a website in HTML code, then the results will be almost identical across all devices. The same does not apply to apps as each device has it’s own code, meaning that an iPhone app will not work on an Android device, an Android app won’t work on an iPhone or iPad, and neither will work in your usual browser. This means there’s a lot of extra work hours, and ultimately more cost, and more ongoing management of the various app versions.

Editing and updating

After compatibility this is probably my biggest reason for recommending a mobile website over an app. If you wish to make significant changes to the app then an it will need to be updated by the user in the form of a downloadable update. I know from my own personal experience, that I only occasionally update all of my apps, where as a mobile site can be updated instantly. If you have a mobile site or mobile ecommerce with a content management system, then you the customer, may also have the ability to make instant changes such as special offers and price changes.

So I’m not saying don’t have an app, I’m saying get a mobile website first…you’ll get a much better return on your investment and a better understanding of your customers behaviours which will help you develop the perfect app – if it’s appropriate! We offer both of these services, and would be happy to discuss which option would suit you best. Visit our contact page to drop us a line. We also have a page dedicated to mobile websites and responsive website design if you’d like to learn more.

*(Google Mobile seminar 2011)

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