Should I Build a Mobile Website, Mobile App, or Both?

Jul 31, 2013

The Internet used to be a simpler place. Once upon a time, you didn’t have to choose between a website or something else, because a website was your only option. Sure, you could still mull over PHP or flash, and things like that, but that stuff was usually left for the developer to worry about. Ever since the influx over mobile devices over the last 10 years, the options for online platforms have increased, as well as the demand for mobile-friendly content, and you now have to ask yourself: Should I build a mobile website, app, or both?

Consumers are using their phones over other devices more and more every day. A lot of people don’t even use their computers to surf the Internet anymore; they just use their phone or tablet. Suffice it to say, if whatever it is you plan on putting online doesn’t have a mobile version, you are going to miss out on a ton of traffic.

Let’s take a look at the difference between then two:

Mobile Website

Without getting to technical, a mobile website is just like any other website for the most part: it has a web address; it can be accessed online through a web browser; and it can display all kinds of content, including video, pictures, and text. The only important difference is that it can also be viewed on a mobile device, like a smart a phone.

Mobile App

A mobile app is not a website. It’s, well, an app. Think of it like a program you download and install on your computer, because that’s exactly what it is, except that it’s only for mobile devices, not computers. Mobile apps cannot be accessed through a web browser, even though they often have an accompanying website.

Which Is Better?

Neither is better; they just serve different purposes and reach different audiences. Mobile websites are good for the same kinds of things any ordinary website would be good for. If you’re mainly concerned with sharing content and information, especially content you plan on updating and building upon, then you want a mobile website.

Mobile apps are good for games and any other kind of program that is intended to serve a particular function. To be more specific, if you want to create something that will be accessible to users offline; can be personalized and tracks regular usage; and/or will perform complex calculations, display graphics, etc., not suitable for a web browser, then you want a mobile app.

The truth is, however, most people will probably need both. If you’re building a mobile game, or any other type of app, you’ll probably want a website where people can find out about it. A mobile website, on the other hand, is the first step towards creating a mobile web presence, and might be all you need, but many investors and developers find that after they build their first mobile website, they’re eager to follow it up with an app – whether it’s a standalone app or an ancillary component of the site.

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