Mobile App vs Mobile Website – Lets Get Ready to Rumble…
Topic: Mobile App vs Mobile Website – Lets Get Ready to Rumble…
The question I’m getting asked more and more is, “should we build a Mobile App or a Mobile Website, and what the heck is the difference?” We all know the mobile era is here, the question is how do you harness one the greatest opportunities of our decade? Well, you start by picking the right development path, of course!
What is a Native App?
An application that is built to run on a specific mobile operating system (e.g. iOS or Android). The native app is often called a “Mobile App”, or even just an “App”. It does not run inside of a browser, but rather is installed on your device. In order to install an app you should go to your devices App Store (called the “Market” on Android). The app store is a pre-installed icon that on your device, so your next digital addition is just one click away!
What is a Mobile Website?
We all know what a website is…but what makes it “mobile”? Put simply, it is a website that is optimized for viewing on a smaller resolution screen – like the ones you find on mobile devices. If you try to cram a full sized website onto a mobile phone screen for example, you have to zoom in and out, and move all around to get where you want. A mobile website will have everything laid out nicely so you can easily scroll to find things and links are easy to click.
Which should I choose?
One big advantage of the Native App is that they appear in the App Store. This can be a very powerful marketing tool. All of the hard work in rounding up your potential customers and having them come to one place has been done for you! This alone is enough to constitute building a native app in some cases. You’ll want to take special consideration of the revenue sharing rules that are required when doing in app purchase though – this can be a deal killer for some people.
Native apps can take full advantage of particular features of that device and its software. For example, you can implement a sophisticated user interface (UI) that would be much more difficult, and sometimes impossible, to do in a mobile website. The downside to this flexibility is that the time and effort required to build and maintain a native app is typically higher than a mobile website. There are some cross platform mobile app solutions that let you build once and run anywhere, such as Titantium by Appcelerator and PhoneGap – but there are other pros/cons in going that route too (let me know if you want to hear more on that topic!).
Whereas if already have a website you may just need some tweaking to become mobile optimized, and you don’t need to submit it to the app stores for approval. If you build a mobile website once, it can run on nearly all devices with no additional work required (assuming you stick to proper W3C standards). With the emergence of HTML5, the mobile website is more powerful than ever. It can now access nearly all advanced features of mobile devices, like the accelerometer to see if the device is being tilted, and the GPS to see where the device is currently at. One important advantage in choosing a mobile website is that you can always build a native app that “wraps” the mobile website and simply displays the screens you’ve already built. This is a less expensive variant of building a customized native app and it gets you a place in the app store.
And the Winner Is…
If you are cost conscious or on a short timeframe, then a mobile website is going to be the best fit. Furthermore, if you just want to be in the app store, and you don’t care about the speed or advanced UI features available through the native app, you can build an app that “wraps” your mobile website and you get best of both worlds.
If you’re looking to build a very customized or CPU intensive user experience, the you should stick with a mobile app. And don’t underestimate the power of being in the app store and having a direct presence on the “deck” of your users mobile devices.