Business owners more particularly e-commerce website owners always remain indecisive when it comes to making a choice between a responsive website and a native app.
Silly is not it? You might be thinking why not both? Well, the proposition holds some water but the problem with most business owners is that they don’t have enough budget to allocate for app development and also designing a responsive website that will perform seamlessly on all verticals.
It is really difficult to make a choice between Responsive Website and App because each option has its unique set of advantages and disadvantages. Signals from the industry is also conflicting. According to a Forrester Research paper, an average smartphone user spends at least 85% of his time on exploring apps. According to a ComScore study, an average smartphone user downloads at least 3 apps on monthly basis. At least half of the total number of smartphone users worldwide interact with apps on a regular basis. But responsive design has its advantages too. It appears that more than half of the mobile users prefer to purchase from a mobile friendly website rather than from a native app or a non-mobile friendly website.
See, it is not that simple to decide between a native app and a responsive website given the fact that they both offer some benefits to business owners. Eventually, all it comes down to one thing that is your marketing strategy. You need to pick the one that suits your marketing strategy the best. Definitely, it would be great for business owners to allocate funds for development and marketing of App and mobile version website but it is not just the problem of budgetary allocation; it is more about streamlining marketing activities.
Say for example, if you have to develop both an app and a mobile website for your brand, your marketing team will have a hard time marketing these two completely different products to the same group of targeted audience. This will be confusing for the users as well. Should they download the app on their smartphone or just browse the website? Tough call for anyone.
So, to get a better understanding, we need to explore both the advantages and the disadvantages of a website and an app –
There are some compelling reasons why you should be spending your time and energy to develop a native app for your brand. Native Apps offer a unique experience which is tough to emulate in any other platforms.
Now we can understand that it is impossible to design and develop for all mobile operating systems as it would cost you immensely. So, if you have access to Google Analytics or any other tracking applications, you just need to figure out which mobile platforms are sending you the most number of visitors and then develop apps for top two platforms.
There is one added advantage of app and that is – high level of personalization which is almost next to impossible when it comes to mobile websites. Native apps tend to have more information about the user and therefore, it can offer more engaging and personalized experience. Push Notification which is a hallmark feature of Native apps is a byproduct of its data accumulation effort. When a user starts installing an app, it gets all the information about the user’s likes and dislikes. It gets to know what songs he likes to listen to, what news he is interested in or what hobbies he has. With such a wealth of information, it becomes easier for apps to offer them a unique personalized experience. Data gather during the interaction process also helps the app developers to fine-tune it further and streamline the experience in a never before way.
Making purchase with app is easy as most apps have pre-entered payment details and that means, if you have entered your credit card details once, you would not have to do it again and again. This goes a long way to simplify the buying process. These are some advantages that we simply can’t overlook.
Responsive Design or Mobile Website
Now let us discuss a thing or two about responsive website. Compared to developing an app, developing a responsive website takes less time and of course, burns less money. And also responsive web design has its parks. If you want to rank high in competitive keywords in mobile searches, you should be opting for responsive websites because apps can’t rank in google searches as search engines are still figuring out how to index their properties.
So, far apps are out of Google’s indexing database. Moreover, developing a native app is extremely complicated. You will have to abide by a host of guidelines to be able to get listed in Windows Phone App store, Apple App Store and Google Play but responsive design is free of such complexities. You can design and develop your website the way you like. Search engines can’t dictate what you can put on your website and what you can’t.
Moreover, an app developed for iPhone is not going to work on a mobile device running on Android. So basically that means, app is not fit for all solution. But responsive design can work on all platforms and devices and which is why it is getting so much traction on social circles.
Now if you are still clueless as to which is best for your business model, you need to continue to read the rest of the article –
Just because everybody else is getting excited about iPhone app, you should not be spending your hard earned dollars to design something that will not help in the growth your business. You need to ask yourself first, why you need to develop an app. What is the purpose behind developing an app? Will it help in the marking department? Now, depending on the answers of these questions, you will have to decide whether you want to join the bandwagon of app development.
Mobile friendly website is perfect for driving traffic to your website and that means, there is no such compelling reason why you need to invest your time and energy to develop different apps for different platforms. However, there are certain scenarios where apps can play pivotal role in your marketing mix. For example, if you are a game developer, you might focus on developing an app that will allow users to play the game for a limited period of time and if they feel interested, they can buy the entire game. Businesses like these are supposed to get benefited if they keep their focus on developing app rather than developing only the mobile version of their website.
Budget is a big factor whether you believe or not. Small businesses are struggling to cover their daily expenses in this troubled time. Since mobile app development is a resource intensive process, you need to make sure that you have the budget to develop a full-fledged mobile app. A half backed mobile app is not going to serve any purpose rather this is going to ruin your prospect. If people find that the app has too many flaws or God forbids some serious security issues, your brand image can go downhill. Negative publicity is the last thing that you expect to happen to your brand. So, if you don’t have budget, just chill out and try to make the most of the responsive design. Apps are not mandatory for promoting your brand on mobile devices.
Promote where you customers are. This is the rule of thumb and if you are ignoring this, your marketing efforts will fall flat on the ground. Apps require people to download them on their mobile phones. So it means, it will eat up the memory of the phone and some also it will consume some real estate of the mobile screen. Unless your app promises to offer some interesting features, people will not feel encouraged to download it on their mobile devices.
Moreover, apps are not discoverable via search engines. Search engines can’t index them and that means, you will have to reach out to people who would be interested in using the app. The app should offer more than a standard mobile friendly website can offer otherwise there is no point in downloading and installing the app on a mobile device. Maybe you should be offering extra discount for those people who will make purchase via the app. This will encourage people to install the app.
Since app offers a closed environment, it works best for ecommerce websites. Users will not have the option to compare the products on different websites when they are browsing products in an ecommerce app. This will lead to higher conversion rate.
If you are rooting for performance, app is definitely miles ahead of standard mobile friendly website. Apps are basically like a desktop based application that feeds from the memory and computing power of the device. That means, if anyone is using hi-end mobile device, your app will be able to offer superior performance.
Apps store all the resources that it uses locally and which is why it manages to offer such seamless experience. Sadly, mobile friendly websites don’t have this advantage.
Rolling out updates for an app is a long process. It is not just that you send a push notification asking users to download the latest version. Nope, not that easy my friends. You need to submit the updates in different marketplaces where you have listed the app like – Google Play, Windows Phone App store or Apple App store. The reviewers will review it and may ask you to make changes in the updated version if it violates any rules. So, a long process as you can understand.
But mobile friendly websites do not have this issue. You can update the look and feel of the website or add or delete any pages you like and then upload the changes to the server and it will get reflected immediately. No lag at all.
Search Engine Optimization
Don’t worry if you don’t know what is search engine optimization. Read this guide to gain some information about this – Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide – Google. It is a handy resource.
Now optimizing a mobile website is a different ball game altogether and which is why Google has launched a starter guide for mobile website optimization. Read it here. The good thing is that you can make your mobile website rank high in some competitive terms but the same can’t be true for apps. Search engines face difficulties to index the content of the apps. However, there are some tricks that you can use to make your app rank high in Google Play store or Apple App Store. Read this guideline here.
The best thing about mobile app is that they tend to store all their resources locally. So, it does not absolutely necessity to have internet connect to be able to use these apps. Most apps run independently and they don’t even internet connect in case you have downloaded a game. But mobile website needs internet connection otherwise there is no way you can access it.
Hopefully, now you have all the information that you need to make a decision whether you need a mobile friendly website or a native app. The decision is all yours my friend.
Resources For Further Readings
- Ramer, Jorey, Adam Soroca, and Dennis Doughty. “Mobile website analyzer.”
- Zhou, Tao. “Examining the critical success factors of mobile website adoption.”
- Raasch, John. “How to build a mobile website.” Smashing Magazine 3 (2010).
- Iglesias, Edward, and Wittawat Meesangnil. “Mobile website development: From site to app.” Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology.
- Han Rebekah Wong, Shun. “Which platform do our users prefer: website or mobile app?.”
- Christ, Adam M. “Bridging the mobile app gap.” Connectivity and the User Experience.
- Joorabchi, Mona Erfani, Ali Mesbah, and Philippe Kruchten. “Real challenges in mobile app development.” Empirical Software Engineering and Measurement.