According to a Gardner Research report from June 2011, “by 2015, over 50% of the apps sold and/or pointed to will be web apps, not platform specific native apps.”  That is a trend that will also have its effect on mobile apps and mobile websites.

Before I get into the details, let me first explain the difference between mobile apps and mobile websites. Both are accessed via mobile devices (e.g. Smartphones, iPads, tablets). A mobile website is similar to a regular website with the difference that it is optimized to be viewed on mobile devices. Examples for well known mobile websites are: read.amazon.com, mobile.Twitter.com, m.google.com or m.facebook.com.

On the other side, mobile apps are applications downloaded and installed on the mobile device and were specifically developed for that type of mobile device.

As you may well know, the app market exploded over the past few years, which was a natural consequence of the increased sales of mobile devices. This was also fueled by the fact that a lot of the mobile devices needed WiFi for an internet connection.  If you wanted to get a feature regardless of an internet connection your only choice was a mobile app.  Does that mean apps all the way? Not really.

What are the pros of a mobile website vs. a mobile app?

  • Platform and device independence: The mobile site is immediately available and accessible for all mobile devices, regardless of the operating system, hardware or phone manufacturer.
  • Cost of development: Due to the usability across platforms and systems, the development cost is usually much lower.
  • Real-time: Since the user is always connected to the system, updates and access to data and software updates are always happening in real-time without the need to download the app or again or manually update.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO): mobile websites can be optimized for Search Engines and increase the ability to be found via user searches.
  • Sharing: Since mobile websites are in the public domain, they can be shared with anybody easily.
  • Mobile App look & feel: Increasingly you can find mobile websites that have the look and feel of a native app (e.g. m.google.com), but are in reality a mobile website.  So if you desire the “app look and feel”, you don’t have to miss out.

 Despite all these benefits, there are still reasons why it might make sense to develop an app for mobile devices:

  • Games: This app category is the most obvious and is usually less dependent on a real-time connection to the internet.
  • No connection required: If you require functionality 100% of time, regardless of a internet connection (e.g. on planes etc.) an app is the better way to go.
  • Data Storage: If you need to store data locally on your device for processing purposes.
  • Device specific features: If you need to maximize the utilization of device specific features (e.g. camera or processing power).

Conclusion

Mobile apps and mobile websites both have their advantages and they will both continue to grow in usage. However, the percentage of mobile websites vs. mobile apps will grow over the next few years drastically. If you have only a limited amount of dollars to invest and are not certain which way to go, I would advise you to invest in mobile websites, since you are more flexible and your reach is bigger.

If you want to get an idea what it would take to create a mobile website for your current company website or need advice on which way to go, feel free to send me an email at [email protected]

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