Responsive Website vs Mobile Apps: Should You Have Either or Both?
One glance at the two can easily look like a responsive website, at the same time with a mobile app is one and the same when it comes to delivering a particular brand of UX. But figuring out which of the two would suit your business’ needs the most will depend on a couple of factors and components.
And factors include the size of your audience demographics, your target audience segments, the purpose of why you need either, the specific features that you need in both, and the limits of your budget.
But first things first…
Website Versus App
Right before we jump into dissecting the advantages to be had in a responsive website vs mobile apps war, it’s integral to unlock and understand the notable differences between these two. You already know one thing about them both. They work well and can be accessed through a variety of smartphones — from an Android to an iPhone, and even in tablets.
When compared to HTML web pages based on browsers, mobile and responsive websites are similar. They can have pages that which are interlinked and can be accessed within the internet.
Mobile sites designed to be responsive on mobile devices can be scaled to any size of the device that you have — either a smartphone or a desktop computer. And it’s given more weight as it’s the new standard that every site must follow on the internet for the sake of staying in Google’s good graces.
On the other hand, mobile apps are the one that you can find, download, and install into your smartphone. That trait alone is what sets it apart from the online experience. An actual application would be just there and would save you the trouble of retyping keywords on search bars. As you’re familiar with, mobile apps can be acquired through specific portals like Google Play or Apple’s App Store.
An application may access content and its data over the Internet, similar to how a website does it, or it downloading the content without internet connection.
A Responsive Website or Mobile App?
Choosing between a responsive mobile website or with the creation of a native app depends largely on your brand’s objectives and within and also your goals.
When the goal of your business is to provide content that is user-friendly to astronomical numbers of people lurking in the world wide web, then quite evidently, a mobile-friendly website is the best choice for you. But if you’re creating something along the lines of an interactive game for your services or products, or a shopping catalog that can be accessed freely offline, then an application is your top-notch option.
However, it’s no stranger when cases arise and you actually do need the best of both worlds — of what these two platforms can bring to your business table.
Responsive Website Features
First off, let’s start by talking about several website features that consequently led to the world population’s growing need for more responsive websites nowadays.
Speaking in fundamental principles, your mobile website can be pretty similar to your main website that’s for desktops. It utilizes HTML pages which are used offline, but only when it’s been saved or through caches. And based on their media queries, responsive websites are designed and arranged differently. They let site content appear fit seamlessly into various screen sizes — from laptop to a smartphone.
However, like most things, they have cons. These queries hold an imperfection.
Not only do they need your developers’ job, but these websites would load slower — unless of course, you’re optimizing it for the fullest and for search engines.
One more thing. But we’re sure that you know. People’s affinity for mobile use these days have skyrocketed. Even from simple observation, it’s easy to take note of people walking in the sidewalk, sitting down to eat, or just standing to wait for a cab and they’re looking down at their phones.
Most large and small businesses today have their own responsive websites. This is so services and goods become available to different platforms, and this need becomes even more pronounced when your brand is in search of new customers.
And as you all know, Google is all about mobile-friendly sites. As a reward, the search engine gives these responsive sites a better place in the SERP rankings.
So, to wrap up this section tackling features of a responsive mobile website, let’s look at these main points.
- Accessible to every user: A mobile and responsive website does not need to be downloaded, they can access it’s for free. It doesn’t matter of which operating system it is. You can just as easily find responsive websites in your smartphone. For some sites, you may need an internet connection, but nowadays, more and more are working towards offline functionality.
- Easier maintenance: Websites are simpler to update, support, and even fix bugs on. Diversely different from mobile apps, users don’t need to install new versions to find improvements with a website. And on that vein, it’s also far cheaper and easier to just put updates on a website.
- Cheaper development: With a responsive mobile website, you eliminate the need to produce a native application in every tablet or smartphone. It also results in lower maintenance costs. And thanks to responsive websites, your coordination with SEO ends up being easier.
Mobile App Features
Based off of the features listed off one by one in the previous section, you’d think a responsive mobile website should be your final say in this. But it shouldn’t be. (Well, at least not yet). As site owners and businessmen, you know how crucial it is to peer into your future — especially into a future that involves various mobile developments.
In recent years, it’s been recorded that there have been 178 billion app downloads. It’s projected to grow even more in the coming years. Meanwhile, in terms of revenue, mobile apps are projected to hit $188.0 billion in revenue by 2020.
And since people have constantly gone from desktop to mobile, the future of their mobile app can only grow brighter.
As we all know, mobile apps are software products, and they can be downloaded from an online play store of sorts and installed into your tablet or smartphone. One of the basics of mobile apps is that they are created for differing operating systems which includes Android and iOS.
The main difference with mobile app from a responsive website is that it doesn’t run on every device. First off, it needs to be separately installed, and often times the data is reset — unless you find ways to transfer it. Still, an app can give you a unique experience, can’t it?
Your responsive website has the job of attracting brand new customers and fishing for prospective clients passing through the search engine results. And the mobile app does very well for the customers and clients that you already have; not to mention that it’s very useful for keeping existing clientele.
Mainly, mobile apps you design are intended for the people who want to accomplish specific goals in a short period of time — like say, shopping. And you must be able to help them achieve this in a matter of a few scrolls or taps.
The notoriously common mistake is to design your app as if you were designing another responsive website. Don’t fall into that trap. What you and your developers must do is pick up on a few functions and features that would soundly reflect the ideals that are on a play behind your brand. Develop these ideas, and turn it into something your users and utilize in a frank and simple manner.
Don’t forget the use and the advantages of push notifications either.
There is a catch to every benefit that the mobile app can provide though. Development costs for mobile apps seem to be higher than responsive websites. One reason is you must develop apps for each operating system you’re going to be catering to. Nevertheless, if you have the budget, then by all means, apps might be great assets for your business. Just be sure to hire reliable developers to do it along with you.
Now let’s sum up some of the highlights in this brief discussion about mobile apps and their notable features.
- Pay attention to functions and unique features: Your mobile app must not emulate every feature and aspect of your corresponding responsive website. Website functions aren’t always applicable to mobile apps.
- Mobile apps operate differently: They aren’t available online outright. You have to download mobile apps from a specific shop or store app that comes programmed into your device. They also need to be given permission to access your personal info along with other services.
- Apps work even if they’re offline: It largely depends on how mobile app works, but you are free to download content and other pieces of information to use, and you can see them even without network access. The music app, Spotify or other offline games are a great example of this.
- Inherently user-friendly designs: In terms of displaying design that caters to UX, mobile apps are at the top of that game. They are more adjustable to various screen sizes. And in general, the UI is much more geared to be user-friendly.
- Flexible use of components in the mobile phone: Mobile apps ask for permission to use your devices’ other functions — like the phone, the camera, your microphone, even GPS, etc. This feature actually works to give users a better and easier time as they use the app.
Responsive Website vs Mobile Apps
Now that we’ve finished discussing the features of each, it’s time to weigh them against one another. Depending on your business’ needs and objectives, should you invest in one at a single time, or both if you have the budget?
Advantages of a Responsive Website
Are your company’s goals aimed for better public communication, marketing, driving leads and generating more conversions? Well, the answer to that is obvious now, isn’t it? In hindsight, mobile and responsive websites do make more sense in terms of practicalities during the first steps of outreach or the first wave of marketing.
So with that in mind, let’s look at some of the significant advantages that responsive websites provide over mobile apps.
Mobile and responsive websites are:
- Mobile websites are easy to find: In terms of findability, users have a much easier time trying to locate you. Having the right SEO tactics, your website can appear on the first page of SERPs.
- Easy sharing between publishers and users: A simple link is all your website needs to be shared across multiple platforms. You have lots of choices in sharing them too — emails, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
- Broader reach: A mobile site can be accessed across many platforms and shared within users, and search engines. Mobile websites have wider reach capability than the usual native app. You’ve heard countless times that a well-optimized website can reach your users organically and communicate with them even without human contact. It’s your 24/7 salesperson.
- Immediate and available: Any device can easily access your site as long as they have strong network connections. It’s a significant barrier between initial engagement and action or conversion. As such, your responsive website is ideal for attracting new customers and generating leads.
- Compatible across devices: Whereas mobile apps require different versions of the same content to be developed for each operating system, a single responsive website can easily reach many people using different devices and operating systems in one go.
- Instant upgradability: When it comes to flexibility in making updates for content, a responsive and mobile website’s dynamism is unmatched. Changing and updating content and design is as simple as logging in as the admin and doing whatever you came to do. Mobile apps require updates to be, sadly, pushed down user’s throats. They need to download it if they want to keep using your app — consuming users’ internal storage data.
- Websites can’t be deleted: The life of the mobile app in a user’s device is questionable and depends largely on how willing the user would be to keep the app installed for extended periods of time. On the other hand, mobile and responsive websites will always be available to every visitor and user each time they return. And as long as it still exists in the world wide web, and not deleted by you or other third-parties.
The Pros of Mobile Apps
And yet despite the obvious popularity of the responsive website, mobile apps aren’t decreasing in notoriety any less. And in fact, a lot of scenarios where mobile apps make the best option for some businesses.
So, generally speaking, if you are in need of some services like the ones we mention below, the mobile apps make much more sense:
- Frequent usage & personalized experiences: Target users use your apps at personal levels and on a frequent basis (think online banking, social media, lifestyle apps, etc). Mobile apps are your best bet at giving your users a better way of doing things easily wherever and whenever.
- Visualizing, calculating, & organizing data: In gathering data, manipulating it, and fitting it into organizational tables like charts, graphs, etc, or to simply create reports or make calculations, apps are great with these types of functions.
- Access to native device functions: Apps are still great at making use of device components — like the camera, the microphone, the GPS, your Bluetooth, etc.
- Interactive gaming: Mobile apps are made for highly interactive mobile games (like BitLife).
- Implementing push notifications: When your users have your app installed in their device, you can send push notifications by bringing messages, promotions, and sales announcements in front of them.
- Offline functionality: Mobile apps’ offline functions allow for flexible actions in a user-friendly environment. This means you can able to store some of your data within locally, and when you have an online network connection, you can go ahead and upload it to the Net.
And of course, as with any other project, to developing this mobile app, you must make sure that you’re getting significant ROI — ones that are worth it, might I add. Definitely stir clear of overly pricey and needless expenses over app development when you know that a responsive website might be more ideal. Simply put, go for mobile apps when you’re absolutely sure that your business needs them.
On a Final Note
As you make the final choice between responsive website vs mobile apps, remember to look back into your company’s objectives or goals. Weight both options carefully, and make sure you go with the choice that would yield the best kind of returns for your business.
Because as it is, between these two, you can truly have either and even both.
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