Sunday, 11 November 2012

Mobile Websites Vs Mobile Apps - What's The Difference?

Tuesday 19 June, 2012
Smartphones and other mobile devices are being adopted at an increasingly rapid pace. While the need to cater to these users is clear, deciding which mobile solution to adopt - a mobile website or a mobile application - is less apparent. Discover the pros and cons of each to assist in developing your mobile strategy.
Mobile Websites Vs Apps - What's The Difference?Most mobile phone users can access the internet via their phone - and almost 50% of owners between the ages of 30 and 65 do. Adoption and usage of the mobile internet is also currently increasing at approximately 10% per annum.
On the other hand, only about 16% of businesses with websites have an associated digital strategy. Of this 16%, more than half have a mobile component in their strategy, but just 5% of businesses have a mobile website. These figures do not come close to the trend of users.
Users want to access and consume information when and where they need it. The usability of websites displayed on small screens and/or touch interfaces is thus becoming a priority. Businesses need to create uncluttered designs and longer pages which encourage scrolling rather than clicking on links.
Furthermore, micro payments using technology such as Near Field Computing (NFC) are set to rise. This includes the concept of the mobile device becoming the 'digital wallet'. We can expect both real world and online transactions to become much simpler via a mobile device.
These changes present both opportunities and threats for businesses. We can either decide to innovate and keep up with visitor demands, or fall quickly behind when our technology becomes unusable in this fast paced world.

Becoming mobile

So considering the rapid uptake and usage of mobile devices, what is the best solution? It seems that many businesses are confused about which strategy to adopt - mobile websites or mobile applications. This article will discuss the core differences between the two.

Mobile websites

Mobile websites are similar to standard websites but designed for smaller, handheld devices. The mobile version should not be just a 'smaller' copy as users of mobile websites are typically on-the-go and want to find information quickly and easily. Therefore the mobile site should offer fewer features and simpler navigation.
Mobile websites versus desktop websites


Mobile Websites

Mobile Websites Accessed By PC

User Experience Designed for small screens Needs to scroll, zoom, and type a lot of information, which makes for a poor user experience
Faster Download Speed Specifically designed for mobile standards and optimal download speed A lot more information to be downloaded
Engagement / Context Allows you to immediately engage users with mobile-specific features such as click-to-call, mapping functions, location-aware - giving you a competitive advantage over those who don't offer this Users quickly become frustrated with unusable technology and may give up
Integration with Offline Media QR codes can be displayed in print, and then when scanned with a smart phone, translated into electronic messaging such as a web site URL, an email address or SMS  

Mobile Applications (Apps)

Mobile applications are applications that are installed on the mobile device, rather than being used within a browser.
Generally speaking, a mobile website should be considered your first step in developing a mobile web presence. Whereas an app is useful for developing an application for a very specific purpose that cannot be effectively accomplished via a web browser.
There are also studies to suggest that the average shelf life of apps is low - people download them frequently but usage drops off dramatically over time. One study recently showed that for free applications, only about 20% of users returned to use the app after they downloaded. The usage for paid apps had an even steeper drop off rate.
Mobile websites versus Mobile Apps


Mobile Websites

Mobile Apps

Immediacy Are instantly available Require the user to first download and install the app from an app market
Compatibility Compatible across multiple devices such as HTC and iPhone. Furthermore, mobile website's URLs are easily integrated within other mobile technologies like QR codes Requires a separate version to be developed for each type of device
Cost One website available on all mobile devices A new application has to be developed and maintained for all major mobile devices
Advertising Easier to drive advertising traffic Users have to download the application before they can use it
Discoverability Discovered through site redirects Restricted to manufacturer app stores
Content Better content which can be indexed by search engines like Google  
Upgradability The changes are published and become visible immediately Requires updates to be pushed to users
Technical expertise .NET and jQueryMobile Technical expertise on a variety of platforms and languages
Life Cycle Cannot be deleted  
Installation As a normal website Requires approval from the app store
Ease of use Mobile browser performance is improving Easier to navigate, feature-rich functionality
Connectivity Don't always need to be connected to the Internet. After the initial online discovery, the website can be taken offline and work off cached data Don't always need to be connected to the Internet
Interactivity / Gaming   Best choice
Native Functionality Mobile web browsers are getting increasingly good at accessing certain mobile-specific functions such as click-to-call, SMS and GPS User camera, processing power
Business Model There are hybrid solutions, where just the shell of the application is implemented natively, and the rest of the functionality runs in a hidden browser The business can sell their apps through an app store

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