Mobile Website vs. App: Top 9 Dilemmas

August 3rd, 2011 by

Mobile Website v.s. AppBusinesses are rapidly moving towards utilizing the mobile device as an integral part of their marketing strategies. Mobile marketing spending is expected to quadruple to $1.2 billion (yes, with a ‘B’)  in 2015, from $313 million just a year ago, according to ABI Research. However, the larger the role that mobile plays as a marketing channel, the more choices that must be made in how to deploy the marketing message. One common question is whether to prioritize developing a native smartphone application or providing customers with a mobile-optimized website. There are many advantages in favor of the latter, particularly for companies just getting their feet wet in the mobile pool.

Broad Distribution and Large Market Size: There is a reason they call it the World Wide Web:  it is accessible to everyone. With 35% of American adults using an Android device, 24% using an iPhone and another 24% using BlackBerry, you’re probably thinking that it’d be great to reach ALL of them. With a mobile optimized website you actually can (even those with simpler phones). Furthermore, mobile sites can help boost traffic to your traditional website and social media presence, thereby increasing your distribution even further.

Less $$$: From both a cost and a revenue perspective, mobile websites win over apps hands-down. But development costs for iPhone apps can run at least $35K for a reasonably functional app. Adding Android and Blackberry, will bring you to $105K+. Mobile websites are significantly less expensive because there is no need to develop three or four different versions to cover multiple OEM’s. As for revenue, would you rather keep all your proceeds or only 70%?  Enough said.

Faster Time to Market: Closely linked to the cost issue, it is MUCH quicker to optimize your existing website for mobile devices than it is to create a mobile app from scratch and complete the approval process.


Easier Maintenance and Updates: Changes are instantaneous as they are on the wired web, allowing you to tweak and improve your product as needed. App updates, on the other hand, must be approved (a multi-week process) and users must download and install the update to get the latest version (many don’t, leaving them with a suboptimal experience and you with unflattering reviews and dropped users).

Everyone is Doing It: 33% of mobile phone users access the mobile web from their phones at least once weekly, and most mobile users actually prefer using a browser for most activities. This means that if your traditional website doesn’t render well on mobile (and chances are it won’t), your customers will get frustrated and go somewhere else. It will also make a poor impression on a new customer.

Capitalize on Existing User Behavior: Users like using the mobile web as it is similar to the desktop browsing experience, and they use it for similar reasons, such as looking up small bytes of information quickly.

Inherent Discoverability for User Adoption: Users can just enter a URL to get to your brand – they don’t need to search through hundreds of thousands of offerings to locate your app (and assuming they don’t get distracted by another app on the way).

Longevity: While it takes a miracle to get your app into the top app list, it takes an even bigger miracle to extend its shelf life beyond a few uses after it is downloaded. With mobile web, the tried-and-true methods such as search, bookmarking and hyperlinking will keep driving traffic to your mobile website on and on.

Unlimited Billing Options: Business model options on the mobile web are much wider for service-related companies and e-commerce offerings which are not suited to the content-driven download model made famous by iTunes. And if the terms of use by one provider become less desirable, you can always switch to a different one.

Ultimately, unless you have a specific need to access features specific to the physical device, such as a camera or gyroscope, in order to deploy your product or service, you are likely better served by a mobile website. It is cheaper, faster, and much easier for your customers to digest.

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3 Responses to “Mobile Website vs. App: Top 9 Dilemmas”

  1. Juan Carlos D says:

    There can be other factors as well.
    I, for example, am developing an App for tourists, so they can access information offline, avoiding roaming costs.

  2. Trilibis Blogging Team says:

    Thank you for your comment. Currently offline storage is more prevalent in apps, because it is inherently supported by the OS. But that doesn’t mean that now you should only be investing in developing apps. Our “Mobile Website vs. App: Top 9 Dilemmas” blog post focused on the nine fundamental questions that should be guiding your app vs. mobile website decision.

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