Mobile Websites vs. Apps

app-store

As a bit of an experiment, let’s pretend that your company decides to forego the expense of app development and focus its resources on a sophisticated mobile website instead. Would this benefit them at all? Here’s a quick look at a few of the reasons why mobile websites can be just as good as apps.

Audience Reach

Mobile websites can potentially reach more people than apps, as they are untethered from things like operating systems and device generations. Put another way, the vast majority of phones, tablets and PCs will be able to render a website but they might not all run the same app.

There’s also the benefit of being able to provide content or information immediately. People raised on a diet of the internet and the constant connectivity of social media have very low patience, some research indicates that humans have lost a full four seconds of attention span since the year 2000 – down from twelve seconds to eight.

People lose interest in websites if they take longer than two to three seconds to load. If you consider that the average app takes more than twice that duration to download and install, companies are placing a lot of faith in their customers’ staying power if they can only offer an app in lieu of a mobile-optimized website.

Perhaps the best evidence that those ten-second installations affect customer experience is the fact that Google recently announced Android Instant Apps. An initiative that could allow users to skip installation completely and use apps in a web-based environment instead; effectively apps ‘in the cloud’. Another note on our collective, waning patience: the vast majority of apps lose three-quarters of their users after 24 hours.

“Nexus 7 App Icon Grid” (CC BY 2.0) by ashkyd

Content Management

From the perspective of updating and maintaining the customer-facing side of a business, websites benefit from a shorter turnaround time compared to apps. A website running a content management system like WordPress can apply changes in a few seconds. In comparison, it takes at least a day for Apple to review an app, including for critical updates.

There’s also the whole concept of ‘shareability’. Websites, videos, and images are much easier to distribute through social networks than apps, games, and other pieces of software. According to Hootsuite, a company’s ranking in search engines is influenced by the number of people who share the website (or parts thereof) on social media.

There are companies out there that have never relied on an app over a mobile website, like for instance in the online casino industry. This kind of site has perhaps a greater need for cross-platform functionality – their games need to work on all devices. So they provide a good example of how mobile websites can at least be as functional as apps while offering the same features as a desktop site. Vegas Casino, for example, a provider of bitcoin mobile blackjack, roulette, slot machines and live dealer games, favours a web-based environment for its games. Their responsive site automatically displays the best size to fit on different screens and users have instant access to games as they don’t need to install a plugin.

Elsewhere, About.com doesn’t have an Android app in the Play Store, while Dribbble and Craigslist have also foregone the development of a mobile or tablet app.  As a final point, it’s always important for a business to take a combined approach to marketing, whether online or offline, print or digital. Having said that, the needs of your customer may mean that some avenues go ignored by necessity. Knowing exactly how your audience likes to consume information should be the driving force behind the development of your marketing campaigns, and not the newest trends in technology.

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