Mobile Website or Native App?

9 Apr 2013 3:54 PM Mobile Website or Native App?

If you plan on having a mobile presence for your business, you should first consider whether you want to create a mobile application for users to download (native app) or a mobile website. Mobile websites and native apps can be very similar and the difference between the capabilities are narrowing rapidly. But which one should you choose?

Native Apps

Native apps are applications that are downloaded and installed onto the user’s mobile device from their systems app store (e.g. Apple’s App Store, Android’s Google Play, Windows Store and Blackberry’s App World).

Mobile Websites

Mobile websites are just like your usual desktop website, just developed to be easily usable on a handheld device (e.g. iPhone, HTC, etc).  They can either use your current desktop site and made to fit using Responsive Website Design or create a partly separate site that can be automatically redirected to, when on a handheld.

The Differences

Native Apps Mobile Websites
  • Native apps are required to be written in the platforms own language. That means if you want an app to work on different platforms, multiple versions of that app will have to be developed.
  • Mobile websites are written in standard web languages such as HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript which are accepted across all recent browsers.
  • Supporting and sustaining an app (e.g. testing, compatibility issues and upgrading) requires the user to go into their devices app store and download/ install the update to view the new content or bug fixes.
  • Updating/ changing websites are instantly viewable across all devices and browsers.
  • Needing multiple versions of apps and updating them all individually is very time and cost consuming.
  • Having only a single website to develop and manage across all platforms saves time and money.
  • A devices native features (e.g. camera, flash, accelerometer, etc) can be integrated into the app.
  • Mobile websites can only access a few of the devices features, such as geolocation and media files. However, future advances in standard web languages continue to improve access to these features.
  • Apps perform faster because they are directly processed through the device.
  • Websites aren’t as speedy because they have to be processed through a browser first.
  • Visibility of an app is mostly only found on the platforms app store.
  • Mobile websites can be found and directed by popular search engines (e.g. Google, Yahoo!, Bing, etc).
  • Companies can charge the user a small sum to be able to download the app, letting the app store handle the payment process.
  • Mobile sites are required to have a personally developed subscription-based system to be able to charge the user.
  • They don’t require a network/ wireless connection.
  • Browsers used to view the website do required an internet connection.

Now Decide

When choosing which is best for you, think about what you are intending to do with your application. Ask yourself, how much am I willing to spend on time and money? Do I want to target all users on every platform or just the major ones? How important is the applications performance? How interactive will it be? Now decide if whether a native app or mobile website is best for you.