By: Guest Post
Even if you had unlimited resources to invest in development, it wouldn’t necessarily be a good idea to have both a website and a mobile app. While it certainly can be the best available option, it inevitably splits focus to some extent, and a technical issue with one can have a secondary effect on the other.
As such, if you’re looking to create or overhaul an online presence, you need to determine before anything else whether you need a mobile app, a website, or both. Let’s look at what makes each option appealing, and examine when you should prefer one over the others.
Mobile App – Advantages and Disadvantages
Having a mobile app was initially a luxury, but the barrier to entry has lowered significantly over time. It’s now entirely possible for a small business to have a solid app developed without breaking the bank, allowing them to offer users a greater level of mobile convenience.
Here are the advantages and disadvantages of apps compared to websites:
- Has more UX possibilities
- A website design must function just as well on a large screen as it does on a small one, and should be as efficient as possible to allow for lower-end computers that might not support certain stylistic options. A mobile app only needs to function within the parameters of the mobile OS, and can thus be designed with more interesting animations, transitions, and layouts.
- Supports customization
- Not only is a mobile app usually tied to the user through the mobile ecosystem (Google Play Store on Android or the App Store on iOS), it allows access to personal data. It can also use the phone hardware (accelerometer, GPS chip, camera, etc.) to support further customization options.
- Broadens marketing options
- With options such as push notifications, vibration alerts, location tracking and super-fast ecosystem-supported payments, a mobile app can do so much more than a website to drive conversions— even working to push out ads and reminders when the user isn’t using the app.
- Can be opened offline
- Once an app is downloaded, it can be run without an active data connection. If you support offline functions with the option to download information (such as downloading a local map in Google Maps), you can make your app extremely useful always, regardless of the connectivity.
- Demands greater investment
- Though app development has become much cheaper, as noted, it’s still a lot more expensive than opting for a website development. While there are plenty of free website design options, even if you use an automated app builder, you’ll still be looking at a moderate monthly fee to keep your app live.
- Must pass ecosystem requirements
- The App Store and the Play Store both have specific criteria that must be met for an app to be listed, and it takes time and knowledge to meet them. After that, since the criteria are changed on a semi-frequent basis, you’ll need to implement suitable updates or see your app made unavailable (this can be sidestepped, but not very neatly).
- Faces greater expectations
- Because you do more with the UX for an app, the standards are much higher. You can get away with a mediocre navigation on a website, but not on a mobile app, because people don’t want to waste space and battery power on apps that don’t function well.
Website advantages and disadvantages
The humble website has long been the bare minimum that a business can do online. It serves as the hub of an online operation, and can be configured and hosted for very little money if needed, or invested in heavily for better results.
Here are the advantages and disadvantages of websites compared to apps:
- The cheapest option
- Setting up a website is very much the default option, and getting a decent website is easier and cheaper than creating and maintaining even a basic app. Going for a website can’t be beaten in terms of cost-effectiveness.
- Viable across any platform
- Relatively simple to learn
- App development is accessible, but a lot more complicated than website creation. You can find online resources to guide you on how to make your own website through a free CMS like WordPress, but there’s no comparable free and simple option for creating a worthwhile mobile app— you need expert assistance.
- Important for SEO
- Websites can easily be crawled and indexed by search engine bots, making all their content visible in search results. Since mobile apps aren’t open to internet search in that way, they don’t help with SEO. Chances are that anyone downloading an app must already be aware of the brand.
- Reaches more people
- Due to cross-platform support and SEO accessibility, websites typically reach far, far more users than apps do. If you’re looking for sheer numbers, you simply cannot do without a website.
- Limited functionality
- Without access to sophisticated phone sensors, and with no guarantee of users being willing to register accounts, website interfaces need to work fine without any custom data. This is great for ease of use, but it severely limits what user-specific things can be achieved.
- Data connection required
- If you don’t have internet access, you can’t reach a website unless you’ve manually saved a copy, in which case it likely won’t render properly or operate as it should. If a user goes somewhere with no or limited connectivity, they won’t be using your website for a while.
- Inferior UX
- Since it needs to operate across different platforms, devices and screen sizes, as well as support various old technological standards for accessibility, a website UX cannot be as slick or appealing like an app UX.
Choosing an app, a website, or both
With the pros and cons discussed above, we can now identify the situations in which you should commission an app, develop a website, or aim for both.
You need an app if:
- You have a recognizable brand
- Your users will benefit from granular location-specific functions
- You want to provide the best possible UX
- You offer features that will be useful offline
- Majority of your customers are tech-savvy or are mostly on the move
You need a website if:
- You can’t justify the expenditure required for an app
- You want to reach as many people as possible
- You have customers who primarily use a lot of old technology
- You’re looking for more search traffic
- You want updates to be relatively easy
You need both if:
- You’ve built a large audience
- You have the budget to accommodate both
- You’re not concerned about the prospect of split development
- You consider customer loyalty to be a huge priority
- You have a plan to keep your customers meaningfully distinct
If you need something to perform a specific set of functions for a user base you’ve already identified and can reach directly with instructions, then you might only need an app— otherwise, I recommend you either stick to a website or go for both.
If nothing else, the SEO limitations and generally-reduced visibility of mobile apps makes it very hard to recommend just having an app and no website.
If you can’t justify getting an app now, however, give it some time. The prospect is only going to get cheaper and easier, and there’s an excellent chance that in a year or two you’ll find the circumstances much more agreeable.
Have you decided whether you need an app, a website, or both? However, you want to proceed, you’ll benefit hugely from some expert advice, so get in touch today for some recommendations.
Kayleigh Alexandra is a content writer for Micro Startups — a site dedicated to giving through growth hacking. Visit the blog for your latest dose of startup, entrepreneur, and charity insights from top experts around the globe. Follow us on Twitter @getmicrostarted.
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