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Web Design Cheltenham

Mobile website vs mobile app?

Shaun and Mark P debate which is better, native mobile apps, or mobile websites?

Shaun -
I'm getting asked a lot recently by clients if they should have a mobile app, or whether they should just have a mobile friendly version of their website. So native app vs web app. What do you feel about that?

I know it is not an easy question to answer - there are pros and cons for both and it depends on the purpose of it.


Mark P -
Yeah, it does depend on the purpose. I mean, the intitial issue you face when developing a mobile app is what platform are you going to do it for? Are you going to do it for Apple iOS? For Android? Are you going to do it for Windows?

The most popular are iPhone and Android, but Windows could also grow. So from the initial standpoint, if you are going to do a dedicated app which one do you choose?


Shaun -
That's the problem, for a start! If you are developing a native app you've not only got to develop the website, you have then got to develop an iOS app, in that language (Objective C), and one for Android and Microsoft which massively adds to the development costs.

And also they are constantly bringing out new updates, which means you have update costs accross all three platforms...


Mark P -
Yeah, what works on one, will not necessarily work on another next year, so iOS 5 to iOS 6 for example. There were some issues with apps not working when they updated the platform.

And you as a developer, mananging that app, have to roll out that update...


Shaun -
And another massive difference is that you, as a developer, have to pay Apple, or Google, a big percentage...

Mark P -
It's around 30%

Shaun -
30%? Wow.

But, having said that, a native app you can sell, on the app store. The app store is a global marketplace. So that is a major difference: an app is a physical product that you are selling, that you could make a lot of money from globally, in a very short space of time.

Whereas a web app isn't - a web app can be very popular, but you have to make your money via advertising or other avenues.


Mark P -
The other aspect is that with a native app you can use the device's hardware, such as GPS or accelerometer. But with a normal optimised website, you would not have easy access to that kind of information.

Shaun -
Hmm, but with a web app you do have access to all kinds of live data. So the problem with a native app is that if you are not online, and that data is not being pushed to the device, then the data is potentially out of date. Whereas if it's a web app, the data is always the most up to date.

Mark P -
However, the other side of that is that you can look at some previously used or saved information which you can't do with a web app, because you can't get access to the internet.

So there are definitely pros and cons to both, it's about making that decision on which way to go, depending on what platform and userbase you are trying to target. If you are going for the high end, high disposable income, then an iPhone app might be more applicable, than say an Android or Windows.


Shaun -
I mean it does physically sit on your phone if you have a native app, and you've got that icon there that you just press. And you do get quite used to just pressing it. Whereas a web app isn't as direct - you have got to browse to use it.

Mark P -
Yeah, you open up a browser, whether its Chrome, or another browser on your phone, and then you type in the URL or press a bookmark, and then you're in the web experience.

But a lot of the mobile culture has been around 'I've got a collection of apps, i'll hit that icon', like the Amazon app, for example, or Google Shopping.


Shaun -
And you get used to going to those apps.

Mark P -
Yeah. It becomes a very common thing you do. And you can do it in five minutes. So instead of having to remember a URL, or use it within a browser confined experience, you have the app experiences.

It's often more tactile too. The app is designed from the ground up with touch and mobile use in mind. But the mobile optimised site is still the traditional web experience, just made as easy as possible.


Shaun -
Yeah that's true, it's designed for a much bigger screen, but then tailored for the mobile screen. Whereas a native app is designed purely for that screen. So often you find the design is better.

Mark P -
The experiences between the two are slightly different.

Shaun -
The big difference, though, is the development cost and that is something that the client has to be aware of. Because if you are doing a web app, thats one thing, one budget, but if you are doing native apps accross three platforms in three different languages, that is a much, much bigger budget.


Mark - SOZO Design This article was published by Mark on 7th February 2013. “I am a self confessed internet addict! I am totally passionate about the endless possibilities of the internet and I love working in the thick of such an exciting industry.” Mark is a talented web developer and skilled SEO expert. He is a complete natural at online marketing. What he doesn't know about Google or Facebook isn't worth knowing!
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