Should you build a mobile app or a website?

Does your website cater for smartphone users?

Should you build a mobile app or a website?

More time is now spent accessing the web from mobile devices than from laptops and desktop computers. This is why websites need to have mobile versions that adapt to small screen areas. Research has shown that mobile phone users spend more time on apps than accessing websites.

So, this begs the question, should you build an app or a mobile website?

Template driven apps

The cheapest way to build an app is to use an app maker. There are several available including appmakr.com, appypie.com and appinstitute.com. These are template driven using drag and drop components such as menus, images and video players. Some app makers can pull content from your website or simply convert a website to a mobile app.

App builders usually charge a monthly fee to publish your app on both Android and Apple platforms.

Purpose built apps

To have an app built for you by a developer can be very expensive, but is a way for a business to stand out above its competitors.

An app can take advantages of a phone’s hardware: the GPS navigation system, the camera, the accelerometer.

A purpose built app can be useful for users beyond increasing brand awareness. For example, a business in the interior decorating market can have an app that takes pictures of a room then changes the colours of the walls or places furniture in the photo to provide a visualisation of how a company’s products look in a client’s home. If your business holds events, then an app can be used to book places at the event.

An app can also be used to process sales, but on Apple devices any in app purchases are subject to Apple taking 30% of the money. Apps can also generate income from in app adverts, but in app ads could detract from your brand and annoy users.

App vs Website

Ideally a business needs both a website and a mobile app but if the budget will not cover the development of both then a mobile website is more important than an app.

The advantage of a website is that development costs are reasonable; it does not need to be downloaded or approved by Apple.

An app can be expensive to develop and needs approval by Apple if designed for the iPhone or iPad. An app needs to be downloaded by users, which means marketing the app to encourage downloads. An app, unlike a website can be available for use offline and will generally be faster than a website. If the app is well built, then users will interact with it more than a website.

Build the website first

If you are building both a website and a mobile app then it is best to build the website first as this can be accessed by all users. The mobile app should use the same colour scheme and share some of the layout features and graphic elements of the website.

If you ask yourself the question should I build a mobile app or a website, the answer is build both if you want to improve your brand awareness – but if you can only afford one then the mobile website is a must.

Technical Director at Engage Web
Darren is Technical Director at Engage Web, as well as being a co-founder of the company. He takes a hands-on approach to SEO and web design, helped by more than 20 years’ experience in these fields.

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