When deciding whether your business needs a mobile app or a responsive website, it’s a good idea to start with what you’re trying to achieve.
What are you doing and why? Who is your end user? These are important questions to answer when you’re looking at the question of mobile app versus responsive website.
It could also be argued that “mobile app versus responsive website” is the wrong way to look at this. The fact is that every website needs to be responsive, which means it needs to work effectively on a smart phone.
If your business website ISN’T mobile responsive, then Google will penalise you heavily and this will affect how easily you can be found on Google. So if you don’t have a responsive website, then this should be your priority.
What is a mobile website or responsive website?
This is usually a condensed version of your main website that is easier to navigate on a smart phone. It should be user-friendly and accessible on a smaller screen, with good functionality. Its appearance can make it look like a web app, but it is accessed through a browser and the website visitor needs to be online to use it. Often its main purpose is for marketing and providing information to clients and prospects.
Once you’ve created your responsive website it should work on any browser – there’s no need to create different versions for different platforms, although you should check that the website renders correctly (looks good and functions in the right way) on all the main browsers.
There is more scope for trialling things on a website than in an app so you have more flexibility to try things out and make changes after you’ve launched the site.
Why use an app?
Once you have a responsive website in place, why would you then need an app? An app is something that the user would download from an app store and can be operated when they are offline i.e. not connected to the internet.
As suggested earlier, you need to look at what you want to achieve before you decide whether you need an app. Apps have additional features such as push notifications or pop-up messages and you can also use features such as geo-fencing to promote your goods or services.
A good example of this is something that could work well for a personal trainer or gym. You would set up a geo-fence (essentially a geographical boundary) around your local McDonalds and Burger King restaurants. Then whenever someone with your app leaves either of these fast food establishments, a message from you appears, promoting your services.
What’s involved in creating an app?
Apps are different from websites in that you have to get the app accepted by app stores, so it must be something that is worthy of being an app, rather than something that could easily work as a website.
There are multiple build costs involved with an app, as you will need to build separate versions for Apple and Android. Therefore, it makes sense to look at the demographics of your potential users and see which smartphone they use most. Then develop the app for this platform. Once you are sure that the app works effectively, you can refine the first version and then build a second version for the other platform.
In summary, unless you need the features of an app, then you should always build a mobile responsive website rather than an app.
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