The Difference Between Mobile Optimisation and Mobile Apps

October 6, 2017

Which is better?

In the UK 61% of internet usage is mobile, and 81% of that is through mobile apps. Therefore, it only seems reasonable to have a mobile marketing plan to fit your customer’s needs whether you are a small or large organisation. This article discusses the differences between mobile optimised websites and mobile apps, to help you decide which is the best option for your business.

Accessibility and Connection

In terms of accessibility, mobile optimised websites require an internet connection as they can only be accessed through a browser. This means that the user must actively spend time searching for what they need, and wait for the content to load depending on how good their connection is. Unfortunately, this does not fit well with how impatient we are as a society and could discourage customers from engaging with your business online.

However, mobile apps can be made available offline. This means that users can access your content wherever they are. And once your app has been installed, it stays fixed on a user’s home screen for instant access. This means that users save valuable time searching for what they need through a browser, as your app is always at the ready, one tap away. Additionally, having your app in view at all times mean that users are more likely to go into it and see recent updates, be that ‘just-arrived’ items in your shop or the latest foreign currency news.

Features and Functionalities

The most important part of any online website is what users can achieve and how efficiently they can do so, thus the features and functionality are most important. Unfortunately, mobile optimised websites have limited features as it is not possible to access the native functionality of the phone. For example, when visiting a mobile optimised website, users cannot use the phone’s camera or location services if they need to.

In contrast, mobile apps are coded specifically for the platform they are on. For example, using Objective C or Swift for iOS, and using Java for Android. This means that mobile apps can make use of the phone’s native functionality and can be updated alongside the release of new software. For example, your mobile app can be updated with new features such as augmented reality alongside the release of iOS 11.

Emails vs. Push Notifications

In terms of keeping customers up to date with the latest services and offers, most businesses have a regular email campaign that they time according to when their target audience is most likely to be interested. However, with a mobile app, you can send users instant push notifications instead of, or as well as emails which tend to sit in their inbox, unread. Push notifications mean that you can update users with one, quick, punchy sentence rather than an email they may never open.

Design Interface

Design is the most fundamental part of keeping your users engaged. When visiting a mobile optimised website, the content has not been designed to fit the screen you are looking at it on - it has been designed for a desktop and been made responsive for smartphones. This means that although you can access everything you need to via your smartphone on a mobile optimised website, the design itself has not been shaped around the screen size of your phone.

Although there are some very good mobile optimised websites such as Amazon, in comparison, all mobile apps have specifically been designed to fit the screen you are looking at it on. For example, designed for an iOS, Android or both. This means that the interface of a mobile app is much smoother, more attractive to the eye and easier to navigate. Read our article Don’t Rush Design. Trust the Process. to find out more about the importance of the design process.

Conclusion and Progressive Web Apps

In conclusion, mobile optimised websites have serious limitations compared to mobile apps. However, as expected, mobile apps are much more costly to build. If you want to build your app on both iOS and Android platforms natively, it will cost you twice as much as building on one platform. However, what we suggest is to start by building your app on one platform - the one which your target audience use most. There is also the cheaper option of building a HTML5 hybrid app or Facebook React Native app. This means that your app can be used on both platforms.

Similarly, having been launched by Google in 2015, Progressive Web Apps are on the horizon, with some users not even knowing that they are using them! In fact, Twitter, one of the most popular social media platforms, has already implemented Progressive Web technology. This means that they have combined the best features of mobile optimised websites with mobile apps. PWAs are said to be reliable, fast and engaging.

However, PWAs cannot make phone calls, send SMSs or access their voicemail. Therefore, they are still lacking some features of a mobile app. At Red C, we are very excited about using Progressive Web App technology, however, mobile apps will always be a worthwhile long term investment as they can use all the native functionality of the phone and can be maintained and updated as technology advances.

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