It’s time to take your business to the next level. It’s likely that you already have a website for your company. After all, every organization needs a website just as much as it needs a phone number. However, your employees and customers need more functionality, and you need more automation to grow and stay ahead. So, mobile app vs. web app – which is best for your business? Welcome to Thunderdome. Well, ok … maybe not – but, let’s discuss some of the pros and cons of creating a mobile app versus extending your web presence into a web application.
What are the differences between a mobile app and a web app that I need to know?
Web applications play an important part in the modern business process. One of the key roles of a web application is to automate your business further. Many businesses create places that clients can login, automate processes and generally extend their websites with web applications/portals.
When a websites also provide value to customers through functionality – we start to migrate to a web application. Think Amazon and eBay. The primary purpose of both digital marketplaces is to provide an easy way for customers to buy and sell things without leaving their homes. While these are obvious examples, it shows that websites are commonly used for a lot more than discoverability. When you need your website to do something, you’re building web applications.
So, that begs the question, if you want to extend your business into the digital realm, is a mobile app better than a web application?
It’s common for web applications to also double as apps. There are a lot of technologies that make this possible. Websites can access the Bluetooth stack on smartphones, GPS data, cameras, and most of the things that an app can do. In many ways, a mobile-optimized website can be nearly as functional as a mobile app.
What are the four biggest differences in the mobile app vs. web app decision?
Four of the biggest differences that can make an app better than a web app are performance, offline functionality, ease of access, and tighter access to the device hardware.
Apps typically have better performance on smartphones compared to websites. That’s because apps deliver all of the user interface elements when you download the app. When you load a web application, you need to get a lot of files, images and scripts from back end servers – it can be like a logjam sometimes. It’s like trying to shove 8-lanes of traffic down a 2-lane road.
Likewise, while web applications can operate offline, they are extremely limited in how much offline data they can manage. Different browsers have different limits, but they all range between 5-10MB in size. Mobile apps are only limited by the device’s remaining local storage. So, if you have field personnel uploading photos in remote or inaccessible locations (this happens more than you might think), you’re going to need a mobile app. If we have any geeks reading, you can check out this IBM article for more on offline functionality.
Ease of Access
Accessing a mobile app on your phone is simple and login is typically easier. Further, you can access push notifications – this feature inaccessible to mobile web applications.
Access to Device Hardware
Finally, while mobile web applications today can get access to a device’s location or photos, for example, the user will be asked for that permission EVERY TIME they need it. Mobile apps are capable of being granted those permissions once without re-asking the user for permission.
All of that being said, while there are other differences, if the above reasons do not factor into your application, you may be better with a web application. Why is that? Well, quite simply a web application is available to users on mobile and desktop platforms with one code base – it makes sense in a lot of applications.
Why should I make a mobile app?
The answer to this mainly depends on your use case and the parameters surrounding it. Let’s talk about that:
- Is your application customer-facing or employee-facing?
- If your application is customer-facing, is there a loyalty component?
- If your application is employee-facing, do you have a reasonably heavy need for offline functionality?
- Does your application need consistent and low-friction access to the phone’s camera and location?
Irregardless of your answer to #1, if you answered yes to any of the questions between #2 and #4, a mobile app should be seriously considered.
For #2, mobile apps will maintain more consistent engagement with your users – afterall, they live on your customer’s phone. They have a constant presence in the phone’s real estate. If you are granting points or perks for engaging with your business via the app, they’ll keep coming back.
For #3, as we spoke about earlier, offline functionality in a mobile app is far superior to web applications. Mobile apps are nearly hands-down, the best tool for offline functionality.
Finally, for #4, permission to device hardware is far more seamless and removes friction for the user. Less friction equals a better experience.
Mobile app vs web app – which more expensive to make?
Believe it or not, both types of applications can cost about the same amount of money to develop these days. While both mobile apps and web apps each have their own codebase, it’s about the same amount of coding for each. The only slight differences are in the following areas:
- Control over the deployment of the software
- Adoption of software updates
- Control of access to the application
Because mobile apps are deployed through stores controlled by Apple and Google, they can cause some headaches from time to time, including:
- Delaying or denying deployments if your app doesn’t strictly meet store guidelines
- Forcing updates to comply with new rules
- Generally unclear communication from Apple and Google
Regarding the second point, when it comes to updates to the software, the other thing to understand is that web application updates are generally available immediately to users once deployed. Mobile apps, on the other hand, may only be available to users once they download the latest version. While many users have automatic updates turned on, there is no guarantee that users will download the latest version right away.
The final major difference between mobile apps and web apps is that we can actually control access to your mobile app much better in a store than we can on the web. For example, in a situation where you are building a mobile app for your employees, both Apple and Google have ways to allow you to strictly limit who can download your mobile app. Your mobile app won’t show on the main app stores, but will be available to your employees.
Would you like to know more?
We’ve covered a lot of info in this article and we understand that this wasn’t exactly Thunderdome. Everything we have discussed here is by no means a definitive answer as to whether a mobile app is better than a web app – they both have their benefits for the right use case. However, this should be enough information to help you start weighing whether a custom mobile app would be better than a web app for your business. If you would like more information, give us a shout – we know how to build both types of apps! The possibilities are limitless today, and there are tons of features both types of apps can offer you to help your customers and employees. All with the goal of growing your business.