Someone holding a mobile phone, browsing a website.

Responsive websites vs apps

By Ben Walker on 19 February 2018

Looking good on mobile has never been so important. And no, we’re not talking about what filter to use on your selfies.

As more and more consumers turn to their tablets and smartphones to shop, browse, learn and generally procrastinate, it’s now more essential than ever to make sure your website is optimised for all devices.

Did you know mobile internet browsing exceeded desktop browsing back in 2016? Or that the estimated number of mobile phone users worldwide is set to be 5.07 billion and a whopping 56 per cent of all website traffic comes from mobile? Those are some pretty impressive stats.

Google also favours mobile-optimised websites in its search rankings – because, after all, the search engine wants to offer its users the very best web browsing experience possible. So basically, if you can’t see the importance of connecting with mobile users, you may as well just pack up your desk and go.

However, if you do want your business to connect with the hordes of mobile users, you may find yourself faced with a dilemma: to app, or not to app?

Many companies find themselves forced to choose between developing an app for their business or opting for a fully responsive website design. But which is better? Let’s weigh up some of the pros and cons…

Responsive websites – the benefits

Responsive websites are specially designed to display properly on a range of devices, including desktop, mobile and tablet. Whether your potential customer is checking out your site on their three-inch mobile screen, or an 18-inch laptop, your responsive web design will make sure your website always looks its absolute best.

But wait – what about an adaptive website? An adaptive website is similar to a responsive website, as in it changes to suit different screens, but adaptive design lacks the usability of responsive design and are significantly less flexible. So responsive all the way.

Here are some of the reasons a responsive website might be a good fit for your business.

Good for new customers

Prospective customers aren’t going to go straight to their app store to download your app – they’re going to investigate your website first. If your business depends on attracting and retaining new customers (as most do) then a responsive website with a dash of good SEO is the perfect way for users to discover you.

No need to download or install

How much do you hate running out of space on your smartphone? Well, you aren’t alone. The beauty of a responsive website is it doesn’t need to be downloaded and installed. Since most smartphone browsers surf the web on the go, they aren’t going to want to use their data to install your app either. Instead, make your website available to them immediately.

Easy (and usually cheaper!) to update

Website updates can be carried out spontaneously and instantaneously. Whether you want to publish a new web page or fix a bug, it’s easy to get your developer on the case and sort it asap. On the flip side, apps need updates pushed out to add anything new or fix a problem.

Generally less expensive than an app

A well designed responsive website works across a plethora of devices. You don’t have to make multiple versions for different devices, like you do with an app. Saving on this development time will save your business a fair whack of money.

Mobile apps – the benefits

Ok, now let’s look at the benefits of developing a mobile app for your business. A mobile app is a piece of software you install on your phone or tablet. Different versions are required for different operating systems – iOS vs Android etc. which can make them more costly than website design.

Good for regular customers

The Amazon Shopping app is an excellent example of a mobile app that caters to a returning audience. It keeps you signed in, remembers what you like and makes it easy to spend your hard earned cash. If your business relies on repeat custom, it’s easy to see why a mobile app could provide a smooth, simple process for your customers. But remember, a mobile app should complement your website, not replace it. Amazon’s website is still a huge part of its success.

Push notifications

You can stay in almost constant contact with your users via push notifications. Although you should also give your users the option to turn these off! Sometimes people don’t want to be disturbed.

Works offline

If your customer has downloaded data within your app, then they can access it anywhere, regardless of whether they have an internet connection or not.

The verdict

Overall, mobile apps are more expensive, have a smaller audience, are more difficult to update and require the user to download them. A well made responsive website can deliver everything a mobile app can and more. For this reason, in our book, responsive websites win every time. We create beautiful responsive websites for our clients that don’t cost the earth and are easy to maintain. Want to talk website design? Contact us today.

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