Dev

8 min read

December 12, 2022

Decide between mobile app software development and web app software development. Read the article to learn the advantages and disadvantages of developing mobile apps and web apps.

Mobile app or web app? How to choose the right channel for your digital product?

Many companies have a hard time deciding between a mobile application and a web application. The first option may seem very cool. The trouble is, in some cases it turns out to be overkill, straining your budget and providing little in return. Sometimes a browser-based application is good enough to convey your message, engage your customers, and achieve your business goals. On the other hand, a mobile app can be a game changer when convenience and UX quality is paramount.

Let's investigate the pros and cons of mobile and web apps to determine when each makes more sense for business.

A mobile app, a web app, and a website – what's the difference?

For starters, let's clarify the basic notions. A mobile app is a piece of software you can download on your mobile device and use online or offline, although some functions may be unavailable without access to the network. On the other hand, a web app is a browser-based software application. It can be launched only via a web browser in an online mode. In other words: it is not downloadable.

The good thing about a web app is that, unlike a mobile app, it is typically accessible from any type of device: mobile or desktop. Issues may occur if the page serving the app is not designed to fit different screen sizes. In that case, an app will likely still be usable but with poor user experience.However, such situations are relatively rare, as Responsive Web Design (RWD),as well as progressive web apps (PWA), have become standard approaches to web development.

As regards a "mere" website, it is a collection of web pages (it can work as one page, too) providing non-interactive content, be it text, graphics, sound, or video – as opposed to a web app that offers interactive functionality(it responds to what user does instead of just showing something).

Similarly to a web app, a website can be accessed from both mobile and desktop devices. In case you wonder, the name "mobile website" does not necessarily denote a different digital "entity." It simply refers to a website that is designed or customized to properly display on smartphones and tablets.

Last but not least, it is worth noting that the difference between a web app and a website may be narrow, as the latter may offer some interactive functionality, thus falling into – or bordering on – the application category.

What are the advantages of a mobile app for business?

By rough estimates, the number of smartphone owners has exceeded 6.64 billion, making up over 83.3% of the human population. Obviously, few companies aspire to reach them all. Most online businesses, though, dream of engaging as many mobile users as possible, at least within their targeted geographical area. In many ways, mobile apps make it easier than web apps. Let's name key advantages mobile-native applications hold over browser-based software.

1. Mobile apps work faster

Mobile apps are way faster than even neatly designed web apps. Majority of mobile applications store most of the data locally on a user's device, while the latter download it from a distant server adding to latency and impeding performance. This characteristic is critical, as, according to Google, over half of users bounce off a site that takes over 3 seconds to load.

2. Mobile apps are easier to launch

Mobile apps are launched by tapping an icon on the home screen. Web apps are accessed through a browser. Obviously, you can create a shortcut icon but, believe it or not, many users are unaware of that. As a result, they frequently go through a browser or a search bar and type in a query or an address. The auto-complete function speeds up the process, but still, it takes extra steps to reach the goal. In the modern web, where convenience is all, it can be a deterrent.

3. Mobile apps can work offline

Simple as that. Obviously, depending on the app's intended use, some features may be unavailable in an offline mode.

4. Mobile apps can seamlessly use the device's features

Mobile applications can access various phone-native features, such as a camera, phone, and GPS, for performing required actions. Many web apps can do that, too, albeit less efficiently, plus, they need an internet connection.

5. Mobile apps enable better user engagement

Mobile apps deliver a more engaging experience. They provide more optimization and interaction capabilities, as well as marketing opportunities, like sending in-app push notifications. Moreover, you can develop mobile apps for specific operating systems like IOS or Android. Platform-native applications feel more "natural" and deliver a far better user experience.

What are the advantages of developing a web app?

Mobile devices generate nearly 60% of global web traffic, but the internet is not all about smartphones. Most online businesses cannot just disregard desktops and limit their product to hand-held devices unless they provide mobile-specific software, such as a mobile game or an image recognition app for outdoor use (e.g., for identifying plants).

Some software products simply work best on desktops, which provide better processing power and come with much larger screens. Also, their target users may prefer to launch them on stationary computers rather than on mobile devices. Common examples are an e-commerce admin dashboard for managing products or invoicing software.Even though you can easily issue invoices on mobile, most office workers do it on desktop computers.

Therefore, a well-crafted responsive or progressive web app is an efficient way to address the needs of both mobile and desktop users, saving you the effort of developing dedicated software for smartphones and tablets.

If you're stuck choosing between web and mobile, consider the advantages of a browser-based application below.

1. Web apps are cost-efficient

It's not like web apps are cheap to develop. They can easily cost millions of dollars in the case of more sophisticated systems. However, if you plan to reach both mobile and desktop audiences on a limited budget, go for a web app.It's far more economical than creating native apps for different platforms(iOS, Android, Windows) – or even a hybrid app if you don't mind compromising performance. Especially that in addition to development expenses, you need to include maintenance costs.

2. Web apps target both mobile and desktop users

As mentioned above, if you want to target internet users regardless of their preferred device with only one type of application, a web app is a much more promising option. Many people prefer desktops over small-screen mobile devices.Additionally, progressive web applications – significant enhancement on the basic RWD model – can deliver user experience virtually on par with native apps. Plus, they can be added to App Store and Google Play to reach a larger audience. In short, the PWA-based approach ensures most of the native-app benefits with little to no downsides.

3. Web apps don't use up space

Since they're not downloadable, web apps don't take up storage space on the device. Both built-in smartphone memory and memory cards are not as capacious as desktop hard drives, so storage consumption can be an issue for many users, discouraging them from using downloadable software.

4. Web apps are easier to find, link, and share

It's easier to promote an app via a website than through an app store. You can use SEO and SEM techniques, boost your site in SERPs with high-quality content, and share it on social media. A dedicated website on your domain gives you much more branding power than utilizing a third-party platform for offering your digital product. A short, branded address is more trustworthy than a long, illegible URL linking to an app store.

5. Web apps don't require downloadable updates

Updates to web apps are done at the backend without involving the end device. Users appreciate the convenience. Especially if they spend a lot of time traveling and need to be wary of roaming charges. If you're planning frequent improvements, a web app might work better for you.

What to consider when choosing between a mobile app and a web app?

Deciding between a mobile and a web app can be a Shakespearean dilemma likely to give you a nervous breakdown. Let's break down this conundrum into a few bullet points to prevent that without overcomplicating things.

You should probably go for a mobile app if you:
- plan to offer mobile-specific software that makes sense mainly or only on amobile device (think: app for hikers, joggers, mushroom hunters, plant lovers,etc.),
- plan to outfit the app with useful features available offline,
- want the app to access phone/tablet-native features,
- expect users to use the app a few times a day or more,
- want the app to ensure great performance,
- want the app to deliver a top-quality UX experience,
- can handle significantly higher development and maintenance costs.

Consider developing a web-based app if:
- you want to reach a wider audience,
- your target group often uses desktops,
- your app is aimed to provide more desktop-relevant solutions, for example,related to teamwork,
- it will be more convenient to use the app on desktops because of specificfeatures or architecture (an application with an advanced interface may beeasier to use on a larger screen),
- you plan to fine-tune and update your up frequently,
- you want to launch the app quickly and avoid the time-consuming developmentof platform-native versions,
- you operate on a tight budget or prefer to invest available resources in aneven better product instead of targeting a specific platform.

How about developing both a mobile app and a web app?

Many companies decide to develop both a mobile and a web app, so they don't miss out on platform-specific users. Such investment is costly but sometimes necessary. Prominent examples include Facebook, Booking, and Google Maps. These great services wouldn't be able to grow to their current size if they were available only in one-channel mode.

A mobile app can be a powerful extension for browser-based software, providing more advanced utility and enhanced convenience, and, consequently, attracting new users and loyalizing the existing ones. Sometimes though, it works the other way around: a mobile app can be a success but eventually will have to be complemented by a web version (that's how it worked with Instagram or What'sApp).

The decision is never easy, and the critical factor is cost. Delivering an app for any platform can cost anything from tens of thousands of dollars to"infinity," depending on the number of functions, the robustness of the system, the technologies applied, and a bunch of other factors.

Having trouble deciding? We'll be happy to help!

If you're having difficulty choosing the right channel for your digital product and need expert advice from professionals with multiyear market experience –feel free to reach out. We'll be more than happy to help.

Are you considering building custom software applications?

Do you want to work with a partner that will deliver cost-effectively and on time? Contact Score Digital to find out more about our values and development process.

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