Mobile website or mobile app?

As an e-commerce store owner in the ever-growing mobile market, it is time to choose the right mobile strategy for your budget. Which type of mobile presence is best for your store - mobile website or mobile application?

In this blog post we hope that we will help you to decide which type of mobile presence to use for your business.

Mobile website

Adaptive vs Responsive

Before we go straight to the pros and cons in mobile websites, we will shed you some light on the difference between adaptive and responsive design. Often “adaptive design” is used as a synonym for “responsive design”. However, it is important to note that they are indeed different.

The responsive design affects only the layout and includes three core ingredients: fluid grids, flexible media, and media queries. Responsive is just one technique in an adaptive web design strategy. The flexible layout is really important, but it is just part of the puzzle.

Responsive vs adaptive‚Äč

We now have plenty of devices as smartphones, tablets, e-readers, netbooks, watches, TVs, phablets, notebooks, etc. Making your website look and function in a same way across all these different interfaces requires using interfaces that can adapt to the capabilities of the device/browser.

“Adaptive design” is often described as RESS (Responsive Design + Server Side Components). RESS, however, is just another level of adapting your site to various devices, reducing payload, javascript, css, etc and such interpretation is inaccurate in general.

Device detection is another common usage as a synonym of “adaptive design”, but again it is part of the “adaptive design”.

Adaptive design stands up for creating a single Web experience, which includes all of the above enhancements and techniques.

Whether you like to go with adaptive, responsive, fluid or mobile-first website, this is the more affordable way to provide mobile experience.  A responsive website is the one that can be accessed by using any mobile Web browser - Safari on iOS, Chrome and Firefox on Android, etc. The user just simply has to type the URL address for your store and once loaded, your website will adapt depending on the device screen size. This kind of websites are called responsive ones, because they adapt to every device - from the tiniest to the largest ones.

Making your website responsive will definitely cost you less, because you don't have to create a new website from scratch. You should only adapt the current one to a responsive one. The content is also the same, but it is optimized for better readability and functionality. 

The process of responsive website developing is in general faster than a mobile application. However, this also depends on your web designer and the functionality of the website.

Furthermore, if visibility in the search engines is important for your business growth, the responsive website might be the prefered option since mobile application since mobile applications have closed environment and they are invisible for the search engines.

Mobile application

The mobile applications can be accessed on tablets and smartphones too. The difference here is that you have to download the application and install it on the mobile device. The application can be only downloaded from application stores such as Play Store for Android, App Store for iOS.

The mobile application provides unique features, which the responsive website cannot provide. It gives you more opportunities for controlling your business and making your customers more engaged. For example, the application can run in the background, record users' interactions with other websites or search queries. This can help you promote products which the users might be interested in. You can also use push notifications to notify your users for events, promotions,  etc. Notifications can be broadcast for all users, such as for marketing campaigns, or sent to just a subset of users, to give personalized information.

Moreover, the mobile applications can make the payment process easier, because the user may already have a mobile wallet as Google Wallet, PayPal Here, Apple Pay and etc.

The other thing is that the access to the application is faster than the mobile website. Just tap on the icon and there you go. Opening a web browser and typing a URL address takes some time.

First thing in designing mobile application is choosing its platform. As you may already know, there are many mobile platforms such as Android, iOS, Firefox OS, Windows Phone, etc. Sometimes, it is hard to choose which one is the best for your business and some companies make cross-platform solutions.

Native vs Cross-Platform implementation

Native vs Cross-platform

Native apps are apps developed for mobile devices with a specific platform in mind. This means that if you want to create an application for Android, it will work only on Android. If you want to support other platform, you should develop a new application.

Developing native mobile application takes more time and respectively it is more expensive. The code is OS-specific and you cannot reuse it from one device to another. For example, Android applications are written in Java, but iOS ones in Objective-C.

If your target audience is split between iOS, Android, Windows Phones, etc., designing and developing a multi-platform solution would make sense. By using a framework like PhoneGap, you can create your mobile application for the platform you need.

Developing a cross-platform app can be potentially faster than a native app. You can use the same code for every platform, instead of creating a new codebase.

The cost of developing a cross-platform solution will be less than a native one, because you actually use one codebase and it doesn't require a lot customizations for each platform.

There are some platform limitation, because each platform has own unique styles and flexibilities missing in others. Also, integrating the app with custom preferences, local settings, notifications, sensors, etc. can be quite a task.

Conclusion

It is not really a debate whether to choose a mobile website or a mobile application as in fact you need both. Nowadays when the mobile device usage exceeds the PC one, it is quite necessary for your website to be mobile friendly. On the other hand, if you have a mobile friendly website, but you still don’t have a mobile app, you can be sure that you are missing out a huge amount of potential customers.

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