Mobile website or app: What’s right for you?

87% of marketers are planning to increase the emphasis on mobile in 2013 according to a recent study by Google and Clikz. But which mobile option should we be investing in – is a mobile site enough or should we go with an app? James, Fliplet’s Lead Developer, talks us through the different options and the pros and cons of each.

So here are the stats – one in six Smartphone users in Europe access retail sites from their mobiles and one in eight regularly make a purchase using their smartphone (and to be honest, we were surprised that the these figures were not higher!). 2014 also looks like being the year when mobile users will exceed desktop users for the first time. We know we’re supposed to be there but if you have not already begun scoping out your mobile strategy it can be confusing to know where to start.

Get mobile

So you want your website to be able to be attractive and easy to use on a mobile or tablet device but you don’t want the cost of developing an app – then a mobile site could be the right option for you.Mobile sites are accessed via a web browser which means that content is only available when the user is online. This can also leave them at the mercy of a slow data connection leading to unimpressive levels of responsiveness and can make the site slow and frustrating to use.There are different levels of integration – each of which is inclusive of the last.Level 1 – Mobile compatible website
  • Design fits and works on the phone but not specifically designed for mobile
  • Usually requires pinch & zoom to view content
  • Slow to load because the website is built to be loaded on desktop computers
An example is the mobile website for The Boston Globe (visit from your mobile!)
mobile website or app
Level 2 – Mobile-optimized website
  • Interface significantly modified to provide enhanced mobile experience
  • Focuses on improved readability and usability
  • Single scroll and tap interaction
  • Little interactivity has a mobile-optimized site – visit from your mobile to see or check out some screenshots below:
mobile website or app       mobile website or app
Level 3 – Web app
  • Fully engineered to mimic native device behavior, i.e. how things look and feel, and how users can interact with the content
  • Custom developed interaction and visual effects
  • Maximum performance for mobile web, most fluid and performant user experience

Go native

So the other option is to invest in developing a native app that users can download directly to their mobile device using an app store (either the Apple App Store or Google Play, Amazon etc if on Android).There are many advantages to apps – the main one from a brand perspective is that user is immersed directly within the experience without the barrier of the browser in the way. Apps also tend to be more technically complex allowing advanced levels of interactivity and visual effects such as stimulated page flips. Overall apps also tend to be more responsive and fast to use compared to browser-based solutions. Depending on the app, content can also be made available offline

So which is best for you?

Mobile optimized website or web appNative app
  • Low budget
  • Fast turnaround time
  • Mid-level technical knowledge required
  • Simple to no interactive content required e.g. news articles
  • Mid to high budget
  • Requires high level of technical knowledge
  • Can take some time investment (depending on complexity)
  • High quality and high fidelity user experience required
  • More complex engaging content required
  • Offline functionality

The third way

So of course I have to make a quick mention of Fliplet as we believe it offers a third option that combines the advantages of mobile sites and native apps whilst lessening the disadvantages – for more information take a look at our list of features.

That’s all folks

So there we have it, the pros, cons and uses of all the mobile options – which one to choose really depends on your budget and brand’s needs. Let us know your thoughts in the comments!