Website? App? Neither, or Both?

Mobile use has exploded in recent years presenting an interesting dilemma for small and medium-sized business owners in NZ – should you invest in a new website, an app, or both?

After all, you want to engage your customers in a way that is most relevant to them. If they use their phones a lot, then is an app the best way to go? What advantages do websites offer that apps can’t?

More Than a Website – a Mobile-Friendly Website

When considering this question, you shouldn’t simply think of it as a website vs app equation. Instead, you should think about the mobile-friendly version of your website.

Web developers normally make your website mobile-friendly by using a responsive design. This means your website dynamically changes according to the device of the user.

So, let’s narrow the question down further – should you invest in a responsive website that is 100 percent mobile-friendly, or should you go for an app instead?

Advantages of a Mobile-Friendly Website

For most small businesses, the answer is almost always a mobile-friendly website. This is because businesses in most industries will struggle to get real and tangible benefits from having an app. In addition, a mobile-friendly website will deliver significantly higher returns on investment.

Why? Here are the main advantages of having a mobile-friendly website:

  • Easier to find – most people go to Google when searching for a product, service, or brand. The results they see when they search are all websites.
  • Compatibility – mobile-friendly websites built using a responsive design will be compatible with just about any device. An app, however, can only run on the platform it is designed for.
  • Easier to upgrade – with a website, you are in complete control of upgrading it. You can choose when and what to upgrade, and you can push the update live whenever you want. With an app, however, the process is much more complex. Even when you go through it, some users might still use the old version of the app.
  • Wider reach – as users can find your website on Google and other search engines, it will have a much wider potential reach than an app.
  • Immediacy – users can simply click and view a website which is a much simpler process than searching, downloading, and installing an app.
  • More cost-effective – when you take all the costs involved including App store fees, the cost of development, and the cost of maintenance and future upgrades, websites are significantly more cost-effective than apps.

When Do Apps Make Sense?

What about situations where it does make sense to have an app. Generally, your app should meet one or more of the following four requirements to make it a worthwhile investment:

  1. Gaming – users like playing games on their phones so apps often work better than websites if you’re creating a game.
  2. High use – this means daily use, and often multiple times a day. Examples include social media, fitness tracking, and to-do list apps.
  3. Native functionality is required – you may also need an app if you require native phone functionality that web browsers don’t support. An example is access to the phone’s camera.
  4. Offline access – it may also make sense to go for an app if users require regular offline access.

As you can see, however, the above requirements are very specific. In most cases, a website is the best way to go, providing it is fully mobile-friendly.