The difference between a mobile website and a mobile app

As a housewife, terrified that my children will think I am a technological weakling, I recently started building apps.  I am proud to say that at SNAPP we now have 10 apps in store and have achieved our 2013 goal.

That might not sound like a lot to you but wow what a learning curve. Think about what needs to be done to get a book in store, never mind an app.

There are a lot of ducks you need to get in a row to get your first app in store.  We do have an article posted on the SNAPP site entitled our TOP FIVE tips and resources that you will need to build your first app – hint you do not need to know how to program or write code.  Even though you do not need to know how to write code you will have to be able to project manage the finer details of your projects.

There is no question that mobile is the fastest on-line growing space. On the 11th July 2013 Apple stated that the app store which started with 500 apps has now over 900 000 apps in store.  The development of the app store has been singularly responsible for leading the mobile boom and ushering in the end of the PC era.  Smartphones and tablets abound.

One of the questions most often asked by our clients as what is the difference between a mobile app and a mobile website.  Why build an app in the first place?

A mobile website is similar to any other website in that it consists of a browser based HTML pages that are linked together and accessed on a hand held device or tablet. One clear characteristic is that the site can be accessed from many different hardware devices of varying sizes, which accommodate the screen size and display correctly without chopping off images or details in the content.

The obvious characteristic that distinguishes a mobile website from a standard website is the fact that it is designed for the smaller handheld display and touch-screen interface. One clear characteristic is that you need Internet access to be able to access the mobile website.

A mobile app on the other hand is downloaded from an on-line store such as Google Play or the Apple app store and is saved onto the smartphone or tablet. In most cases, to use it therefore you do not need an Internet connection to make it work.

An app is typically for repeated or frequent use such as a banking app or one that contains useful information such as a directory app. A conference app falls into this category as it can list the speakers (with their contact details for later reference or contact) and sponsors details conveniently stored in your pocket as opposed to the realms of paper traditionally given out at registration.

The Green Business Guide app is our most recent directory app, and which includes daily news updates, green events, and green jobs as well as short podcasts on saving energy.

East Cape Tours lists adventure self-drive, safari honeymoon and African packages in and around the Cape.  The IFES (International Federation of Exhibition and Event Services) app is the latest conference app built by SNAPP.

Typically an app addresses a specific need, whilst increasing customer loyalty.

Take for example the Coffee Culture app, we recently upgraded to version 2.0, shows you all the coffee shops in your vicinity for South Africa (using the phones GPS facility).  The menus are displayed for each shop, so you can browse what you want for breakfast.

Using the QR scanner within the app, your loyalty cup for each shop literally fills-up as you get closer to your target free cuppa – an electronic loyalty plan that you will not loose as you always have your phone on you. The coffee shops themselves can send a push notification to their specific clientele with any specials they may have.

Just yesterday I heard of an app developed by a funeral home – the GPS function shows mourners exactly there the gravesite is, the Church service program can be downloaded and messages of condolences can be sent directly to the family. Clever use of an app, for a specific problem – people not being able to find the gravesite.

Here are some of the benefits of Mobile apps

  1. More features – Mobile apps will give you unlimited access to the phones features such as the camera, GPS capabilities, microphone if you are playing back podcasts whilst a mobile website will not give you access to these features.
  2. Less Internet restrictions – Mobile apps, once downloaded do not need internet access, whilst mobile websites require, often expensive, connections via 3G, 4G LTE or wi-fi access.
  3. Speed – mobile apps have the ability, if built correctly to run a lot faster than mobile websites.
  4. Better optimization – Apps are better optimized for mobile devices and are often made specifically for mobile so are designed with this in mind – you will find a lot of thought goes into the use and flow of an app.  A Mobile website is designed for a computer screen with the ability to be re-worked for mobile screens and tablets.
  5. Monetization – It is much easier to monetize a mobile app than a mobile website – this can be done with in-app advertising and in-app purchases.  A company wanting to advertise on an app will also need some statistics of users and databases for them to calculate their return on investment.
  6. Perception – Users typically perceive an app as being more superior to websites – simply because they are convenient, easy to browse, faster and there is generally a better user experience associated with apps over mobile websites.

So in conclusion, not all businesses need an app, only certain ones will benefit  – such as directories, companies with on-line inventories (car dealerships, estate agents), or a social presence etc.  Should your customer simply want to share a large amount of content across a wide audience then some consideration should be given to rather building a mobile website than an app.  A website is also easily searchable across many platforms.

If you or your customer has a specific need or problem that can be solved by an app then consider diving in and starting out on the journey to build your own app as we did at SNAPP.

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