So you’re thinking about establishing a mobile presence for your business – either a mobile-friendly website or a native mobile app. While these two technologies can look very similar, there are some significant differences you should consider before choosing one over the other.

It’s undeniable that we’re moving towards a mobile-dominated world. Recent studies have shown at 55% of adults in the US carry a smartphone, and the amount of internet traffic coming from those devices doubled in the last year. We anticipate that by 2014, internet traffic generated by mobile devices (phones and tablets) will overtake traditional desktops. If your company doesn’t have a way to connect with its audience through mobile, you need to consider your options: mobile website or mobile app?

We’re proud to say that Xorbix is both a mobile and web application development company. We build both mobile apps and mobile websites. Both have their own unique advantages, and both have their place when it comes to deciding the best mobile strategy for your business. Let’s look at the differences:

Who is your target audience?
One of the biggest differences between a mobile app and a mobile website is the ability to reach users on different platforms and devices. It’s faster and easier to put a mobile website in front of your audience or share it with others, where a mobile app needs to be downloaded. A good mobile website will also work with any smartphone web browser, where a native mobile app is designed for only one platform and audience – either iPhone or Android – unless you develop a separate app for both.

Do you want to use integrated smartphone features?
Do you want a mobile app that takes advantage of the camera, GPS position, or other cool features? These features are either unavailable or less accessible to a mobile website. Generally speaking, mobile users prefer to use the web for gathering information and shopping. Mobile applications are the method of choice for social connectivity and functionality – like taking and sharing pictures.

How often will you need to make updates?
Updating a mobile app can require jumping through some additional hoops, depending on the platform. While Google is less stringent, Apple has strict quality standards that must be vetted with every update to your iPhone app. Moreover, even after the update is approved, it must be downloaded by each of your users. Frequent or large updates are often seen as a hassle by mobile users, to whom convenience is king. With a mobile website you can make as many updates as you like – everyone will see the most recent version of the site.

Will you be moving a lot of data?
No one wants to visit a website that doesn’t load, especially when it comes to media-rich websites that aren’t optimized for mobile visitors. We all know what that’s like! While the web is quickly gaining speed, native mobile apps are not necessarily constrained by slow internet and network connections. They can quickly load large amounts of information and pictures, and even function without any internet access at all.

Are you planning to monetize your app?
There are some substantial differences when it comes to turning a profit with a mobile app, compared to a traditional website. It’s important to remember that Apple and Google both collect 30% of any revenue generated by your app, and actively prohibit any sales that circumvent in-app purchases. At the same time, of course, if your sales model encourages micro-transactions in-app purchases are ideal – they are much more prevalent, accessible, and convenient than a website’s shopping cart.

Do you want to personalize the user experience?
The best mobile applications are sticky; people use them on a regular basis. If you want your audience to visit regularly or have a personalized experience – tailored to what they like – an app is the way to go. It’s easier to collect and save that user information or to give them the ability to customize their experience with a mobile app, compared to a mobile website. Studies have revealed that mobile apps consume 80% of a user’s time on their smartphone, compared to browsing the internet. That’s a substantial difference in engagement!

Every business is different, and their technology solutions will reflect that. Mobile apps solve a different kind of problem compared to mobile websites, and their users have different needs and expectations. When we think about mobile strategy, we need to consider the needs of your business and the expectations of your customers. Once we’ve done that, you’ll find that the strengths of one solution will lend themselves to your project.