Mobile applications (apps) and mobile websites often perform very similar
roles yet there are still fairly large differences between the two.
The Comparison. So, what are they? An application is a program that will be downloaded onto
the user’s phone; as such, it can be tailored to a very specific purpose and
can be more interactive with the user than a mobile site. Applications can be
accessed offline and can be left running in the background of your phone,
allowing for easier access where regular usage is required.
A mobile site is simply a website that has a specific variant for mobiles.
Mobile sites are sometimes preferred to apps as they are easier to access and
provide a greater online presence for businesses, and they can be found and
shared easily. Mobile sites are cheaper and easier to make than apps, and they
offer compatibility across all phone devices.
eBay's application is useful for regular users as it allows for push
notifications on bids and followed items, and it provides an easier interface
for those wanting to sell items. Blizzard, the creators of World of Warcraft,
have produced an app
for their game that provides the perfect example of how apps can be more
relevant than mobile sites. The app allows users to access in-game features
such as the store (auction house), team chat and follower missions that require
an amount of processing power not accessible through a website.
However, the company's online store (Battle.net) has remained app free with
a mobile site. This is mainly due to the fact that Blizzard experiences far
greater desktop traffic than mobile traffic by up to seven
times as much, meaning a mobile-only app would not be worth the development
cost. But, it is also due to convenience as their customer support must be
readily accessible on all devices.
Why Not Use Both?
Apps and Mobile sites often shine in their own areas but they work best
where there is some crossover. Shopping sites like Amazon often feature both,
as companies must support a wide range of customers, from regular users to
one-off interactions. In the world of iGaming there is a number of casinos that
offers both a mobile site and applications to download. The casino uses a mobile site for ease of access and for first time players, while they
offer applications for many of their games so they can be accessed offline or
on the go.
Lastly, HSBC mobile banking features a mobile site and app that must be used
in conjunction as a security measure. It is a great example of both being used
to their strengths; the mobile site allows for convenient banking whereas the app,
only be on the account holder’s phone, confirms the account holder is the
one accessing the mobile site through a throw-away generated input code.
Both applications and mobile sites have their own positives and negatives;
you should decide which you want to develop based on what kind of experience
you want your users to have. For regular accessibility, security, and greater
integration with the phone’s features (such as use of the camera) developing an
app is best. For ease of access, better web presence, upgradeability, and
cross-device compatibility, mobile sites are the best option.