Developer Enquiry: Do I Build a Mobile App or a Website?

Whether you are starting up an eCommerce business online, looking to widen your online presence for your home-based business, or wanting to jump into a specific market niche, investing in either a mobile app or a website can be a daunting process. This is primarily because both types of digital solutions leverage the power of technology in different ways, making it hard to know which one is the right route for you. Both offer an online presence, and both require an investment upfront. Understanding which one is the best solution for you depends on your budget, flexibility desired, and end-goal.

With the success of companies like Airbnb and Uber, it may be tempting to jump right towards mobile app development as the best place to start, but this isn’t always the case. If you have a limited budget, testing your concept may work better with a web-only solution as it provides more flexibility and is cost-effective. On the other hand, a mobile application may be better if you have a subscription-based concept or you are targeting a younger demographic. Before making a decision, it is important to do an in-depth analysis of both of your business and of the value that mobile apps and websites bring to the table.

  • Understand Your Target Market First! Demographics Have a Massive Impact.

The first step in this decision-making process requires you to take time to do extensive research into the demographic you want to engage in. Depending on who your target market is, what their needs are, and what their age is, it will help you determine what digital solution will generate more conversions for you. For instance, if you are targeting an older demographic, such as a user base that has an average age of 65+, a website might be a better starting point than a mobile application.

  • Why Consider a Website for 65+?

While older internet users are choosing to go online more often, some individuals have a tougher time navigating a modern smartphone. A large portion of the older population is also less likely to trust companies to keep their personal data secure when it is entered into a mobile application. This distrust extends to about a fifth of the population (20%), who describe themselves as not confident in their capability to navigate online. Beyond this, older adults are more likely to trust hopping onto a computer and using an internet browser with their own internet connection, then they are to trust using a smartphone to access a mobile app. Plus, older adults are also less likely to have access to or own a smartphone.

  • Why Consider a Mobile App for the 15-40 Age group?

Now, if your target market is aged between the 15-40, a mobile application may be well received and preferred over a website. Why? Those who are coined Millennials or Gen Z users are far more accustomed to smartphones and the seamless user experiences that they bring. They are also far more likely to appreciate, enjoy, and prefer companies that have mobile applications with attractive user-interfaces and user-friendly design. For example, studies indicate that social networking applications such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are more popular among those between 18-29 years of age, with 44% of individuals within the 18-24 gap using social media applications more than 5 times a day. This is a serious consideration to make if you are planning on targeting a younger age-group, as you are far more likely to have more conversions with a mobile app. However, you have to find a way to disrupt the already-busy market, make yourself unique, and find a way to hook users amid the fierce competition.

  • So, When Do You Develop a Mobile Application?

Here is what you need to consider if you are looking into a mobile application.

The Level of Personalization Needed With User Experience. While websites or web applications can provide personalized user experience, it does come with limitations. If your business has a social or networking component to it or you need to offer tailored communication based on your user base’s interests, location, or behavior, then a mobile app is better suited for the job. Mobile applications allow you to offer custom recommendations, track user engagement, and improve your conversion rates based on giving your user base exactly what their needs desire. For instance, social media networking applications will provide unique and personalized content to users based on past media that they have liked or engaged with – this is done on a person-to-person level.

Do You Need Native Functionality on the Smartphone?Accessing a smartphone’s native functions from a website or web app is difficult, even with the advent of HTML5. If you need to capitalize on the native functionality of mobile devices, then it is better to just develop a mobile app right away. Native functionality includes GPS locations, cameras, or things like messaging and a contact list. An example of a mobile application using a built-in function of a smartphone is Uber’s app that uses the GPS location to give the user a live location of where their ride is in the real world.

Do Your Users Need Offline Mode?Anyone who wants to access a website or web app requires access to the internet. A mobile application can work for users who want to use it in an offline mode and sync it when they do have access to an internet connection.

Will Your Business Benefit From Push Notifications? If your business is going to be using a lot of notifications to engage users, it may be more costly for you to go the website route. This is because sending out emails or SMS messages can be costly, and some users are not comfortable giving out their cellphone numbers. A push notification, on the other hand, notifies the user in a less intrusive way and can be easily turned on or off at the user’s request.The conversions or click-through rate for push notifications can be upwards of 40% which is massive in terms of engagement.

Are You Working With Sensitive Information? If you are looking at creating a digital solution for a market that handles sensitive information such as the finance, banking, or healthcare sector, a mobile application may be the better option. This is because these applications can make use of Touch ID, two-factor authentication, Face ID, and GPS to verify a user’s identity. Mobile applications can also be encrypted in such a way that sensitive information can be stored in isolation.

When Is It Best to Develop a Website?Here is what you need to consider if you are looking into a website for your business.

Are You Concerned About The Screen Size of Mobile Devices?If your users will need to download a lot of documents like PDFs or need to log into a complex management system, then a web-based app or website is more suitable. This is primarily because entering large amounts of data into a system is easier done on a larger screen size than what mobile devices can provide. Examples of systems that benefit from this: internal staff management, IT recruitment agencies, contractor agreement or data aggregation.

Do You Have Strict Budget Limitations? If you are a new business that is just starting out and you have budget limitations, a web-based app or website will be easier to implement as a first-time investment. Gaining awareness and visibility for your brand through an online website may be easier, thus bringing in more funding for future investment into a mobile application. Beyond this, a website is easier to optimize, it can provide a consistent brand narrative, and it can still be developed with a user-friendly interface.

How Much User Acquisition Do You Need to Do? It is easier to leverage SEO with a website or web-app as there are tools that can be used to get the job done like Google Ads. It is also easier to promote your brand online than it is to promote a mobile app product, as a website or web-app utilizes a user’s first point of call; that is a Google Web Search.

While mobile applications and websites are not mutually exclusive to one another, they can be used in combination to acquire users, foster brand identity, and increase conversions via a multi-channel approach. The key to deciding on which one to invest in first is determined by the features and functionality that your user base requires.

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