With so many digital marketing tools at our disposal, it can be easy to confuse them, especially when they have overlapping features and functions. One of the misunderstandings that we run into quite frequently relates to web applications, mobile applications and mobile websites. These platforms are often seen as interchangeable tools when in fact they have distinct functionalities, goals and uses. Let’s review these platforms and discuss when each is best used.
Mobile applications are purchased through an app store, such as the Apple App or Google Play stores, to be used specifically on smartphones and tablets. One of the major benefits of mobile applications is that they allow users to access your information with one click once the app is downloaded. Users do not need to go do a web browser and type in your URL. The app offers convenience and serves as a reminder right on your users’ home screens. They may also be accessed without Wi-Fi or cell service connectivity, but often have limited functionality.
Mobile websites are websites designed specifically for smaller mobile screens. They require internet access and the use of web browsers such as Safari or Google Chrome, as opposed to running alongside the browser like a mobile app. The major benefit of mobile website is the search advantage: customers using their phones or tablets to search for businesses like yours can find your mobile site in Google. Web and Mobile Applications may not necessarily be found as easily. Additionally, even if they are found, they require users to download the apps before they can access your information, which serves as a major block to customers completing a casual initial search.
Web applications are built to run across multiple platforms within a web browser. For example, Evernote is a cloud-based web application that can be accessed on desktops, tablets and smartphones, with notebooks syncing across all devices. The two key benefits web applications: flexibility and consistency. This tool allows you to have consistent access to information and features no matter what (or whose) device you’re on. Web applications, like Evernote, may also have compatible mobile applications to allow for easier use on mobile devices without sacrificing the fluidity across platforms. You will notice from web, to mobile and desktop, the application does not support all the same features.
Each of these tools has its benefits and drawbacks. Before choosing one over the other, be sure that you have clearly defined your goals. Here’re a few ways to think about; if you want to give your users a full range of functionality and a complex design on mobile devices? Mobile apps are your best bet. Prefer to be found by customers searching on the go? Opt for a mobile (or responsive) website. Need your users to have access to their information no matter what device they are on? Web apps are for you.
Need help choosing, developing or designing a web app, mobile app or a mobile website? Contact us, we’ll be happy to point you in the right direction and get you started!