Choosing between a native app vs responsive website can be the first pitfall when becoming an online entrepreneur or when adjusting your online business for mobile users.
Let’s face it – mobile devices drive the majority of internet traffic and you can’t afford to lose those users, as since 2014 they have exceeded the number of desktop internet users.
Actually, smartphone and tablet users combine to account for over 60 percent of digital media time spent, according to comScore.
Moreover, Google itself wants you to become mobile friendly, penalizing those who won’t adjust their website for those coming from mobile devices with lower SERP rankings.
Here’s the thing:
This is not a matter of choice whether to make your website optimized for mobile or not anymore. The question is how to do it.
There are actually two main options:
In this post, I will show you pros and cons of both solutions and introduce one more, so you can make a better decision for your online business or website.
The decision which one to choose will vary from your business objectives, purpose, offer, product or service, audience, and more. It is always important to develop with this in mind, not just gut-feeling or assumptions based on competitors.
Something that worked for someone else’s business doesn’t have to work for you.
The important thing to bear in mind while deciding between native app vs responsive website is that it is not the choice between spending money or not. Regardless of which solution you will choose – it is going to be an investment of both time and money.
Sure that for the responsive website you will pay less money, but it also doesn’t come for free.
Discussing when it is better to choose the native app or mobile website I will focus on:
So write down your business’ needs, target audience and desired action of your future mobile app or website and compare that with points below.
If you are still asking yourself:
“OK, but what exactly is responsive web design?”
It is a website designed to adjust for every screen size possible, as well on the desktop as on mobile devices. It uses CSS media queries to adjust the content to the display. With responsive web design (RWD) you can easily optimize your website for users on any kind of devices.
Although it is not perfect, it has some major advantages:
This can be convincing if you don’t have much time and/or resources to develop your mobile website or to develop a separate native mobile app.
Using adjustable grids, images and CSS media queries you can easily optimize your website for any screen size. Most commonly based on the width of the browser. You can also consider adaptive design, but then you will have to manually adjust your content for every single screen size.
RWD is quicker to design and develop, so if you are building your website from scratch and want to make it optimized for mobile, then choosing responsive design will be a good idea.
RWD fits a vast majority of company’s and personal websites. Either you have a product page, portfolio or e-commerce website, properly implemented responsive website will be a good fit for most of them.
The easier navigation and less advanced features on the page, the better results you will get with the responsive web design.
With less time comes fewer development hours, which means that for creating a responsive website you will pay less money than for any other mobile-optimized web or app.
Having a responsive website you don’t have to build a separate mobile site with m. URL or to develop a native app.
Remember what I told you at the beginning of this post, that Google hates you if you don’t have a mobile-optimized website?
Well, with the responsive website you can not only avoid penalties but actually make Google love your website. As RWD is recommended by Google, it can get you all SEO advantages if you make it properly.
To name just a few SEO benefits of the responsive web, you can increase your visibility in SERP both on the desktop and on mobile browsers, rank higher and bring more traffic, which means more potential customers for your business.
However, for now, it seems like a perfect solution to deliver a good mobile experience for your audience, there are a few cons of RWD:
The most significant, both for the user experience and SEO, is slower page load speed. You can partially improve this issue with proper media queries, but it will never be as good as on dedicated mobile websites.
Navigation also may be an issue here, as RWD is quite good for site scrolling, but doesn’t allow for any more complex solutions, like side swiping. Remember that navigation on mobile devices it different than navigation on a desktop. Make it simple.
The opposite solution to the responsive website is building a native app. It requires recreating your content or to create it totally from scratch, it takes a lot of development work and thus consumes a lot more time than RWD.
So what are the perks of choosing a native app vs responsive website?
Here they are:
Once it is downloaded from the app store and installed on the user’s device, it doesn’t need an internet connection to run and display content.
Also, there are many apps that use the internet, that allow a user to save data in offline mode to view it later, even without access to the internet.
This makes your app more accessible and lets your user view your content wherever they are and whenever they want, whether they have an internet connection or not.
As there are no things to upload from the internet (or at least not all of them) the app’s flow and user experience are much better than on the responsive website.
Native app also allows implementing more complex navigation or content searching, which helps the user to take the desired action right away when they want to.
The greatest advantage of native apps is the possibility to include whatever feature you want to. While with the responsive web you are limited with page load speed, performance, navigation and so on, the mobile app doesn’t have such boundaries.
Creating your native app, you can run it in the background, use push notifications or use the device’s components like accelerometer or camera.
In days when more and more user data is stored and processed by the companies, its security can make or break your business.
User trust is a scarce resource and once lost, it is nearly impossible to retrieve. With the mobile app, you can set up better security to protect your user’s data.
Keeping your mobile security on the highest level of importance will benefit your business with users’ trust.
By building a native app for your business you can grow your brand awareness just by promoting it and growing your apps’ user base.
With a native app, you can reach the audience you could have skipped the other way, promote it in app stores and other channels, and then remarket them with push notification or monetize them with far more options than with a regular website.
The mobile app can also raise the accessibility of your business, as though it only requires to tap the icon on the mobile device’s display to view and search through your business’ product or service.
With such opportunities and advantages come only two disadvantages, however, serious ones:
Those are time and money.
While RWD can be made easy with not as much development work, building native mobile app often requires hiring software development company that will do it for you.
And, let’s be honest, hiring experienced developers is never cheap and trying to go around this and to hire cheaper team very often leads to even more damage than you could foresee, causing you to lose even more money and then to hire a good team anyway.
Trust me, we’ve been there and helped clients that chose the cheap team first that haven’t delivered what was meant to.
Save yourself the time, money and nerves and don’t hire cheap developers.
At the beginning of this article, I’ve mentioned one other solution to adjust your business for mobile, which is a mobile web app.
I wanted to discuss it at the end because most commonly the choice is made between native app vs responsive web. But I think that mobile web apps are also worth to talk through.
First, you are probably asking:
What are the mobile web apps and how do they differ from native apps or mobile websites?
And that’s a fair question. Mobile web apps are not actually applications like native apps but are at the same time more advanced websites. They are run by the browser and typically are written in HTML5.
The reason to create mobile web application is to provide native-app-like user experience without actually building an app.
And there are other pros of this solution:
As it is run by the browser it has all the advantages of mobile websites, such as:
Mobile web apps have separate URL and can be bookmarked on the screen as they would be an actual app, which increases their accessibility not only in SERP but also for those who have already used it before.
The mobile web app is not really an application in terms of native app and it is not implemented like one, but it offers the vast majority of its advantages.
Some of them are:
The important thing to bear in mind is that though mobile web apps can really well imitate native apps, they don’t fully provide native app features and user experience, like running in the background or connecting with device’s accelerometer, camera, and other components.
They can be however quite a good solution for those who require more advanced mobile presence than the simple website but don’t need to create separate, native app with advanced features.
The main goal of this article is to help you choose either a native app or responsive website for the better mobile presence of your online business.
As the possibilities, I’ve discussed creating:
This way you are now familiar with main pros and cons of those free, common solutions for online entrepreneurs and project managers that look for the way to build their mobile presence.
And as I’ve mentioned at the beginning of this post, if you have an online presence of any kind, you can be sure that there are users entering your website via mobile devices.
If you choose to create a native app, you might be interested in deciding between iOS vs Android development, which I have covered for you in a separate article with the full list of pros and cons.
P.S. Remember that we make stunning mobile apps? We can create one for you too.
We also have a team of great web developers that will help you with your mobile website or mobile web app.
Check our portfolio here to see what we can do for you.