Today, around 94% of internet users in the MENA surf online on their mobile devices. For businesses, this wide market is a big opportunity. In order to provide an effective mobile experience, they face two options: a mobile site or an application. While the former is designed to fit all screen sizes using any web browser on any device, the latter is a downloadable software that must be built according to the device’s operating system (iOS, Android, Microsoft… ). So wondering which one suits your business?
Think of the purpose first…
The main factor to decide whether to go for a mobile site or an application is the purpose of this initiative. A mobile application is your best choice in the following cases:
Sending push notifications: Unlike applications, mobile sites don’t have the possibility to interact with the device. So when your objective is to alert users with messages on their smartphones notifying about a specific activity occurring within your entity, an application would be your best option. For example, despite being one of the most visited websites, Facebook developed a mobile application to send push notifications on users’ portable devices when, for instance, a message is received or they have been tagged in a picture.
Interactive gaming: Effects in mobile applications are generally superior than mobile sites. App graphics can be stored on the device which provides better gaming experience and performance. On the other hand, effects on mobile sites are limited by web technology.
Using native mobile functionality: If the experience you intend to deliver needs access to other mobile features (camera, GPS… ), applications facilitate this connection. For example, Instagram app lets users take pictures from the smartphone’s camera and post it simultaneously on other social networks.
Personalization and regular usage: When you need to offer users a personalized platform to interact with regularly (I.e: Whatsapp). After being downloaded, a mobile app allows users to access it faster than a site by keeping them one-click away.
Internet connection not required: When your goal is to present content and functionality that don’t necessarily need internet connection, a mobile application makes more sense. Unlike websites, some apps can partially operate without the need of being connected online. Once downloaded, data and resources can be saved locally granting visitors access at any time. Music apps, for example, allow users to listen to songs offline. However, storing them to the application requires an internet connection.
Then consider other factors.
By now, you should’ve decided whether to go with a mobile site or an application. However, it is still necessary to know other factors where the two approaches differ:
Time and cost: Building a mobile site requires less time and budget than an application. Once a mobile site is set, it is accessible for all web browsers simultaneously, while an application needs to be developed separately for each operating system (iOS, Android, Windows etc.). In addition, to give users access to an application, it must be submitted to the app stores for review and approval before being published. This also is time consuming as it may take several weeks to be available for users.
Upgrades: Updates made on mobile sites come into effect immediately without any effort from the visitors. On the other hand, applications upgrades need first to be approved by the app store, and then downloaded by the users.
Accessibility: Customers can directly access a mobile site from search engines or other websites whereas apps are typically found in app stores or on the businesses’ websites. Recently, Google started showing mobile applications within its search results, but accessing their content requires downloading it from the app store.
In conclusion, the two approaches are used to cater to the needs of emerging smartphones and tablets’ market but differ on several levels. Assessing the purpose of your initiative allows you to decide whether a mobile site or an application suits more your objective. On the other hand, the features provided by each one are what build the experience you are trying to offer.