Mobile APP versus Mobile Website

Can I not use a mobile app to supplement my website and make my website mobile device friendly?

Computer Age: Then and Now

Let us begin discussing this topic by looking at the history of computing. When computer was first invented its soul was in computation, followed closely by the data processing and information storage eras, supported mainly by hardware. Then the software side exploded, allowing easy access of information using the internet. If one has a desktop or laptop computer, all these information are accessible at the finger tips. The internet is now a living knowledge encyclopedia. It is also the Yellow Pages of the world.

World Globalization: The Beginning of Cellular Communication

On the other hand as the world evolves, globalization forces people to be on the road traveling, into “the move” so to speak. Something needed to happen to keep communication going while people are not in their office. Cellular phones became important to facility people on the move to better communicate with each other, as opposed to sitting in front of a land line all day long.

What followed then is that although communication is no longer a problem with the birth of mobile phones, the availabilities of information is lacking behind because desktops an/or the laptops are left at home/office simply because they are too heavy and cumbersome to be carried around by people on the move. The merging of computer and mobile phones became imminent.

The birth of Smart Phones and something call “Responsive”

The above problem gave birth to smartphones and tablets (iPad for example), better known as mobile devices collectively. But this advanced in hardware once again put shame to the software industry. Now what used to show up on screen of laptop no longer fit the small screens of the mobile devices, making information accessed through the internet difficult to read. To overcome this problem software are quickly developed to include the capability to resize itself according to the size of the device a person is using when accessing the internet, be it a computer or a mobile device. When a software could answer to this requirement, it is referred as being”responsive” to mobile devices.

Mobile Websites

One would thought that the saga ends here once the software industry answered to the problem of responsiveness but it did not. Just like the first rule of economics 101 says, “human needs are never satisfied”, people on the move now demand more than just accessing information through the mobile devices. They want the abilities to quickly place a phone call when the information is obtained, read, and watch videos on the phone, to have the ability to get to the place, to share their feelings through social media like Facebook, Twitter, etc., , etc., These requests are not unreasonable because people on the move are always faced with the “slack time”, defining as the idle time between two activities. For examples, the time waiting to board a plane, the time spent in mass transits, etc. Whether it is the joy of socializing or searching out for information, slack time could be better utilized to optimize the day if the tools are available. Mobile websites would fit this category well because they go beyond just friendly and responsive. They are independent mini websites created to answer to these requirements.

The misconception of Mobile Apps

The wings beneath the wind to support the recent growth of hardware and software industries is a quiet friend known as “WIFI”. Without it, using mobile device to access the internet for information would be costly. Without it, the software industry needs not come up with responsive software, let alone Mobile Website, as majority of people would still use the desktops and laptops to access internet, to play their games, to socialize, to learn, to buy, etc.

But this little quiet friend is not always around. To fill this void (although not mutually exclusive but certainly one of the major reasons) so that mobile people could kill the slack time when the WIFI friend is not around, the software industry sees the opportunity in Mobile Apps, which are small programs one could download to the mobile devices when WIFI is available and use them later. Depending on whether the Mobile Apps are programed using “native” computer/phone languages and their functionalities, WIFI may or may not be needed when the apps are being used. In order to minimize the size of the apps and to answer to the needs of more functionalities, the trend now is to build the apps on both native languages and accessing the server/website when more “power” is needed for computing, processing, functionalities, etc., in which case WIFI is required.  Personally, I have seen apps that are just a “browser” in disguise. The browser is native but the content comes directly from the website! 

Wait a minute. Are we saying with what Mobile Apps could do, mobile people no longer need Mobile Websites? The answer is obviously “no”.  Mobile Apps have their shortfalls:

  • They are programs and their functionality need to be programed. The costs depend on the complexities of the program and one could pay through their nose having the program written. Mobile Apps are created based on the Operating System of the mobile device. If one Mobile app were to cover all the mobile device markets, the programs need to be rewritten or published quite a number of times. In comparison, mobile websites only need to setup once and hence they are cheaper
  • Because they are programs, they need to downloaded which eats up the storage of the mobile device as opposed to mobile websites whereby users just need to “bookmark” the website
  • Mobile Apps have to be downloaded using specific app stores. For examples, Apps Store for Apple devices and Google play for Android based products. Although it is no longer that stringent to have your mobile app approved nowadays, the killer is in the convenience of making your app known. The Apps for Apple Store could not be downloaded, copied, transferred, or forwarded to another device, even if there are of the same made. In the case of a mobile website, one only needs to pass on the “url” or internet address for someone to visit your mobile site


You are better off building a mobile website for easy access via a mobile phone or device for the following reasons:

  • Creating a mobile website is much cheaper compared to building an app
  • Mobile websites do not need approval from anyone
  • Mobile websites appear in internet searches, and can be used immediately without downloading by your customers
  • Mobile websites are outstanding in making yourselves known to new customers as they push customers to take some sort of actions, like checking out where you are or calling you for more information
  • Last but certainly not least, mobile websites are URL (web address) based. It is certainly easier to pass someone your URL on business cards, and using QR code, email, and social media, etc.