Mobile Apps vs. Mobile Websites – Which should you lead with?

If you’re looking to increase your visibility on the mobile web, then you’ve got two main options to start with: a mobile app or a mobile website.

Now, which one you go for first will depend on the needs of your business, but one thing’s for sure: you need to take advantage of mobile traffic in 2019. More visitors use their mobile than desktops by some distance, so if you don’t focus on mobile, you’re missing out on tens of thousands in potential business.

So, let’s take a look at the main benefits of mobile websites versus mobile traffic.

Mobile websites are faster to get off the ground

The number of different devices is only going up in 2019. Mobiles, tablets, hybrids, desktops, watches…you name it! (And, of course, you’ve got a wide range of different operating system users to work with, too – iOS, Windows, Google, etc).

In short, if you want to start appealing to as many users as possible, as quickly as possible, a mobile website is definitely the way to go.

As long as you work with the right team, it’s possible to have a mobile website compatible with all of these users online within a few weeks. Apps take a lot longer to develop.

Websites are easier for users to find

Even in 2019, you’re likely to be found by a lot more users if you run an effective search engine optimization campaign designed to target the right people.

While app store optimization is a genuine strategy – we’ve written a blog covering it here – mobile website optimization is definitely a few years ahead.

As a result, while you can (and should) optimize your app store listing, if you want to target the most qualified leads as quickly as you can, then a mobile website is the ideal strategy.

(And, as we illustrated in the first point – there are simply more searches online than there are in the app store, so you’ll be able to find more users.)

You have more control over your mobile website

It’s worth noting that any business which you don’t have total control over runs a risk of being stopped out fast.

One thing you need to be aware about the app stores is that, in the end, should the publisher (Apple, Google, Microsoft) decide one day they don’t want your app in their store, there’s very little you can do about it.

It’s the same principle as people who build their whole business based on a single form of advertising like Facebook ads or SEO, and then find their whole operation wiped out with a single Google update!

When you build a website on your own domain, you have total control. Your traffic sources can potentially change, but you can always find more as long as your mobile website is managed by you.

(It’s also worth noting that while we’re choosing here between the two in terms of your initial focus – you should always aim to develop both a mobile app and a website. The more avenues for traffic you have, the better! This article is simply about which one you should go for first.)

Mobile websites are typically more share-friendly

If you’ve spent any time at all on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll know that it only takes one article, one video or even one tweet to go viral, and suddenly you can find yourself flooded with free traffic.

This ‘shareability’ just doesn’t seem to have caught on in the same way when it comes to apps. Sure, friends will definitely tell friends about apps they like, but that ability to go viral across the social networks is limited to mobile websites.

So, if you’re planning to use social traffic as a key part of your business building strategy, you should definitely focus on mobile traffic.

Websites can be worked on over time – even if it fails at the start

If you take the time to carry out customer research and to ensure that you build a good app, you have a great chance of success.
However, the app market is definitely pretty cutthroat if you don’t get it right first time.

Indeed, some research indicates that within 30 days, it’s possible for apps to disappear into the app store with no chance of success!

(This is the main reason you should work with a pro app developer rather than trying to do apps on the cheap – you’ve got a far better chance of getting a return on your investment).

Mobile websites, on the other hand, can continue to be worked on over time. You can release your site quietly, and then work on it continually until you get results.

And, once you’ve got a great website that’s receiving traffic consistently, you’ll have built a long-term investment that should generate business for you permanently.

If you’re in business with a long-term view, and you’re happy to work at building a long-term asset, then a mobile website is definitely worth looking at.

So, when is it better to build a mobile app first?

If you’ve got a very singular focus

There are many companies out there that have only one goal in mind. This might be:

  • Help users count calories so they can lose weight
  • Help users track web habits so they can be more productive
  • Help users access their favorite podcasts

And so on. If your business has a singular goal like this, then an app is likely the best option. You’ll be able to put everything the user needs into one product and target them specifically based on their one goal.

This singularity of focus works for some businesses – after all, Instagram is simply about sharing and viewing photos, Snapchat is much the same!

If your business relies on fairly constant communication

If you rely on constant communication with your customers, then an app can be ideal.

The simple fact is that while email marketing can still be brilliantly effective, it’s getting very hard to consistently grab attention in that medium.

If you rely on sending regular messages to your users, then you’ve got a better chance of those actually reaching your users if you focus on push notifications and alerts.

If you use alerts in the right way, your reach and engagement can be huge. The social media networks are, of course, the best examples of this – their levels of engagement are huge, and it’s because they have alerts and reminders absolutely nailed.

If you’re happy to target a device or operating system demographic specifically

Some businesses are happy to focus primarily on hand-held devices or tablets. If that’s you, there’s nothing wrong with leading with a mobile app.

Snapchat, for instance, has built a huge business focusing almost entirely on handheld devices. Fitness devices like MyFitnessPal do have a desktop option, but they’re clearly built for mobile phones.

Some apps, meanwhile, are happy to target a specific group – some writing software, like Velum, targets only Apple users because it reasons that Mac users are far more likely to be creative. The app remains popular, so it’s clearly working!

Essentially, if you’re happy to not target as many people as possible, and you’d rather focus on specific demographics, an app can be ideal.

Get in touch today

If you’d like to find out more about building a mobile presence online, get in touch with Iconic Solutions today. We have experience building both mobile websites and apps, and we’d love to do the same for you.

Stay Informed!

Sign up to be notified of new blog post and be the first to receive helpful tips from Iconic Solutions