There’s a lot of conflicting data when it comes to whether businesses should use native mobile apps such as Android and iOS or invest in mobile websites. Both divides cite numbers that are very compelling and hard to deny. This, however, only works towards creating an even more complex and confusing landscape for business owners to navigate. A mobile strategy is a must for any business owing to the huge number of Internet users using mobile devices to access information online so it goes without saying that it’s not a wildcard that you can simply flip a coin on and make a decision. So how do you choose whether to go for an app or mobile web and should you even be picking or going with both?
There’s no simple answer to this because different businesses have different mobile use scenarios. For instance, when it comes to e-commerce, mobile apps are a huge win for companies. However, when it comes to consuming other types of content such as a company website or news, users tend to favor the mobile web. But why is this the case? It’s a simple matter of convenience and context. When you click a link to a story, you don’t want to be told to download an app, you want to open it in your browser, consume it and move on. If it’s not something that requires a specific set of circumstances and tools, such as e-commerce, then it’s easier and more convenient to simply open a browser window to access it.
If you have a company website that only has static content and perhaps a blog, a mobile website (responsive is even better) is the best way to go. Reason being there’s nothing else the user is doing apart from viewing information. A native app would only serve to clog up their phone memory and they will delete it quite quickly. If your website is transactional in nature, perhaps with a store or some other form of functionality, then an app would have a stronger case. Consider banking apps and how they have grown to become some of the most popular apps on app stores across platforms. The transactional nature of banking apps lends them this upper hand.
On the other hand, consider a news website such as Forbes or the New Yorker, there’s simply no use case to download a native app to read the articles on them. What has a stronger use case is perhaps a feed aggregator to collect all the information across news sites and aggregate it on your phone. So a native app seems less appropriate for this use case. Distilling it down to your small or mid-sized business, the rule of thumb becomes: if your website is informational, have a mobile website; if your website is transactional, have a mobile website and mobile native app.