The digital marketing world is buzzing with the importance of the mobile-friendly website. The conversation revolves around everything from mobile optimization for SEO purposes to the best techniques for optimizing a website.

However, the topic of web apps is often overlooked. With the updates to Google’s algorithm, and thus, SEO marketing strategies, it begs the question: Will a mobile web app perform the same function as a mobile website? Use this contrasting guide to answer that question for your business.

Mobile Web Site Vs. Web App Defined

Web App vs. Website for Businesses

You know what a website is, and it’s not much different translated to mobile. It’s still considered a browser-based HTML that’s accessed through the internet, but is optimized to appear on the small screen. When a website is optimized for mobile use, changes are often made to the size, appearance of the content, and the amount of pixels used. It’s made smaller so that it can load quickly and deliver undistorted results to the searcher.

A web app is an application that’s downloaded and installed on a mobile device. It’s run as a program entirely separate from your internet browser, though it uses the internet to access updates and new content. Oftentimes, company websites and web apps will overlap with information, and other times they will be entirely separate. The web app is already optimized for the small screen, so the transition is easy to make.

Mobile Website Pros and Cons

The mobile responsive version of your website can do a lot to improve the visibility of your website and brand if it’s optimized for the smaller screen.

Pros

  • Inexpensive: Generally, designing a mobile website is included in the price of designing your original website.
  • Easy to set up: With just a domain and a host site, you can set up your mobile site, and it doesn’t take much effort after you’ve created your original site.
  • Visible: Consumers are more likely to search their mobile browser for your website than to search the app store.
  • Works on multiple devices: There’s no need for a separate iOS and Android site.

Cons

  • Possible performance issues: Unless it’s perfectly optimized for the small screen, it can load slowly, have a cluttered design, and be very difficult for users to use. (A responsive design eliminates this issue.)
  • No push notification: There isn’t a way to alert your consumers about deals, offers, and other goodies on your website, except through separate email marketing and ads.
  • No offline access: Consumers must have Wi-Fi or data in order to access the site.

Web App Pros and Cons

The mobile app is already optimized for mobile use, which makes it an attractive option for many companies.

Pros

Push notifications: The app can easily alert subscribers of deals, promotions, and other goodies on the website.

Offline access: There’s no need for internet access in order to read articles, listen to music and podcasts, or browse products and coupons.

Excellent performance: In general, web apps seem to run faster and with less usability issues than websites.

Better design: A less cluttered, easy-to-navigate design makes it easy to use.

Cons

Expensive: Some apps can be expensive to design and maintain.  The minimum price is around $50 a month, while many websites are entirely free.  

Consuming setup: It takes a lot more time and steps to set it up, and the app stores must accept your app according to their specifications.

Different SEO strategy: SEO works differently for web apps, since the SEO that comes from these apps mostly revolves around social attention, according to MindScape.

The Better Option for Your Business

Both have their pros and cons, but there is no “one size fits all” answer to this question. It depends on your end goal and the type of business you have.

For example, take a look at the Park West Gallery mobile website. This online art gallery displays various collections of art, their featured artists, and news stories. Their web design is simple and requires very little interaction other than to browse through their content. Therefore, their website functions very well without an app.

Now, take a look at something you have downloaded on your phone, such as your banking app. If you use Wells Fargo, for example, the app is very useful for accomplishing a variety of tasks, such as checking your balance, making transfers, depositing checks, and more. It’s an added perk that you can access such an important website offline. Therefore, an app for banking is a very good choice.

All in all, when it comes time to answer this question for your business, take stock of your current website, your company’s needs, and your overall goals before deciding which option is right for you.