Comparing Mobile Web and Mobile Applications

You are sitting on a commuter train on a cold and wet Tuesday morning with an hour's trip to work. You are dreaming of escape. A holiday in the sun. You boot up the tablet you regularly use to pass the boredom. Website or app? With the website, you have to worry about network coverage. On a train with a tablet, this is always questionable, and websites often don't work well in adverse conditions. An app is better here. If the user has made the decision to download the app, they have already made one step in your direction. Your brochure is on their device and always accessible, and if you have anything of interest, it is likely to be accessed more than once. Your webpage, on the other hand, is one click away from Google and all your competitors offering lower priced alternatives.

It is true that many apps are deleted quite quickly from devices, but this just reflects the fact that there are a lot of disappointing apps out there. If a potential customer has taken the step of installing your brochure app on her device, then this is equivalent to taking your printed brochure home, with the added advantage that the mobile app will go on the commuter trip every morning. It is there, waiting for that idle moment when thoughts of sunny holidays interrupt the drudgery.

App Website
Have you already got a website? If you need an app, you will probably end up with both a website and an app. The app compliments the website. You almost certainly have one since websites are much easier to build than apps, and virtually all organisations with an online presence will have one
Can you work offline? An app can download and upload information while the network is available, allowing the use to work when it isn't. Generally only accessible when the network is available
Local processing An app can process information locally. Most games work like this: the app is running locally on the mobile device. The same could apply to a tool or data that can be stored locally on the phone and used without the need for a network connection. Some local processing is possible, but it is harder to do.
Immediate access and retention by the user A user has to make the decision to download the app to their phone. The process is very easy, but it is still more difficult than accessing a website. Once installed, the app is more tangible. An installed catalogue or brochure is more likely to be consulted. Note that the user is less likely to install an app than to bookmark a webpage. By installing an app, the user is 'buying in' to what you have to offer. A website can be accessed casually at any time. Interesting pages can be bookmarked easily. The user can bookmark a website, but these are easily added and easily removed. Users often have many out of date bookmarks they never bother to look at.
Integration with mobile device features (e.g. recognising phone numbers, click to dial) An app can download and upload information while a network is available, allowing the user to work when it isn't. Can be difficult to do.
Most up to date access Apps are updated infrequently; the user needs to download an update from the store. A website always has the latest data and the latest version of the website is always used. But if there is no network connection, there is no access at all.
Cross device compatibility A different app will be needed for each operating system (e.g. Apple IOS, Android, Windows) Developing apps is significantly harder than developing a mobile website, but the results should be much better as each app will be attuned to the features of the device. A well written mobile website will work across different mobile devices (although the amount of testing that needs to be done should not be underestimated. Compatibility problems between browsers cause many headaches for developers). A website will look much the same on all devices, but may not be compatible with all features of the device. A website will always be a compromise.