The Difference between Mobile Websites and Mobile Apps:

By Shan Balasuriya Posted Date: 2014-08-21

The Difference between Mobile Websites and Mobile Apps


Both mobile websites and mobile apps are great ways for a business to expand into the new age of mobile computing technology. They can help with creating new leads, boosting sales, promote customer interaction and improve loyalty and brand recognition. It's no secret that mobile websites and mobile apps are advantageous towards your business success. What you need to be asking is, which type of online mobile presence is best suited for your business?

Mobile websites and apps allow customers to find and interact with your business form the day to day devices they use the most, their phones and tablets. Although both can serve similar purposes they are not the same thing, discussed below are some of the differences between them and how each one can benefit your business:

What exactly is a mobile website?

A mobile business website or mobile site is a website that is designed specifically for smaller screens. It can be accessed using the web browsers found on mobile devices such as Safari on iOS and Google Chrome on Android devices. Mobile websites can be designed as a separate website, or by making the original desktop version of the site responsive. A responsive website basically alters its styling and formatting so it is optimized for that device that the site is being viewed on. Mobile sites are usually accessed when a user visits your website and the website detects the mobile device then redirects the user to the mobile specific version of your site.

The Advantages:

The main advantage of a mobile website is the fact that it makes the standard websites more accessible for users visiting on mobile devices. The mobile site can have all the same elements as your regular website such as the same look and feel, same links, page content, and images - but all of it presented in a more mobile friendly layout.  This new layout can mean a better menu structure which is easier to navigate on a mobile device, enhance the readability as well as improve functionality. A mobile website allows your customers to access your website and information from anywhere at any time, while using any device and all without compromising on their user experience.

What is a mobile app?

Unlike a mobile website a mobile app is an application that is specifically designed for the mobile device and its operating system. These applications will need to be designed separately to work on both smart phones and tablets on their respective OS's, which usually means developing different versions for each.  Mobile applications are usually downloaded from an app store and installed onto the device before it can be used. Unlike mobile sites they cannot simply be accessed through a web browser.  

The Advantages:

Mobile apps generally function very similar to the way a mobile website does, however it does have some additional benefits too. A mobile app can be used to function exactly like a mobile site or it can be designed to provide more specific functionality, rather than those of a website. Mobile apps provide businesses with more control over their presence on a device, typically a mobile app will need to be downloaded and installed on the device, meaning the app has its own place on the device (and does not need a web browser to access). Mobile apps can help gather more data about your customers as well as service them better. For instance a mobile app can still run in the background gathering data about customers as well as sending geo-targeted notifications (even if the app is closed and not being used). This can help a business better understand the preferences and behaviour of their customers.  Mobile apps also make it easier to set up loyalty programs and payment systems that work more effectively. In addition mobile apps are also accessible offline.

Some of the main features that can be included in both mobile websites and mobile apps:

Although mobile sites and apps aren't necessarily the same thing they can still offer similar features which make it easier for your customers to find and contact you. Some of these useful features are listed below:

  • Click to call: Users can initiate a phone call directly through your mobile site or app simply by tapping/clicking on your business number or a 'call us now' button. This will automatically trigger a phone call from your native phone application on your device.
  • Click to locate: Similar to how the single click to call works, there can be a link or 'locate us' button that will open the GPS location of your business on the native maps application of the mobile device. This feature makes it easy for customers to locate and find you just from a single touch.
  • Mobile shopping: if you have an e-commerce store you can take it mobile buy implementing a mobile friendly site or app that customers can use to make purchases and process transactions directly from their smartphones and tablets.
  • Better Marketing: Using geo-location tracking you can trigger location based marketing messages using texts, email or even pop-up notifications directly through the mobile site or app.