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Mobile App vs. Website

Short Answer

Build a mobile application if you expect each user to make frequent use of your service, if you require offline usage, if you’re providing more than just information, and/or if your budget is high.

Table of Contents

  1. Mobile Features
  2. Offline Use
  3. Updates
  4. Expense
  5. Conclusion

Mobile Features

If your idea relies heavily on the use of features with better support on mobile devices than on desktop, a mobile app might be the right choice. The following are just some of the features with better support on mobile apps:

  • location-based features and GPS
  • fingerprint recognition
  • camera
  • accelerometer
  • notifications

Too add, if your intent is to provide people with basic information such as articles, contact forms, and galleries, developing a mobile app may be overkill.

Offline Use

Mobile applications can be utilised while you aren’t connected to the Internet. For instance, some applications allow users to upload content while offline. The upload will be cached and queued locally on the device until a connection is made to the Internet. Such offline utility is only provided by some websites — progressive web applications.

Progressive Web Apps

Progressive web apps are modern websites that attempt to imitate the behaviour of mobile apps. They allow for functionality and features such as offline usage, and “Add to Homescreen” (adding a shortcut icon to your phone’s home screen). The downside to progressive web applications is that they are a new concept, and most users aren’t aware of them.

Visit vs. Install

Installing mobile applications can be a hassle for user, whereas, the web alternative of visiting a URL is trivial. Of course, once an app has been downloaded, it’s only a tap away. A good criteria to examine is the expected usage pattern of your idea; that is, will each user be using your service multiple times throughout the day, weekly, a few times in a lifetime, etc.? The higher the frequency, the less costly the install will appear to the user.


Changing (or updating) content on a website is much easier to do than on a mobile application. This is due to the fact that mobile applications are cached on the mobile device; while websites tend to push the most up-to-date content per visit.


Mobile apps tend to be more expensive than websites for a few reasons. First, web development is older than app development; hence, there are better and more tools and resources for web development than for mobile development. Although developers could use development tools such as React Native and Cordova to write a single code base that works on all mobile OSes, you might not achieve the best speed and usability. Also, there are more web developers than there are mobile developers.


In an ideal world, you’d have the budget to develop both a mobile application and a website. But when choosing between the two, consider mobile applications’ expense, update complications, installation, and offline utility. Mobile application, website, or both? You’ll have to start somewhere.

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