Mobile Applications vs Responsive Websites

How an enterprise will choose between mobile applications and responsive websites

The influx of latest mobile technology has motivated individuals and enterprises to think about having a mobile presence. Google analytics reports focusing that the growing online traffic is coming from mobile devices so it is the vital time to offer an enhanced user experience to the mobile users. According to report by Cisco, global mobile devices and connections in 2014 grew to 7.4 billion, up from 6.9 billion in 2013. The vast majority of mobile data traffic (97%) will originate from the smart devices. By 2019, there will be 8.2 billion handheld or personal mobile-ready devices. And the global mobile data traffic will increase nearly tenfold between 2014 and 2019. So in this mobile driven world, enterprises have realized that if they want to sustain then they need to establish a strong mobile presence which is a very arduous task for all enterprises. Now most common question which is dawdling in the mind of the individuals or business houses whether they should go for a mobile application or a responsive mobile website: which one will go best with their nature of business. Each of them has their own upsides and limitations. It is important that should evaluate those differences minutely before embracing any final decision.

Responsive Website

A Responsive website is the one that has been specially optimized for the mobile phone browser. Such a website is accessible from anywhere and anytime, irrespective of the mobile platform, versions and gadgets. In simple terms, Responsive Web Design is the methodology that recommends the design and implementation of a website that responds to user behaviour and environment based on the screen size, orientation and operating system of their device. As the user switches from one device to another (for example, desktop to iPhone), the website automatically adapts to accommodate for resolution, image size and scripting abilities. So there is no need for resizing, panning and scrolling by the user in order to view the website in new device.

Mobile applications

A mobile app is a native program that is being specially designed for smart phones, tablets and other devices. The entire process of mobile app development is very time consuming and it requires some strenuous effort from app developers. A mobile app can simply be downloaded from the app store and installed into the device and customers can use these apps whenever they required. The hidden web technologies which are used to develop the apps are HTML5, Sencha, jQuery and others. The underlying technologies are JavaScript, HTML and CSS. Therefore, the application provides the benefits of a regular mobile site, i.e. it works across browsers and a wide range of devices. It also provides some add-on features which are supported by native apps — rich look and feel, offline browsing, location based services and video capabilities.

A Comparison between Mobile Apps and Responsive Website

A single website can be used across all types of devices & mobiles. On the other hand, a mobile application requires separate design, development & maintenance efforts. The same application needs to be written for different mobile operating systems for native apps. The generic versions of mobile apps are still limited in terms of User Interface, Performance & Operating System specific features. So, developing multiple applications for same purpose can be tricky & expensive.

Mobile or smart phone has limited memory. However, a mobile website leaves no footprint on the device making it simple to use and manage. For apps which require offline processing, the space & memory constraints of the mobile devices need to be considered. The mobile storage and processing speed is often a constraint for high computing enterprise applications compared to mobile websites.

If your application is used offline and doesn't interact with the database too frequently then mobile application can be the preferred option. The mobile apps can work offline unlike mobile websites which need internet connection and moreover, they don't consume very much memory and space.

A mobile website doesn't require user to explicitly upgrade an application. Once a mobile website is built, it can easily go for a long time. The upgradation and updating are very less with the mobile website as compared to mobile apps. When the application is upgraded, the same is available to the user. Though the updates are seamless & easy to manage and hence users' themselves can perform this task.

A native mobile application can perform better for interactivity and graphics than a mobile website. If someone is planning to develop a gaming application, then a mobile application will be the best choice. In this case, instead of choosing a mobile app if they go for a mobile website, then it won't be a prudent decision for them.

Mobile applications provide better UI. So accessing device features like camera, GPS, and reading native libraries of the mobile operating system, a mobile application is a good choice. A mobile application which is more personalized in nature can be effective for the end users. For personalized alerts & push notifications, mobile applications are more useful.

The native mobile applications require separate design, development & support on different platforms. The iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows phone and other mobile operating systems require different apps. They are developed and maintained separately, which needs different skills, teams for development. Only erudite and sagacious mobile app developers who have extensive knowledge in this sector can only execute this job. On the other side a single version need to be maintained for website. So cost and effort that are associated with responsive website are very low and hence can easily affordable by any one. It is recommendable that if an enterprise is on its initial stage, then they should go for a responsive website so that they can easily get rid from those extra burden and cost.

Mobile is relatively new territory for enterprise solutions. Lots of things are still there which we need to explore gradually.The question on whether mobile website or app addresses the user's requirements can be determined with a use case analysis. Before making a decision, an enterprise should evaluate both options — Responsive Web Design and Mobile Web App, and select the technology option which best suits with their business requirements.