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10 Reasons Why Mobile Apps are Better Than Mobile Websites

Disclaimer: The intention of this post is not to establish mobile apps as a better alternative to mobile websites. The post only lists out areas where apps can offer greater value to businesses than mobile websites.


So the mobile era is here.

The number of mobile users today is greater than the number of desktop users!

Consequently, businesses have realized the need to effectively use mobile channels for attracting customers. They have started new operations (or scaled existing ones) through mobile websites and mobile apps.

While businesses with large wallets can afford to employ both mobile websites and apps, other companies might have to choose one of them. The choice between mobile apps and websites depends on their cost, usability, required features and the audience they serve.

That being said, studies show that users prefer mobile apps more than mobile websites. This makes for a strong reason to have mobile apps for reaching out to potential (and existing) customers.

In addition, there are various other reasons, too, that make mobile apps better than mobile websites.

Following is our list of the top 10:

#1 Mobile Apps Offer Better Personalization

Personalization is about offering tailored communication to users based on their interests, location, usage behavior, and more.

Personalization is critical in making a mobile User Experience delightful. Tweet: 10 Reasons Mobile Apps are Better Than Mobile Websites Read more at https://vwo.com/blog/10-reasons-mobile-apps-are-better

With mobile apps, it’s easy to treat users with a personalized experience.

Mobile apps can let users set up their preferences at the start, based on which users can be served with customized content. Apps can also track and observe user engagement, and use it to offer custom recommendations and updates to the users. Furthermore, they can also identify location of the users in real-time to provide geography-specific content.

App personalization
Source

However, improving user experience is not the only purpose that personalization serves. It can also help improve conversion rate of apps:

When users are pampered with personalized content, they have a higher chance of making a conversion.

#2 Ease of Sending Notifications

For the last couple of decades, email has been the most widely-used business communication tool. Businesses have extensively used email (some almost abused it) to reach out to their users. As a result, email has lost the effectiveness it once had; its open rates and click rates have constantly dropped.

Well, there’s no reason to worry.

Enter mobile app notifications.

The notifications are of two types: push and in-app notifications. They both are exciting alternatives for communicating with app users in a less intrusive manner.

app push notification

The ability to send instant, non-intrusive notifications to users is so desired that it is one of the major reasons why many businesses want to have a mobile app in the first place.

In-app notifications are the notifications which users can only receive when they have opened an app.

Push notifications, on the other hand, are those notifications which users can receive regardless of any activity they are doing on their mobile device. There have been instances where the push medium of notifications has delivered click-through rates of 40%.

It goes without saying that you have to plan your notification campaigns judiciously. Here is a list of best practices to help you get started.

Add-on: There are third party services that provide push notifications services to mobile websites, too. However, these services are in a nascent stage and still have some limitations (some only work on specific browsers, and are not available for all website types). Still, businesses, unaffected with the limitations, can consider using these services on their mobile websites.

PushCrew, for example, is one of the new service providers that let websites send push notifications to desktops and mobiles.

#3 Making Use of Mobile Device Features

Mobile apps have the advantage of utilizing features of a mobile device like camera, contact list, GPS, phone calls, accelerometer, compass, etc.

App using camera
Source

Such device features, when used within an app, can make the user experience interactive and fun.

Moreover, these features can also reduce the efforts users would have to make otherwise. For instance, users completing a form on a banking app might need to submit their photograph for completion of the process. The app can let users take help of the camera of their mobile device to capture and submit a photograph.

Apps can utilize native features of mobile devices to enhance User Experience. Tweet: 10 Reasons Mobile Apps are Better Than Mobile Websites Read more at https://vwo.com/blog/10-reasons-mobile-apps-are-better

The device features can significantly shorten the time users take to perform a certain task in an app, and can even boost conversions.

Add-on: Mobile websites can also use some features of a mobile device like camera, GPS, etc. Still, there are technological constraints in utilizing all the multimedia features of a device (which mobile apps can use).

#4 Ability to Work Offline

It is probably the most fundamental difference between a mobile website and an app.

Offline image

Although apps too might require internet connectivity to perform most of their tasks, they can still offer basic content and functionality to users in offline mode.

The beauty of mobile apps lies in their ability to work even in offline mode. Tweet: 10 Reasons Mobile Apps are Better Than Mobile Websites Read more at https://vwo.com/blog/10-reasons-mobile-apps-are-better

Let’s take the example of banking app again.

The app can provide features like tax calculation, installment calculation, and determination of loan limit. These features can work even without the help of an internet connection.

Add-on: Even though mobile websites can use caching to load web pages without an internet connection, they can only offer limited functions.

#5 Freedom in Designing

Even with all the technological advancements in web designing, mobile websites have to rely a lot on browsers to perform even the most elementary functions. Mobile websites depend on browser features like ‘back button,’ ‘refresh button,’ and ‘address bar’ to work.

Mobile Apps don’t have any of these restrictions.

A mobile app can be designed with a lot of elaborate functions, based on advanced gestures like ‘tap,’ ‘swipe,’ ‘drag,’ ‘pinch,’ ‘hold,’ and more.

App swipe function
Source

Apps can use these gestures to offer innovative functionality that can help users perform a task better. For example, an app can let users move to a next or previous step using the swipe gesture.

#6 New Branding Experience

Since a mobile app is distinct from a company’s website, it has the liberty of offering a new branding experience to users. It means that the company can experiment with new branding styles for the app, which can be different from the regular brand style of the company’s website (or the company altogether).

Going a step further, companies can build mobile apps specifically to transition into a new brand style for themselves.

Mobile apps can be used to create a distinguished brand for your product/service. Tweet: 10 Reasons Mobile Apps are Better Than Mobile Websites Read more at https://vwo.com/blog/10-reasons-mobile-apps-are-better

Additionally, a mobile app can also allow users to customize its appearance, as per users’ liking. This can further help in the personalization front of the app.

Add-on: The concept of microsites work on similar lines. Microsites offer a distinct brand experience to users, as compared to their parent sites. They are often used to promote a sub-brand, an event, or a newly-launched service.

Related Post: A Cheat Sheet on Using Microsites To Build Traffic

#7 Users Spend More Time on Apps

Mobile users spend 86% of their time on mobile apps and just 14% of the time on mobile websites.

time spent on mobile apps

Moreover, the average time users spend on mobile apps is also increasing — rising by 21% in 2015 from 2014.

Note: A point to consider here is that users spend a majority of their time on gaming apps and social media apps.

However, we also don’t have data telling us which mobile websites users visit more often (out of the 14% of their time mentioned above). Hence, it’s not possible to make a comparison.

#8 New Stream of Conversions

If you’re looking to increase conversions, mobile apps can be a great medium to push users down the conversion funnel.

Mobile apps can be used to acquire both top-of-the-funnel (ToFu) and bottom-of-the-funnel (BoFu) users.

For instance, utility apps can bring-in ToFu users, which can be later nurtured into BoFu leads. On the other hand, apps like eCommerce already have BOTF users, who have a higher possibility of converting.

Add-on: Since mobile apps are much more targeted in nature (through their content and utility), they can be used to tap specific users in the funnel. Mobile websites, in contrast, reach out to a diverse set of audience.

#9 Brand Presence

Users spend a substantial amount of their time on mobile devices. It’s safe to say that many of the users encounter the apps they’ve installed on their devices, almost every day. This regular encounter can be viewed as a branding opportunity for the apps.

Even when users are not actively using a mobile app, they are still reminded of the brand associated with the app. The icon of the app acts like a mini-advertisement for the brand.

Mobile app icons can work like innovative ad-banners. Tweet: 10 Reasons Mobile Apps are Better Than Mobile Websites Read more at https://vwo.com/blog/10-reasons-mobile-apps-are-better

The presence of an app on a user’s device helps influence user’s perception about a brand, subconsciously.

App icons

This user behaviour can be linked to the Signal Detection Theory, which suggests that users process even those ads which they’ve ignored at some level in their minds.

Related Post: Why Banner Blindness Shouldn’t Scare You

#10 Apps Can Work Faster Than Websites

A well-designed mobile app can perform actions much quicker than a mobile website.

Apps usually store their data locally on mobile devices, in contrast to websites that generally use web servers. For this reason, data retrieval happens swiftly in mobile apps.

Apps can further save users’ time by storing their preferences, and using them to take proactive actions on users’ behalf.

Apps are faster meme

There is also a technical justification as to why mobile apps can work faster.

Mobile websites use javascript code to perform most of their functions. And the framework that mobile apps use can run almost five times faster than a javascript code!

So, mobile websites are technically slower than mobile apps! Tweet: 10 Reasons Mobile Apps are Better Than Mobile Websites Read more at https://vwo.com/blog/10-reasons-mobile-apps-are-better

While all this is happening in the background, users get to complete actions quicker on the front-end of mobile apps, again contributing to a delightful user experience.

Mobile App v/s Mobile Site — What Should You Choose?

Developing both mobile website and mobile app for your business can prove to be a costly affair. You might have to choose one of the two channels, based on your budget and business goals. While both channels have their own pros and cons, mobile apps, especially, can help you get higher conversions. Mobile apps offer greater personalization and operational efficiency, along with multiple other exclusive features.

Nitin is a traveler, a cinephile, and a webaholic. (He just can't get enough of cat videos!) Professionally, Nitin is a marketer at VWO, who loves to write about Conversion Optimization. Find him on Twitter: @NitinDeshdeep

Comments (18)

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  1. Hello Niti. Very well written 🙂

    True, this is mobile era and the number of mobile users is increasing day by day. You know 80% of time spent on mobile devices is spent using apps. Therefore, apps are becoming the dominant form of digital interaction.

    I believe this demonstrates that consumers indeed want the simplicity and focus that apps provide , rather than the variety and diffusion inherent in websites. I went through the list you provided and i find it quite useful. The point num 2 is exactly what i perceive. It’s very easy to send notifications via mobile.

    1. Hi Vitellius,

      Glad you found the article useful.
      I also believe that app-notifications are a great way to engage with users.

  2. Valid points, but not all websites or businesses should have a Mobile Apps, especially not to those who require less interaction with their visitor.

    I mean, who wants to install an app that you can’t do much except browsing some static pages? And you shouldn’t invest on something your audience won’t use.

    Mobile site or mobile friendly site is the better option… no installation will be needed.

    Just my opinion.

    1. Hi Azizul,

      Thank you for your comment.

      I complete agree with you that not all websites or businesses require mobile apps. As mentioned in the article, businesses need to consider the cost of app development, their audience behavior, conversion metrics, etc., before deciding to go for a mobile app.

      For the same reason, we’ve put a disclaimer before the start of the list. 🙂

    1. Hi Jitendra,

      Thank you for stopping by.

      Your comment made me realize that the heading of point #1 “Mobile Apps Offer Personalization” could be made more accurate. Hence, I’ve updated it to “Mobile Apps Offer Better Personalization.” 🙂

      An example of a great personalization experience can be found with Walnut, an expense managing app. The app tracks your debit/credit card expenses and updates with your account in real-time. It sends your personalized expenditure report daily through a push-notification.

      It’s also possible that such apps can track a user’s general spending behavior, and send alarms through notifications whenever the user spends an unusually high amount.

    2. I believe this demonstrates that consumers indeed want the simplicity and focus that apps provide , rather than the variety and diffusion inherent in websites. I went through the list you provided and i find it quite useful. The point num 2 is exactly what i perceive. It’s very easy to send notifications via mobile.

  3. There is no single valid point in this article.

    #1 Mobile Apps Offer Personalization
    Websites do not offer personalization? Do we get same experience when we log in to facebooks website?

    #2 Ease of Sending Notifications
    Websites can do that. Look up service worker.

    #3 Making Use of Mobile Device Features
    Camera, GPS, accelerometer, full screen, microphone and many more are available for websites.

    #4 Ability to Work Offline
    Available for couple of years via appcache (lately replaced with more powerful service worker)

    #5 Freedom in Designing
    > Mobile websites depend on browser features like ‘back button,’ ‘refresh button,’ and ‘address bar’ to work.
    I don’t get it? How webapp depends on refresh button? Anyway, when you install a webapp ( https://developers.google.com/web/updates/2014/11/Support-for-installable-web-apps-with-webapp-manifest-in-chrome-38-for-Android?hl=en ) it doesn’t show any of these elements.

    >advanced gestures like ‘tap,’ ‘swipe,’ ‘drag,’ ‘pinch,’ ‘hold,’
    All available for websites.

    #6 New Branding Experience
    This one is totally ridiculous. Why can’t you experiment with new branding on the website? How about A/B testing?

    #7 Users Spend More Time on Apps
    Apps are for engagement, websites are for reach. https://twitter.com/lukew/status/649255909420503041 . You still need both.

    #8 New Stream of Conversions
    You can personalize webapp/website and target very specific audience with ease.

    #9 Brand Presence
    That’s an interesting point, but I do not add shortcuts for all installed apps to my dektop. Anyway, webapp can also get installed.

    #10 Apps Can Work Faster Than Websites
    Sure they can. They also can work slower.

    > Apps usually store their data locally on mobile devices, in contrast to websites that use web servers. For this reason, data retrieval happens swiftly in mobile apps.
    We’ve been over this. Both can store data locally.

    1. Hi Konrad,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Please find my answer to your queries below:

      #1 Mobile Apps Offer Personalization
      Websites do not offer personalization? Do we get same experience when we log in to facebooks website?

      I realize that the heading of point #1 “Mobile Apps Offer Personalization” could be made more accurate. Hence, I’ve updated it to “Mobile Apps Offer Better Personalization.”

      #2 Ease of Sending Notifications
      Websites can do that. Look up service worker.

      Yes, websites can send notifications, and I’ve mentioned that in the post, too. However, there are various limitations to it. The website notifications are browser-dependent, and not a lot of browsers provide this feature presently.

      #3 Making Use of Mobile Device Features
      Camera, GPS, accelerometer, full screen, microphone and many more are available for websites.

      The post talks about how apps can utilize more features of a phone than websites, e.g. reading a contact list.

      #4 Ability to Work Offline
      Available for couple of years via appcache (lately replaced with more powerful service worker)

      Yes, websites, too, can work offline. Still, if users don’t remember the URL of the website, they cannot access it.

      #5 Freedom in Designing
      > Mobile websites depend on browser features like ‘back button,’ ‘refresh button,’ and ‘address bar’ to work.
      I don’t get it? How webapp depends on refresh button? Anyway, when you install a webapp ( https://developers.google.com/web/updates/2014/11/Support-for-installable-web-apps-with-webapp-manifest-in-chrome-38-for-Android?hl=en ) it doesn’t show any of these elements.

      >advanced gestures like ‘tap,’ ‘swipe,’ ‘drag,’ ‘pinch,’ ‘hold,’
      All available for websites.

      I’ll use an example here. The 9gag app provides 4 different streams of content in a single screen. We can just swipe left and right to read a particular stream. However, 9gag’s mobile website requires us to navigate to a drop-down menu and choose one of the streams to view. I believe this affects User Experience.

      Moreover, my phone’s native browser takes me back and forth with a left swipe and right swipe, respectively. For apps like Tinder, which use swipes to operate, the situation would a get a little complex.

      Another example is the feature of swiping from outside of the screen to inside.

      #6 New Branding Experience
      This one is totally ridiculous. Why can’t you experiment with new branding on the website? How about A/B testing?

      Businesses tend to follow a consistent theme throughout a website. To offer a new branding experience for a sub-brand/new product, a business might need to build a new microsite. Since, apps already exist in a different ecosystem, they don’t need to follow the branding style of the parent website.

      #7 Users Spend More Time on Apps
      Apps are for engagement, websites are for reach. https://twitter.com/lukew/status/649255909420503041 . You still need both.

      The post doesn’t say that businesses don’t require mobile websites. The argument of the post is simply based on the data which shows that users spend more time on apps.

      #8 New Stream of Conversions
      You can personalize webapp/website and target very specific audience with ease.

      The point made by the post is that when people use an app, they are already aware about the brand and are deeper down the conversion funnel (in contrast to mobile websites that have a healthy share of passing-by users).

      #9 Brand Presence
      That’s an interesting point, but I do not add shortcuts for all installed apps to my dektop. Anyway, webapp can also get installed.

      Whenever we install an app, we automatically get the icon of the app on our phone. With web apps, we have to make an effort to install a shortcut. Not sure if a substantial percentage of mobile users ‘add a shortcut’ for websites on their mobile devices.

      Also, adding a web app to your screen is a browser-dependent feature — not every browser allows it.

      #10 Apps Can Work Faster Than Websites
      Sure they can. They also can work slower.

      Please go through the link in the post that talks about how the framework of apps work faster than that of a website.

      Apps usually store their data locally on mobile devices, in contrast to websites that use web servers. For this reason, data retrieval happens swiftly in mobile apps.
      We’ve been over this. Both can store data locally.

      I agree with you. And I’ve updated “in contrast to websites that use web servers” to “in contrast to websites that generally use web servers.”

  4. That being said, studies show that users prefer mobile apps more than mobile websites.
    Yikes, your link refers to a website, that links to an article, where somebody build a webapp in 2012, supposely with jQuery mobile, which indeed sucks.

    Though I agree that UI/UX is extremely important, if you want to have a superior product, you article doesn’t acknowledge the fact, that since then UI/UX has increased significantly through modern mobile libraries, like Material Design.

    Further push notifications using WebSockets (Push Notifications for Web Apps) and working offline (Web Apps Offline using Service Worker)

    I bet I could disprove a couple of other of your points, but I agree in general, that native apps are superior to web apps, yet they have an incredible downside: They need to be downloaded.

    Which is why other “studies” show, why they discontinue native apps. https://atavistinsider.atavist.com/goodbye-native-mobile-apps

    In general I like your article, but it lacks a little bit of being up to date, which is nearly impossible in these times, where technology changes so quickly.

    1. Hey George,

      Thank you for your valuable comment.

      I agree that mobile apps have a great disadvantage as they need to be downloaded on users’ devices. Still, when we talk about offering a better User Experience, mobile apps can be a better alternative than websites.

      I’ll be careful with including more up-to-date information on my future posts. 🙂

  5. Hello Niti. Very well written 🙂

    True, this is mobile era and the number of mobile users is increasing day by day. You know 80% of time spent on mobile devices is spent using apps. Therefore, apps are becoming the dominant form of digital interaction.

    I believe this demonstrates that consumers indeed want the simplicity and focus that apps provide , rather than the variety and diffusion inherent in websites. I went through the list you provided and i find it quite useful. The point num 2 is exactly what i perceive. It’s very easy to send notifications via mobile.

  6. I’m interested in this debate because I find the use of apps to be driven by a technical shortcoming, namely resources. So all these articles agree that apps offer more and are faster but is there a good reason for this if websites could do the same? It’s just a matter of design, implementation and some security issues. To reverse the problem: why not download apps for most of your favorite websites on your laptop too? Sure your user experience can also benefit from their better access to the resources…like notifications. And now that I said that, I remember gmail and the like really would like to install their app on your laptop too. Okay, so now to my real conern: it’s offline storage. So we should be downloading standalone applications to our devices that have a finite storage capacity. Maybe it’s not a far fetched scenario to imagine a mobile junkie teenager who downloads games by the dozen and is faced with the problem of eventually running low in disk space. So he removes the full SD card and inserts a new one? And he may end up with like 10 SD cards full? But he likes all of his games and who knows on which SD card will be the one he wants to play now? He has to carry along all his SD cards and keep switching them? This scenario may not be that farfetched, mind you. Do not underestimate the possibility of disk space hogging, especially if our fictional hero is also a photography junkie, recording videos onto his SD card every day…
    I think there should be some cloud based service where users have about 1 TB of cloud storage and their apps are installed on-the-fly and deleted when the user closes the app. Okay, it should at least be an option.

  7. In the beginning of this post, you say that the point is not to say that mobile apps are better than the mobile web, but ultimately that is exactly what you conclude. With the huge advances of responsive design and HTML5 has made the mobile web a viable solution for building complex, interactive, and high performing web pages that support devices of all size. The costs of a mobile app can be a non-starter for many businesses, and there is no guarantee of success or a high level of adoption. Even Amazon struggles to get users to use their mobile app.

  8. This is to address Konrad Dzwinel’s comments:

    I believe this article was well written. If you know anything about the mobile healthcare industry, the author does a great job highlighting all of the value points, especially when it comes to the debate around “Web-Based Patient Portals” vs. “Native Mobile Patient Apps.” This is a hot discussion right now and many hospitals are contemplating to create their very own mobile app that is easier to use for their patients aside from the mobile friendly website.

  9. Nice post. i agree with you. Every business owners hire mobile app developer just to cater its global and large number of users. According to latest analytics mobile devices increases the smart-phone market-share by 85%. Thanks for sharing this post.

  10. Am I the only one who finds iPad apps worse than using the web site? Dropbox, Google maps, Gmail are just a few that I prefer in their web format … I agree that perhaps inherently an app should be better, but so often they are badly designed and implemented.

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