App vs Website: What Is Best for Your Business?

Posted October 18, 2017 | By Brian Neese

Miscellaneous app and social media symbols

Whether you operate your own business or you’re in charge of a company, developing an effective strategy to reach customers is essential. The app vs website conversation brings up an important question: Would an app or a website be the best way to market to your customers and establish brand loyalty?

In some cases, it’s not an either/or question. You can create an app and a website if it works with your strategy and your budget. However, most businesses only need one tool, at least in earlier stages of the company’s life.

Explore the following sections for clarity on the “app vs website” question for your business.


Apps are applications that are downloaded and installed on a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet. Users can access them on their mobile device’s app store.

Today’s consumers are spending more than 85 percent of their time on their smart phones using native apps

For many users, apps have a narrow set of purposes. “Today’s consumers are spending more than 85 percent of their time on their smart phones using native apps, but the majority of their time, 84 percent, is spent using five apps,” according to Ajay Kapur, CEO and founder of mobile checkout company Moovweb. Communication and social apps account for the most usage, with games, music and streaming video following them. Apart from these app categories, 69 percent of users open apps 10 times or less.

There are other functions that apps serve well, according to Crew, a company that links freelance designers and developers to clients.

  • Your app has a location-based component. “Will you need to present your customers with relevant information based on where they are located right now?” Crew asks. Uber connects drivers with passengers who need to go somewhere, introducing a location-based element. Having a mobile app that caters to people who travel with their smartphone, and not their computer, justified a mobile app before a website.
  • Your idea requires delivery of information in real time. “Does your idea need to give people access to do something the moment it happens?” Crew asks. Some apps track habits that people log at a gym, making it more convenient to access via app vs website. “If your idea connects people with information they need now, it’s likely building a mobile app will be the best route.”

A major drawback to developing an app is that it’s a tougher sell to customers. Your audience members will need to download the app and keep it on their mobile device. It can be difficult to drive traffic to an app vs website. Often, established brand loyalty is needed for customers to download an app.

Another drawback is cost. “App design and development can range from $10k for a basic app with 1-2 core features to over $100k for more complex apps that work across multiple platforms like iPhone, iPad, and Android,” according to Crew. Apps require the assistance of professionals who specialize in development. Updating an app to meet operating systems’ changing requirements adds to the expense.

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Websites are accessed via the internet and do not require any downloads. They have several benefits.

  • Accessibility: Users can view a website by visiting it on their desktop, laptop, mobile device or any other tool that has an internet browser. It is much easier for people to access a website than an app.
  • Updates: Updating information on a website is quicker, easier and cheaper than updating an app. You can perform most updates on a website, but unless you have specific expertise in app development, you will probably need to pay someone to update your app.
  • Marketing: Your audience is more likely to share a website than an app. People can easily share your website URL in a social media post or within an email or text message.
  • Permanence: The average shelf life of an app is less than 30 days, TechCrunch reports. It is easy for users to delete your app if they’re not interested, and if that happens, it will be much more difficult to get them to download it again. In contrast, it will be much easier for your audience to return to your website, given accessibility and marketing benefits of websites.
  • Budget: Websites are cheaper and easier to create, update and maintain. A custom website can be developed for less than $10,000, and many businesses opt for professional templates that cost less than $100. There is a nominal fee for hosting the website, and the price for any graphic and copy needs can range considerably.

Importance of Mobile-friendly Websites

A newer standard in website development is mobile-friendly websites, which are designed to cater to the growing number of users who access websites on a smartphone, tablet or some other type of mobile device. Internet usage by mobile and tablet devices exceeded desktop for the first time in October 2016.

Fully responsive websites are mobile-friendly websites that adapt (or “respond” to) virtually any screen size. Regardless of what device the user accesses a site with, the responsive design guarantees a smooth user experience without having to create separate sites for each device size.

Determine What Works for You

Need help with the “app vs website” question for your business? Answer the following questions to see what may be best.

What is your initial budget for an app or website?

Do you need location-based services, similar to Uber?

Do you need real-time information delivery, such as for tracking habits at a gym?

Do you have an established audience base?

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