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August 4

Something that we get asked about all the time here at Motribe is should a client go with a mobile app or the mobile web.

I don’t think that there is a one-size-fits-all answer. I do think that there are pros and cons for both options but the following infographic illustrates a very good point for most of the world: Apps are difficult to manage.

Which one wins?

This illustrates something that we’ve been trying to say for a while now: The mobile web is the simplest and most straightforward option most of the time and for most users and most clients.

Many will disagree (anyone with a smartphone - read iPhone) with me here but the truth of the matter is that it is simpler, better, faster and cheaper to launch a mobile website than an app.

Obviously apps can do things that the mobile web cannot, for now. When this changes, things are going to get mighty interesting.

3 Responses to Mobile App vs Mobile Web, Complicated vs Simple

  1. Rian says:

    Hey Nic,

    I’m going to disagree :) That chart doesn’t pass the smell test, in my opinion.

    * App Store - ensure you’re on the right platform. Are they saying that iPhone owners or Android owners might go to the wrong app store? That’s not even possible.
    * Download times - what about slow web connections on a web site? Most apps are <10MB anyway, download times are negligible.
    * Malicious code - because of iOS sandboxing, it's impossible for apps to get access to the rest of your device (Android, well, fine…)
    * Install app slow - I don't get that one at all.
    * Update app - from what I have read, people LOVE updating apps, reading the release notes, etc.
    * Do not delete app? I don't get that one either. What update process runs the risk of deleting the app?

    But most of all, this doesn't take functionality into account, it deals mainly with the install and update process.

    Read http://mattgemmell.com/2011/07/22/apps-vs-the-web for a great argument for app development and why that provides a better user experience. The crux of it is this:

    Many of the arguments I’ve seen that are pro-web tend to be technological arguments, and they’re maybe mostly true as far as they go. But consumers don’t buy based on quickness of updates, newness of technology, or whether their vendor is “in control” of the development process. Platform-agnosticism is part of your politics, not your customers’ buying decision. Users couldn’t care less, particularly non-technical users.

    Instead, people want an experience that’s delightful, and tailored to what they want to do. Something dedicated, and designed. Something specific, and something special – and something that works with what they already have, without effort or aggravation. They want to hit a button and be subscribed, and wake up to a new issue waiting for them while the coffee machine is bubbling away.

    You can do those things on the web, and you can even do them well. But when your goal is to make a mobile app that will delight, each technology path giveth just as it taketh away.

  2. Nic Haralambous says:

    Hey Riaan, sorry for the delay, didn’t see your comment.

    Your point about App Stores - you’re making the assumption that there are only two app stores in the world. What about Getjar, Ovi, etc etc etc? You’re also assuming that all users are made to be equal, some do need a nudge that they can’t download an android app in the Apple App store and vice versa.

    But there’s no need to delve in to the nitty gritty details here, I think that the graph does what I was hoping it would - evoke some debate and a response from smart people.

    I don’t think there is one ring to rule them all here, I think it’s about what your context is and your specified outcomes are and/or should be.

    I do, however, believe that mobile web, html 5, ajax and effective use of javascript is going to begin to compete with native apps very soon. You can do a simple handset detection and serve an appropriate site.

    Thanks for the comments, always good to hear from you.

  3. Chris says:

    Im keen to get into mobile web design/programming. In your experience with this market and your prediction of future trends, would you say it would be more worth my while focusing on the Web App route instead of Native Apps?


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