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Creating a Mobile App and a Web App: Pros and Cons

Web app or mobile app? It's not always easy to make a choice. When startup founders are surveyed, both sides will have strong opinions. The difference is that the answer really depends on your business and your app's nature. To help you make a decision, this guide will go over the benefits and drawbacks of building a mobile app versus a web app.

1. What to Think About When Creating a Web App or a Mobile App?

A mobile app is a piece of software that was made to run on a mobile device, like a phone or tablet. It sometimes works with the functions already built into the phone, such as GPS.

On the other hand, a web app is software designed to be accessed through any browser, but it’s custom coded as opposed to being built on a no-code website builder. Sometimes, like in the case of Progressive Web Apps, the link can be saved onto the homescreen of a mobile device, so it looks like an app but still opens within a browser when tapped. It saves like a shortcut on a desktop, but with an interface that resembles an app

Based on your current and future business plans, there are five main considerations you should make when making decisions. Consider the following questions for yourself:

  • What capabilities will the app have?
  • What role does speed play?
  • How much is our budget?
  • Who are our customers?
  • Is it necessary for our users to use the app offline?

After you have gathered the responses to each of these questions, you can look at the advantages and disadvantages listed below to see if your decision is clearer.

2. The Pros and Cons of Creating a Mobile App

Apps for mobile devices can be made for a specific operating system and use the device's built-in features, giving them special capabilities. Building mobile apps using cross-platform languages like React and Flutter, which enable a single codebase to support both iOS and Android platforms, is becoming more common in today's market. However, the development costs of mobile apps typically exceed those of web apps. You should be aware of the following:

2.1. Mobile App: Pros

Speed and Performance: Mobile apps work with a phone’s built-in features, like location services, a microphone, and a camera, so apps built for the mobile device usually work faster. (However, there are exceptions, depending on the specific functionality of the app.) Allowing apps to access these native features also makes using them feel seamless. For example, taking a photo within an app feels a lot more natural than using a laptop to take a photo and then uploading that onto a web app. As well, mobile apps are hosted on local databases, so they offer consistently fast speeds.

Marketing Options: There are a lot of ways to monetize your app. Having different options also means you can pick the one that fits with your app the best. As well, more than one method can be used. The flexibility of monetization is a big advantage of mobile apps.

Offline Access: Many mobile apps offer offline access that is not dependent on WiFi once the user downloads the app. If a software product would benefit from allowing users to add and save data even when not connected to WiFi or even cell service, then a mobile app can offer this advantage.

Targeting a Wider Audience: Most businesses these days require an app. Many customers prefer using an app to the web version. Users like the convenience of being able to book a flight conveniently from their phone, shop at their favorite store, and order a coffee all quickly from an app.

Reengagement Opportunity: Mobile apps allow push notifications to be sent when certain actions trigger the alert. This can even be done by sending a user a notification if they haven’t logged in or used the app in awhile. Gentle reminders such as this, along with seeing an app icon on a mobile phone screen, can remind users to log in and potentially re-engage users that would have otherwise dropped off or forgotten about the software entirely.

2.2. Mobile App: Cons

Cost of Development: Apps are relatively new in the world of software, so there are not many options that allow the average person to create one cheaply. Most apps still require custom code and integrations with other services in order to provide features such as messaging and payment processing. The cheapest custom-coded, bare-bones app would still cost $30,000–$40,000, which is a lot compared to a website. The cost of an app is higher than that of a web app.

Cost of Maintenance: Mobile apps require regular maintenance updates for bug fixes, security issues, etc. Though cross-platform languages have made bug fixes easier, there are still more updates required to keep a mobile app’s code clean when compared to a web app.

Large Apps Take Up Storage: Some robust or complex apps can require a lot of storage space to download. For example, the popular gaming app Fortnight is a whopping 3 GB. If a phone’s storage space is limited or a user has already downloaded a lot of apps, then large apps are often the first to get deleted in order to free up space.

Required Download — There are currently millions of apps available on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store. This means there is a strong chance that your app won’t be the one found by your target users, as app stores are structured for great organic search result deliveries.

Profits are shared with the App Store: It costs money to list an app on the App Store. For Apple, listing on their app store costs an annual fee of $99, and then they earn 15% commission on all in-app purchases, up to the point where your app earns 1 million dollars. At that point, the commission jumps up to 30%. Hosting an app on the Google Play store is similar, except it’s a one-time fee of $25 and follows the same commission structure as Apple.

3. The Pros and Cons of Creating a Web App

A web app is a responsive website that can be used on a desktop computer or a mobile device. Web apps can be made to look good on any device, from a desktop computer to a tablet or smartphone. Web apps can run on any operating system because they use the browser, making them faster and cheaper. However, despite the fact that a web app costs less, it doesn't take advantage of device features, which limits its functionality. You should be aware of the following:

3.1. Web App: Pros

Accessibility: Web apps provide access to users on a wide range of devices, regardless of the operating system, through the browser. This means a wider audience and potentially a larger user base.

Ease of Updates: Developers make changes to a common code base, so updates are simple. And developers can quickly send updates to a server so that all devices can see them right away. Web updates also typically don’t render web apps unusable, whereas they could very quickly prevent a mobile operating system from functioning properly.

Better discovery on search engines Web apps are displayed in search results (think: Google), so anyone can find them. Most people turn to a search engine when they’re trying to find answers to questions. This includes searching terms like “best organization software.”

If your software is aimed at these keywords, then there is a better chance people will find your web app in a search result when compared to a mobile app. There are also more ways to manipulate a web app to get it to rank higher in search results than there are to actively affect app store rankings.

Cost-effective development: Web apps are less expensive to make than mobile apps because they take less time to make. This is largely due to only needing to build one version of a web app to serve all operating systems.

No download is required; users can click in and out of a web app as they please. Even though downloading an app isn't too hard, it does take more work on the part of the user. In a world where most online decisions are made in under 2 seconds, a web app stays competitive as it doesn’t require downloading anything to view it, which encourages more curious users to poke around.

3.2. Web App: Cons

Less Integration with Device Functions: Web apps offer limited ability to access a mobile device’s native features, like the camera and location services. As web apps are not native to any one operating system, they sometimes can’t access specific features that cater to that OS.

Slower Speeds: Variations in web browsers can occasionally cause challenges in running the web app without issues. Web apps are not as fast as mobile apps hosted on a local server. If the browser is having an issue, that will also directly impact the web app.

No Offline Availability: Web apps are dependent on the Internet for use, so they are not available when a user does not have WiFi or cell access. If a user runs out of data or is in an area with weak or no signal, they can’t view or input important information into the web app.

No App Store or Google Play access Users won’t find the app on marketplaces, where they are used to finding them. As a result, they may be unaware of availability.

Safety and Security: There is no vetting and approval process in place for web apps, like how mobile apps must adhere to specific standards to be in app stores. This means web apps could potentially exist that aren’t very secure, making it easy for your data to be threatened.

4. Should You Create a Mobile App or a Web App?

Take a look back at the responses you gave to the five main questions. These responses will help you decide which direction to take.

  • A mobile app is probably the best choice for you if your app has features that require access to the native functionality of the mobile device.
  • A mobile app may be the best option if speed is important and your app's features could work faster on a native mobile app.
  • Launching as a web app might be a good option if you're on a tight budget.
  • A web app is right for you if keywords in a search browser make it easier to find your platform. A mobile app may be the answer if you need to reach a larger audience.
  • A mobile app is probably the best choice if your users need to access the app offline.

Want to know how we can help you refine your app idea? Contact us, and we'll set up a call.

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