Mobile Websites vs. Mobile Apps: Which Is Better For Your Business?


EDITOR’S NOTE: This article, originally published on June 3, 2013, placed at No. 15 in our 20 most popular articles of the year.

ADOTAS — One of the biggest debates in the world of mobile marketing revolves around the choice between mobile websites and mobile apps for businesses.  Ideally, all companies would take an integrated approach and have both a mobile website and a mobile app. Unfortunately, this approach is not always possible, especially for small businesses, because of factors such as budget.

For the companies who must make the difficult decision between mobile apps and mobile sites, it is important to take into consideration the benefits that each hold for a business.

Mobile Websites: Advantages

  • No Download Required: Mobile sites can be accessed via a browser immediately. No download or installation is required for users to access content.
  • Simpler Design: Mobile websites are designed with simplicity in mind so that it is easy for users to navigate and find information on the mobile site.
  • Cheaper to Develop: Mobile website creation is 85% less expensive than mobile app development.
  • Quicker to Market: Not only are mobile websites more cost-effective, they are also more time-effective. It takes considerably less time to develop and market a mobile site than it does a mobile application.
  • Easier to Update: The content and design of mobile sites can be updated immediately. There is no need to push for updates like there is in mobile apps.
  • Compatibility: The same mobile site can reach all mobile users, regardless of what type of device they are using. All iPhone, Android and other smartphone users access a single mobile site.
  • Reach a Larger Audience: Mobile websites allow businesses to reach essentially 100% of their audience. Mobile sites are available to anyone who has Internet access via their mobile devices.
  • Search Results: Mobile users can easily find a company’s mobile site via search engine results.
  • Google Analytics for Mobile: Businesses are able to track who is visiting their mobile sites via Google Analytics for Mobile and other mobile analytics programs.
  • Opportunities for a Viral Audience: It is easy for users to share mobile sites with friends via a link and through social media such as Facebook and Twitter posts.

Mobile Apps: Advantages

  • Ease of Use: It is very easy for users to navigate through and interact with mobile applications.
  • Usable Offline: Users do not have to be connected to a network or wireless connection to use mobile applications.
  • Customizable: Once users download a mobile app, they are able to personalize the app based on their preferences and general use of the app.
  • Easier to access data about users: Marketers are able to access a wide variety of data about mobile users such as demographics, psychographics and geo-location through mobile apps.
  • Integration with smartphone features: Mobile apps can be integrated with smartphone features such as the camera, microphone, geo-location and phonebook.
  • Power of the Apple Store: Apps are sold through the vast Apple Store.
  • Speed: Mobile apps run faster than mobile websites.
  • “Cool” Factor: Mobile apps are one of the most recent innovations in mobile technology. Mobile apps also tend to have “cooler” visuals because mobile apps allow for more innovative graphics and effects.
  • Allows you to reach a more affluent audience: According to a study performed by the Shullman Research Center, mobile apps are used by 90 percent of U.S. consumers with a household income of $250,000 or more.
  • Complex Calculations: Apps allow you to take data from a user and manipulate it using complex calculations at a quick speed.

When making this decision, it is also important to consider the vertical or industry that your business is competing in. For companies within specific industries, mobile apps often hold an obvious advantage over mobile sites, and vice versa. For example, radio stations would do much better with a mobile app compared to a mobile website because it is much easier and quicker to stream music on an app. On the other hand, restaurants would probably prefer to use a mobile site because it would be much easier for them to update their daily specials and make any menu changes on a site.

For more information on developing your comprehensive mobile marketing strategy, visit ATS Mobile.


  1. For small ma-and-pa stores and family owned restaurants, mobile website is the way to go, indeed! They’re typically not tech savvy, and have no interest in learning due to busy schedules and long hours. For even the novice developer, providing this segment with a free sample is easy, and much appreciated by the owner. Bundling a mobile website with your current offerings is a great way to introduce them to the technology, and keeps them engaged with you as a vendor.

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  3. This is a great post, and will be very helpful to people who are on the fence trying to decide. Thank you for sharing.

    I have found that utilizing the cache manifest as well as including an icon that can be bookmarked on a user’s home page can be very useful as well. I have also done some packaging of mobile websites as an mobile apps. If you’re worried about the cost, get started with a mobile website. You will definitely start to see results in your business.

    Thanks Caitlyn for this great post.

  4. Another positive aspect of apps is that you can incorporate mobile ads (minimally, of course) as a way to monetize the app – something cool like video or native ads, like the stuff Airpush is doing. Millennial Media has fantastic ad units too.

  5. You should do neither responsive or a mobile app. A very , very high percentage of businesses do not need a mobile app. It can be expensive and just not necessary. Business owners need to keep in mind such thing is “mobile space” on consumer cellphones. People are not going to download an app for every business they go to. It makes more sense to build an adaptive mobile website. A company that has a patent-pending software and builds these is WompMobile. Check them out at and they have a mobile website emulator for businesses to test their website as well, for free.


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