Mobile Website VS. Mobile App: Which is Better?

Man using phone by semi truck

In a busy world, it is more important than ever to meet people where they are. With over 275 million smartphone users in the U.S. alone1, this means meeting your audience through a strong mobile presence. Whether it is through a website or mobile app, an optimized digital presence is the core of a strategic marketing program, telling your story and sharing content in a convenient and compelling way.

There are several ways to ensure that you are optimizing for the on-the-go user, with the most popular strategies being mobile-first websites and mobile apps. Both offer unique benefits depending on your goals. If you are looking to effectively reach your audiences and drive traffic, check out these highlights to learn more about which may be best for your business.

Mobile-Friendly Site

We have all visited a website on our smartphone, only to have trouble navigating the desktop version on a small screen. Situations such as this are why many businesses are making existing websites mobile-friendly or building new websites using a mobile-first approach. Mobile websites offer a cost-effective way to provide a wide variety of content to users, whether it is a smartphone user browsing a restaurant menu or a professional searching for resources on a mobile tablet. They are great for communicating information to a large audience and continue to evolve.

Similar to their desktop counterparts, mobile-friendly sites do not require users to download anything and can be accessed on any web-compatible device. Mobile websites are easy for users to find and share, building brand awareness and driving traffic. Users will also appreciate updates being completed without any effort on their part.

However, just because the desktop version of your site can be viewed on a mobile device does not mean that it is a mobile-first site. A website built using a mobile-first approach prioritizes mobile views where a majority of users now view content. Faster page load speeds, easy navigation, site structure and more must all be considered during development to ensure your site drives and capitalizes on its traffic. In fact, since 2018, Google has made mobile page load speed a key metric when ranking search results2. This means that even if your company or website would be a good fit for search results, the chances of displaying in mobile search results are lower if your site is not optimized. With over 60 percent of searches originating from mobile devices3, your business and your customers’ mobile experience certainly warrants attention.

Mobile-first sites are a great strategy that many businesses use to reach customers in a cost-effective way. However, some organizations also consider a mobile app when researching their options.

Mobile App

A mobile app is a software program or application that is designed to be run on a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet. If you have a targeted audience that you consistently provide with exclusive updates, resources, news and other content, an app may be the right fit for you.

There are several benefits to developing an app. They allow for greater customizations to the user experience and design, making it easier for users to navigate and complete tasks. There is also an option to add more complex functionality, such as the ability to access device features like GPS and built in camera. Apps also allow for limited functionality while offline, whereas mobile websites cannot be accessed at all without an internet connection. Mobile apps are also readily available to those who have downloaded them, proving convenient and reliable when users need them. If user settings allow, mobile apps also allow for notifications, meaning important information is less likely to be missed.

Because an app must be manually downloaded and updated, it must provide significant value for the user. Mobile apps should solve specific needs or provide a unique benefit. What information are users receiving from the app? What unique features does the app have that a mobile website doesn’t? What will users receive in exchange for taking the time to download an app? It is also important to keep in mind that apps must be developed for individual phone operating systems, such as Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android. Long-term updates and an app versioning plan must be considered as well.

Additional Options: PWA (Progressive Web App)

Deciding between an app and mobile-optimized website is not an easy choice, and it doesn’t have to be one or the other. If you are not sure that either is right for you, a progressive web app could be an option worth considering. These apps combines the best of features from mobile websites and mobile apps to provide an innovative consumer experience4. If you need a little more than a standard mobile website, but don’t need all of the functionality of an app, consider a progressive web app.

Which is Right for You?

No matter the option you choose, an effective marketing program requires a strong online presence. The number of mobile users is only going to continue to grow, so start strategically planning how you are going to reach them if you are not already. Keep in mind your audiences, the desired user experience, budgetary considerations, end goals and other important factors while exploring your options. We hope these highlights have been helpful for you when considering a mobile website or mobile app. If you have questions about website development services, we’re here to help.


  1. Number of Smartphone Users in the United States from 2018 to 2024
  2. Why Your Website Needs to be Google Mobile-Friendly
  3. Mobile Search Statistics & Facts
  4. A Beginner’s Guide to Progressive Web Apps