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Grow Your Business Technology

Mobile Website vs. Mobile App: What's the Difference?

Mobile Website vs. Mobile App: What's the Difference?
Credit: Bennyartist/Shutterstock

It's no secret that businesses only stand to benefit by making themselves accessible via mobile devices. With a mobile website or mobile app, businesses can boost sales, retain loyal customers and expand their reach. The question is, which type of mobile presence is best for your business? Or should you have both?

Both mobile websites and mobile apps let customers find and access your business from devices they use the most, but a mobile website and mobile app are not the same thing. To help you decide, here are the differences between the two and how they can benefit your business.

A mobile website is designed specifically for the smaller screens and touch-screen capabilities of smartphones and tablets. It can be accessed using any mobile device's Web browser, like Safari on iOS and Chrome on Android. Users simply type in the URL or click on a link to your website, and the website automatically detects the mobile device and redirects the viewer to the mobile version of your website. [4 Free Mobile Website Makers for Small Businesses]

A mobile app is a smartphone or tablet application. Unlike a mobile website, a mobile app must be downloaded and installed, typically from an app marketplace, such as the Apple App Store or Android's Google Play store.

The primary benefit of a mobile website is that it makes regular websites more accessible for mobile users. It can have all the same elements as the regular version of the website — such as its look and feel, pages, images and other content — but it features a mobile-friendly layout that offers improved readability and functionality when viewed on a smartphone or tablet. By having a mobile website, customers can access your website anytime, anywhere using any device, without compromising the user experience.

[For a side-by-side comparison of the best mobile website builders visit our sister site Top Ten Reviews.]

Although a mobile app functions a lot like a mobile website, a mobile app gives businesses the advantage of having their own corner on a customer's device. Because users have to download and install the app, businesses have more control over their presence on a device than they would with a mobile website. For instance, a mobile app can be closed or inactive, but still work in the background to send geo-targeted push notifications and gather data about customer's preferences and behaviors. Moreover, mobile apps make it easy to deploy loyalty programs and use mobile payments using a single platform. It's also much easier to access a mobile app than a mobile website — all it takes is one tap, versus having to open a Web browser then type in a URL.

Although mobile websites and mobile apps aren't the same thing, they generally offer the same features that can help grow your business by making it easier for customers to find and reach you. These features include the following:

  • One-click calling: Users can call your business simply by tapping on your phone number from your website or app.
  • Click-to-map: Users can use their devices' GPS to locate your business and instantly get directions, without having to manually input your address.
  • Social sharing: This feature integrates social media apps and websites to enable users to easily share content with friends and followers.
  • Mobile commerce: Take your online store mobile with e-commerce-capable mobile websites and apps, such as with Buy Now buttons and mobile carts.
  • Mobile marketing: This lets users sign up for marketing lists and loyalty programs while enabling businesses to easily launch location-based text-message marketing and email marketing campaigns.

To build a mobile website, one option is to hire a mobile Web developer to create one from scratch or convert an existing website into a mobile-friendly one. A more affordable option is to build one yourself with a free DIY mobile website builder, which uses a drag-and-drop platform that doesn't require programming or Web design skills.

Just like the options available for building a mobile website, businesses can either hire an app developer to build a mobile app or take the budget-friendly DIY mobile app maker route.

Originally published on Business News Daily.

Sara Angeles

Sara is a tech writer with a background in business and marketing. After graduating from UC Irvine, she worked as a copywriter and blogger for nonprofit organizations, tech labs and lifestyle companies. She started freelancing in 2009 and joined Business News Daily in 2013. Follow Sara Angeles on Twitter @sara_angeles.