But, what is right? What comes first? A mobile app or a mobile website?
The answer lies in your requirement and the type of audience and market you want to target your business to rather than going with vox populi.
Before we dig more into this, you may first want to check out this blog post on what is a mobile friendly website to understand what we mean when we say a mobile site and a mobile app.
Speed and Accessibility
While the mobile app is comparatively faster, it has accessibility issues as it has to be installed first. Not only that, you will have to develop mobile applications for all popular mobile operating platforms such as iOS, Android, Windows, Blackberry and Symbian as just one app will get you limited accessibility.
On the other hand, a native mobile app can be accessed offline (without internet) as well while a mobile site always requires internet access.
What is more cost effective – mobile app or mobile site?
It’s typically cheaper to build or upgrade to a mobile site or a responsive website compared to building a mobile application. Not just that, mobile apps have platform dependency, so if you are talking about a mobile app, you will first need to decide whether you want an iOS app (for iPhone and iPad), an Android app, a Windows Mobile app, a Blackberry app or a Symbian app? If your budget is right, you will want to go with all of them just to make sure you don’t leave out users on other platforms.
But, in case you are having a budget constraint, launch your mobile site first.
Which one is more user friendly?
This is the reason why there are better interactive games being developed as mobile apps rather than a web app. So if your startup is an interactive game, you would definitely want to launch it as a mobile app first.
Marketing point of view
- Search Engine Optimization (A ‘go’ for a mobile site but not possible or doesn’t make sense for a mobile app, so the biggest ‘free’ platform of search engine traffic is available to you if you have a mobile website)
- Search Engine Marketing – Paid (Again, doesn’t make sense to start marketing on Google Adwords about your mobile app, does it?)
- Affiliate & Referral Marketing (Websites can leverage this channel better than mobile apps)
- App Store (Consumers search on app stores on mobile devices so having a mobile app can be an advantage for this purpose, but again the odds are there in getting your app ranked for the ‘desired’ keywords)
- Traditional Mass Media such as television, radio, newspaper etc. (Works for both the website and mobile app only if you have big pockets!)
So it turns out that a mobile-friendly website is a clear winner from marketing point of view as well unless you have sound marketing and advertising budget.
You get the ball rolling first with launching your website and then you can rely upon viral marketing once you’ve got word of mouth to launch your mobile app.
Understanding your project, your audience and target market segment first!
On the other hand, for a corporate website of a company such as of IBM’s or Intel’s, it makes more sense to come up with a mobile-friendly website only and not a mobile app. Why would someone download your company’s app if they don’t have anything to do with it on a daily basis? A mobile app’s basic purpose is user interaction while leveraging phone features. So, a good idea would be to stay away from developing your mobile app if you don’t need to leverage any of the phone features with your mobile app in plan. Now, I mean to say, you don’t ‘need’ to and not ‘want’ to because you will, in most case, ‘want’ to do it anyway even if that doesn’t make sense! But then it would be a waste of your time and money.
The Conclusion – Website first or mobile app?
Well, unless you are a mobile-only startup, website first is the way to go! There are successful startups and businesses that have done this – they first launched their website (mobile-friendly, of course) and then came up with mobile apps on different platforms. There are many examples such as Google, Amazon, Flipkart, Alibaba, Airbnb etc. E-commerce websites and startups want to follow this strategy. Online marketplaces want to adapt this strategy as well. And if you are one of them, so do you.
Update: As per the recent news, Myntra, the first e-commerce site to go app-only, pilots to a mobile site now as their strategy to go app-only backfired!