Mobile-Friendly Websites vs. Smartphone Apps: Where’s the Marketing Advantage?

Does Your Business Need A Smartphone App?

There’s no question that your business needs an online presence that’s tailored to mobile devices. There is a question, however, of whether you should deliver that presence to users through a mobile-friendly website or via a dedicated mobile app. The correct answer depends on your online marketing goals, and often the best choice is to use both platforms to get your message across.

Building Mobile Friendly Sites

In the old days, building a mobile-friendly website design meant creating an entirely separate version of your site that was designed to work well on specific mobile devices. The current standard practice, though, is to build a single responsive site that is able to determine what device a user is employing and automatically render the site appropriately. This approach to design is easier for the developer, and it ensures that each user sees the site correctly, regardless of the device he or she is using.

Building Smartphone Apps

Dedicated smartphone apps built using development platforms such as AppyPie or AppMachine deliver your content directly to users without the intervention of a web browser. You develop your own app, and users download it from a market like Apple’s App Store or Android Market. When the user launches the app, they’re connected directly to your content, either by accessing it dynamically over the internet or downloading it for unrestricted offline use.

Advantages of Mobile Sites

Mobile-friendly websites offer exceptional advantages in terms of flexibility. They can be updated quickly, and a single site can serve users on all devices, as opposed to a smartphone app which must have a different version for each device operating system. They’re instantly accessible to all users, and there’s no need for a user to download any software to get to your content. Mobile sites are also relatively inexpensive to develop and support.

Advantages of Mobile Apps

The principal advantage of a custom mobile app is that it delivers your content, and only your content, to users. You don’t have to share any valuable screen real estate with anyone else, and users are able to concentrate on what you have to offer them without distractions.

Smartphone apps also excel at interactive functions, and they offer performance advantages over web sites when your application requires processing power or access to a device’s peripheral technology, such as a camera or GPS.

Which is Best for Marketing?

Apps work very well when your goal is to build a relationship with your existing customers. They give you the ability to interact directly with and easily push information to users. Restaurants can use apps to administer loyalty programs, doctors or dentists can use them to push appointment reminders to patients, and retailers or service providers can deliver up-to-the-minute news about discounts and promotions.

Websites have the upper hand when it comes to attracting new customers. Websites are easily indexed by search engines so that they show up in prospective customers’ search results, and you can use SEO techniques to optimize your site’s visibility and page rank. By contrast, potential customers are unlikely to run across your smartphone app unless they have an existing relationship with you or they are referred by one of your current customers.

The bottom line is that mobile websites are best for attracting new customers, and smartphone apps are better at building focused, interactive relationships with your existing customers. Most businesses have both of those needs, so the best solution for many companies is to use both options to serve different stages of their customers’ relationship to the business. Bring them in with a mobile website, and then make them stay with a smartphone app.


The cost of building an app or website depends on the complexity of the functionality.

The good news is that modern app building platforms help streamline the process with drag and drop functionality, and turnkey service to get your app into the Android or Apple store. Adding custom styling and functionality will push your investment requirement up, but for many businesses, the increase in revenue will help you amortize the startup costs quickly.

Websites can also be designed and built quickly and affordably using modern open-source platforms such as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, etc.

Next steps

To find out if more about putting a mobile-friendly website or app to work for your business, contact us today.

About the author: Tom Weinkle is a founder and partner of Vortex Communications, a graphic and website design firm who offers brand agency services, graphic and WordPress web design, build, troubleshooting and training services along with search optimization, social media and inbound marketing services. Based in Miami, Florida, Tom has over 25 years of experience in branding and visual communications for the healthcare, medical, law, accounting, software, financial services and banking industries.

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