Mobile Web vs. Mobile Applications: Why you shouldn’t compare the two

Are you confused about the mobile web vs mobile applications? Well you aren’t alone but I’m hoping I can help clear a few things up.

Now, I have to give credit where credit is due and the inspiration for this post came from this article, penned by Kim Boatman, entitled “Better for Business: Mobile Web or App?” In it, she lays out a seemingly decent checklist for deciding to either invest in a mobile website or a mobile application for your business.

I say you if you currently have a website you need the first and if you have a product that has a natural life in mobile, you absolutely need the second.

Here’s why.

Mobile websites for everybody

That’s right, even you. It won’t be long now before the total search and browsing trafic coming from one mobile device or another (hardware doesn’t matter here) will dwarf desktop-based browsing which is why the mobile web needs to be a part of your plans. If you are hoping to capture the interest of your customers who will be viewing your site on a smaller screen, you need to add support for the mobile web. Mobile is just another platform you need to support – much like you support all major browsers and operating systems…right?

But why support mobile? Context. Right now, people use the mobile web when they are, well, mobile. They use mobile search when they are, well, looking for something nearby or some place to go nearby. Your strategy should be to leverage the mobile space to offer a specific reason to do business with you while they are looking for something you offer – get it? That means thought has to go into what you put on the mobile version of your site and doesn’t necessarily mean you just create a carbon copy of your existing site. You need to understand the context with which you are being found and satisfy that requirement.

Search is search?

Yes…and no. The power of mobile search is, well, the fact that it is mobile. Searching for “dry cleaners” at gives you most of what you would get if you searched for the same term on your mobile phone. The difference is that you would also get a map with your local dry cleaners highlighted – the power of context. This is valuable to you as the consumer as well as you as the business owner.

So what about mobile applications?

Good question. The rush to mobile applications elevated awareness of the mobile industry and they are still very relevant but are certainly not for everyone. If your goal is to be found through mobile search you don’t need an app for that. There is a natural sweet spot for a mobile application and, as funny as it sounds, you will know where that is and depends on the business you are in: Banks, for example, may be better suited for a consumer-facing mobile application but Best Buy could probably get by with a mobile website for both their customers and their staff.

If you are looking to take that first step in the mobile world for your business, think small but think about how to make an impact. A mobile web site is a logical first step and could be a very effective way to push out a promotion – something that is used in context that rewards a visit or customer loyalty.

You know what that is, stop thinking about it and start doing something about it.

About the author

Rob Woodbridge

I'm Rob, the founder of and I've spent 14 years immersed in the mobile and pervasive computing world. During this great time I've helped some of the most innovative companies grow their business through mobile. If you are in need of a mobile business advisor or coach, connect with me here to get things rolling.

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