How To Decide Between Building A Responsive Website, Web App or Mobile App

Responsive vs mobile

In an ideal universe with no budget constraints, every company would have both a responsive website and a native mobile application. However, in reality, businesses, particularly start-ups and small businesses, have to decide whether to build a responsive website or a mobile application. Additionally, many businesses have jumped the gun on building mobile applications to stay competitive, and only to find it wasn’t really necessary — a mobile optimized website was all they needed.

Here are some guidelines to help you determine whether you need a responsive website, native mobile application, or both:


Know the difference

  • Responsive Websites are designed to work on any platform/browser. This is done by building a custom CSS stylesheet that enables the website to look great on any device. The website will be consistent across smartphones, tablets and computers.
  • Web Applications are often confused with mobile applications because they look and feel like mobile apps, but they are accessed via your browser. They even store data in the browser’s cache for offline access.
  • Mobile Applications are downloaded to an individual’s smartphone or tablet from places such as the Apple App Store or Google Play store. They are typically designed for a specific and narrow purpose and are usually helpful and interactive.


What is your goal for your users? Responsive websites and mobile apps both allow users to interact with your business through their mobile phones. Deciding which is best for your business depends on your goals. For example, 67 per cent of mobile users said they’re more likely to make a purchase from a website than from an app; this makes a responsive website a better choice for many e-commerce sites.


Mobile Applications vs. Web Applications

It’s often easier to decipher whether you should build an app or a responsive website than it is to choose between a web-based application and mobile application. Most consumers cannot tell the difference between a mobile and web app. Behind the scenes, however, mobile apps can access things on your phone that a web application simply can’t, such as the camera, microphone and GPS. Mobile applications can also send push notifications — and this makes a huge difference for some businesses.


Can you afford to develop a native mobile application?

App development is costly. This is because apps are not device agnostic. Each smartphone has its own platform, varying from iOS to Android, resulting in an app having to be developed separately for each platform.

With that being said, developing a responsive website isn’t necessarily cheap — it is simply less expensive than the typical native application.


What is your timeline?

In addition to being more costly, apps also take longer to develop. It can also take some time for the application to be approved for the  Apple App Store.  If you are building both, it make sense to roll out the responsive website first. If you have a project deadline — make sure that the mobile app can be built in time.


Where is your traffic coming from?

Use analytics to determine how many users try to access your website on mobile devices, and which browser and operating system they are using. If search engine visibility is crucial for your business, you should have a responsive website regardless of whether or not you develop a mobile application. A mobile app lives in a closed environment and is not indexed by search engines.


Does a responsive website, mobile application, or web application seem like the right fit for your business? What helped you decide which was best for your business? Please share your insights in the comment section below.