Mobile websites are like cheap, old, rental cars. They don't look pretty, they only get used temporarily and you get out of them as soon as you arrive at your destination. On the other hand, mobile apps are like high-end European sedans; attractive, reliable and fast.
Here are five reasons why:
1. Apps can operate without network activity
To use an app, you must first download it onto your device, as a result, it is capable of storing information on that device. This means that most apps can operate without a network connection. In comparison, websites require a network connection just so that they can be opened! Because apps are not relying on a network connection to operate they are able to complete tasks more efficiently and on a more consistent basis.
2. Apps have access to mobile features
Smartphone technology advances at an alarming rate, this means that innovative new features are constantly being introduced to mobile devices. Mobile apps can take full advantage of these features by implementing them into the user interface. In contrast, it is incredibly difficult and often impossible to integrate anything over than the most basic mobile features into mobile websites. This is because mobile websites are far more constrained in terms of design freedom. This factor heavily influences the user experience.
3. Apps provide a superior user experience
Mobile apps are purpose built to be well... mobile apps. This means that they are tailor made for whichever operating system that they are going to exist on. On top of this, they must also undertake a rigorous approval process by the different app stores that they are being uploaded to. This is to ensure that they are up to a certain standard of quality. In contrast, websites are purpose built for computers! They are then converted so that they can be accessed by a range of different devices (such as mobile). This results in a user experience that constantly encounters errors and bugs.
Apps also have greater freedom of design, this allows the developer to design a fluid and intuitive user experience that suits the apps primary function. In comparison, mobile websites rely heavily on browser limitations such as the address bar and the refresh button. This limits creativity and results in an awkward and outdated user experience.
4. Apps are aesthetically pleasing
Where mobile apps are sleek, seamless and beautiful, mobile websites are clunky, awkward and ugly. Websites are heavily constrained by the browser they are being opened in, browsers generally require an address bar at the top of the page and another utility bar at the bottom of the page. Some mobile websites will even have a pop-up asking users to download their app! A good example of this is the Google app and the Google mobile website:
As you can see, about 40% of the website is taken up by the web browser and a popup at the bottom! Compare this to the sleek app to the right and you can see why the website is telling you to download the app!
5. Users like apps better
In a 2014 Smart Insights report, it was discovered that on average, 89% of monthly media access on mobile devices is done through apps, in contrast only 11% was done through mobile websites.
A similar study by eMarketer compared the average time spent in-apps per day to the average time spent on the mobile web per day. It also predicted expected growth for both platforms over the next three years. In 2014, US mobile device users aged 18+ who had an internet connection spent an average of 2 hours and 51 minutes in apps per day, in contrast only 51 minutes per day was spent on the mobile web. The study predicts that over the next three years the average time spent in apps will increase by 32 minutes, while the average time spent on the mobile web will only increase by 1 minute. These statistics tell us that mobile apps are far more engaging than mobile websites.
Apps receive more engagement than mobile websites because they are built to complete recurring tasks that take up significant amounts of time. In contrast, mobile websites are usually built to provide information or to complete a simple task. Mobile apps also receive more engagement because they are actually stored on the device. This allows the app to constantly reminding users of it's presence, even when the app is not being used.
Mobile apps are better than mobile websites in a number of ways, however, this is not to say that apps do not have their disadvantages. Apps are more expensive to build, they must be downloaded on a device and they are far larger in file size. However, with the rapid advancement of technology, it is very likely that issues such as price, file size, and speed will soon fade away.