If you’re starting a business and need to give your customers access to its services and to advertise it, you’ll probably be thinking of getting a website. But might an app be a better option? We’ll look at the pros and cons here to help you make up your mind.
First, we need to make sure we’re both talking about the same things. What is an app and how does it compare to a website?
The fundamental difference is that an app is a piece of software that is stored on your device, whereas a website is stored on a remote server. Although applications (which is what “app” is short for) also run on desktop and laptop computers, in common parlance an app is a program that runs on a phone, or perhaps a tablet.
That distinction leads to a secondary difference, too. An app has to be physically chosen and downloaded, i.e. from the App Store or Google Play. A website is simply visited by using a web browser.
One thing the two have in common is that they both generally have access to the internet. We say “generally”, as there are plenty of apps that don’t need access, such as single-player games or tools (e.g. a compass or an image editor). But most apps on your phone will require internet access to update data, stream media or simply to log in.
The benefit of an app is that it will naturally harness the features of a mobile device. Phones have built-in hardware and software that most computers don’t. We’re talking things like GPS, front and back cameras, an accelerometer and a touch screen. And of course, phones go everywhere with your customers, so they are always accessible.
That makes an app the only option if such technology is required. A satnav has limited use on your desktop PC, for example. And a barcode scanner is much more practicable on a phone.
The disadvantage of an app compared to a website is that you have to get people to install it. That is a marketing challenge in itself, especially if you are relatively unknown. Also, a lot of people have full phones, and they don’t have the storage space to install one. In comparison, a website is always available, on all devices, and you can use SEO and paid advertising to attract visitors.
Another drawback is that any improvements you make, whether that’s security or UX, have to be pushed to users, and many of them won’t install the updates for days, weeks or months. An updated website is refreshed for every visitor, straight away.
Sometimes, businesses make an app just because they feel like they have to, when in reality, a website would be cheaper, more accessible and preferred by customers.
In conclusion, we’d always recommend a website first, as you’re hooked straight into the internet and people can find you immediately.
The only reason not to is if your app is your business. And you should only make an app your business if it can’t function without its portability or phone-specific technology. Even then, it’s a good idea to build a website to promote your app.
If you’re just a regular business advertising your services, taking online orders and interacting with customers, you should build a website first 99% of the time. If you then build up customer loyalty and you can use mobile tech to enhance the customer experience, an app could be in order.