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September 15, 2015 | Casey Owens

Do You Need a Mobile App or a Responsive Website?

Think for a moment about how much you use your mobile device—how often you whip out your phone to Google something, check the weather, shoot a quick email, browse Facebook, or pass time making fowl puns over a favorite game (here’s to you, Crossy Road).

In fact, go through your day and think about just how much attention your mobile device actually receives, on average. And once you’ve thought about that, consider this: mobile devices have obviously become ubiquitous in our daily life. So much so that, as a small business owner, you really can’t afford not to go after your mobile-using consumers.

There are a couple of ways to do that, actually. You could:

  1. Design your own mobile app, or
  2. Develop a responsive website

When we talk about a responsive website, we basically mean one that’s made to adapt to the mobile screen, that’s just as easy to access from an iPhone as it is an iMac.

But which is it going to be? Is app development the risky road you need to cross to reach those mobile users, or is a responsive site the better investment?

What’s the Bottom Line?

For most small business owners, this is all going to come down to cost effectiveness, so we’ll mention this up front. Statistically, a responsive website reaches many more people per dollar spent than a mobile app would (as in 5x as many people).

App development, you see, is actually pretty expensive—generally, but not always, more so than responsive website development. A lot of this is due to the fact that, when you develop a website, you only need the one, whereas when you develop an app, you need to create separate versions for iPhone, and for iPad, and for Android, and for Kindle, and so on.

So, you’re either going to spend a lot more money developing several different apps, or you’re going to be restricted to reaching those users of the one particular platform that you choose.

As App must makes clear, the cost of developing a single iPad app can go as high as $150,000; it can also be as low as $15,000. A responsive website, however—which will allow you to reach all users across all platforms—runs somewhere around $10,000 to$15,000. So moneywise, it’s really a no-brainer.

Further Considerations

Some other factors to weigh in:

Accessibility. One thing we’ll say in favor of mobile apps is that you can access them anywhere, whereas you need an Internet connection to use a responsive website. Then again, 4G service is pretty ubiquitous, and seeing as how Wi-Fi hotspots are becoming more common, this isn’t nearly as big an issue as it once was.

Ease of use. To use a responsive website, you just have to open your browser and enter the URL. To use an app, though, you have to actually download the thing, which can be a slight hurdle that some users may decide isn’t worth the trouble.

Approval process. You don’t really need anyone’s approval to launch a new company website (well, except maybe for your boss or fellow team members). With an app, though, you have to get the app market in question (i.e., the Apple App Store, the Windows App Store, etc.) to give you the greenlight before you can launch, which can sometimes be a frustrating process.

But here’s the real kicker: Apps can be nice and apps can be useful, but your business probably doesn’t need one. You can probably get by without one. Not so with a responsive website, which—given the egg-stra prevalence of mobile phone use today—is pretty much mandatory for reaching your desired clientele.

Ready for a redesign that will appeal to mobile users? See our checklist first.

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Casey Owens

Casey Owens

As a UI/UX specialist, Casey is responsible for consulting on the user interface and user experience elements of all of VIEO's web designs. He also manages PPC campaigns for our clients, working directly with a Google representative to get the best results with the client's budget. He also manages projects as needed, including websites and hourly work.

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