mobile app vs responsive web design

Mobile App vs. Responsive Web Design

User consumption has changed drastically over the past several years, so as the growing need to promote business, to acquire necessary information and to generate sales sources. Thus, more and more brands and businesses have come to realize the adaptation on technology trends which includes the use of mobile apps and responsive web designs. But, between these two? Which do you think is ideal for one’s business?

Given such question is like choosing between riding a car or a motorbike. It really depends on the users’ taste and needs.

A mobile app is a software application specifically for use on small and wireless devices such as smartphones, tablets and the like; while responsive web design is an approach allowing desktop webpages to be viewable in response to the size of the device used. Obviously, both strategies can bring high contribution to a certain business’ development process.  Nevertheless, if we dig deeper in terms of quality and functionality, we should be able to identify a lot of factors worth taking into account.

Pros and cons of mobile apps

More and more of our interaction online occurs on mobile devices.  In fact, analytics from Smart Insights as of 2016, shows that 90% of consumer’s mobile time is spent in apps. Mobile apps are said to be faster compared to RWD since native elements are designed specifically with mobile performance in mind. They are much lighter, faster and most importantly have higher chance of providing a better user experience. Furthermore, mobile apps could access all mobile functions because the app itself is installed on it.

However, there are some contributing undesirable factors which also need consideration:

1) Limitation. Since mobile devices have limited amount of storage and size of the products screen compared to computer, there are certain limitations on utilizing the apps.

2) Higher cost. Mobile apps are generally more expensive because the development team has to create a unique design and codebase for each operating system. They will also have to deal with the different approval processes that each OS requires, which could take anywhere from two days to two weeks or more.

3) Less privacy and security. Although Android and iOS application development streamlines things like online banking, local searches and navigation, the use of personal information can seem quite invasive. In fact, even gaming apps often require a certain amount of personal information from the user before allowing the download process and installment onto the user’s device. This would then give birth to the loss or abuse of personal information. On the other hand, one may get virus downloaded in mobile devices without being aware of it.

Pros and Cons of Responsive Web Design (RWD)

Responsive web design sites are fluid, meaning the content moves freely across all screen resolutions and all devices. Moreover, with 67% search market share, Google stated that responsive web design is its recommended mobile configuration. This is because responsive design sites have one URL and the same HTML, regardless of device, which makes it easier and more efficient for Google to crawl, index, and organize content. On the part of the developers, they do not anymore need to adhere the OS guidelines or permissions as they are developing a website that isn’t distributed through the app stores.

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However, RWD also have several drawbacks given that it is a simple solution for a problem that has multiple faces—as many as the number of mobile operating systems and devices existing nowadays.

1) Poor performance. Some images, graphics and animations may appear to be heavy leading to its poor performance viewing. Users will also need to wait for the entire page and its elements to load, causing huge consumption of time, data and battery.

2) Requires an internet connection. If the goal of your business is to be available in any context, then this approach isn’t ideal for you. RWD cannot be accessible anytime and anywhere since it pulls information directly from the browser which will of course need the presence of an internet connection.

3) Lack of natural navigation. RWD has various designs and approach making users feel uneasy during navigation, unlike mobile apps, wherein they have uniform appearances on certain OS and the web, making users feel natural when utilizing it.

4) Lack of push notifications, other functionality. A push notification is a pop-up message which is a visible and effective way for a user to be updated from time to time. RWD cannot access phone functions outside the browser like camera or calendar and also technologies like voice recognition and QR codes, hence not just affecting the performance of the product, but also limiting the design of its functions.

Both have their own pros and cons. We think the question here should not be “which is the better?” but instead, “How can mobile apps and RWD complement one another and round out the best mobile strategy for your business?”

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