By Raghu Shivaram

Everybody knows the mantra, “Mobile first.” Google has been spreading the gospel for several years. Anyone who had not yet caught up was sure to take notice in spring 2018 when the search giant announced its mobile-first index as a direct response to a fundamental shift in consumer behavior around the smartphone.

Critical: Mobile-First Indexing

What does it mean? Simply put, even if a consumer searches on a desktop device, Google will use the mobile version of a site to find the most authoritative, relevant response. And going forward, the mobile version of the site becomes the primary version.

So, that answers the first question, “Do I need a mobile website?” with a resounding “Yes.”

Advantages of a Mobile Website

A mobile website is an extension of your traditional desktop website. It’s designed to adjust content, images, videos and links to fit screen devices, of which there are several across iOS, Android, tablets, and more. As it’s an extension of your desktop browser site version, it’s easier to develop and maintain in a cost effective manner.

Furthermore, an update is reflected across all platforms. Mobile websites are inherently cross platform, that is accessible on all devices with an internet browser. They are not native to iOS or Android devices, so a mobile website will load on any device with an active web browser.

What is a Mobile App?

Anyone with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snap, Tik Tok, or LinkedIn, for example, on their mobile device is using a mobile app. They’re popular for social media channels.

In fact, some of the apps on your mobile come preloaded by the manufacturer, such as weather, maps, stocks, news, and more. How many other apps do you have uploaded on your cell phone? Why have you uploaded them? Do you keep them or discard them after a single use?

Although some people confuse the two because they’re both on your smartphone, there’s a huge difference between a mobile-friendly website and a mobile app.

It’s common to have both a mobile website and a mobile app. In general, the difference lies in its purpose and presentation. An app offers interactivity (such as a map) and is specifically designed in a format for people on-the-move. It needs to be intuitive and responsive to small screen use. For example, one might search on a mobile app for open houses and homes for sale. However, when it comes to comparing mortgage rates and completing offer applications, a home buyer will be inclined to revert to robust and secure desktop websites.

How is a Mobile App Different?

An app is specifically designed for the operating system on which it will run. For example, Apple’s iOS apps will not work on Google’s Android devices and vice versa. Ideally, developers create a version for each so that both the Apple Store and Google Play might offer it for download. Some apps are free, others have a cost for the download.
Because today’s mobile devices and tablets have a wide range of screen sizes, memory capacities, processor capabilities, graphical interfaces, buttons, and touch functions, developers must build to accommodate all of them.

As a website designer and mobile app developer, one of the questions we’re frequently asked at Spritz is whether a company should have a mobile website or a mobile app. As this article points out, a mobile website is absolutely necessary and a mobile app is completely dependant on the type of business or service being provided. While a mobile site is a necessity, a mobile app is added value. Even if you decide against a mobile app, it’s mandatory to have a mobile compatible website to stay relevant in business.