When it comes to mobile, we access the internet through multiple different mediums; two of the most common are websites and mobile apps. Apps, or applications, have become the latest craze in allowing consumers to access business’s services directly without the need to visit their websites via browsers. Adding increased functionality and personalisation options, apps are quickly engulfing the mobile market, and more and more companies are utilising them to add more features than previously possible through browsers.
An app is an application program that is specifically downloaded onto a mobile device by the user. It uses the mobile’s native functionality, which includes location services, gyroscopes, cameras, accelerometers, and any other features offered by the mobile device, allowing for a way to access all the services of a website, but in a more attractive and interactive way.
To increase personalisation and interaction between the app and the user, apps now use notifications through the phone to draw users back when they are inactive, or to let users know when a significant event occurs. Notifications are an important part of some apps, especially in social networking, and are an important feature if the full potential of some services is to be reached. Unfortunately, unless the user is within the browser already, or the user has previously installed software to allow for them, notifications are not available for usage by websites.
Apps are not accessed through the browser; instead, they are downloaded from an application marketplace, namely the App store for Apple users and Google Play for Android users. This gives the business that owns the app their own ‘corner’ of a user’s mobile device, and is specific to that company.
On the contrary to an app, a mobile website may only be accessed via a browser, such as Safari or Google Chrome. Mobile sites have most, if not all, of the functionality of a desktop website, but cannot utilise many of the mobile’s native features. However, with advancing development techniques that are geared towards mobile websites (such as ‘mobile first’), features such as location services are now being incorporated into some sites.
Previously, websites would simply scale down to the size of the screen when appearing on mobile. This made mobile sites seem cluttered, and difficult to navigate as the buttons are much smaller. However, with the introduction of Responsive Website Design (RWD), mobile sites can now be well optimised for mobile, and the disparity between the functionality of apps and mobile sites is closing.
So whilst apps may still offer more functionality than mobile websites, the gap is closing fast as new methods of development are growing in popularity. Companies are now beginning to consider both an app and a website to appeal to the largest possible demographic, and more and more companies are shifting towards app development to expand their business.