Apps

Responsive web design vs. mobile app development

Ryan Boudreaux lists the criteria to be evaluated if you are deciding between developing a mobile app or using RWD to optimize your website for mobile devices.

Most businesses and organizations have websites, and with the popularity and proliferation of all sizes of mobile devices, a mobile strategy for those websites is more important than ever. If you haven't already begun to make those decisions about your own organization's mobile website presence, the time is now.

If your challenge is deciding between a responsive web design (RWD) overhaul of your website or having a mobile application (MA) developed, there are many issues to consider. Each choice has its benefits and its each has its shortfalls; nevertheless, selecting which option works for you and your organization depends on your circumstances. I have included several specific considerations that you should evaluate before you decide which approach will bring you universal mobile device user interaction.

Criteria and considerations

The development dilemma catches up with just about every website stakeholder, ultimately asking yourself if you should you have your website optimized for mobile viewing, or should you start development into a mobile app? The basic principles, costs, implementation time frame, design approach, user experience, performance, and ongoing maintenance are concerns that need to be addressed before making the final decision. Recently, the MDG Blog put out a nice infographic, "Should You Build a Mobile App or Mobile Website", detailing most of the options and opportunities behind both mobile development methods. A screen capture of the infographic is displayed in Figure B.

The infographic details the benefits and basics of each design approach, the important differences between mobile websites and mobile applications, highlights some issues with user access in either design method, and also displays the time usages spend on both mobile designs.

The following table summarizes the twelve principles that define each of the associated mobile design approaches, comparing each method of use and implementation.

Principles Mobile App (MA) Responsive Web Design (RWD)
Access Speed Very fast Fast
App Store Available Not necessary
Approval Process Some are mandatory None
Content Versions Multiple URLs/versions for each page, i.e., content forking Same content regardless of device or platform
Development Cost Expensive to very expensive Moderate to reasonable
Features Phone features, location services, camera, etc... Limited phone features
Functionality Some functions may be omitted from the mobile application All functions of original site remain
Internet Connection Available offline Required
Monetization Easily monetized Not as easy to monetize
Navigation Interactive user interface Static but responsive user interface
Optimized to mobile device Best Good
User Access After installation and some user configuration/interaction Through browser with little to no user configuration/interaction

So many are quick to jump onto the mobile app bandwagon without giving it much thought; however, your current website, and your organizational needs and requirements will dictate which of the approaches to mobile interaction you choose. Native mobile applications typically have a special purpose or some sort of user interaction in mind, and if that is your purpose and intention then a mobile app might be the way to go. If, on the other hand, you want to display your current website as it exists and on all devices, then the responsive approach might be your option. Once you examine the defining principles with considerations for each design option, only then can you make an educated decision for you and your organization.

About

Ryan has performed in a broad range of technology support roles for electric-generation utilities, including nuclear power plants, and for the telecommunications industry. He has worked in web development for the restaurant industry and the Federal g...

22 comments
shirley.rogers29
shirley.rogers29

Hi Ryan, 

Its really true that you need define your objectives and goals when you are selecting mobile app or responsive design for your business. The table above given in the post really clears a picture on that. Principles on which both mobile app development and responsive Webdesign rely on. Anyways thanks for clearing the doubt between the selection for mobile app or responsive website.

Mobile app development: http://www.skiusainc.com/mobile-apps-development

logicspice
logicspice

First time I heard the disadvantages of responsive designs, but here I have a question if we define same canonical in mobile version do you think it helps in optimization? https://www.logicspice.com/

mjboyd2013
mjboyd2013

Can someone help me understand the difference between a Mobile Developer and a person who developed the web part that mobile apps interact with?

mobilesite
mobilesite

Responsive website design is a good concept. But you can also think about dedicated mobile website design as well where a website is only developed to be used for mobile device only.

wrsbuilder
wrsbuilder

Good resource. Got to know something new. Thank You !!

WRS Builder

AlbertBarkley
AlbertBarkley

Here I will add that CEC Logics is also a firm which is providing Web Development Utah Services as well as mobile apps development services in USA and Worldwide..

jeanjoycee
jeanjoycee

According to Ryan at this time your Desktop website should have a mobile version. If you don't have mobile site it means you are loosing you website traffic because mostly people are using mobile for suffering internet and if your website don't have a mobile size version then you are loosing your business also.

longbeachwebdesign
longbeachwebdesign

some of the benefits are like your site will benefit on the search engines if it has been properly developed to “follow the industries best practice of using responsive website design.” Google released a statement to say that this was now an official recommendation. Furthermore, when your site has been developed to be responsive, it will be naturally supported on more browsers, which is beneficial as more people move away from Internet Explorer. thanks for sharing your view too. [URL="http://www.danawebdesign.com/"]long beach web design[/URL]

sienna amelia
sienna amelia

@Ryan, Thanks for sharing. Mobile application development is inevitable for many software development companies, concentrating on producing handy mobile apps. So as you mentioned, combination of both these technologies practiced by organizations can help serve customers better.

poshinfosys
poshinfosys

Responsive Web Design is a good technique to available in now. Our Company Develop a Bootstrap Technology which is being a responsive framework. With bootstrap web design, we can have a website that is compatible with different type of device such as PCs, Laptops, Tablets, and mobile phones. Its a nicely good technique.You can such more about Bootstrap Technology on http://www.poshinfosys.com/bootstrap-web-development.html.

mobilitycipl
mobilitycipl

Nice post.Thanks for sharing the information.The fact is that the number of smart phone users range in millions.Having a responsive website developed is one of the most natural and convenient ways of advertising and promoting your own business.If your site isn’t mobile-ready, customers are likely to get frustrated and leave. mobile website development

imobiles
imobiles

Reaching consumers today is all about mobile, but the technology platforms in the hands of your customers are not all the same. how do you get an app in front of your audience without spending a fortune on software development http://www.mobilephonesets.com/

saranya raj
saranya raj

these days both are needful responsive web site design and appshark mobile applications development

mobilesite
mobilesite

Being a website developer, one should not face any difficulties in either of the two ways of designing. It is good that you know everything which is there in the field of website designing. This helps in coming to any conclusion about which process should be chosen for which clients. If you ask me I will always insist my clients for mobile apps and mobile website. It is fun not only for website developers as well as users.

Nigel Simon
Nigel Simon

You know I have been in to Mobile App development as well Website Development too. And whenever any customer tell me that he/she wants mobile application or Website the first thing I ask is "What is the purpose to have it?" It is really important because Mobile apps and Website both have its own uniqueness and importance too. There is one thing I can say about Mobile VS Website. Mobile app UI can be done only for Mobiles or max Tablets while website UI can be designed compatible to Computers, Laptops, Tablets, Mobile and different version of browsers or devices.

garyk1968
garyk1968

In fact there are hybrid apps also. These are HTML apps built using something like JQuery Mobile which are then wrapped using something like PhoneGap. As the files are held locally the rendering speed is better than serving pages from a web server and as good as native. The only issue is more of look and feel, that being acheiving the same look and feel as other native apps on the device.

BillGates_z
BillGates_z

If someone has a focused enough interest that they install a specialized app for something then it follows that they spend more time there. This in no way makes a RWD less useful (which is the implication).

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