Mobile Site or App?

mobile site or app

What’s Better for Your Business: A Mobile Site or an App?

It seems like every day I encounter small business owners and developers who are having trouble deciding which would be better, a mobile site or an app.

Earlier this year, the general consensus was that apps were the way to go, with very few people recommending mobile sites instead. Apps were still shiny and new, and iPhone commercials led the way. Most people reasoned that since you could see a website on an iPhone, there was no need to do anything differently.

Apps are still a great way to interact with existing customers, especially if it’s for something like stock trades or getting updates from a favorite blog. In an informal poll of my colleagues, social media apps for Twitter and Facebook seem more popular than their mobile sites.

The obvious downside is that apps are expensive, often starting at $10,000 USD for just a single operating system, like iOS for iPhone/iPod Touch, then another development fee for iPad, and a third for Android. That doesn’t even touch Windows Phones, BlackBerry, Nokia or Palm.

Mobile sites, on the other hand, are independent of any operating system and should work equally well on all of them. That means it costs less to have them developed.

There’s another even more important consideration over price to an average small to medium sized business owner, though. Mobile sites show up in search engines, apps don’t.

Think of it like this. Let’s say you’re locked out of your car, and you need a locksmith. Are you going to go to the Apple Apps Store or Android Marketplace to find a locksmith? It’s doubtful. It’s more likely you’ll go to a search engine, like Google, Bing or Yahoo. The mobile sites will show up on the search, and the apps won’t.

So, the easy way to find out if your small business mobile strategy should begin with an app or a mobile site is to ask: “Will my customer look for the service I provide in the Apps store or on Google?”

Then make your decision based on the answer you get.

About the Author

Holly Kolman is the Founder of and has been building mobile sites since 2007. For a complimentary mobile analysis of your website, please contact Holly or visit her mobile site building business at Follow Holly as @mobileHolly on Twitter.


4 Responses to “Mobile Site or App?”

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  1. Murat says:

    Apps have come a long way, you can now use several online services that will make your app for around the same or less than a mobile website.

    Mobile Roadie starts at £399
    App Makr is $69 a month
    There’s dozens more.

    On top of this there are some fantastic tools which turn mobile websites into Apps for practically zero cost, things like Phone Gap are great for those who are limited on budget and time. If you want to cover every platform you don’t even have to pay to develop a new app everytime, platforms like Appcelerator do this for you. Write once, publish many.

    If you want some serious custom work done then expect to pay but the tools mentioned means that even then the costs aren’t high.

    Also your app will appear in Google, iTunes/marketplace results show up in search results.

    I think the appropriate question for the business is “What’s my budget and what do I want to achieve”

  2. This article is very interesting, I like “Mobile sites, on the other hand, are independent of any operating system and should work equally well on all of them. That means it costs less to have them developed.” it’s a very good piece of information.
    I am going to give both of these a go for my mobile site to see if there is any changes.

  3. Good points, Holly! Another way to look at it is – your current customers should have the convenience of an app – an icon they can tap once to get to you. Your prospects, on the other hand, will be more likely to search for you and probably will do that through their favorite search engine. Since there are twice as many Android phones than iPhones in circulation, it’s probably going to be a “Google” search!


  1. […] that conform across devices. For those looking to get found, mobile sites are also more directly search-friendly–search may certainly bring up a mention of your app, but users still need to leave their […]

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