App VS Responsive Web Design: When Do I Need What?

Apps have come to stay. But what significance do they have for online marketing and a company’s communication strategy? Do you need to have an app, even if you don’t know what it’s supposed to be good for? In other words, should an app development company build an app just because the boss says he wants one now?

Apps and mobile websites each have their right to exist. To maximize their potential, you have to use them strategically. This also includes an understanding of how users use apps and mobile websites. We’ll tell you the biggest differences between mobile websites and apps, and when and which strategy is worthwhile.

1. Growth and reach

The mobile website has very clear advantages here. Mobile websites are accessible to everyone without barriers, which means that their content can be shared easily without the recipient needing an app.

Mobile websites are visible in the results of a Google search. Despite new deep-crawling technologies, apps are still only minimally visible.

Mobile websites have an average of almost three times more monthly traffic than apps. So if the KPI is “reach”, the mobile website is the right strategy.

2. Cost

Apps are more expensive. That is the hard truth. While the mobile optimization of a website is, of course not free of charge, it is comparatively cheap, especially when it comes to apps with clearly defined functionalities. The more complex the app, the higher the costs required to create such an app.

According to an iBusiness survey, the average development of an average app costs around €16,000. The maximum cost of developing a very complex app can be up to €520,000. Such a project should, therefore, only be started if there is also strategic planning behind it.

Hybrid apps are less expensive to develop, but important usability questions need to be clarified here. Due to the fact that hybrid apps run via the browser of the mobile device, the speed, performance and offline availability of the app can be severely restricted. Therefore, they are rather unsuitable for games. For less memory-heavy apps, however, they can represent a real compromise.

3. Targeted benefits

While mobile websites can be used in many different ways (just like normal websites), apps should serve a specific purpose. They are intended to satisfy a need or facilitate a specific action. An app that wants to be too much at the same time – and maybe even replace the mobile website – will be meaningless.

However, if an app has found the right niche in which it can meet a need particularly well, it is a decisive advantage over a website. An app can access the native functions and services of the mobile device as well as offline content.

4. Behavioural tracking

Apps are better suited for features based on localization and real-time activities. If user input is required, an app is often the best choice. Because users don’t want to and can’t remember everything the app wants to know. Such services work best with an app with separate permissions, which automatically records the required information.

The British car insurance company Aviva has developed an app that checks the ability of the user to drive. It records journeys via GPS and evaluates predetermined criteria – very good drivers can save a lot of money on car insurance.

Normal input such as the current location can of course also be entered (or determined ) via the website.

5. Navigation

If you offer a service that requires many clicks, an app could be more suitable than a mobile website. Navigation elements are an extremely important part of mobile usability, and it is not always easy to optimize them for the many different mobile devices.

Also, apps usually consume less data volume than mobile web browsers. In this way, they usually work better even when the network is poor, especially if the user is asked to click many times. Apps for services such as (apartment or job) search engines, local transport connections and e-commerce portals make a lot of sense.

6. Commitment

While mobile websites are accessible to everyone and thus have a larger user pool, app users are loyal souls. Users spend an average of 18x more time in apps than on mobile websites, namely 201.8 minutes per month compared to 10.9 minutes on mobile websites.

7. Testing

Apps usually only do one thing well – so they have to do this thing always and everywhere. But there are thousands of different mobile devices, and mobile operating systems are constantly evolving. These factors often have an impact on app performance, so an app must be continuously tested, updated and maintained even after launch. This can be both time consuming and costly.

Mobile websites also need maintenance, but this is often easier and, above all, cheaper.


Apps and mobile websites are less in competition with each other, but complement each other as opportunities in strategic marketing planning.

Every company should now have a mobile website developed by app development companies. But this is only the beginning. The aspects mentioned above should serve as a guideline when it comes to deciding whether the mobile website should be expanded or whether certain features should be outsourced to an app. So in a nutshell:

• Websites promote growth and bring reach.
• Apps enable intense, convincing experiences.
• Both are to be used strategically and can offer an advantage in the right situation.
• Hybrid apps can help combine the best of both worlds and reduce development and maintenance efforts.

Kenneth Evans

Kenneth Evans

Kenneth Evans is a Content Marketer for <a href="">Top App Development Companies</a>, a research platform for top app development companies in the world. He has b