In 2021, it is very difficult for businesses to ignore the dominance of mobile. Global website traffic from mobiles – not including tablets – exceeded traffic from computers four years ago, and it currently stands at almost 55 percent. The number of mobile internet users increases daily, so there are always more customers to reach through mobile devices. The IDC forecasts that smartphone shipments will reach 1.38 billion units in 2021, which is an increase of 7.7 percent from 2020. With the growing focus on mobile use, businesses are well advised to develop a mobile strategy that considers whether a mobile app or mobile website is the best option.   

If you need help determining which route is better for your business, it is important to make connections with a reliable support company like Mustard IT who can provide extra assistance at any time.

The main differences between mobile app and mobile website

Both mobile applications and mobile websites can be accessed through various mobile devices, but there are key differences in terms of their construction and user experience.

Visitors use mobile web browsers to access mobile websites that are delivered in HTML web pages and content linked together in the same way as regular websites. Mobile websites are responsive to meet the requirements of different screen dimensions, scaling up or down depending on the device. The different methods used by mobile websites are sometimes indicated in mobile browsers by an inclusion of “m” or “mobile” in the website URL.

 A mobile app needs to be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play, which takes an extra action from users from a marketing perspective. Mobile apps can be written in HTML and CSS, but it is more common for developers to use a programming language like Java, JavaScript or Python. 

Mobile app


Mobile apps offer businesses the chance to provide a more personalised experience that can be tailored to user location, interests, behaviour and activities. With a mobile app, users can customise to meet their own needs and preferences, and it is easier for them to receive local promotions and offers.

Offline access

Mobile apps have the advantage over mobile websites in that they can work offline. They may still require internet access to execute many of their tasks, but users are usually able to access content and perform some of the app’s functions without a connection.

Device capabilities

Mobile apps can access the hardware and features of a device, which includes the camera, GPS positioning, notifications, alerts and updates. This is particularly relevant in the retail industry, though it has many uses in other areas. It is a great way of improving the customer experience and it cannot be possible in the same way with a mobile website.

Sending notifications

In addition to easier access to device capabilities, it is much easier to send both in-app and push notifications that are immediate and less intrusive than emails. Push notifications often deliver high click-through rates and they aren’t possible when using a mobile website.

Customer engagement

Mobile apps offer their own interface environment so the user can become more immersed in the experience, which is more specific in its design. Mobile apps are more interactive and can leverage features that go above and beyond the capabilities of a regular website. This will make customers feel more engaged and help increase conversion rates.


The mobile experience offers more opportunities in terms of branding, as your recognisable brand has a new location to make itself known. This could be for reinforcement for existing customers or reaching out to new ones. There is the chance to try out slightly different branding styles in a new space or continue to engage more customers. 

Mobile website


Mobile websites have the advantage of being immediately available for users to access on their phones and engage with the content. This is in contrast to mobile apps that require users to visit the app marketplace to action the download, which can be seen as a significant barrier between engagement and conversion. 


While mobile apps need to develop different versions to ensure they are compatible with different devices and they are only available on specific platforms (iOS or Android), mobile websites are more universally compatible. It is also easy to integrate mobile website URLs into other mobile technologies like near field communication (NFC) and QR codes. 

Cost effectiveness

One of the biggest considerations is often budget, and mobile apps are usually more expensive. This is especially true when a business is required to appear on multiple platforms.

Easier to update

When you need to update the design or content of your mobile website, you can simply publish your edits one time and they’ll appear immediately. With a mobile app, this is a more complicated process that involves updating each different version.


Mobile optimised websites come with the added benefit of ranking higher in search results than those that are not, which is an extra reason to focus on maintaining a mobile website. Higher rankings will lead to a larger volume of web traffic and better brand visibility. 

24/7 availability

Mobile apps can be downloaded but they can also be deleted, which is the unfortunate fate of a high proportion of apps. On the other hand, mobile websites are always available to users if they decide to go back to them without having to redownload. 

Which is better?

As we have seen, there are arguments to be made for each of these options. Mobile apps showed significant growth in the first half of 2020, and research shows that per session, conversion rates are as much as 3 times higher on mobile apps than on mobile websites. However, it has been revealed that app abandonment rates are very high and around a quarter of mobile apps are used only once after installation.    

Deciding to concentrate on a mobile app or a mobile website could come down to the internet activity of your customers and how they engage with your site, which will depend on the nature of your business. Each option has its advantages, and there’s always the possibility of developing both if this is within your budget.