We all know by now that smartphones are all the rage (and have been for quite some time). It’s expected that by 2020, there will be approximately 6.1 billion smartphone users around the world.

We’ve seen websites evolve over the years to accommodate this growth in mobile use, and often see organizations come to a crossroads when trying to decide if they should move forward with a mobile website or a mobile app. What’s the difference between the two?

Mobile Website: A browser-based website that is specifically designed and built for an efficient experience on a mobile device.

Mobile App: A software application designed to run on a mobile device.

Still a little confused? Don't worry. Here at The A Group, we have a team member specialized in app development. Meet Matt (our awesome-sauce senior web developer).

He has programmed over 50 apps for organizations to help optimize the user experience, so we asked him this burning question- is there really a noticeable difference between a mobile app and a mobile website?

The answer was yes. And in true Matt fashion, he put together a list of six compelling reasons why a mobile app is actually more beneficial than a mobile website.

1. Mobile Device Functionality

Mobile devices come with many hardware features: camera, GPS, accelerometer, SMS, voice calling, file storage, etc. Surprisingly enough, these features are mostly inaccessible through webpages. To interact with these features, you will need a mobile app that can talk directly with the device hardware.

2. Push Notifications

An effective and easy way to reach users is through push notifications. Many websites do offer push notifications through certain web browsers. However, most mobile web browsers do not have push notifications functionality. Mobile apps provide an easy way for users to subscribe to push notifications natively. Many push notification providers have systems that allow apps to schedule and send messages to segments of their users, making it easy to target specific user segments.

3. App Store Presence

Many clients that I have worked with wanted an app because they “wanted to be in the app store.” This isn’t necessarily a great reason, but it is valid. Only mobile apps appear in the app stores. Websites do not. Having an app gives the client access to the millions of users who search and browse through iTunes and Google Play, giving them extended brand awareness and opportunities for downloads that can come from users outside their typical sphere of influence.

4. Performance

Mobile apps have direct access to the underlying platform of the mobile device. This helps make animations look smooth and heavy computations run quickly. Websites are written using web technologies, that run inside of a web browser, that runs on the mobile device. These added layers can cause slight performance degradations versus a mobile app. While a website will have to download resources from remote servers, apps are able to store most of its resources locally on the device, which greatly reduce load times. It is hard to state that apps always have better performance because it really depends on how the developer programmed the app or website. Poor development can always lead to poor performance of an app or website.  

5. Offline Usage

Apps offer true offline experiences. Depending on the app’s features, an app may be able to completely function without the need of an internet connection. Some websites offer partial offline experiences where they download data to local caches. But this process always requires that the website be loaded from the internet to begin with. If you want your project to run offline, then it needs to be an app.

6. Focused Nature

The best mobile apps are ones that are focused and don’t try to accomplish too much- they are not kitchen sinks. Many clients use websites as a dumping ground for all their content. This approach doesn’t work well with mobile apps due to small screen sizes and limited navigation options.  An app should set a few goals for the user and then be focused on helping accomplish those goals.

Here are some screenshots of apps we have built our awesome clients- design options are limitless, but the true beauty comes in strategic utilization of features that only apps can provide in an effective way.  

So, there you have it. Six reasons why a mobile app may just be the right next step for you and your nonprofit or ministry. Interested in talking with someone about your very own app? No problem-o. Click below to get in touch with us. We would be app-y to talk with you (puns for days)!

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