Native App or Mobile Optimized Website? Evaluating Your Options

Native App or Mobile Optimized Website? Evaluating Your Options
By Kevin Leong

Many people are unclear about the options for making their business’ or organizations’ website and directories available for mobile devices. A key step to understanding your choices is to learn the difference between native mobile applications (apps) and mobile web apps.

Native apps are ones built to work optimally with a particular smartphone operating system (iOS/Apple), Android and are downloaded by the user from an app store for that operating system.

Native apps are expensive to build and maintain because each smartphone operating system requires a different version of the app. Then, each time the phone’s operating system is upgraded, the app may require updating.

Worse, many users want to see frequent updates before they are convinced your app is worthwhile. Then, not everyone will update his or her apps immediately. When the connection is bad, people usually skip the upgrade step. Thus, you have to deal with multiple versions of your apps.

Imagine trying to keep your users happy and having to deal with three operating systems, multiple Android smartphone manufacturers, and multiple versions of your apps!


Luckily, there is another way to go mobile –  mobile web apps. Mobile web apps are websites designed to be user-friendly on any smartphone web browser – most importantly by designing pages to fit smartphone screens. With proper coding, you need only build one mobile web app to run on any browser on any smartphone. Also, when you update a mobile web app, it will automatically be updated the next time the users launch the mobile web app. So, the cost to create and support a mobile web app is much less than native mobile apps.

Perhaps the answer to whether you should develop a native or mobile web app is embedded in what type of service you are looking to provide. Most people favor mobile web apps for shopping, searching and entertainment, but prefer native mobile apps for managing data, navigation and connecting with others. You can read more of this data here.

So if your mobile application is mainly used to display and interact with online content and services for shopping, search and entertainment, such as buy local applications – you should avoid the native choice.  Typically, buy local applications do not need full device access, faster speeds or offline support that require the user experience of native apps.


Content is still key, even in mobile applications, so it’s important that your merchant membership platform provides a robust content management system.  We will address what you should look for in membership software in a forthcoming article.

Kevin Leong is the founder/CEO of TAPTIN. He previously taught software engineering at San Jose State U. and did C++ and Java programming at IBM. Kevin now works with social entrepreneurs to launch local web portals and mobile applications for artists, farmers, artisans and small businesses in local communities. You can reach him at [email protected] or @kevinleong on Twitter.

Graphics courtesy of MDG Advertising

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